Alcohol is the most commonly used—and abused—substance among youth in the United States. Although drinking by persons younger than 21 is against the law, people ages 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent Monitoring the Future survey reported that 72 percent of 12th-graders and 37 percent of 8th-graders had tried alcohol during the previous month.
The good news is that anyone can have a good time without resorting to drinking alcohol. Check out our list of six of the best ways to do so.
1. Scare yourself silly. Many teens like to get together with friends to watch DVDs. Scary movies are a particular favorite. “It’s always fun to watch scary movies,” says Tanya Gideonse-Wright, 17, of Eugene, Oregon. “You automatically bond with each other. Everyone is sitting there terrified and clutching each other.” And the screams are usually followed by laughter. “When you’re screaming, you see how ridiculous you look,” Tanya says. “And everyone laughs after you scream.”
2. Go back in time. Heather Deacon, a high school junior from Manchester, Michigan, says she and her friends like to have fun “by acting like kids.” They hang out at Chuck E. Cheese and play in the ball pit or get together at a local arcade and take each other on in air hockey. Think about it: When you were in elementary school, playing was a blast, right? You didn’t need alcohol to spice things up. Try to recapture that feeling.
3. Break a sweat. Playing a game like basketball is great exercise for your body and a stress reliever for your mind. It’s also a terrific way to build camaraderie with your peers. It doesn’t have to be basketball, either. Any sport—football, softball, tennis, volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee—can be fun. Nick Strobl, a high school junior in Manchester, Michigan, likes to have home-run-hitting contests with his pals. “We pitch to each other, and whoever smashes the most balls out of the park wins,” he says.
4. Make music. Do you like to sing or play guitar? Do you know anyone else who plays an instrument? Why not get together and jam? Everyone can bring in music that they’d like to perform—or just improvise.
5. Pick a project. Ryan Merchant, a middle school student from Modesto, California, loves to ride his bicycle. So he had a great idea that he knew other cyclists would support—creating a bike path. Ryan is helping to plan it along with other bicyclists and city officials. His inspiration? “Modesto’s skate park is really popular with teenagers, and there’s a dog park nearby that’s nice too,” Ryan says.
Is there a project that you would like to do that others would be willing to help make happen? Whether the project is big or small, getting together and working with people who share a common interest can be truly exciting.
6. Make a meal. What does every teenager like to do? Eat, of course! “Eating is always a pleasure,” Tanya says. It’s fun when your friends are chowing down with you. It’s even better when you get together with pals to make something: a birthday cake for a friend, brunch on weekends, picnic food for an outdoor event. Just remember to show some courtesy and clean up afterward.