Keeping Teens Sober At Prom With Science

Kids look forward to the prom — but some parents dread it. The temptation to hit the booze at the after-parties may be strong for teens, but some studies say that science may be the way to convince them to say "no." When it comes to teen drinking, a new set of talking points can help parents.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

As the school year comes to an end, teenagers go to graduation parties, proms, to the beach, and often bring along alcohol. Underage binge drinking is all too common, and each year, thousands of kids end up in emergency rooms with injuries related to alcohol. Parents understand their teens will be around drinking, so the question is how to talk to them about the dangers.

We'll hear a number of approaches today and we want to hear from you. Parents: What works, what doesn't? Teens: Tell us your story. Phone us: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on the Web site. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, we'll go to Arlington National Cemetery to hear President Obama's address today, and we want to know who you remember this Memorial Day. Send us an email: talk@npr.org, or leave your remembrance on our Web site. Go to npr.org and, again, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

But first, teens and alcohol. Tara Parker-Pope joins us from her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she writes about health, the New York Times Well blog. And her article, "Using Science to Keep Teens Sober At The Prom" appeared last week.

Tara, nice to have you with us today.

Ms. TARA PARKER-POPE (Health Writer, New York Times): Happy to be here.

CONAN: And science is the best way to keep kids from drinking?

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, I think it's one way to keep kids from drinking. I mean, no single intervention is going to help everybody all the time, but I do think we often underestimate our teenagers. And what teenagers really value is honesty and straight-talk. And, you know, the scientific organizations, the medical organizations really think that sort of straight talk about what alcohol does to your body and your brain will reach a certain number of kids if you do it the right way.

CONAN: All right. Give us an example.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, you know, for instance, you know, talking to kids about the sort of chemistry about alcohol and how it affects their brain, you know there's some research that shows that it can really - a teenager's brain is different than an adult brain. It's still developing. And so alcohol has a different effect on a child's brain than an adult brain. And so if you explain that to a teen, explain to them that, you know, their memory maybe heavily affected and impaired by drinking alcohol, you know, that may actually get through to them.

CONAN: So they're not even going to remember the prom if they drink too much.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, that is the message, that if you really want to have a good time and create good memories, don't drink because your memories can be erased. And, you know, there was a really powerful image on MTV's "Real World" a few years ago, where one of the girls had been drinking a lot and behaved kind of crazy, hit on one of the housemates. Well, she was so drunk that she was basically in a blackout and remembered nothing of it the next day. And it was a very powerful image that was discussed a lot on Web sites.

You know, that scares a lot of teens. They don't really want to be that girl. And, you know, the problem is so many of us as parents tell our kids no. You just can't do it. Don't do it. I don't want you to do it. There'll be big trouble. That doesn't reach a teenager. You know, you got to find different ways to reach them and help them come to their own decision and their own conclusion.

CONAN: There was one of the tips that you wrote about, which is essentially remind them that, well, drinking can lead to vomiting, which is gross.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, it is gross, and it will ruin your dress, you know, it'll ruin your tuxedo. It'll - you know, it's a very unpleasant, unattractive thing to do. You know, there was a lot of discussion about this with youths smoking. You know, if you tell a child, a teenager that smoking will kill them, that just does not connect with the way they view the world. They feel indestructible in their teenage years.

But if you tell them it makes you really smell bad, it makes your teeth yellow, it makes you clothes smell, that has more of a - you know, that affects a teenager more, you know, what they're thinking about. Not every teen. I mean, there's a lot of skepticism, but nobody thinks that every strategy will work for every kid. But, you know, interesting, I wrote about this on my blog, and a lot of teenagers wrote in and said, well, I'm still a straight-A student and I drink all the time.

But, you know, it's interesting, a lot of these kids are good kids. They are experimenting with alcohol. It's something that happens in the teenager years, but, you know, there's been data showing that teens who drink twice a week consistently, they score an average of 10 percent lower on short-term memory tests. And the way that translates is that a heavy drinker is more likely to get a B, whereas a none-drinker would get an A. I mean that's how that measures differently. And if you're - especially if you're reaching those kids who have high ambitions for college in their GPA, telling them that drinking is going to change their brain in a way that's going to hurt their grades, you're going to reach some of them that way.

