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April 20, 2006


This article is a wake-up call for Burlingame parents in two ways:

1. Teen drinking is illegal. Give your under-21 kid a drink and you are breaking the law. Let your kid drink "at a friend's house," and you're being stupid as well. To say, "It's better they drink at our house than in Mills Canyon, or in the street," is still stupid. The shouldn't be drinking at all, and such an excuse usually means the parents don't want to draw limits on their own drinking.

2. If you are not checking your kid on Myspace.com you are missing out on a window into their souls. It is on this website where you find out about what kid is doing what to whom and where the next "party" is going to erupt. The organisers, suppliers, and actors are all their for your sad eyes to see. Photos, too. It is sad to see our neighbor's kids in such a state- and bragging about it.

Teen-drinking is common in Burlingame. Indeed, the abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs by adults and teens causes more grief in our city than any other factor, I believe.

It is sad, but the quickest way to upset the neighbors is to tell them their kids are drinking. "Wheels are beginning to fall off" these kids, and we can only hope it doesn't lead to death or injury in our town.

We've had the example of a school principal "partying" with kids, and another principal with a DUI. These are 13 and 14 year-olds.

Mills-Peninsula and Sequoia Hospital have wonderful programs for adults and kids.


I was hoping that someone would post this article. Parent sponsored teen drinking in Burlingame is out of hand. Parent sponsored is either buying the booze or allowing the house to be used for the party. Pete above is correct, a review of MySpace will give FULL DETAILS of the weekly parties that are taking place in the homes of our teens. The kids are drunk and engaged and a full array of sexual and/or illegal activities.

Many parents believe that logging on to My Space is an invasion of their children's privacy. That is just an excuse to not parent your own child. If you think what you see in the teenage years is bad, what until you see what these kids are going to do in college.


As the parent of a freshman, one of the biggest disappointments I've had BHS is the apparently "laissez faire" attitude towards teen drinking. I realize that BHS is a public school and it may be hampered in terms of what discipline it can impose on kids for activities that occur outside school hours and premises -- BUT I would have thought that extra curricular activities are a privilege --not a right -- and that at least these extra curricular activities could be withdrawn or used as a threat/consequence for "illegal behavior" or "behavior unbecoming a BHS student." When I was a kid, the athletic teams were not even allowed to date the evening before a game -- now the attendees at these wild parties read like a list of "who's who" in the sports at BHS. I realize it is the parents' responsibility to parent one's own child, but our kids are not blind -- when they see outrageous behavior being "normalized" and condoned (or at least winked at) by the parents as well as the school and coaches, it is difficult to keep the kids from wondering why some children are allowed to flaunt not only the law but common sense health and safety guidelines -- all in the name of "having a little fun."

On Myspace, the BHS kids are already planning the pre and post parties for upcoming Prom night, forging the "form" which I assume is something requiring parental signature, and touting the Prom as a training day for senior night out.

From the photos posted, the parties are not pop and cookies, it's alcohol and alcohol.

Joanne, I would like to know the reason for the "athletes", not being allowed to date, before a game.
In watching pop movies, "Rocky 1". It had to do with testosterone level, ie SPERM COUNT.
I am aware that in the 1950's , "black" people were not allowed in the down town area.
A curfew... For "black" people.
My point is that teenagers will be teens.
Parents have to negoitate with little adults. The things that are happening now, happened then. Same with Mills Canyon.
Calm down everyone.
I paid $3.05, at a cheap gas station in town today.

Tuscon, do you really mean that "parents have to negotiate with little adults"? Why do we have to do this?

They may think they are adults, but they aren't, some may even look like adults, and some may even have parents who treat them like they are each others' best buddies, but this is part of the problem, not the solution. Where is the guidance these days? I don't think kids have changed, but the adults sure have. Nobody wants to be the bad guy. Not even the teachers are permitted to discipline the kids, so its a free-for-all. What kind of adults will these be?


