Saturday, August 31, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Social media can give clues to college drinking

Hundreds of thousands of college students have returned to campuses for the fall semester, many of them first-timers getting accustomed to campus life.  And for some young adults, it is an exposure to binge drinking that keeps their parents on edge miles away.  Having a college student is a chance to cut the cord a little and let them discover a few things.  With the dangers of alcohol being what they are especially for young adults (see related underage drinking research here), concerned parents can still get a glimpse into the sides of the university living in which their sons or daughters voluntarily enroll.  According to this October article from the alcohol research news archive, social media can provide clues if alcohol is more of a priority than books.

Eleven students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning in Houston over the weekend after an on-campus Halloween party. Organizers said more than 1,000 students attended the dorm party, which has been an annual rite of passage since the 1970s.

No parent of a college-age man or woman sleeps well with such headlines. But they don’t need to go much beyond their son’s or daughter’s social media pages to get a glimpse at what’s happening on campus. A recent study published in the quarterly Spectrum by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 83 percent of college students’ social media profiles refer to drinking. These profiles could help target problem drinking patterns before they include at trip to the hospital, as the bash at Rice did early Sunday morning.

Colleges and universities already spread college safety prevention information about alcohol misuse on campus, however the NIAAA study indicated that students would rather hear from their peers if their social media pages indicated a lot of drinking. Parents could also intervene, but students are likely to be more responsive when the parents reply to the posts in nonjudgmental and respectful ways.

A separate NIAAA study indicates that only 10 percent of students drink in a safe manner (e.g. pacing themselves), 30 percent engaged in high-risk drinking activities and the remainder engaged in what they claimed were a mix of safe and risky activities. A look at the social profiles online could give a glimpse into activities past and whether a student is likely to be among the 10 percent or the 30 percent.

My own campus experience is decades behind me.  (The drinking age was lower, and nobody had cell phones... there was such a time.)  My children are years away from jetting out of the nest and onto some campus.  The practical takeaway advice in the story is to be respectful.  These are young ADULTS, and are eager to explore life on their terms and even make their own mistakes, but parenting doesn't end with the emptying of the nest.  Regard their boundaries, but keep them safe. It's a fine line.