Time to educate teens on alcohol and drugs
From time immemorial, being a parent has been a heavy responsibility. But today the malign influences on children's behaviour have become even more insidious with social media added to the mix of drugs and alcohol.
On Friday, a police operation in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area threw up a disturbing picture of the life of some young people today.
What is most concerning is the age of the children who came to the police officers' attention. They were aged 13-16 and had prescription drugs in their possession and large quantities of cider and spirits.
And these were not isolated cases. Some 250 children were spoken to by the police who gained the impression that they had started drinking early in the day so that they would have sobered up by the time they had to go home. But in at least one case a young girl was so drunk by 6pm that she couldn't stand.
The police action was comprehensive in scale and appropriate in reaction, referring some cases to social services and bringing other young people home to their parents. A common reaction was that the children had gone somewhere different to where they had told their parents.
The dangers to young girls in particular in taking drugs or drinks in secluded woodland areas do not need to be spelled out, but it is obvious that they are insufficiently mature to realise the potential harm they face. More sinister is the fact that drugs and alcohol are commonly used to groom innocent young people.
Police have urged parents to keep a strict eye on their children now that schools are finishing for summer. That is good advice and most parents will warn their children of the dangers of alcohol and drugs, and staying safe online.
But as a recent incident at the Belsonic music festival showed, it only takes one slip of judgement to lead to tragedy or near tragedy.
Simon Lindsay went online to warn young people to stay away from drugs after his son had to be put on a life support machine after taking a pill at the festival.
But many young people seem impervious to such advice. Like all of us, they are curious about things and want to experiment. They see parents drinking and perhaps even boasting about epic nights out. They then wonder why they shouldn't try alcohol.
Parents and children need to have honest and clear conversations about the perils of modern life and the boundaries they should not cross.