Well, Tucson, I've heard the gist of your remarks from other adults as well. The argument goes like this: Teens have always pushed the envelope, teens have always drank alcohol; we survived, they will. Under this theory, we need not put helmets on our bicycling children, fasten their car seat belts, use safety restraints in cars, remove asbestos from our homes, or remove DDT poison from our yards, etc. We survived these hazards, they will too -- and, oh, how I loved roadtrips in the back of my parents 1957 Plymouth station wagon without the encumbrance of a seatbelt! Usually, the same folks that say "we survived, they will to" wouldn't dream of giving their kid a transfat, let alone an entire Hostess Cupcake, Ding-dong or Ho-ho. My point is: we've learned a lot in 30 years: We know that alcohol in any amount over one drink per day (2 for men) is poison to the body, we know that alcohol in a teen's body is much more damaging (as their brains are still developing, we know that alcohol + cars = death, we know that a teen that starts drinking before the age of 15 has a 4X greater risk of developing full-blown alcoholism than one who waits until the age of 21. So why do we ignore the safety information we have available as parents when it comes to drinking alcohol or using drugs, but caution our kids about every other hazard that comes their way?

Patrick Jensen

1. Myspace has nothing to do with this. Parties will be planned one way or another. People who are terrified about myspace are watching too much Dateline NBC...

2. Safe and realistic alternatives are important. The most important issue when it comes to teen drinking is finding a safe way to ensure that no one is driving. If we can accept the fact that no matter what steps are taken some teens are going to drink, then I think it is important to encourage, promote, or provide a safe mode of transportation or a volunteer program that kick help kids get home safely.

3. Calm and rational conversations about drinking or concerns about anything else your teenagers are doing are probably the best solution. Everyone wants to be respected, regardless of age...


Patrick, MySpace had everything to do with this -- it created the evidence for the prosecutor and handed it to him on a platter. He even charged the kids with a misdemeanor count of destroying evidence because after the deaths the girl went in to her computer and changed the invitation to the party to say it was a BYOB -- instead of beer will be provided. If you are saying that kids will plan parties without MySpace, you are right. Parties will occur with or without MySpace. But, MySpace, like cell phones, turns a small party into a 100+ event.


A PS to the comment that "The most important issue when it comes to teen drinking is finding a safeway to ensure that no one is driving." The Chronicle article stated the "the original invitation (to the party on MySpace) stated that those who planned to drink at the party could not keep their car keys and could stay at Bauer's house." So obviously this was a case of "The best laid schemes o mice and men, Gang aft agley, and leave us nought but grief and pain, for promised joy!" There is a reason the drinking age is 21: It has something to do with presumed maturity. The point of the prosecution seems to be: If kids do not act responsibly then they are going to suffer adult consequences (felony charges in adult courts) for deaths caused as a result.

Tucson, the non-dating issue may have more to due with staying out late distractions, like being sleepy, than pure testosterone.

Patrick, love that you're back.

But you must consider the legal issues of solid evidence that can be retrieved from the internet as it relates to the kid as well as their family. In many of the posted photos, it is easy to identify the kid and their home/school.

You're correct, the events will happen. I'm more concerned that you seem to be condoning the (underage, illegal) drinking,as long as someone (the city?) provide a safety net? So, it seems that you're OK with illegal underage drinking, as long as no one drives? Please clarify.


I had a small party turn into an eight kegger with a thousand kids and there was no myspace and I didn't tell anyone to come and I didn't buy any kegs. They bust one party and everybody would move onto the next, and the cops would follow right behind. I think there were eight squad cars, it looked like a scene out of apocalypse now. No high speed communication then, but same results.

Patrick seems right, those myspace sites I saw yesterday weren't that bad, there was alcohol but otherwise they seemed pretty tame to me. They overuse the phrase "random".

I think they should reinstitue the Safe Rides program if it is not already being used.


Golly gee, Fred, you must have been a really popular guy....beer swilling parties and haiku writer as well! Just think how many kids might have come to your party if communication had been better in the 60's.
Elsewhere on this blog -- under threads having to do with city planning issues -- some have previously written about "why Burlingame Avenue couldn't look more like Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park." While on Santa Cruz Avenue today I noticed in a store window a proclamation from their mayor making April 2006 "Alcohol Awareness Month" in Menlo Park. I wish I could find the proclamation online(or remember it) to reprint it here. Most, if not all of the "whereas's" talked about the teen drinking problem in Menlo Park...seemed to me it said at least one third of the tenth graders had been drunk in the last month...and it also cited the statistic I cited earlier that of the kids who start drinking before the age of 15 the probability is that 40% will wind up alcohol-dependent. I guess that city planning issues are not the only issues where we will find ourselves trailing behind Menlo Park/Atherton/Palo Alto. Looks like their school district and city are jointly trying to tackle this problem -- which is becoming worse (even from Fred's wild days).

