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How Parents Can Keep Kids Safe this Spring Break

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They’ve already started making their plans. Which beaches will we hit? Which swimsuits should I take? Who will I room with? Teens across Florida are planning for this year’s spring break to be better than the last. For some, plans also include ‘will I be drinking alcohol?’.

The LiveFree! Coalition of Pinellas County, an alliance that promotes awareness about the harmful effects of underage drinking, binge drinking, marijuana use, synthetic use and other substance abuse among youth, young adults and adult, has some tips that can help spring breakers make positive decisions when they face unsafe situations like underage drinking and using illicit drugs.

According to the 2013 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, talking with parents was the main reason why teens and young adults chose to not abuse substances. What does this mean? Parents have a bigger impact on their children’s decisions than we sometimes realize.

“Whether your teen is planning a day trip to the beach with one friend or a week-long vacation with a group, now is the best time to address spring break safety and your expectations, before they find themselves in a dangerous situation,” says Daphne Lampley of LiveFree! Coalition.

To help, Lampley shares the following tips:
• Know the laws. Remember that the legal drinking age is 21 years of age. Studies show the brain is still developing into the mid-20s and underage drinking hinders cognitive development. Look into laws related to open containers and public intoxication and discuss the very real repercussions of poor decisions with your teen.
• Stick together. Make sure they have a buddy. When in an unfamiliar location it is important to stick together. Encourage your teen to partner up with one person whom they trust and whom you know. Using the buddy system ensures no one is left alone or with strangers. Talk to your children about what they should do if they get peer pressured into drinking or going to a location away from their hotel by a stranger.
• Know where your teen is. Discuss the itinerary. Make sure you know exactly where your teen will be vacationing. Take down phone numbers, hotel rooms and addresses and compile a timeline of activities planned. Know departure and arrival times and establish times to check in. Reinforce the idea that your teen is expected to call you to let you know they have arrived and returned safely every day.
• Talk about the statistics: The facts are out there and, unfortunately, they can be alarming. Before seeing your child off, discuss the statistics related to Spring Break and underage drinking and drug use. Excessive drinking impairs your judgment which can make you more susceptible to accidents, crime, violence and sexual assault. Make sure your teen is aware.
• Discuss alternative spring break ideas. Many universities and youth groups offer opportunities for students to spend their time off from school making a difference. Whether it is building homes or assisting in clean-up efforts, there are many trip options that offer the opportunity to serve others far from the party atmosphere.
• Stash your cash. Don't keep large amounts of cash in your wallet and leave expensive jewelry at home. It's better to keep a low profile when you are in unfamiliar areas. Have a friend go with you to take money out of the ATM. This may hinder a robbery.
• Mind your drinks. Explain why your teen should pour his or her own nonalcoholic beverages and never leave their cup unattended.
• Don’t ride with others who have been drinking. Your teen may decide to leave one location for another. Discuss why it's important to avoid getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. Take a cab if necessary.

“Spring break does not have to be spent partying or partaking in unsafe activities,” added Lampley. “Teens can learn how to celebrate responsibly, and that is a discussion parents should initiate now and on an on-going basis.”

For more tips, and an in-depth discussion about spring break safety, attend the LiveFree! 10th annual Florida’s Kids & Alcohol Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Mar. 20, 2014. LiveFree! is in partnership with WEDU, St. Petersburg College, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Schools, Pinellas Park Police Department, Operation PAR and others. The event will be held at the Digitorium at St. Petersburg College, 9200 113th Street, Seminole. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Discussion topics will include:

• positive outcomes of community
• underage alcohol use
• synthetic marijuana use
• prescription drug misuse and abuse
• peer pressures youth face

About LiveFree! Coalition
LiveFree! Coalition raises awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults in Pinellas County. By offering trainings, advocacy, town hall meetings, a Speaker’s Bureau, environmental strategies and awareness events, LiveFree! encourages Pinellas County families to live safe, healthy and drug-free. For more information, visit the blog at www.livefreeblog.org or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/livefreeFL.

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