It takes a community

My despair  for the future of human society started last year when I read comments from people intolerant of children on airplane flights. Yeah, I know kids can be a nuisance but it's not hard to block out their noise -- easier than blocking out the noise of the plane for me.

At the time I thought about how all these whinging adults were children once but probably don't have kids of their own. Then I started thinking how in some cultures the community takes responsibility for raising kids and realised people were assuming the future generation was in fact someone else's responsibility.

I was thinking about this again on the weekend when I took my kids to the playground in the centre of town. Some people, youths most likely, had tied knots in the cable that hangs the seat from the flying fox. I guessed it helped them use the flying fox but I use it fine without tying a knot in it and it was kinda tricky to get it back to the state where my kids could use it again without assistance.

Soon other parents were at the playground with their kids and we shared the flying fox for a while until the kids wandered onto other equipment. Then I heard a mum saying the kids would need to put their shoes back on because of the broken glass.

And then I saw all the empty bottles that had been all over the ground all along. They came into focus and I joined other parents in collecting the remains of Friday night teenage binge-drinking, which seemed obvious based on the sugary alcoholic drinks that had been consumed.

Broken glass in playgrounds is a regular hazard because the teens like to drink in these locations and, since they're probably already breaking the law, they don't seem to think much about littering.

It seems to me that teenage binge-drinking and the resulting vandalism, assaults, council levies used for cleaning, etc. are all part of the problem of people deciding that introducing their children to drinking responsibly is not their responsibility. These older children aren't quite adult enough to drink properly and so they consume crap and make a mess.

Since it wouldn't be interesting for most kids to drink at home with their parents, I think this is an area where a responsible adult could provide guidance. Which led me to think about the idea of using role models and then to realise that it takes a community to tackle social problems caused by alcohol since the law is ineffective or not policed.

Ideally I think the drinking age needs to raised, mostly because studies show the brain continues to develop into our third decade, but also because it's become a woeful rite of passage for many. While raising the age at which one can buy alcohol, I'd like to see encouragement for parents to introduce their older teens to alcohol in appropriate supervised social settings, like offering half a standard drink with dinner occasionally, as a way of establishing safe drinking practices and appreciation for how this social lubricant can be used responsibly.