Parents: If the words “spring break” bring to mind scenes of Gidget and Moondoggie waxing up their surfboards, then it’s time for a reality check. If “spring break” conjures up images of days and nights of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, then consider yourself up to date on this annual college ritual.
Not all college students choose rowdy escapes. More and more campuses are promoting alternative spring break activities such as drug-and alcohol-free parties and sporting events and “service” vacations that range from repairing trails in state parks to studying wild dolphin societies in Florida.
That said, parents should be aware of the risks and temptations college students face when vacationing with their peers.
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. This kind of binge drinking is the major culprit in alcohol poisoning. It also increases the risk of car accidents and arrests for such violations as drunk driving, public intoxication and property destruction.
Tips to pass along to students: Don’t drink, but if you are of legal drinking age and you do decide to drink:
- Decide in advance what and how much you will drink.
- Plan how you will refuse once you reach your limit.
- Know what will happen if you violate state or local laws
- Use a designated driver or choose public transportation.
Sex and Violence
According to the same University of Wisconsin study, few students who had sex during spring break used condoms, even if a condom was available. Among women, those with higher alcohol consumption were more likely to have been the victim of a sexual assault.
Tips for parents to pass along to students:
- Don’t drink too much. Drinking makes it easier for a person to become either the victim or the perpetrator of a sexual assault.
- Don’t allow yourself to be taken to an isolated location.
- Use the buddy system. Don’t walk alone. Attend large parties with friends and plan to leave with the same friends.
- Watch out for “rape” drugs. Don’t leave a drink unattended. Don’t accept open drinks from strangers. If you start feeling odd, put the buddy system into action.
Hotel/Motel and General Safety
In general, students should rely on traveler’s checks and credit cards. They should write down the numbers and keep them in a safe place. In addition to the obvious—lock your door and don’t leave valuables in your hotel or motel room—pass on these tips to your child:
- Don’t flash cash; limit visits to ATM machines.
- Look through the peephole before answering the door. Don’t open it for a stranger. If someone claims to be hotel staff, call the front desk for verification.
- Never agree to meet someone who has “found” your lost/stolen purse or wallet: Notify police.
Mexico and some Caribbean islands are popular spring break destinations. When traveling abroad, students should remember that foreign nations have different laws and customs and that drug trafficking can mean long prison sentences. Contact the country’s consular office or visit the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site.
Tips for parents to pass along to students:
- Check the country’s entry and exit requirements. Take extra copies of travel documents (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate).
- Review State Department travel warnings, which detail crime and health risks.
According to the American Society of Travel Agents and the College Parents of America, charter flight delays, hotel over-bookings and non-delivery of services are common problems.
Tips for students:
- Be skeptical about solicitations that sound too good to be true.
- Research the travel company and don’t give out credit card numbers until you’re sure the business is reputable.
- Receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment.
State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
Fries, A. (2006). A Parent’s Guide to Spring Break. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/a-parents-guide-to-spring-break/000264
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.