Every year there are reports in the media of parties or excursions that end in tragedy. Have fun by all means - nobody expects you to sit at home alone, but don’t throw all caution to the wind. Here are some things to remember while you are out there celebrating the fact that you will never wear a school uniform again.
Have money on you
Not only that you can pay your own way and not feel indebted to anyone, but you can also call a taxi or phone home. Just don't take too much with you - you might never see it again.
Safety in numbers
If you're with a group of friends you trust, your chances of running into trouble are lower than when you're out somewhere on your own, or with someone you don't really know very well.
Don’t get into a car with a drunk driver
Your parents will far rather be woken up at 3 a.m. to come and fetch you than to have to visit you in hospital, or even worse.
Have a cellphone with you, even if you have to borrow one, especially if you’re going away for the weekend. Store numbers in there of people you might need to call.
Watch what you drink
Don’t have any drinks that you did not pour yourself or see being poured. Don’t leave your drink unattended and open – you never know what someone could put into it. Be mindful of how much and what you drink, especially if you’re mixing drinks. Don’t mix alcohol and drugs.
Be very wary of drugs
Don't do this, even if everyone is drugging. Remember that using drugs is extremely dangerous and you don’t know in advance what effect they are going to have on you. If I cannot talk you out of experimenting, don’t do it on your own, but with someone you trust. This is a safer and more controlled venue than a large party with hordes of out-of-control people.
Practice safe sex
At this time of year, hormones and emotions run high. Be prepared. Unprotected sex can lead to both pregnancy and a variety of STDs, including HIV. Either decide not to have sex, or have condoms with you. Let the only test results you worry about at this time of the year be your Matric results.
Leave a trail
Let someone know where you are and with whom. If you don’t want to tell your parents, tell a friend or brother or sister. If something goes wrong, you do want people to know where to start looking for you.
Things to have with you at all times: Your ID, a phone card or cellphone, money, condoms, a warm jersey.
Just remember, with freedom comes responsibility. How you behave at this time in your life could determine how your parents treat you later on.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated March 2012)