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Should I be worried if my teen is going to music festivals?

Music festivals like the Big Day Out,
Splendour in The Grass and Good Vibrations have all become major events, with
most capital cities and even some of the smaller cities across the country hosting
such events. Over the years I have been involved with the organisation and
running of some major dance parties and have also been contracted by a number of
promoters to assist them with advice around alcohol and other drug safety.
Years ago these events were only open to those aged 18 years or over but in
recent times there has been a major shift and we are now seeing younger and
younger teens attending music festivals.
One of the questions I get asked by many
parents is what happens at these events and should I allow my child to attend?
Firstly I would say from a person who has
attended dance festivals (in days gone by), as well as worked at many (from an organizer,
medical, law enforcement liaison and crowd control perspective) I believe that
these are not appropriate for anyone under 16 years of age (although of course this does really depend on so many things – any parent would know that the maturity of a teenager between the age of 15 and 18 can vary considerably). If I was really
honest I think they really should have stayed at only being open to those 18
years and above but I’m terrified that this is just me getting older and
becoming more conservative in my views! That said, I know this is a view that
is shared by many promoters, as well as those who work at these events. These
large-scale music festivals can be quite an overwhelming experience for some
young people and they certainly are being exposed to a very specific culture
that they may not have the maturity to cope with effectively.
Historically there is a strong link between
ecstasy and the dance culture. The drug’s popularity increased through the 80s and 90s as the
international dance scene grew. Some people who attend music festivals, dance
events and nightclubs certainly use ecstasy and other drugs to ‘enhance’ their experience – altering their perception and
giving them energy to dance for long periods of time. This does not mean that all
people who are part of this culture use illegal drugs. However, it is important
for parents to know that it is highly likely that their child will come into
contact with drugs such as ecstasy if they regularly attend such events.
Talking about drugs and letting your child know how you feel about drug use
will play an important part in helping your child make good decisions in the
Young people take part in a range of
different activities during their adolescence and beyond. Some of these
activities involve risk-taking. Risks range from driving fast cars, abseiling
down cliffs and drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, some young people will
experiment with illegal drugs no matter what we try to do. Trying to prevent
your child from taking part in things they like to do is likely to cause a
great deal of problems in your relationship.That said, I believe it is totally acceptable for a parent to tell their adolescent that they believe that some activities are not suitable for young people – some activities are ‘adult activities’!
If parents do choose to allow their child to attend music festivals they should make sure they voice their concerns and set
rules and boundaries around behaviour. If
you are concerned about drug use, let them know and tell them why you are
worried. Keep the lines of communication open and let them know at every
opportunity that they can come to you and talk about anything at anytime. Even
though you may not know much about these drugs, take the opportunity to learn
about them with your child. Be as honest as you can when you talk about drugs
and don’t try to exaggerate the facts to scare them – warning them that if they try ‘this or that’ they could die is most probably not going to ring true to most young people. Certainly there are risks and there have been deaths linked to the use of ecstasy and related drugs, but they are not the norm and parents have to be careful in focusing on only the more extreme potential harms.
If you are very concerned that your child
may get into a difficult or problematic situation make an emergency plan. For
example, if they are out and have no way of getting home let them know that
they can catch a taxi and you will pay. If they call you in the middle of the
night that you won’t lose it, but will help. This does not mean that you are
saying it is okay to take drugs or behave in ways of which you may not approve.
But, it does mean that you will be there if thing go wrong in their lives. It
also gives you the opportunity to openly communicate about what has gone wrong
after the event as you are immediately “in-the-know” because you have been
there for them.
It is also important to teach your child
what to do in an emergency. Basic first aid skills, as well as simple
information such as how to call 000, may help save a life.  Reinforce to your child that in a drug related
emergency that the ambulance officers do not have to call the police, unless
the person is refusing to seek treatment or there is the risk of injury to
Young people involved in the music festival
scene also need to know the legal consequences of taking drugs such as ecstasy.
New policing strategies such as drug detection dogs and roadside drug testing
have resulted in more people from the dance culture being prosecuted for drug
offences. Let your child know how being caught for using drugs will affect the
rest of their lives.
Finally, make it very clear where you stand
about the use of illegal drugs. As much as you may believe your views do not
matter to your child, research shows that parental influence is still a major
factor in the decisions many young people make.
So to summarise, there certainly is a link
between music festivals, dance culture and drug use, however not all
young people who go to dance events use drugs. Parents who are concerned should
talk about drugs such as ecstasy with their child and let them know how they
feel about drug use. It can also be useful to establish an emergency plan with
your child if things do go wrong; this does not mean that you are condoning
drug use or other unacceptable behaviour, but it does mean that you can be
there for your child if things do go wrong.

Looking for information or support services on alcohol or drugs?

If you or a friend or family member needs assistance in this area, Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) are available in every state and territory. Each of these are each staffed by trained professionals who can help with your query and provide confidential advice or refer you to an appropriate service in your area.

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