Talking with teens about drinking

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
July 2, 2008 4:15:45 PM PDT
When we think of summertime dangers, we might think of too much sun or treacherous water. But this time of year also brings with it a risk that parents need to be aware of. And government health experts want them to take preventive action. The risk comes from alcohol. As we begin July and head into the three-day weekend, a lot of families will be together. Federal health officials are starting a campaign to advise parents about one possible teen behavior parents need to counter.

Summertime is traditionally fun time. And according to new data, summertime is also the time when many preteens and teens begin to experiment with drinking alcohol for the first time.

"Our data indicate that young people, underage individuals, are most likely to take that fist drink over the summer months," said Dr. Terry Cline, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. "In particular, July has a very high rate of initiation of alcohol, that very first drink that a young person my take."

In the summertime, there's unstructured and unsupervised time and more exposure to alcohol, say the government experts.

Data show that a teen taking that first drink before age 15 is five times more likely to have problems with alcohol than those who wait until age 21.

And it's up to parents to counter this experiment.

"Parents and other adults can play an important role in helping influence, for better or for worse, young people's behavior with regard to underage drinking," acting Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson said.

And because parents do influence their children, a new TV campaign encouraging them to talk about drinking to their kids is beginning now.

The ads show young children speaking at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting as their adults selves, looking back at back at how their alcohol problems started.

The ads end with a simple message for parents: "Start talking before they start drinking."

The government research also found many parents allow their underage children to drink under their supervision, believing that that is better. This, experts say, gives the message that underage drinking is safe and acceptable behavior.

For a family guide to talking to kids about drinking, CLICK HERE.

For action guides to prevent underage drinking and stop alcohol abuse, CLICK HERE.

For resources from the NYC Child Study Center, CLICK HERE.

For prevention resources from, CLICK HERE.


STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg