How to make Schoolies a fun and safe experience

If your child is heading off for a week of fun and frivolity at Schoolies, here’s how to help prepare them.

Schoolies is a rite of passage for Aussie school leavers as they celebrate the end of high school and start on their journey into adulthood.

It’s a time for kids to let their hair down and have a good time, but unfortunately, some young people mix alcohol, drugs and sex, meaning Schoolies isn’t always all fun and games.

To help your teen safely celebrate after a tough year of studying, here are some tips to chat about with your child, before they head off on their adventure.

Chat to your child about Schoolies safety

Charity organisation Red Frogs Australia provides positive peer support in drug and alcohol-fuelled environments including Schoolies.

Red Frogs Australia communication manager Bek Gilchrist recommends parents start having open and frank conversations about staying safe.

“It is very important to have ‘the chat’ before your child arrives at Schoolies,” Bek says.

“Discuss basic safety tips like never leaving a drink unattended, staying together with their friends, drinking lots of water and eating healthy food for the week.

“Reiterating these messages will help keep them front of mind when they are making decisions that will impact their safety and wellbeing.”

Teach kids to understand alcohol and drugs

Generally, kids are drinking less these days, but this doesn’t mean your child won’t get carried away during celebrations.

“Alcohol contributes to all the leading causes of death for young people,” Alcohol and Drug Foundation information officer Aaron Batchelor says.

“If your child is over 18 and they’re now able to drink at Schoolies, one way to avoid these alcohol-related harms is to stick to Australian drinking guidelines.”

The guidelines state healthy adults should have no more than 10 standard drinks per week, and four standard drinks on any one day.

Tips to help teens avoid overindulging in alcohol include:

  • Knowing how to say no and resisting peer pressure.
  • Pacing themselves – avoiding binge drinking and drinking games.
  • Not drinking on an empty stomach and alternating alcoholic drinks with water.

When it comes to drugs, research shows 43 per cent of Australians dabble at some point in their lives, so it’s best to prepare kids for that potential.

Have a chat about illicit drugs and discuss the dangers around prescription medications and not to mix them with alcohol.

The danger of drink spiking at Schoolies

There are 3000 to 4000 suspected cases of drink spiking per year and half of these cases happen to people under the age of 24.

Four out five cases are women, and a high number of these cases resulted in sexual assault.

Let your child know, strangers are not the only threat, with a large number of victims reportedly knowing the offender.

Safe sex at Schoolies

No teen wants to talk about sex with their parents, but it’s a necessary conversation.

Young people need to understand if they choose to have sex while at Schoolies, it’s important that it’s consensual for both parties (and know that consent can be withdrawn at any time).

You can approach the topic of consent by discussing examples in movies or books, such as in Sleeping Beauty is it really okay that Prince Charming kissed her while she was asleep?

It’s also important young people understand safe sex and take precautions against STIs and unwanted pregnancy.

One scary fact to share is that STIs are on the rise among young Australians, especially chlamydia, which has no symptoms in 70 per cent of cases but can have long-term impacts.

Schoolies safety in numbers

“There is always more risk of something bad occurring when a young person is left alone,” Bek says.

“We always say ‘never leave a mate behind’ – and if a young person finds themselves alone, they can call the Red Frog hotline on 1300 557 123 and request a team to walk them home.”

Aaron suggests having an agreed plan among your friends to make sure no one ends up alone.

“Don’t let someone catch a taxi or Uber on their own and have a meet up spot in case someone gets lost.”

Schoolies safety in the Covid-19 era

Covid-19 is not a normal Schoolies topic but this year there is still risk of infection, especially in big crowds, so kids need to be reminded to not drop their guard.

Make sure they remember the basics about washing hands and getting tested if they have any symptoms.

Written by Alex White.