CONAN: Some. And again, no one approach is going to work with everybody.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: You know, the goal here is to just try to keep a kid from drinking to excess where they hurt themselves and to keep them from getting behind the wheel or getting in a car with somebody else. I mean, we're just basically trying to help them survive their teenage years.

And, you know, the tragedy of this is that every day, we hear stories. In my own life, just a few days ago, a friend of mine, somebody she works with whom I know, you know, his son was in a terrible car accident, wrapped around a tree, and he's got severe brain damage. And this is somebody that, you know, he's in my life. He's in, you know, he's near my life. I know another couple, their son died a few years ago the same way. This happens. I mean, this really does happen to kids. And I think any way you can try to reach them - I mean, it's an effort, and it may not work, but there's so much cynicism about, oh, this is a stupid idea. Teens are going to do what they're going to do. You know, I don't - again, I don't think we give teens enough credit sometimes.

CONAN: And here's an email that we got from Eric. And he wrote: My parents had a well-stocked bar when I was a kid. Their rule was, if you want to try something, come and ask. They taught and demonstrated by lifestyle that drinking was no big deal when done responsibly. Most important, they taught that drinking was for celebration and never to ease a bad day. I did the same with my kids, and they had no great interest in getting soused for the sake of getting soused. If the taboo were lifted and kids taught how to handle liquor responsibly, wouldn't this cut down on the mystique and lead to less binge and excessive alcohol consumption?

Ms. PARKER-POPE: You know, there is always this debate. You look in Europe, where alcohol rules are a little more lax, and you don't really see different rates of alcoholism. You don't see that kids are drinking less. So I know it's a good idea, and maybe in an individual family this might be a strategy. You know, in my house growing up, my parents did not drink at all. We never had alcohol in the house. I mean, that was how they set the example. My mother had alcoholism in her family, and it devastated her. She lost her older brother to liver disease related to alcohol. So that made a great impression on us as kids. And, you know, in writing this post and writing about it, the truth is I didn't touch alcohol at all during high school, and this has shocked a lot of people.

You know, surveys which show that about 75 percent of kids have tried alcohol in high school, so maybe I was part of - I was, I guess, part of 25 percent. But that 75 percent is a bit inflated, because those are kids who've maybe tried it. It's the regular drinkers you're really worried about. Not the people who maybe experiment once or twice. But, you know, the reason I never drank in high school is because my parents kept really close track of me. I see these kids who are posting on my blog saying, oh, I get out - I go out every Friday and Saturday and get smashed. It would not have been possible in my household because my - I had a curfew. You know, there were limits to the car, and I would still be grounded today frankly if I had broken any of those rules.

CONAN: Be grounded forever.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Absolutely. I got that a lot, grounded indefinitely. That was always the threat. And I think that parents have to kind of take some responsibility for this. Yes, kids are exposed - the problem is with this idea of experimenting in the home, you cannot bring your child's friends into the home and say okay, you're curious. You can drink and drink responsibly and I'll take care of you. You can't do that. It's against the law.

CONAN: It is.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: You'll get in a lot of trouble. So this is the dilemma with that kind of suggestion. It might work for some families, not for all.

CONAN: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. What works? What doesn't? And we'll talk with Martha, Martha with us from San Antonio.

MARTHA: Yes. I had a son that was about 16 at the time when I studied to be a substance abuse counselor. And I brought home all kinds of these kinds of films and, you know, VCR's and all kinds of thing to - well, part of my studying. And I'd bring him in and said, well, I'm going to watch these things. Let's discuss these together and let's watch these together. And it wasn't just smoking or drinking or something. It was a whole thing, you know, substance abuse and the whole bit, which is wonderful. And we saw what it would do to, you know, to your body when you did these things and we'd talk about it, and I don't know. I never did much drinking, anyway. It just wasn't that…

CONAN: Well, did that work for your 16-year-old?

MARTHA: It worked with him. He has been just - he'll take a drink occasionally, you know, like our fiesta, which we have every year here, but he just, you know, it's just not a thing that's interesting. It's an occasional kind of thing, and I haven't had any problems with him at all.

