Teenage drinkers and the parents who cover for them

A CBS affiliate in Washington recently set out to prove that there’s a youth alcohol problem in the District. What it didn’t expect to uncover is that it has a “parenting” problem too.

Reporter Andrea McCarren was forced off the air in the backlash against the reports she aired.

“At first I was frightened and then I became angry,” McCarren told CBS News this morning. “It felt like an orchestrated Facebook and Twitter campaign of hate. People put my home address on the internet. There were calls for revenge and retaliation against my family. I’m now in about my 27th year as a reporter and I have never seen anything like this. It seems like these suburban, affluent kids have simply never been told ‘no.’ They have an inflated sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to cell phones, computers, cars, and in this case, they appear to feel entitled to doing something illegal, which is drink underage of 21.”

“One of the most memorable things, was at an underage drinking party that was busted by police, one of the parents showed up to collect his son and he said right in front of police, ‘Why didn’t you run?'”

  • allie

    I can safely say my parents would’ve hung me out to dry if I’d been busted at a party (I feared their wrath too much to party in the first place), and my husband’s parents *did* let him have a night in county for his minor.

    …Who lets their kids off the hook like this?!

  • Annette Larson

    I was editor of a 16,000+ circulation weekly newspaper in a rural state in the the late ’90s. An elementary school child was found in a snowbank one night, drunk, and almost died from exposure and alcohol poisoning. I wrote a strongly-worded editorial condemning the adult who provided alcohol for that child, and the lack of parental care that allowed that child to nearly die. I was not prepared for the onslaught of hatred and vitriol that was spewed at me, from “mind your own business” to not-so-veiled threats against my safety. That was not the first or last time that I was attacked as editor for bringing to light the seamy underbelly of social doublespeak. As far as drugs and alcohol, no one wants anyone to question their choices, but they’re more than happy to publicly criticize someone who succumbs to addiction. (As an aside, after nearly 40 years in journalism I am now pursuing a Master’s degree in mental health and addictions counseling.)

  • Jim Shapiro

    The desire to protect one’s child is understood by every responsible parent.

    As is the challenge of negotiating the fine line between protection and over-protection.

    Education, education, education.

    And appropriate consequences, consequences, consequences.

    For parents and children.

    How about child endangerment fines for parents, and a delayed drivers licence for children.

    And a guest appearance on a violator website. (The stocks of the digital age.)

  • Peter T

    “they feel entitled to doing something illegal, which is drink underage of 21.”

    The country lived well with lower age limits until a prohibitionistic campaign connected federal highway dollars with higher state-set age limits. I don’t condone harassing McCarren, the reporter, but I find her moralizing unappealing. She should write about something else.

  • Joanna

    “Moralizing”? a store is openly selling alcohol to 14-year-olds (read the story) and you complain that the reporter is “moralizing”? Parents are teaching their kids to be scofflaws, endangering their kids and others, and then illegally threatening and harrasing a reporter and her children. What is wrong with this picture?

    A culture of alcoholism doesn’t want to see its ugly face in the mirror.


  • Peter T

    It is moralizing to treat the too high age limit of 21 like something sacred – it is a politcal artefact of a moral panic and defending it is moralizing. Vote with 18, die for country even younger, but forbidden from drinking moderately – please!

    Stores selling alcohol to 14-years-olds is a different problem entirely, and the store should loose its license, as it probably has happened already. The MPR story above was a bit misleading in so far, as the facebook attacks were not started when parents were covering for children, but for (correctly) busting the store.

    I understand the parents’c concern, which are belittled by the reporter, that the pictures the media took of their detained children would end up broadcasted, minors or not. The parents, if they drink themselves, should introduce their children to consuming alcohol responsibly at an early age, like 16 or 17 (before their peers teach them that being drunk is OK).

  • Riley

    I absolutely love MPR, but I am always very disappointed when you buy into the sensationalist, drama-filled garbage that cable news channels and small local evening news stations barf out and call news. This woman is sitting back and judging as if she is perfect. Maybe we should follow her around with a camera for a few months and see how many laws she breaks or how many things that we may personally judge as morally wrong. So often we see politicians spouting off about something or creating laws against something and then doing that thing themselves. I highly doubt that cheap make-up caked reporters are any different. I am not surprised that people are mad when she comes shoving cameras and lights in their faces. Did she do nothing that society judged as wrong when she was in her developing years? It does not matter what kind of enforcement you have, people are going to do things that they want to do. There is even research that says that the more you try to tell people what they can and cannot do, the more they will do to do what they want. Her methods will not help. It is unfortunate that people are harassing her family, but she is being overly dramatic. Thanks for wasting my time, MPR. I am not used to that from you and expect more.

  • Bob Collins

    This was not an MPR story. It was produced by WUSA

  • Riley

    I am glad to hear that, but it was posted on MPR. I trust that the news they post is relevant, and I find this to be a story about as relevant as high school drama. I see that you posted this, Bob. I feel like I am being kind of disrespectful by being so opinionated, but I believe in being genuine. If you are associated with MPR, I am sure you a great journalist. I do not mean to cut down your work (though I realize that you did not write this), which I am sure you put a ton of effort and heart into. I simply dislike this piece. Again, I love MPR, and I thank you for the great work that I have come to expect from one of my favorite organizations.

  • Bob Collins

    I would just point out that this page is a blog, in the classic sense of what blogs are.