Our view: Parents must use influence to battle alcohol
Online Coloradoan

Perceptions about drinking usually start at home

When it comes to alcohol, image is everything.

Like it or not, Colorado State University and Fort Collins are at the forefront of a battle over images and realities regarding alcohol use.

Images feed perceptions, misconceptions and the all-powerful peer pressure. But, turned around, they can energize a community by emphasizing successes, defining available resources and encouraging compassion.

Colorado State University’s Alcohol Task Force took an official look at the problem amid the deaths of two students and campus riots, and it floated at least 43 recommendations to President Larry Penley. Some of those recommendations have been put in motion.

But a deeper, unofficial look is necessary, too. And this is perhaps where the toughest battle will be waged.

Parents must seize, or in some cases, retrieve, their roles to battle prevalent images that link underage drinking to being “cool.” Despite the powerful pull of TV commercials, magazine covers and Web sites, parents remain the single-biggest influence in young people’s lives — but only if they want to put that power to work.

Adults who allow underage children to drink or who buy alcohol for young people must also accept responsibility that they are telling children that it is OK to break the law. Mothers and fathers who believe that an occasional cell-phone call is tantamount to supervision are selling their influence short. Parents who have given up on saying no to their children, and those who believe asking where children will be and what they will be doing is too invasive, are not doing themselves, their children or this community any favors. Resources to help parents along this journey are available from CSU, Poudre School District and numerous nonprofits.

Despite all these official and unofficial efforts, it has to be said that there are no guarantees that another young person will not die from extreme drinking. But the image war is one of percentages. And this community must put all its tools to work to increase its chances of success.

Originally published Feb. 8, 2005