Editorial: Teens & Pre-Gaming


This week’s planned editorial was going to be on the demolition of historic homes in our town. We decided to postpone it because a topic close to our hearts and, we believe and hope, the hearts of most Greenwich residents, reared its head in a very public way last weekend: teenage drinking and what is now referred to as “pre-gaming” by our youth.

As reported on page one, seven high school students who wanted to attend last weekend’s Arch Street Teen Center dance were taken by ambulance to Greenwich Hospital for severe alcohol intoxication. More were taken by their parents. This is scary stuff, and we are certain we have not heard the end of this story.

Drinking among underage children, as one Greenwich mom put it, is not a new topic. We agree. It is not a new topic, a new phenomenon, a new problem, a new issue, a new anything. It is old, as old as we are and older, but it does tend to morph and change over time because teenagers are clever and they often work as a unit. They are taught the value of teamwork in school, so it is only natural that they would work as a team outside of school. Last weekend’s drinking? The teens taken to the hospital did not all arrive intoxicated individually, they arrived in groups. Clearly they had planned their evening’s activity beforehand and were able to secure and consume alcohol without being caught by an adult. Today this takes cunning skill.

When the Arch Street Teen Center opened, more than 25 years ago, there were concerns that it could be a place were teenagers could get up to “no good.” And, yes, there was some of that in the early years. However, after each occurrence the teen center, and Kyle Silver, its executive director, improved the safety procedures. Also, attitudes about teen drinking evolved over the years as we grew to better understand how bad it is for young minds and bodies. And institutions in town have become better at warning us of the subtler dangers—such as messages teens can get from watching their parents handle alcohol.

We commend Kyle and his staff for their vigilance at last weekend’s dance. Each person hospitalized was instantly identified as intoxicated before they could enter. They were immediately given medical attention and transported to the hospital. They were not allowed into the dance. Thank you also to GEMS and our police department personnel for handling the situation so professionally and quickly and preventing a more serious situation from developing.

It is not just the teen center that handles these type of situations so well. Each school, public or independent, in our community has worked very hard over the years to create events that are safe and alcohol free. It is because of their success; we are seeing a rise in what is called “pre-gaming.” Teenagers drink before an event because they know they will be unable to bring alcohol in. This is something we, as a community, need to address. If teenagers are pre-gaming, where are the parents? You would not think so, but we need to constantly remind parents that it is not acceptable to allow teenager drinking. The consequences can be dire.

Teenagers and alcohol do not mix. They never have. We have seen it time and again. Young bodies are unable to process alcohol. Young minds are unable regulate how much they can consume and over-indulgence occurs and the need for hospitalization. The result is exactly what happened outside of Arch Street last weekend. Thank God the situation was not worse, and that none of them (as far as we know) were driving. That is a statistic we hope never to have to report.

Let’s use what happened last weekend as a call to action for us as a community to understand and address why teenagers are pre-gaming and what we can do to eradicate it.

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