The teenage drinking menace: Who is to blame?

On the August 4, a bar in the leafy suburbs of Nyarutarama hit the headlines of various media outlets for all the wrong reasons. Three people including the proprietor were picked up by police for allegedly serving alcohol to a minor. The girl’s parents and other parents called the police on learning that their teenage kids had been drinking at the bar. The issue on who should shoulder the blame on the menace of teenage drinking and drug use has been discussed for long but no conclusion has been made yet. The blame is steadily being shifted from the parents to bar owners to the teenagers themselves.

On the August 4, a bar in the leafy suburbs of Nyarutarama hit the headlines of various media outlets for all the wrong reasons. Three people including the proprietor were picked up by police for allegedly serving alcohol to a minor. The girl’s parents and other parents called the police on learning that their teenage kids had been drinking at the bar.

The issue on who should shoulder the blame on the menace of teenage drinking and drug use has been discussed for long but no conclusion has been made yet. The blame is steadily being shifted from the parents to bar owners to the teenagers themselves.

This incident did however not deter teenagers from going out to bars and indulge in alcoholic drinks. A week later, they were still at it, this time more careful, elusive and cunning than ever before.  Soon to be 18, Timothy Kabeera, says he is more fun and more outgoing than most grown people and is clearly not nerved by the incident. Timothy lives with his mother in Nyarutarama and boasts of having ‘freedom’ since his mother ‘trusts’ him.

The senior six day scholar stands at almost six feet, tall enough to convince bar management that he is old enough to sit at the counter and drink alcohol. “At times I am stopped at bar entrances by bouncers but that can be fixed with Rwf 1000. Most of the bars do not ask to see any proof of age; they only ask when you seem unsure of yourself or nervous. If you walk in like you deserve to be there and do not seem too excited, no one will bother you,” Kabeera says.

According to James Nsenga, a barman in Giporoso, the confidence on merry makers deters waitresses and bar men from asking for proof of identity. The 4-year-old bar man says that most of the bars frequented by teenagers do not have security checks at the entrances. “Nowadays it is very hard to determine a person’s age just by looking at them. Most bartenders are afraid that a client would feel insulted if you requested for proof of age,” Nsenga says.

Nsenga says that parents can be held responsible for giving their kids too much money and not monitoring their movements. “I am sure most parents do not follow up on the whereabouts of their children at night. If they did, there would be fewer children out at night. Worse still is that they give them a lot of money. What else do you expect a seventeen year old boy to do with all the social pressure around him?”

Timothy Kabeera adds that how you dress up when walking into a bar really matters. He hides his slim figure under a heavy jacket or hood. “When we (him and teenage friends) go to a bar, we do not dress in tight clothes or clothes that will direct a lot of attention to us.”

Most high school students do not seem short of money to purchase alcohol. “I live with my mother. She gives me pocket money, she calls it airtime and I also have relatives who give me pocket money. I save it up and it’s enough to afford a few drinks on the weekends. We also ‘pool’ the money we have as friends and go out. Those whose parents don’t give them as much benefit from this pool arrangement. At times some of my friends borrow their parent’s cars and go to night clubs with them, during all this time, the parents think their children are at a party at a friend’s house,” Kabeera says.

Natasha Mutesi, an 18-year-old in senior six, says she doesn’t drink or go out to bars but some of her classmates do. She says buying alcohol from supermarkets or liquor stores is much easier.

 “Walking into a shop and ordering alcohol is much easier, most shops stock beer and spirits and the shop keeper doesn’t look at buyers twice. If he or she sends you away, you can always ask a friendly grown up to do it for you. Some say they have ‘cool’ uncles who get them past security checks and buy them drinks,” Natasha says.

Kabeera also says that girls have it easier as they are offered drinks by men in bars for free. “Girls are very lucky; they do not need money to go to a bar.”

Diane Gasana, a mother of two daughters, one of them a teenager, says it is very easy for parents to be fooled into thinking that their children do not drink. She says the busy schedules most parents have in trying to provide for their children leave teenagers with a lot of unsupervised time. “I work in a hospital, I work long hours, my husband works an eight to five job and has a side business, and this does not leave us much time to spend with our children,” she says.

Diane says that if her teenage daughter began drinking, it would probably take a while to discover it. “Teenagers can also be very secretive. They are at a stage where they rarely let their parents into their rooms or talk about their lives with their parents. It would be good if bars would ask for proof of age before serving alcohol or allowing them into night clubs,” Diane says.

The mother of two says that she gives her teenage daughter pocket money but monitors how the money is spent. “It is true that parents give money to their teenagers, I do too. I make sure I do not give them too much otherwise they will end up spending it on such vices. But at times they can raise money on their own or drink what their ‘rich’ friends buy.”

