When’s the best time to start talking to kids about alcohol? A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics targeted at preventing binge drinking among young people says that parents should start when their children are just nine years old.
Sara Miller of Live Science writes that about 50% of high school students drink alcohol. Within that same group, as many as 60% binge drink, according to the authors of a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The truth seems to be, says Dr. Lorena Siqueira, clinical professor of pediatrics at Florida International University and co-author of the new report, that children start to develop positive impressions about alcohol as early as age nine. If parents want prevention to work, it is important to influence children’s ideas about alcohol early and not face the task of trying to change their impressions later.
“When I have kids in the ICU [intensive care unit], and I tell the parents it’s alcohol, they’re relieved,” Siqueira said. But they shouldn’t feel relief, she added. “[Alcohol] is a killer,” she said.
Binge drinking, according to the CDC, is something one in six adults do about four times a month. For men, that means consuming five or more alcoholic drinks over a two-hour period, with women engaging in binge drinking after consuming four drinks in that span. But these cuttoffs are lower for teens because they weigh less, say the authors. For some teens, even three drinks could be considered binge drinking, and having fewer drinks than that could still be considered unsafe.
Up to a third of fatal car accidents with teens involve alcohol. Brain development and increased risk of developing chronic alcohol use disorder can be affected by drinking at a young age.
The study says that alcohol is the substance most often abused by children and adolescents, but because it is a legal substance, the consequences to children are often downplayed. In addition to vehicular accidents, suicides and homicides are associated with alcohol use by young people, writes Rhodi Lee for Tech Times.
The report found that 21% of young people claimed to have had more than one sip of alcohol before they reach 13, and 79% have done so before they reach 12th grade.
“Among youth who drink, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adult drinkers, rising from approximately 50 percent in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72 percent among those 18 to 20 years of age,” the researchers said.
The way kids drink can cause them to drink too much before they realize what they’ve done. When they drink, they often drink straight from the bottle and pass it around, reports Dennis Thompson, writing for US News and World Report. Marcia Lee Taylor, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, says parents need to take ownership of the training their kids receive concerning drinking.
Parents also should avoid talking about drinking as a way to relieve stress. Concrete ways to know about your child’s exposure to alcohol include asking for alcohol screening during the child’s yearly physical exam and allowing your pediatrician and your child to talk privately.