Some towns have made admirable efforts to address this unmet need. Residents of Rockville Centre created a Youth Council — a youth-driven organization that dreams up activities for teens to take part in around town, many of them sponsored by local businesses. There are things like, yes, bowling nights, but also Chinese New Year celebrations, for example. Open mic nights are some of the group’s most popular events.
The Long Beach Underage Drinking Coalition has long been trying to reduce the frequency with which teens pursue one of their favorite, and most destructive, activities: gathering surreptitiously to drink. The coalition’s tools are education about the myriad dangers of alcohol abuse, and, with the involvement of parents, ongoing efforts to eliminate teens’ access to liquor.
One of the coalition’s members, Long Beach school board member Roy Lester, has for years trumpeted the need to give teens a place to go at night. A few years ago, Lester started a teen center at one of the Long Beach schools over a summer. It gave them a place to go to be with friends, play basketball, watch movies, take cooking classes and much more. There was adult supervision, but it was unobtrusive.
“Our kids are basically forgotten in this situation,” Lester said. “We yell and scream that they shouldn’t get in trouble, but we don’t give them any opportunities to do something.”
If we don’t want teens roaming the streets at night, drinking and causing trouble, we need to create alternatives. Our older children deserve to be more than a nuisance to us.