Rutaha Christopher, a father of four, three of them out of the teenage bracket and one teenager, differs with Diane. He says it has everything to do with how a child is brought up. “I instill discipline and the fear of God into my children; you cannot blame business (bars) when your children are morally loose.  If they watch their parents drink every day, why won’t they want to try it out?”

Rutaha says that if children are well brought up, peer pressure does not get to them. “We as parents should not wait for society to help us bring up our children. No matter how hard we work to provide for them, we should find enough time to guide them,” Rutaha says.  

Police spokesman, Theos Badege, says that pointing fingers on who should be responsible for the teenage drinking menace will not make the problem go away. “There should be a shared responsibility between bar owners, workers and parents. Parents should be responsible and ensure that their children are on track and are brought up well (morally). Bar owners have a duty to ensure that anyone who is served at the bar is of legal age.”

In Rwanda, anyone who serves alcohol to minors stands to face three to six months imprisonment and also a fine of between a hundred thousand to a million francs.

Kigali city police spokesperson Urbain Miseneza says that they have been making arrests in trying to curb teenage drinking.  He insists bar owners should be vigilant on who their customers are. “Unaccompanied people under the age of eighteen should not be allowed into the bar in the first place. At times youngsters slip away without the parents knowing, it is at such times when bar owners should be vigilant.”

Will we ever be able to curb this vice? The future will not be so bright if these youngsters keep going at it like this. However, it is society’s responsibility in general to help these kids and motivate them to work towards building a brighter future.

---------------------------------------------

Underage drinking: Talking to your teen about alcohol

The time to start talking to your teen about underage drinking is now. Follow these tips to help prevent underage alcohol use.

It’s easy to underestimate how early underage drinking starts — sometimes even in the preteen years — as well as the amount of alcohol teens drink and the risks involved. Still, underage drinking isn’t inevitable. You can encourage your teen to avoid alcohol by talking to him or her about the risks of underage drinking and the importance of making good decisions.

Why teens drink


Teens are particularly vulnerable to alcohol use. The physical changes of puberty might make your teen feel self-conscious and more likely to take risks — such as experiment with alcohol — to fit in or please others. Also, your teen might have trouble understanding that his or her actions can have adverse consequences. Common risk factors for underage drinking include:

•Transitions, such as the move from middle school to high school or getting a driver’s license

•Increased stress at home or school

•Family problems, such as conflict or parental alcohol abuse

•A history of behavior problems or mental health conditions

Consequences of underage drinking

Whatever causes a teen to drink, the consequences may be the same. For example, underage drinking can lead to:

•Alcohol-related fatalities. Alcohol-related accidents are a leading cause of teen deaths. Teen drownings, suicides and murders also have been linked with alcohol use.

•Sexual activity. Teens who drink tend to become sexually active earlier and have sex more often than do teens who don’t drink. Teens who drink are also more likely to have unprotected sex than are teens who don’t drink.

•School problems. Teens who drink tend to have more academic and conduct problems than do teens who don’t drink. Also, drinking can lead to temporary or permanent suspension from sports and other extracurricular activities.

•Alcoholism. People who begin drinking as young teens are more likely to develop alcohol dependence than are people who wait until they’re adults to drink.

•Being a victim of violent crime. Alcohol-related crimes might include rape, assault and robbery.

In addition, research shows that alcohol use may permanently distort a teen’s emotional and intellectual development.

Other ways to prevent underage drinking

In addition to talking to your teen, consider other strategies to prevent underage drinking:

•Develop a strong relationship with your teen. Your support will help your teen build the self-esteem he or she needs to stand up to peer pressure — and live up to your expectations.

•Know your teen’s activities. Pay attention to your teen’s plans and whereabouts. Encourage participation in supervised after-school and weekend activities.

•Establish rules and consequences. Rules might include no underage drinking, leaving parties where alcohol is served and not riding in a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Agree on the consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.

•    et an example. If you drink, do so only in moderation and explain to your teen why it’s OK for adults to drink responsibly. Describe the rules you follow, such as not drinking and driving. Don’t serve alcohol to anyone who’s underage.

www.mayoclinic.com

---------------------------------------------

What do you think?

Authorities are not strict enough otherwise they would enforce the ID policy in bars and clubs. In addition to that, bar owners should not allow such young people to enter their bars all in the name of making money.

Claire Uwamahoro

Bar owners are to blame because every alcoholic drink has a warning “not for sale to persons under 18”. Where do those teens get the alcohol, do they brew it or do they buy it from bars and shops? These guys don’t ask for ID’s.

Victor Muhirwa

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News