CONAN: Well, the together part might have been the central part there, Tara Parker-Pope.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, this is the other part of the mix. I mean, whatever risk behavior you're talking about, families that are very involved with their kids - whether it's smoking or sex or alcohol or drugs or even an eating disorder, you know, sitting down to the family dinner, you know, every night, expecting your kids to be there at a certain hour, being very invested in your child's life is a great predictor for helping him through these really difficult teenage years. You know, study after study has shown this.

Now there are a lot of great parents who do these things and their kids still, you know, step off the path. So it's not to say that we're blaming parents when kids do this, but if you really want to lower the risk and minimize the risk, being very invested in your child's life is really the way to go.

CONAN: Martha, thanks very much.

MARTHA: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email from William: The notion that any method, especially naive notions of being direct, warning about the scientific dangers or warning about the effects on their appearance will prevent teens from drinking is almost laughable.

I myself am an 18-year-old who does not drink. I find myself in a minority of less than 10 percent of people my age. People do not drink because they're rebelling or because they don't understand the danger. Teens drink because they enjoy getting drunk.

Almost all teenagers drink, and that will always be the case, as long as alcohol exists. That from Nashville, Tennessee. So at least William, a teenager, disagrees with you there.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: It's very typical of the comment that I received on the blog this week, and I certainly understand that. But if we can - you know, maybe we're not going to eliminate drinking entirely, but can we reduce the number of episodes, the number of exposures? Can we at least convince our kids not to get in the car with somebody who's drinking or to not get behind the wheel?

You know, can we convince them, you know, around exam time that heavy drinking is going to ruin their grades? You know, maybe we'll save a week or two of partying. I mean, it's really all about what you can, you know, accomplish, these small steps. You know, and to say that all kids drink, it's just not true.

There are a lot of really - you know, I get really frustrated. I am a big fan of the American teenager. I think teens are really interesting. I think, you know, they have great ideas. They're thinking, you know, they're building relationships, they're forming habits. And we like to disparage teenagers in this country.

I wrote a story a few months ago about teens and sex, and we have this idea that every kid out there is having sex, that there's this rampant teenage promiscuity, and it's just not true. You know, most teens are fairly cautious about this. In fact, today's…

CONAN: Tara, we have to short break, so Tara, stay with us if you would. We're talking about the best approach when it comes to warning teens away from binge drinking. What works? What doesn't? Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Later in the hour, we want to know who you remember on this Memorial Day. We'd ask you to send us an email if you could. Send it to talk@npr.org, or you can leave your remembrance on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. We'll read some of them later in the program.

Right now, we're talking about teens and drinking. Alcohol is the most common used and abused drug among young people in the United States, more than both tobacco and much more than illegal drugs. And as the summer months roll in, along with parties for graduation and the prom, parents wonder about the best way to get their teens to stay away from booze.

We're talking with reporter Tara Parker-Pope, who writes about health issues on the New York Times Well blog, and she's been talking about a more scientific approach.

We also want to hear from you parents. What works, what doesn't? 800-989-8255. The kids can also join the conversation. Give us a call, and you can also join the conversation at our Web site: npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's go to Sky(ph), Sky with us from San Antonio in Texas.

SKY (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

SKY: My son began drinking at the age of 14 and almost died celebrating his 18th birthday, and ended up - did die at the age of 30 from an alcohol-related accident.

CONAN: Oh, I'm so sorry.

SKY: Thank you. And what I have to say is that in my experience - I was a very young parent, and so I really didn't think ahead to dialogue with him until he was already deeply in that field. And what I would say to parents is start talking to your kids when they're like 11 or 12 years old. You need to talk to them before their friends start partying at 14 and 15.

At one point in his late 20s, my son did enter and alcohol rehab program and learned about the differences that happen to a young brain, brain chemistry, brainwave function. And as he gained sobriety for a period of time, he saw that changing in himself, and it made a great impact, and he even said I wish I'd known this.

So I think giving kids that kind of information and giving it to them before you think they need it is the suggestion I would have from my experience.

CONAN: So that might have worked with your son?

SKY: I think, you know, had I had that knowledge, had I given it to him - because, you know, there is a history. His father did have alcoholism, and had I thought about it when he was a preteen, I think that might have helped him. And as Tara said, you know, really riding herd on these kids, you know.

The first time I saw him come home drunk, you know, if instead of just giving him a big lecture, I wish I would have grounded him indefinitely.

