Underage Drinking Prevention Begins with a Conversation
When do kids start thinking about alcohol? In eighth grade? “Not my son,” says a parent in one of the new public service announcements (PSAs) from SAMHSA and the Ad Council. In the PSA, the parent is talking about a lifesize mannequin. The message? “Real kids are curious about alcohol.”
“SAMHSA’s new public awareness campaign emphasizes that it’s never too early to talk to children about the dangers of alcohol,” said Frances M. Harding, Director of the Agency’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). “The campaign’s Web site shows parents how to take action.”
“Parents with kids in middle school may think that they don’t have to deal with underage drinking until their children reach high school,” said Heidi Arthur, senior vice president for campaigns at the Ad Council.
However, according to SAMHSA’s 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), adults age 21 or older who started using alcohol before age 15 were almost six times as likely to have alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who first used alcohol at age 21 or older (15.1 percent vs. 2.6 percent).
So, why don’t parents take underage alcohol use more seriously? According to the Ad Council, the reasons for the lack of urgency are complex.
Denial. Parents often turn to the “other people’s children” belief when someone mentions teenage drinking. Their child may get good grades or play sports, leading to a false sense of security among parents.
“No big deal.” Parents also may underestimate the seriousness of underage alcohol use, thinking that it’s not harmful if their children drink a little or at family functions.
Hypocrisy. And then there’s the “psychology of hypocrisy.” Many parents who drank alcohol as teens may not know how to answer when their children ask why they can’t drink if mom or dad did.
Enter SAMHSA’s new underage drinking prevention campaign, which uses the digital landscape to reach parents. Visit http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov to learn more.
The campaign gives parents concrete tools and tips for talking with their children about alcohol, even though such conversations are not easy.
Conversation Starters. Parents will find sample answers for several tough questions, including:
- “You drink alcohol—why can’t I?”
- “Did you drink alcohol when you were a child?”
- “What if my friends ask me to drink?”
Action Plan. Answer three simple questions and get more tailored advice on talking to children about alcohol. The questions are:
- Is your child a boy or a girl?
- How old is your child?
- Have you talked to your child about drinking?
The resulting action plan includes three categories: When To Talk, How To Talk, and Other Things You Can Do. For more information, visit http://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov.
Game Helps Parents & Children Talk about Alcohol
State Prevention Videos
How Does Turning 21 Affect Alcohol Use?
Under the Influence: Fathers, Adolescents, and Alcohol Use
Underage Drinking & Media Literacy
Awareness, Prevention Make a Difference
Radio PSAs Help Parents “Start Talking”
The new public awareness materials represent the second phase of a campaign that first launched in 2005 with the tagline, “Start Talking Before They Start Drinking.”
The first round of PSAs featured very young children talking about having problems with alcohol later in life because they
started drinking in their teens.