I partied when I was a teen too

Joann, you are giving my space way too much credit. Unless you were home schooled, don't you remember getting a phone call from one of your friends saying their parents were going to be out of town and come over to party? I thought it was a right of passage. It might not have been partying like it's 1999 with Fred but there were tons of teens that would show up. This is before cell phones. Peer pressure is the number one reason teens drink. Parents need to make them aware of what can happen under the influence and that includes educating girls about date rape.

Yes, the drinking age is 21 but do you really think that all those 18 year olds heading off to college are going to be drinking cola?

I know parents who let their children drink small amounts of wine with dinner and they did not turn in to alcoholics. 21 is a number. Your children's emotional age is just as important. And by the way, our soldiers can enlist at 18 Joann - I certainly think the can drink a beer too if our country can ship them overseas. It's all how you are brought up.


Let me be clear: I don't think MySpace causes teen drinking. What it did in this case is provide written evidence to the prosecutor from the teens' own "fingertips" that: a) they were planning a party and b) that they prearranged with someone else to buy the booze. Thus, the prosecutor was handed his case on a platter....he didn't need to prove who bought the booze, whether or not the party occurred "by accident", whether the kids "intended" to provide alcohol to minors....the three accused laid it all out for him. Due to their thorough documentation of their deeds, the prosecutor charged the kids with conspiracy to provide alcohol to a minor -- which is a felony.
Regarding "home training" in alcohol use or parental consent or condoning of under-age drinkikng, I just hope that you are able to control your kids driving under the influence and the bad effects to other people that your permissivness might cause. It's not only the driving that is at stake; at least two teens (15 or under) have also been treated at Peninsula's ER in the last six months for alcohol poisoning as well. This is what makes this issue so interesting to me: People die (case cited above), people get charged with felonies (case cited above), people lose their jobs (principal in town), people lose their involuntarily lose their virginity to date rape (see statistics), kids brain's are damaged (see statistics), kids are placed at much higher risk for problems down the road (see statistics), YET people will still say "it's no big deal." I hope you're right.


I do not disagree with you, and I do not have my head buried in the sand. But, things have changed with the internet, and the kids are more vulnerable as they post photos of themselves drinking, in sexy positions etc. Case after case we learn of parties advertised via technology, and the results are disasterous ie; death. Once it's on the internet, it's there for a long time...time enough for a college recruiter, child predator or worse to take a peek. And they are peeking.

When it comes to enjoying a glass of wine with dinner or a beer at the bbq with the family, it seems pretty innocent, a learning experience.

But the kids are partying to get drunk, throw up and pass out...week in/week out. It's the pattern, and the fact that they are comfortable posting it on the WWW for all to know. That is scary for me.

TGIF and bless the kids.


Joanne, your facts are correct and you see the problem clearly, unlike the majority of parents in Burlingame. The problem begins with permissive parents who do not want to set boundaries for their children. They do not want to be the 'only' parents saying no to their child attending a party, or calling to see if there is parental supervision at a party. I am sure many of you writers with the 'right of passage' attitude will read this and think a parent these days could never do these things to their child as it might embarrass him/her. You are the parents supplying alcohol at the graduation party at your house to 17 and 18 year olds. Then you wonder why these young adults have zero respect for laws (drinking age is 21 but Mom and Dad didn't care when they served my friends). When your son/daughter is in college and is caught with a bottle of beer in his hand and served with an MIP (Minor in Possession) and loses his license for 6 months, or has to serve 20 hours of community service and pay a fine, don't be too hard on him-you set the fine example for underage drinking...! The number of college students with daily alcohol/drug habits is astounding. It is not surprising because some are kids who started drinking when they were freshmen at BHS--this is a fact-just ask them. It's up to us, the parents, to get control of this problem. If you have teenagers (jr. high and high school) and you are not checking MYSPACE.com regularly, you are not being a responsible parent. Thank you, Pete, for your excellent letter and for opening this discussion.

Patrick Jensen

1) If you are a parent who is checking myspace regularly you should tell your child and talk to them about it...