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CONAN: Yeah, that might have worked, too, though some kids have a way of getting around that, too. But…

SKY: Yeah, and he was one of those boys, but I really think for him, because he was very intellectual, he was very intelligent, and information meant a lot to him, had he had that information early in his life, it may have made a difference. So I would suggest that parents talk to them early and talk to them just very straight.

CONAN: Sky, thank you so much for sharing that story.

SKY: Thank you.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: I think that's such a powerful story and such good advice, and I hope people hear it because people are really resistant to this message because they just think oh, it won't work. But it can't hurt, is the thing. And teens really are - one of the problems with teens and alcohol is that unlike adults, you know, they're more vulnerable to the memory problems, to the brain damage, to being impaired. But they handle alcohol in some ways better.

They're less vulnerable to feeling tired, to getting hangovers, to begin wobbly, and then you throw in the fact that kids today are drinking these energy drinks, these high-caffeine energy drinks with alcohol that is sort of making them feel less drunk.

So I think we need to explain to kids you may feel okay, but here's what's going on in your brain and this is why I'm begging you don't get behind the wheel and call me if you do get into this situation.

I think that - I do believe you can reach teens - not every one, but I think it's fascinating that this young man did feel that message would have resonated with him as a teen.

CONAN: Thanks again, Sky.

SKY: Thank you.

CONAN: Joining us now is Laurence Steinberg, who's on the phone from his home in Philadelphia. He is a professor of psychology at Temple University, the author of numerous books on adolescence, including "The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting." And nice to have you back on the program with us today.

Professor LAURENCE STEINBERG (Psychology, Temple University; Author, "The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting"): Good to be back. How are you?

CONAN: And I just wondered if you've given any thought to this scientific approach, if you will, and whether you think it might actually deter some kids from drinking.

Well, I think it's - you know, it's great to try to teach kids about themselves and certainly from the point of view of science education - brain development, but I'm very skeptical that this would have any impact at all on kids' behavior. And I say that, you know, based on what we know about the impact of all kinds of educational approaches on health-related behaviors among kids.

We're very, very good at changing kids' knowledge. We're pretty good at changing their attitudes, and we're terrible at changing their behaviors through these kinds of interventions. And so although, you know, I agree with Tara that it's, you know in some senses, it couldn't hurt to try. The part that I worry about is leaving parents with the, you know, with this overly optimistic belief that they can talk to their kids about how alcohol is going to affect their prefrontal cortex and then send them out to the prom and think that their kids are going to be safe, you know, that doing that is going to be very effective.

CONAN: What does work in your experience?

Prof. STEINBERG: Well, what does work is, you know, the old sort of standbys of chaperoning kids carefully, making sure that they don't drive if they've been drinking, providing transportation for them on evenings when you think that there might be alcohol present, enforcing the law, getting together with other parents and agreeing that you're not going to let alcohol be served, you know, at pre-prom or post-prom parties.

In other words, what does work is limited kids' access to the substances that can hurt them.

CONAN: Limiting access, that's - some parents would say wait a minute, we need to trust our children. Otherwise, how are they going to learn to behave later in life?

Prof. STEINBERG: Well, yeah. On the other hand, on an evening where you believe that in your community it's common for kids to go out and binge drink, get behind the wheel of a car, I think that this lesson, you know, is perhaps not best taught in that context.

You know, as you were talking before, I pulled up on my computer some data from the most recent version of Monitoring the Future, which is a national survey of kids about drugs and alcohol. And, you know, 95 percent of high school seniors in this country say it's very easy to get alcohol. That's a big problem.

CONAN: And that's in a country where largely, I think almost everywhere now, it's 21.

Prof. STEINBERG: That's right.

CONAN: Yeah. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. And let's go to John, John with us from San Francisco.

JOHN (Caller): Hi. That was a great - thank you for taking the call. That was a great moment to come in on, because I'm a parent of a 14-year-old, and we just had a pre-prom meeting with parents and the health teacher at our child's school. And there was scenarios put out there for discussion, and one of them was a kid comes home with a friend, and the friend is drunk, and your kid tells you, oh, he just went to bed, but don't tell his parents. What do you do?

