Lots of adults can fall into the trap of thinking that all of the problems that teenagers face are trivial, and that teenagers will be able to walk away from almost all of the poor decisions that they make at this point during their lives. Teenagers certainly absorb this message. Some of them even try to take advantage of the legal and social protections that this life stage offers them. They figure that they can get these sorts of actions of the way now, and they will have to clean up their acts when they turn eighteen.
However, most teenagers aren’t calculating in that sense. The decision-making parts of their brains haven’t formed yet. They aren’t thinking beyond next week, let alone next year. Teenagers will typically drink and drive based mainly on their lousy judgment skills. Some of them will just think that they will be able to handle it, and that the adults in their lives are exaggerating all of the dangers of drinking and driving. Teenagers are in a state of rebellion because they are trying to establish their own identities, and far too many of them rebel against everything, including basic reason.
When parents figure that their teens can bounce back from anything, they’re wrong. The legal and social protections that teenagers have are extremely limited in nature. It isn’t a myth that teenagers can be tried as adults. Teenagers who are over the age of sixteen in particular are more likely to have their cases ‘subject to waiver,’ meaning their juvenile court protections are going to be waived, and they will be tried in adult courts.
Juvenile offenders who commit serious offenses are more likely to have their juvenile protections waived. Killing someone in a drunk driving case is considered a serious offense. Juveniles who have had a lot of repeat offenses may also have their juvenile court privileges waived. If it looks like rehabilitating them has been unsuccessful in the past, then the courts will be that much more likely to decide that they require the more severe sentence. Juvenile offenders certainly are not immune to getting prison sentences, including prison sentences that they must serve alongside adults. Parents should not fall into the trap of thinking that the legal system is less harsh than it is, and they should make sure that their teenagers know that.
Some of the permanent consequences of teen drinking are biological. Teens stunt their brain development by having so much to drink so early in life. They’re impairing everything from their future learning ability to their future capacity for memory. The teen years are a critical period of development in general, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Teenagers who binge drink this early in life are also setting themselves up for a lifetime of addiction. Many alcoholics started drinking nearly a decade before the legal age of alcohol consumption. Not all teenagers who drink will suffer from this terrible fate. However, it is a risk for all of them, and they aren’t always alone when it comes to the people who will suffer from the consequences of their actions.
Our culture can’t keep pretending teenagers are immune to things that can claim their lives. Teenagers do not have an ability to bounce back from anything, and they can destroy their adult lives before they’ve even begun. Parents need to know that, and they need to know how to separate harmless kids’ stuff from fatal mistakes.