Staying Safe During Prom, Graduation Season

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With warm weather, proms, and graduation season here, law enforcement and health advocates are working to push smart choices and eliminate risky behaviors among youth.

Through April and May, metro area officers will elevate their focus on how minors access alcohol, according to Project Extra Mile. "It's out there," says Executive Director Nicole Carritt. "It's happening, and we need to make sure that youth, first and foremost, aren't able to access alcohol in the first place."

The latest data from Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility says 17% of Nebraska teens admit to binge drinking in the last 30 days. More than 21% of Iowa teens say the same. Those numbers are even higher for adults. "What adults do in our community certainly influences what happens in our kids," Carritt said.

Other concerns come with the long hours teenagers spend out celebrating, even if no substances are involved. A Plattsmouth teen reportedly fell asleep at the wheel and rolled the vehicle he was driving the morning after prom. The principal tells WOWT 6 News that the boy had apparently gone out to breakfast with friends following the school's post-prom activities. The teenager is okay and is back at school.

Also addressing a common prom preparation issue, the Nebraska Cancer Coalition recently launched "The Bed is Dead" campaign. They're trying to get teenagers to take the pledge to avoid indoor tanning.

Dr. David Watts of Dermatology Specialists of Omaha says he's seeing women come in younger and younger with all sorts of skin cancers. "Basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell, and the most deadly, melenoma," Dr. Watts said. "They're coming in in their 20s and 30s with these cancers where before it was never like that. It was older people, specifically older men but now it's old men and young women."

The campaign is giving away $1,000 in a social media contest. All Nebraska teenagers are eligible. They need to post a photo to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #thebedisdead and the reason why they refuse to tan indoors. The deadline is May 31, 2014.

Overall, to keep this a safe season of celebrations, advocates urge strong parental involvement and good examples by all adults. "We want to send a clear message right now that we care," Carritt said. "We care about the youth in our communities, and we care that adults are being responsible and doing what we need to do to protect the kids."

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