And it was a (unintelligible) to have a discussion about philosophy on how we deal with that whole trust issue, freedom issue and dealing with the serious matter of underage drinking. And it got pretty heated.

There was a lot of parents who felt that they wouldn't tell to their friends parents and not break the trust between the child. And then my feeling was, well, it's not really fair to allow your child to put you in a position where you're then taking the trust of the parent.

When a parent entrusts you - their kid under your care, I think there's an absolute responsibility to make sure that the parents of that child knows what's going on. And so, you know, I think it's really important that people realize it's more important to be a parent than a friend to your child and starting that discussion very early on, as the woman said earlier, 10, 11 years old, and being involved in your kids' lives because if you're waiting until the big moments, the big crisis moments happen, to get involved into your kids' lives, you're way too late.

Your kid has no real connection or communication that can have any history and trust. And you need to instill that really early on and have dialogue about every little thing in their life all throughout their lives or else when you get to the point where these big-issue topics come up, you're not going to have that sort of history to be able to communicate and have an impact on.

And the other thing is the - regarding access, I 100 percent agree. So many parents feel like, oh, well, if they come here after prom and they're allowed to drink here at my house, it will prevent them from going elsewhere. I think that's another irresponsible position to take to allow them to drink alcohol.

First of all, it's against the law, and you're telling kids it's okay to break some laws when you think it's - you know, that you're more responsible than the laws are saying. And I think it's really just - and it's rampant.

Here - I live in Northern California, and just this weekend, there was a 16-year-old boy who died in Oakland at a party, and I was just up the street. And it's a really tony neighborhood, and these parents left their kids, the house to them thinking, well, at least they're in my house. I don't have to be there to supervise. So what bad can go wrong? And sure enough, a 16-year-old boy died from alcohol poisoning, and there were actually 13-year-old kids there drinking. And now the son of the people who own the house, who is 18, is now looking at jail time for this.

So it's a really serious issue that has been going on for decades, and I think people just underestimate the power of alcohol and the power of the peer pressure. And to think that, well, you know, if all the kids are doing it and if I allow my kid to do a little bit and I trust them that they'll trust - you know, that they'll use it wisely. And I think we just underestimate the maturity level of our kids - or overestimate the maturity of a young adult.

CONAN: Tara Parker-Pope, the sole issue of trust and, well, being your child's parent, not your friend, you'll be grounded indefinitely. I'm sure that came up in responses to your blog post.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Yeah. I mean, I actually am a firm believer that you don't trust your kids. I mean, you're the parent and you're - they're teenagers and they have a teenage brain. And maybe the most important message of all of this is for the parents to understand that a teenage brain is still developing, and that there are really high stakes here.

And maybe if parents were more aware of this, they would crack down more, because I do agree that it's very hard to change teen behavior. But we have done it.

It's very hard to change anybody's behavior. But if you look at seatbelt laws and cell phone driving laws - and, you know, we're starting to make inroads in some of those areas. And certainly, we're not giving up on teens by saying, well, we're not going to keep you from texting in the car, so we're just not going to talk to you about it.

We're going to keep talking to kids about texting in the car and hope that we make a dent. And I think the goal here is to make a dent and to reach some kids.

You know, I was talking to a high school science teacher who was having this conversation with his students. And one of the students said, you know, nobody ever told me that alcohol would make me stupid, that alcohol would affect my grades. And for that particular student, it resonated. A lot of kids, it won't.

But, again, it's what you can do - you know, again, this is, you know, this is the American Association for the Advancement of Science who's putting out this idea of teaching children about the science, the chemistry, the biology, the neuroscience of alcohol. And I think it's one piece of a very big puzzle.

CONAN: John, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: And Larry Steinberg, I wanted to - you would think that that story that he just told of the 16-year-old dying of alcohol poisoning, you show that clip from the newspaper - if there's anything such - still exists anyway - to kids and it would be - have persuasive effect, but I think Tara is right. It does not.

Prof. STEINBERG: No, it doesn't. You know, in our lab at Temple, we've been studying something that I think is very relevant to this. And what we've been studying is the impact of peers on kid's judgment and decision making.

And what we're finding in a variety of tasks is that when kids are by themselves, they engage in decision-making and risk-taking behavior that's not that different from adults. But you put them in the same exact task situation but you have their friends in the room with them, and it doubles the number of chances that they take, whereas doing the same thing for an adult has no impact whatsoever.

