High school drinking culture exposed on social media

Jun Woo Kang, News Editor

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A mother recalls the night her daughter came home from a party with a friend’s jacket, covered in vomit, and asked her to wash it, securing a promise that she’d keep it secret. A father describes using the “find my phone” app on his son’s cell to track him down in a park, where he was chugging vodka with a friend, and drag him home. Unfortunately, these scenes are not very far away from our very own school.

With intentions of relieving immense stress from academics to social issues to anxiety, lately, social media posts by the upper secondary students have been lit up by various scenes of drinking parties.

Thus, inevitably, concerns over the prevalent alcohol consumption by the students and the regulation on their actions have arisen. In this regard, the school administrators, Dr. Rader, and Mr. Harding, and Athletic Director/Activities Coordinator, Mr. Bertken respectively reacted to this controversial phenomenon. Their consensus was while strict regulation on alcohol consumption cannot be put on students unless reported directly, students must be fully aware of the consequences of alcohol consumption and hold responsibility as role models for the lower class students.

According to the handbook, the consequence of alcohol consumption in and out of school by students is not being allowed to participate in any co-curricular activities, including theater, sports, clubs and so on. Although the evidence of students’ drinking is apparent on social media, the consequences are not necessarily enforced to students. On this circumstance, Secondary School Principal, Dr. Rader, and the Athletic Director/Activities Coordinator, Mr. Bertken shared their insights.

“With Facebook, and all of the other social media, it depends on if we are monitoring them 24/7. That’s not what we are doing,” Dr. Rader commented, “Of course, if that evidence comes to us on our face, we are going to act on it. But at the same time, we are not perfect by any stretch. We are only trying to understand what exactly is going on, and constantly trying to improve, to be honest.”

Mr. Bertken agreed with Dr. Rader’s point of view on this concern, “If it [drinking by students] becomes apparent, then the consequences should be enforced. But I am not going to go digging,” he assuredly told.

However, he did not ignore the impact that the posts social media might have on the students’ future, regardless of the regulations at GSIS. “This is actually one of the evils about social media that students need to be aware of. People who actually go digging on social media, are college admissions officers.” He went on to point out that “a trail of behavior that is suspicious or questionable” on social media would be careless mistakes that will hurt students’ chances of admissions greatly.

Dr. Rader continued to explain his vision on the current policy of alcohol consumption by students. “Part of the reason the policy is in place is because those particular areas are very public. You are standing up on stage, you guys are on the field, and there are kids who look up to you,” he explained enthusiastically, “So my message, to every student at our school, is that, the lower grade students are constantly looking up at the middle and high school. And that is why that policy is there and should be there. And in that sense, we really should come down as hard as we can, because that’s a huge responsibility.”

Underage alcohol use, not only impacts the perception of the upper secondary students, but leads to immense physical consequences. It increases the risk of academic failure, illicit drug use, and tobacco use. It can cause a range of physical consequences, from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning, suicide, homicide, and traffic crashes. According to The Boston Globe, annually, about 4,300 people under age 21 die from injuries involving underage drinking.

Mr. Harding, Secondary School Assistant Principal, heartily emphasized the importance of students being aware of the consequences of drinking. “Korea is a pretty safe society, but students must understand that going out, being intoxicated at a bar is probably not an intelligent thing to do for a young man, or especially a young woman with the amount of date rape drugs out there now.”

He mentioned, “If you get caught as a student athlete, you are kicked out immediately. At a club, when you lose track of where your drink is, and all of a sudden you wake up with a stranger in a motel room. You must be aware of that, you can’t let them hurt you.”

“Mr. Bertken’s view on the importance of students’ awareness of their responsibilities were not very different. “Teenagers are right on that cusp of being an adult. You are going to be out in the real world, on your own, and start to feel like they should be treated like an adult,” he said, “There’s going to be things that teenagers are going to try to do, while not being aware of the exact consequences, wanting to act like an adult. You might make choices that will have permanent impact on your life, but you won’t be able to process the decision through properly. That is why teenagers need to be careful, and be alert about they hold to account.”

Mr. Bertken, as an expert in sports science, explained the negative impact of alcohol in terms of physical health. He clarified that one of the facts people often overlook is teenagers’ brains “are still growing”, and “drinking may cause irreversible brain damage.” In fact, according to a 2016 study on impact of alcohol on adolescents’ brains by the University of California, San Diego, there is a decline in performance on tests of attention in brains of students with consistent alcohol consumption — being able to focus on something that might be somewhat boring, for a sustained period of time.

As drinking becomes so common in the upper secondary, the teachers want to leave a message for for the students who are heavily influenced by alcohol. “It’d be great you can talk to someone. Not someone who will turn you in, necessarily, but someone who will really advise you and talk to you about it,” Dr. Rader pointed out, “You may think there have been many people who say “yeah yeah yeah I can control everything I do, I am disciplined”, but they are not really. And ultimately those are the things that bring you down. So I encourage you to seek someone, preferably an adult, who you can trust who you could go to and share everything that you are going through.”

Mr. Bertken firmly emphasized students must be aware of consequences for his message. “Understand the consequences, and be willing to take them, because they will come. They might not come now, but they will come. If you have a driver’s license, it is your responsibility not get behind the wheel and potentially save multiple lives. It is your responsibility to keep up with your grades and your activities, and make sure the drinking does not disturb them.


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