Full-on summer has arrived in Clackamas County, and what that means — beyond barbecue grills and cold beverages — is an increased level of danger for the community’s younger population.

Summertime can be a joyous season of abandon for children, teens and young adults. But that sense of warm-weather liberation also can lead to reckless behavior capable of changing, or ending, a person’s life in an instant.

In Wilsonville, the hazards include the cold waters of the Willamette River.

People — and they are mostly young — find stretches of the rivers for unsupervised recreation. We encourage parents to talk to their children about the importance of water safety. It is time for a reminder that people can die from diving injuries or drown after being overwhelmed by the water’s sheer frigidity or the current’s strength.

The elements that lead to these tragedies include youth, ignorance of the hazard and, too often, the use of alcohol or drugs. Parents must help their children understand the danger that is inherent in spending an afternoon at the river.

Now would also be an ideal time to enroll your children in swim classes. The use of inflatable flotation devices or kick boards can offer a false sense of security if the user does not know how to swim, tread water or techniques to avoid or escape hazards in moving water.

Parents also should be aware that the summer months bring a heightened risk for use of drugs or alcohol among young people. According to a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, teenagers are more likely to start smoking marijuana during the summer months. These months also are among the highest for first-time use of alcohol.

During the summer, children are free of school-related responsibilities and they have less adult supervision than during other months of the year. It’s naturally a time for experimentation and impulsiveness, but parents and other adults can lower the risks by increasing awareness and by staying in close touch with those who are most vulnerable.

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