2) Bad things happen no matter what but more likely then not your children are going to turn our fine... even if they do stupid things in high school.

To be honest I don't particularly respect paranoia and neither do your teenagers(That is not what I am saying is happening here, but all this kind of sits on the border...).

It was my experience in high school and college, that those children who had a good relationship with their parents and respected them had a lot less problems (of the sort described above: drinking problems, Minor in Possession, etc.). In fact these kids who were able to have an open and honest dialogue with their parents were also able to be open and honest with their friends and basically not as prone to pressure.

Please don't think I'm calling you paranoid. Everyone is trying to do the best for their children. I think if you, as a parent, spend too much time policing your child's myspace, then you are missing the boat to a) spend all that time with your child, and b) do anything effective to actually figure out what is going on in your child's life... myspace is not some secret window into your child's soul... It, like so many things on the internet, is full of BS...

Well, I must really not be particularly adept at working with these websites. It asked for a password, and to become a member, so I gave up. I saw a few photos on the home page, but those didn't look anything like what the bloggers here are refering to.

But I'll take your word for it that some of it looks pretty bad. Kids crying out for attention, maybe? I wouldn't be surprised. I definitely agree that having really good parent/child dialog is certainly the key to helping kids police themselves, which is what must happen later on anyway. Probably if you looked into the lives of those kids allowing themselves to become part of the darker side of MySpace, actually expoiting themselves which is so sad, you'd find that kind of communication lacking, and not necessarily because one or the other party hasn't tried.

What Linda wrote I completely agree with: There are many permissive parents, but it's not just the permissive part that is bad. They have poor communication with their kids AND they are permissive, a recipe for a bad situation. Also, as she wrote, nobody wants to be accused of embarassing their child, so they prefer to be the "good" cop not the "bad" one. But in truth, the kids do a lot of fibbing themselves. They will tell one friend, or even a parent that such and such an activity is just fine with everyone elses' parents.
When the truth actually comes out, many or none of the parents had a good feeling about it, and hadn't bothered to communicate that to the other parents, not wanting to by the prying parent. So, there are several parties at fault.

Everyone really needs to start paying much more attention to this, even if it takes a little more time from one's day.


There are some very thoughtful comments and I respect each and everyone's opinion. I do not condone underage drinking but let's face it - it does happen. Good communication with your children with education in the schools is one way to get the message out that drinking can cause enormous problems and situations.

But I was just wondering Joann. Is snooping on myspace the electronic equivilent of what we had growing up - writing in a diary or opening and reading our kids mail? Yes, we should be vigalent but I sometimes wonder are you taking away any privacy that your teen wants/needs? Just throwing that out there and not making a judgement call. Excuse spelling! Need some of that addictive java this morning to wake up.

jeriann fleres

Having older and younger kids does have its advantages. You learn. Even with the older kids - if they were going out? we asked where they were going. "out" was not an answer. There needed to be a destination. "out" meant ="I have no place to go so I might get myself into trouble because when I am bored I don't always use my best judgment". If they said we are going to a party, I asked whose party and unless they were away at college or already 18 I asked for the phone number of the parents and spoke to the parents and made sure by the parents that they would be home and responsible the entire evening. Sure my kid was unhappy with me. But that is our rule. We also became friends with our kid's friend's parents early on - elementary school, middle school and high school. And we spoke. And occasionally we went out together. (Yes adults have fun too!) We knew what the kids were doing. That way we knew if there was a kid that was headed for trouble. Sometimes we banded together and helped that kid and sometimes we just had to guide our kids away from that kid. We hosted parties for our kids. They would play basketball in the yard, card games on the dining room table. Watch the ball game in the living room. Hot dogs, pizza, pasta. Soda. NO BOOZE. If someone tried to sneak it in. They got booted. If someone tried to start a fight. They got booted. Zero tolerance. And somehow the kids still kept coming. We still have kids stopping by 15 years later to say hi with their own kids. We never tried to be cool just fair. Stop trying to over analyze everything. Keep it simple. Be near the room but not in the room. Know the conversation but don't be in the conversation. Approve the clothes, don't wear the clothes. Do you know what I mean? They don't need a friend. That is why God gave them two parents and a lot of friends. End of sermon.


