Parents must educate kids about perils of booze
A sleepy Co Down seaside town on a bank holiday in early spring should be just heavenly. But there was nothing divine about Bangor on Easter Monday as hordes of drunken teenagers roamed the streets.
It was more like Magaluf at the height of the summer than what we expect from a family resort on our doorstep. And what was most disturbing was that some of these kids were just 13.
We're not merely talking about high spirits here - one sneaky alcopop to brighten the day. These young teenagers were off their heads. Residents said it was as if as there had been a "zombie takeover" with dead-eyed, drunken youths vomiting and falling everywhere.
The big question is, where were their parents? Did they know or care what their kids were up to? It is unfair for mothers and fathers to shrug their shoulders and leave the PSNI, paramedics and ambulance crews to deal with the mess.
And who bought the youngsters alcohol? They are well below the legal age limit so either off-licences have knowingly broken the law or else adults that the children know are buying them drink. In reality, it's impossible to stop teenagers drinking. Teenagers will experiment with alcohol whether we like it or not.
However, parents can do far more to monitor and manage the situation. Just knowing where their children are going, keeping in contact with them when they're there, and watching the state in which they return for starters.
The one-off alcohol talk, just like the sex talk, doesn't work. It should be more about having a conversation with your children about the dangers of drinking to excess and how it makes them vulnerable to all sorts of attacks and activities.
No one among a gang of drunken teenagers is likely to say, "Don't jump off Bangor pier because you could get badly hurt or worse". Instead, recklessness is likely to be egged on. And a moment of daring, drunken fun can in seconds become a life-threatening situation. Friends can, and do disappear, leaving an inebriated teenager highly vulnerable.
Catherine, who is just 13, was discovered by police in January lying on a street in Portadown with a head injury, vomiting and unable to speak.
She was put into a resuscitation unit, hooked up to a drip, and given a CT scan. This story should be one all parents tell teenagers time and time again. Catherine was lucky because she was found in time.
She could just as easily have become a tragic statistic.