Deakin University health experts are calling on parents to make 2016 an alcohol free year, for their kids.
“Parents play a key role in how their kids view alcohol consumption. We therefore encourage all parents to help their kids reach their full potential by encouraging them not to drink alcohol until they are 18,” says Dr Bosco Rowland, a senior research fellow with Deakin’s School of Psychology.
This advice follows Deakin research released in December that found Australian children are more likely to start using alcohol at a young age when they live in places with high numbers of hotels, pubs and bars.
“Research is telling us that despite all the temptations that children face, it is possible to guide them away from drinking alcohol until they are 18 years old,” says John Toumbourou, Deakin’s professor of health psychology.
“An evaluation of the Smart Generation alcohol education campaign aimed at parents found that children had clearer intentions not to use alcohol prior to 18 and less alcohol use if their parents opened up the conversation about why they shouldn’t drink, set household rules and didn’t provide their kids with alcohol at home or to take to parties,” Prof Toumbourou says.
Dr Rowland and Professor Toumbourou have provided some facts about teen drinking and advice for parents to help their children avoid underage alcohol use:
Facts about underage drinking
- It is a complete myth that providing under age children with alcohol in the home will teach them moderation. Research shows the opposite to be true, with children whose parents allowed them to drink more likely to be heavier drinkers later on than those whose parents said no;
- not drinking alcohol until 18 reduces the risk that an adolescent will be involved in an alcohol-related road accident;
- it is now illegal in all states except South Australia and the Northern Territory to supply alcohol to anyone under 18 in your home unless you have their parents’ permission;
- drinking before 18 increases the risk of damaging the part of the brain that controls decision making, problem solving and emotions and drinking large amounts can cause permanent brain damage;
- delaying the first drink of alcohol reduces the chance of alcohol abuse and dependency in adulthood; and
- drinking before the age of 18 is linked to risky sexual behaviour and poorer school results.
What parents can do for their child to reduce the dangers of alcohol use
- Start the conversation about using alcohol. Be open and honest so that everyone in the house is clear about the harms associated with underage drinking, and the Australian national health guideline that not drinking before age 18 is best for children.
- Set a rule in your household that children will not drink alcohol before the age of 18.
- Parents should not supply alcohol to children to take to parties, and not purchase alcohol for their children when they are on licensed premises.