Dear Editor: A phenomenon that began in Australia has made its way around the world and has now begun to hit us hard here at home. I’m sure you’re heard of it: neknominations.
Yes, the game of filming yourself chugging or “necking” copious amounts of alcohol, challenging your friends to outshine your performance within 24 hours, and posting it online for the world to see is now on your child’s radar.
This incredibly dangerous game has lead to deaths around the globe and is a swift push encouraging youth to consume alcohol. The peer pressure behind this game is that it is seen as honourable to be nominated to perform the task. For many junior and senior high school youth, this game flies in the face of creating safe and healthy environments.
Many parents are unaware that their child may have been drinking alcohol or believe that their child is too young for this issue to concern them; however, according to the 2012 Student Drug Use Survey, the average age of initial alcohol consumption is 13.5 years old.
If you’re the parent of a student who is in Grade 5 or older, they need your guidance on how to say no to peer pressure and to discuss the dangers of such behaviour. Many young people may have the wrong message that alcohol equates to a good time and yet do not fully understand the dangers. Teaching your child that alcohol is a depressant and discussing the negative side-effects such as the health risks, embarrassment and overconsumption are helpful in guiding them toward making the right choices. Another thing to consider is showing your child examples where youth have made poor choices and have had consequences ranging from damaging their reputation to landing in a hospital to even death.
What is more important for youth, however, is learning to make smart choices. Most young people are vulnerable to peer pressure. Puberty is prime time for finding your identity and sense of belonging and the key to not giving in to peer pressure is self-esteem and self-confidence.
Be sure your child understands that you and many other trusted adults such as teachers and guidance counsellors are there to speak to when needed.
Finally, consider what your family can do to foster safe and healthy environments that promote positive decision-making. Ask yourself: what behaviours do we encourage and practice at home that promotes my child’s self-esteem?
Also, determine how you can get involved in your school community’s safe and caring schools initiatives and lend a hand.
So what do you do if your family is faced with a nomination? I recommend that instead of participating in the dangerous charade, encourage your child to take a stand and join in the “Random Acts of Kindness Nominations” or “raknominations” and film a video doing some good and challenging others to do the same.
Nathan Whalen, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.