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Report: Parents should talk to their kids about alcohol by age 9

By Chris Malina Wisconsin Public Radio When should you talk to your children about the dangers of drinking alcohol? Sooner that you might think. According to new report out this week from the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should start t...

By Chris Malina

Wisconsin Public Radio

 

When should you talk to your children about the dangers of drinking alcohol? Sooner that you might think.

According to new report out this week from the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should start talking to their children about alcohol by age 9.

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It’s a recommendation that’s resonating with alcohol policy experts. Julia Sherman, coordinator of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project, noted that drinking among younger adolescents is fairly common. Based on statistics from the National Institutes of Health, about 35 percent of 15-year-olds say they've had at least one drink in their lives.

What's more, the new report indicates that a significant number of youth are binge-drinking by that age.

"In Wisconsin, alcohol initiation tends to occur in the summers associated with middle school. So if you wait until kids are teenagers …you really have waited too long," said Sherman.

Alcohol use in the early teen years can carry some pretty serious consequences.

"We’re talking about very young adolescents making decisions that impact them for the rest of their lives," Sherman said.

Indeed,  research indicates that young people who begin drinking at an early age are more likely to develop problems with alcohol as adults.

Sherman also pointed to the effect drinking can have on the developing brain. She cited an experiment that took place in California, which tested youth who had abstained from alcohol and compared their brain development with youth that had become alcohol dependent and detoxified.

"The detoxified youth tested at about 90 percent of what the abstaining youth did," Sherman said. "No one wants their child to drink away 10 percent of their cognitive and analytical ability while they’re still in their middle school, high school years."

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Another reason Sherman wants parents to talk to their kids about alcohol early: It's important to "get there before marketing and advertising does."

"Parents have a great influence, but they’re not the only ones," she said. "About $2 billion is spent each year in the United States alone on measured marketing for alcohol. There’s another $4 billion spent on unmeasured marketing. What that really comes down to is that our youth are seeing about 1,000 alcohol ads a year on TV."

For parents who aren’t sure where to start, Sherman recommended resources and conversation starters on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s website.

"And don’t do it once," she said. "Talk about it over and over and over, because at that age, sometimes repetition is your best friend."

More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3 or online at wpr.org.

© Copyright 2015, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

 

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