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Just Say “No” to Spring Break

By Tim Jahn, M.ED

Like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano, thousands of college students fly south to warmer climates each year and land in places like Cancun, Panama City, Cabo San Lucas and South Padre Island. Spring Break is a cultural phenomenon that was kick-started in 1960 with the movie “Where the Boys Are.” Fort Lauderdale instantly became the hot destination for college students seeking sun, surf, and sex. Since then, Spring Break has grown into a mega-industry and a potentially perilous rite of passage. 

Spring Break not only attracts college-age students from every state; it also draws many young adults in their 20’s and, more recently, high school juniors and seniors. While high school students will argue that they have earned certain freedoms and deserve a reward, most school officials and youth professionals recommend that parents not let high school students attend Spring Break. 

For one thing, Spring Break is all about partying, i.e. drinking. According to a University of Wisconsin study, 75 percent of college males and 43.6 percent of females reported being intoxicated on a daily basis during spring break. Nearly half of the males and more than 40 percent of the females also reported being drunk to the point of vomiting or passing out at least once during break. One study revealed that boys consumed an average of 18 drinks daily and girls consumed an average of 10 drinks daily during Spring Break. The alcohol beverage industries invest heavily in marketing Spring Break destinations. Web sites promote free drink packages, booze boats, and the fact that proof of age is hardly checked. All high school students and most college students are underage in U.S. destinations. Even if they are of legal age in places like Mexico or the Bahamas, the unregulated binge drinking can have serious consequences.  

Alcohol is a factor in assaults, arrests, emergency room visits, and rapes. Each year, there are alcohol-related fatalities during Spring Break. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and make safe sex nearly impossible. Do you really want your son or daughter exposed to these risks? Just say, “No.”  

Tips for Tackling Spring Break

If you’re getting a lot of pressure to say yes, check out “Spring Break” on the Internet and judge for yourself if this experience is safe for your teen.  

Find out whether or not the trip is school-sponsored. Most are organized by other students, sometimes by parents, with no endorsement from the school. 

Ask other parents how they’re handling this issue. Most may feel like you do – they don’t want to be the party pooper. Stick together and it’s easier to say “no.” 

Organize an alternative group trip with several teen friends and their parents, such as a cruise where the teens can have some space and freedom, but not stray too far. 

Keep the lines of communication open while maintaining your authority. This won’t be the first or last time you’ll need to discuss trust, freedom, safety, alcohol, drugs, and sex.

Tim Jahn is a Human Ecology Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program and leads workshops for parents of pre-teens and teens. He can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 331 or at



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