Duncan Garner: Today's teens drink harder

MTV shows such as Geordie Shore seem to celebrate drinking to oblivion.

MTV shows such as Geordie Shore seem to celebrate drinking to oblivion.

OPINION: Should we be surprised this week reading about the drunken carnage at the enormously unofficial Wellington College school ball?

Ambulances dispensing medical attention to trashed teens, scenes of "grotesque drunkenness" and two kids needing hospital treatment. 

The slightly sad reality these days is that I look at these events from the perspective of a father of teenagers, rather than someone who can recall getting up to such silliness myself. Those were the days? Well not entirely.

To be fair to today's youngsters, smuggling booze into a ball is nothing new. I sometimes wonder if the art of sneaking alcohol in is as much a Kiwi rite of passage as the ball itself.

I certainly remember stashing cans of Lion Red down my pants back in the day.

If anything, the art of alcohol espionage appears to have evolved, with attendees at last weekend's ball hoodwinking security by stashing spiked Ribena pouches in their nether regions. 

An army of 16 security guards proved no match for these hellraisers.

Reading about the ball fallout, and other reports this week about university students smashing up a hall of residence, I find myself wondering if today's young people have taken binge-drinking to another level. 

School balls have certainly become PR nightmares for schools. There is no good news from these events. If things run smoothly it's not news and the school dodges a bullet.

The worst case scenario is that students end up in hospital and it's a black eye for the school's reputation – regardless of whether it's an official function or not. 

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Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses was emphatic this week that the ball was nothing to do with the school, which hasn't sanctioned a ball for more than 20 years. You can see why.

So are today's teens bigger drinkers, are they drinking harder liquor – or are they simply too selfish to look after their mates when they've over-indulged?

I'm not suggesting for a moment that there wasn't booze flowing at the two school balls I attended.

I was asked to leave my seventh form event because the private school girl I took vomited in the toilets. I'd love to tell you that I chivalrously left too as a devoted date – but we were both kicked out.

In sixth form we pre-loaded heavily at a parent's house and had a rollicking good night. Yes, some kids spewed, but my abiding memory was of dodgy dancing and watching some wandering hands. There was definitely no need for an ambulance – if someone overdid it their mates looked after them and made sure they got home safe.

The reality is that unless you ban balls entirely there will always be trouble. But you simply can't stop teens drinking. Get real.

Some schools have even resorted to breath-testing students at the door. That works to catch the pre-loaders but it doesn't stop the teenagers getting trashed inside on smuggled booze.

To me it looks like these balls have got worse.

Me and my schoolmates were happy with beer and a bit of rum carefully swiped from my dad's duty-free stash. But today's kids appear to be into hard liquor, racing each other to oblivion like they do on MTV 'reality' TV shows – and celebrating getting coma-ed like it's a badge of honour.

In this ifGeordie Shorenf style environment school balls risk being a disaster waiting to happen.

Not that we can blame MTV for everything of course. We are a nation of binge drinkers.

I'm one of them at times. I won't drink for a week, then hit it with my mates because we have something to celebrate. It's the Kiwi way: right or wrong, it's what we do.

Today's teens are learning from the masters – us. In my day there was an actual roster for whose turn it was to host the 1st XV after-match parties. The beer came in kegs as well as bottles. 

Supposedly responsible parents organised these events. They enabled this to happen.

Much like a drunk, we adults don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to the issue of today's teen drinking.

 - Stuff


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