Prom season puts risky peer pressure on kids


SAN DIEGO, May 25, 2012 — Prom season is in full swing. The average prom date has become increasingly expensive, but American families aren’t doing much to hold the line on costs. And they aren’t doing their kids any favors.

In a survey conducted by Visa, the average family with a high school student attending the prom will spend on average $1,078, a 33 percent increase over the $807 average cost in 2011. Families in the Northeast will spend twice as much as any other region of the country, an average of $1,944; families in the Midwest will spend “just” $696.

One troubling statistic is that parents surveyed whose average income is less than $50,000 plan to spend more than the national average: $1,307. The Visa survey also found that parents are planning to pay for 61 percent of prom costs while their teens are only covering the remaining 39 percent.

The price tag includes clothing, transportation, photos, tickets, meals, and accompanying social events.

With three teen kids of my own, these extravagant proms carry another price tag that’s potentially most expensive than any limo or dress: the pressure for teens to have sex on prom night.

On prom night parents will foolishly indulge their children by footing the bill for an expensive evening, relaxing their rules and letting kids stay out late, even booking hotel rooms so they don’t risk driving home late when tired or intoxicated. The next thing they know, prom night is the night their grandchildren are conceived.

This may seem alarmist, but as a family law attorney I see it far too often. Families end up wrestling with custody, visitation, and support issues just when their children should be celebrating their high school graduation and plans for college.

The peer pressure and price tag can overwhelm many teens. Think about it: If adult women feel pressured to “put out” and have sex with a man just because he took her out for a nice dinner, imagine the pressure on a 17-year-old girl whose date spent $1,000 on taking her to the prom. The innuendo involved with pricey proms is huge.

Alcohol use on prom night makes it even more difficult for teens to make good decisions. According to a survey of 2,500 11th and 12th graders commissioned by Liberty Mutual insurance in 2010, 90 percent of teens believe their counterparts are more likely to drink and drive on prom night. About 36 percent of students surveyed say parents have allowed them to attend parties where it is known that alcohol will be served.

Fleischer offers the following advice both as an attorney, and as the mother of teenagers.

  • Don’t wait until prom night to talk with your kids. Establish guidelines early.
  • Absolutely NO drug or alcohol use should be permitted and teens should not attend events where you believe alcohol will be served. No exceptions. “Teens need to keep their minds clear and wits about them,” says Fleischer. “Let’s also remember that underage drinking is illegal.”
  • Set a curfew. It may be slightly more lenient than normal, but teens should not be out all night. “Come home before the crazy stuff happens,” says Fleischer. Establish consequences for a broken curfew.
  • Buddy up. Encourage your teens to attend the prom with friends. It’s best when parents know their kids’ friends and their parents. Have a parent to parent talk about your expectations for prom night behavior.
  • Have a candid conservation with your teen about sex on prom night. Even if it seems embarrassing, ask whether your teen has discussed having sex on prom night with his or her date. Make sure your teen understands that “no means no.”
  • Offer to help put a plan in place with exit strategies so your teen can walk away from peer pressure and feel more confident. Make sure your teen can reach you and ask for help, no questions asked. Give your teen permission to call another trusted adult. As a fail-safe, pre-arrange cab fare and make sure your teen knows how to get a ride home.

Resist renting a limousine, going out for an expensive dinner, or paying too much for formal attire. It’s also best when expenses are equally shared. I endorse the idea of teen friends going in a low-key group to have fun at the prom.

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.

Copyright © 2014 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

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