Jen, you do have to log in to use MySpace. Just create a name and password. You don't have to do anything else and it's anonymous. Once in the site, you go to "search" and then "friend finder" and type in a name of a kid until you find one you know (not all of them use their real names, etc.) Once you find a kid they attach all their friends to the site (some have as many as 500 attached) so then it's easy to find others...just click on their photos.
The MySpace allows them to create their own website....they add background stuff, fill out questionnaires about themselves, add their favorite music, and then they have a blog -- similar to this one. It IS a "window to their souls" because you can readily see what each kid feels is important etc. You can definitely pick up a good sense of their personalities, etc. Of course, perverts, other parents, teachers and employers can too.
I first learned that my son had a MySpace when HE showed it to me. We discussed the use and misuse of sites like these -- and we basically had a "Marketing 101" lesson -- how do you want to project yourself to the world? How will you eventually draft your resume? Who are you? I told him that since his 86 year old Grandma has a computer and uses the web he should use Grandma as a standard -- if he would be embarrassed for Grandma to see something, then it shouldn't go on his site.
With respect to whether or not this is "spying" on your child, I don't know what to say other than this: The website is there for the entire WORLD to see...why shouldn't you look at it too? Unlike a diary or mail there is NO expectation of privacy here. Frankly, I think many parents don't go on it just because they don't WANT to see what is there and if they do see what's there they will be forced to take some action -- which they don't want to do so. Some is innocent self-expression but I was very saddened to see much of it -- current 13 and 14 year old kids, who we've known from kindergarten, bragging about the "booze and barf" parties they've gone to and posing in sexual positions. Where are the parents and why don't they do something about it? That was actually a question my son asked me less than a month ago. That's still my overarching question.


MySpace is open to he public and students have no expectation of privacy when they post their photos and information. Parents should be on MySpace, that is where your teen is "hanging out." Viewing MySpace is not like reading a diary or snooping in drawers, it is being involved in your child's iife. Every child molester and pedaphile in the world can log into MySpace, why not a parent.

The photos of Burlingame teens on MySpace is not mild. The kids change the photos often to update the party scene. The most recent photos revealed local beer bashes, photos with a huge bong, a group of drunken children in various states of dress (undress) mocking a multi-person porn scene, and a drunken teenage girl's birthday party with a male stripper. I'm sure that her parents would have loved to see the picture of the stripper clad only in a thong on top of their daughter on the hard wood floors mocking a sex act while her friends cheered them on. These events are taking place in the homes of your neighbors.

Should parents be looking at MySpace? Yes. Read what jeriann post above on how to be involved in your child's life.

The discussion above is not yet frank enough. It seems that the only time that parents begin to pay attention is when a student is killed as a result of alcohol. The partying, drinking, and sexual behavior at the local level is far worse than it used to be. I would take jeriann's advice and get to know your child's friends AND their families.


Thank you, KRN. I like what you said about this discussion "not being frank enough". I've seen the MySpace sites you are referring to and you are not exaggerating. I read in the paper yesterday that the US Attorney General had to be very graphic in describing the child porn acts that are being sent over the internet because if people don't hear the graphic details they just don't get it and don't get upset. I've hesitated to describe in detail here what I've seen on the MySpace, but lest anyone out there think that KRN is making this stuff up, he is not. The kids are being that graphic and that gross. The girl with the male stripper was 18; lots of the kids are as young as eighth grade that are attending these parties.

Thank you jeriann for your post because it made me smile when I remembered how easy it was to embarrass my children by calling their friends' parents before a party! "Really, Mother, no other parents call" said with the rolling of the eyes! She was probably right because one parent thanked me for calling and said "no other parents had called".

I went on MySpace for the first time today not because I do not believe in snooping (my children know that snooping while they are living in my house is part of my job as a parent) but I wanted to see what all the controversy was about. MySpace was incredibly informative and not in a negative way because it reiterated what I think about my children and their friends.

Some of Myspace is funny, some entries should be a wake up call and serious, some have alot of information about sex/drinking, some of it is bravado, some have great music, some of the words are alien to me and some of it made me laugh. For a MySpace rookie like me, I loved seeing my kids and their friends on the screen!

Parents, if our children screw up, it is not because of MySpace, it is because of us and because we did not teach them right from wrong from Day One and/or they were not listening.

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