And we've now been doing imaging studies, where we've been looking at what the neural underpinnings are of this peer influence effect that we're seeing in so many different ways.

And what turns out is that it looks like the presence of friends activates a completely different system of brain circuitry in kids than it does in adults. And it activates brain systems that make individuals more sensation-seeking and reward-seeking and likely to engage in risk-taking behavior.

So, the lesson here is that you can have a conversation with your teenager, and your teenager can be very, very reasonable and get it and understand the information. And as soon as you put that teenager in a group situation with her friends, she's a different person.

CONAN: We're talking about teens and drinking. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And we're got that story from the Northern California papers, this in an email from Noel(ph). On Saturday night, a 16-year-old young man died of alcohol poisoning in our small tight-knit community. Fellow partiers found him passed out in the hallway. He was gone by midnight. And a family and a community was changed forever.

He was, by all accounts, a premier athlete, a good student from a good family, living in one of the most solid, well-educated communities in the state. We parents know that drinking will happen, and what we need to do now is to educate our kids to know when and how to spot a potential overdose and to let them know that they can and should call the parent or a responsible adult immediately.

And this - another email, this from Ruth: I was a single parent. When my sons were teens, I decided that one way to convince them that alcohol was serious stuff was to quit drinking myself while they were teens. I said, look it, I'll start drinking again when you are drinking age. So there was no alcohol in the house.

I hosted the New Year's Eve party every year for my kids and their friends - no alcohol, lots of good food and fun. The biggest challenge was the parents who thought they were doing the right thing by providing the alcohol to the kids, theirs and others, at their home.

And just a reminder from that other story, you can end up in serious legal difficulties by doing that. And parental role models - are parents role models in this regard, Larry Steinberg?

Prof. STEINBERG: Oh, absolutely. You know, that - two of the biggest influences on kids' drinking are their parents and their friends. And parents can model abstinence. They can also model responsible drinking.

But even still, I think we just don't want to be putting kids in situations where it's really easy for them to get their hands on alcohol, you know, and to get drunk.

CONAN: I wonder, Tara Parker-Pope, what's been the most interesting response you've gotten from your blog post?

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Well, I would say it's the occasional student who steps in and says, actually, you know, this does speak to me. And I've had a few students who - or adults who said, you know, I started drinking at 14, 15. I became an alcoholic. I'm with somebody who tried this with me. You know, you do hear that a lot.

But it's really the negativity. It's the sense of giving up. And that really troubles me. And I've seen it. I started to talk in the earlier segment about, you know, we like to write off our teens. We like to say that boys are just after sex. And if you look at study after study, it shows that boys care about relationships and love just as much as girls do.

You know, you have this image of teen girls gone wild. It's just not true. The - you know, by the time they're in college, the virginity rate among girls is about 25 percent. About half of teens have, you know, by the time they reach, I think, it's junior or senior year, they have not had sex.

So there's a whole segment of our teenagers that are behaving well. And I think, you know, to give up and to throw up your hands and to say, well, you can't reach teens - you can't reach all the teens all the time, but you can reach them some of the time.

I mean, I know that when I was in high school, I was at a party, and the boy who drove me to the party started drinking. And I called my mom and said, you know, you should come pick me up. He's drinking. And she said, okay, and there was no yelling and no trouble. You know, that was a message that had really, you know, been given to me, that I always had that phone call.

And I think that you just need to hit teens from all sides. I think that this is about, well, teens get together and their brains act differently, you can model, as the doctor said, you can model good behavior, too. And hanging around with kids who don't drink is, you know, it protects kids. So encouraging those friendships and encouraging safe places for children to gather, all of those things make a difference.

CONAN: Tara Parker-Pope, excuse me, thank you very much, Tara.

Ms. PARKER-POPE: Thank you.

CONAN: Tara Parker-Pope writes for the New York Times Well blog, and joined us from her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Also our thanks to Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, with us by phone today. Thank you so much.

Prof. STEINBERG: Thank you.

CONAN: And when we come back, we're going to listen to President Obama. We also want to hear who you would like to remember on this Memorial Day. Send us an email: talk@ npr.org.

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