1)Teen Pranks: Seemingly innocent pranks (toilet-papering, egging, etc.)can turn tragic especially when combined with a speeding “get away” in a car on a dark residential street. Establish rules and consequences about such behavior and encourage your teen to avoid it ahead of time, enforce how many teens may be in a car together, enforce curfews for time away from home and time when your teen can be driving, and share your rules for your teen with the parents of their friends.
2)Teens and Privacy: Teens are notoriously unaware of their potential to be caught doing something wrong. Be sure to share with them that they have no rights to privacy on school grounds. This means anything on their body or in their lockers, book bags, and purses are fair game for search by school personnel. Cars parked on school grounds are also open for search. Ohio laws (related to possession of drugs, weapons, and other illegal items) are stricter when the items are found on school grounds.
3)Teens and Drinking: Seek an open, honest, safe conversation with your teen(s) about how to protect themselves from dangerous and excessive drinking. The most diligent parent may not be able to prevent a 17 year old from trying alcohol but they can implement their own risk reduction agreement with their kids ahead of time. The key is to avoid having experimentation lead to teen binge drinking, juvenile DUI arrests, alcohol-related accidents, sexual assaults, unprotected sex, fighting, reckless driving, blacking out, and alcohol poisoning. Put the agreement in writing. Sign it. Have the teen sign it. If drinking occurs, follow up with previously agreed upon consequences but also be sure your child knows you’ll still be there for them at midnight if they need to call you for help.
4)Teens and Marijuana: The percentage of Ohio teens who reported using marijuana is up to 15.8% for 2008. Chances are strong that your teen knows where to obtain marijuana if they so desire and use of it is frequently seen by teens as harmless experimentation. Share with your teen ahead of time that there are legal ramifications of marijuana use. Possession of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia in Ohio is typically considered a misdemeanor with a typical sentence of 6 months, a 5 year driver’s license suspension, $100-$250 fine, probation, random urine screens with a probation officer, and a “Drug Abuse” conviction on the client’s permanent record. In addition to all the dangers associated with impaired decision-making and teens, also at risk are loss of grants, scholarships, athletic participation, and certain student loans.
5)Teens and other Drugs: Teens who seek out other drugs, both illegal substances
like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin as well as prescription drugs belonging to someone else must be assumed to be dependent on the drugs and in need of immediate intervention. These drugs are so potent that a single use can lead to addiction or death and possession of even the smallest amount of some of them is considered a felony in Ohio.
6)ADD/ADHD, Teens, drinking and drugs: Numerous studies have shown that nearly 50% of teens
with an ADD/ADHD diagnosis are pre-disposed to alcohol abuse and other drug use. Kids with parents and grandparents with family history of alcoholism, ADD/ADHD, and Depression are at a higher risk of developing long-term problems with alcohol and other drugs. Early intervention is key. If you wait to address drugs and alcohol with a teen, you may not have time to put remedial steps in place by the time they graduate from high school. The key is getting in front of the ADD / ADHD, alcoholism, and/or depression during the pre-teen years and paying close attention to risky behavior of teens with these challenges.
7)Teens Pulled over by Police: Have a conversation ahead of time about safe behavior if your teen driver is pulled over. When they see flashing lights behind them, they should pull over as soon as they can do so safely and roll down their window. They shouldn’t get out of the car, attempt to flee, or make any sudden moves within the car. When the officer approaches, they should be respectful and listen carefully to what the officer says to do (typically they’ll be asked to show their driver’s license and registration). If registration is stored in the glove box, they should ask if it will be okay to open the glove box to get it (the police officer has to assume there could be a gun in the glove box). If your teen has been engaged in an illegal activity, they should tell the officer they cannot talk to them until they’ve had a chance to speak with an attorney and they shouldn’t make any further statements or answer questions or until they’ve been advised by their attorney to do so.
8)Teens and Car Accidents: Prepare your teen ahead of time about how to handle the un-nerving experience of a minor car accident. First, they should not leave the scene. They should pull over as soon as safely possible and should not exit the car until they can do so safely. They should call a parent on a cell phone if they can. They should wait for the police to arrive and answer questions honestly. The police will want to see their driver’s license, proof of insurance and car registration and they’ll ask questions of your teen. If your teen doesn’t know the answers to their questions, they should simply say that they do not know. They should not attempt to continue to drive the car unless they are sure it is safe.
9)Teens Driving Dangerously: Be sure to talk to your driving teen ahead of time about responsibilities for their safety, their car (or your car), passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. Multi-tasking while driving should not be tolerated (cell phone use, sending text messages, makeup application, playing with the stereo). Unruly passengers and/or illegal substances are a danger to everyone in the car and greatly increase the likelihood of an accident. Even if your teen is the “designated” driver who is pulled over by police, they will be at least ticketed and very possibly arrested and the car impounded if their passengers are found to be drinking, nude, smoking marijuana (and/or all of the above).
10)When Teens get into Trouble : Teens need boundaries and accountability. They can’t foresee the long term ramifications of their behavior nor a time when they’ll feel less driven by hormones and social pressures and more driven to be successful as adults. In the mean time, punishment should be fair, not emotional or arbitrary. It should be related to the crime and should encourage your teen away from future negative behaviors; it should define when you’ll trust them again and should allow the teen to move on and away from the guilt associated with the misdeed. For the sake of your teen, you should resist any temptation to reduce or eliminate the punishment. Many times, just the experience of being prosecuted, going to court, receiving a school suspension, suspension from athletics and other activities, and disappointing mom and dad is enough of a factor to encourage smarter decisions in life for these kids.
Copyright 2008, The Columbus Bar Association