Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

New study reveals the 7 best ways to keep your teens from drinking

NOTE: This article about underage drinking  was first published on examiner.com. To read it all, click on the link 

Diving into the latest data about alcohol use by 12 to 17-year-olds reveals the seven habits of parents whose kids don’t drink or drink far less frequently than others. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the details of their 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health yesterday, December 6, 2012. Prior to this date, only top-line data for 2011 was available.

Overall, there’s good news. Alcohol use by middle and high school students is at an all time low. The 2011 study revealed that 65.5 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds have never used alcohol compared to 64.6 percent in 2010 and 57.1 percent in 2001. That means 14.7 percent more 12 to 17-year-olds have reported abstaining from alcohol use between 2001 and 2011.

On average, 13 percent of students 12 to 17 years old had one or more drinks in the past 30 days, almost 15 percent drank between 30 days and 12 months ago, and 7 percent had at least one drink over a year ago.

It’s not surprising that when we break the numbers down by age, alcohol use increases each year. Ninety-three percent of 12-year-olds have never used alcohol. Among 13-year-olds, 84 percent have never had alcohol and that drops to 74 percent of 14-year-olds. The numbers are more concerning among the older teens, with only 39 percent of 17-year-olds saying they never had alcohol, 29 percent who had it within the past 30 days, 24 percent who drank between 30 days and 12 months prior to the study and eight percent who haven’t have a drink in more than 12 months, meaning they were 16 when they did. (Slide 1)

The biggest surprise in the study? Talking to your kids about the dangers of alcohol, drugs and smoking had practically no impact on whether the students drank or not. (Slide 2)

So, what can we as parents do to help improve the odds that our children are among the overall alcohol-free majority?

1.  Keep your interactions positive: Let your kids know when they’ve done a good job. Among teens who said their parents or guardians frequently let them know when they have done a good job, an average of 72 percent have never used alcohol. (Slide 3) Similarly, try to catch them doing something good or right. A solid 71 percent of teens who have never had a drink answered “Always” when asked, “During the past 12 months, how often did your parents tell you they were proud of you for something you had done?” (Slide 4)

2.  Keep the arguments to a minimum. Do arguments lead to underage drinking or does the drinking lead to arguments? Perhaps the answer to both is “yes” but there aren’t any studies to tell us which comes first. As adults, we can only control our own behavior. If we can reduce the number of times we allow differences of opinion with our kids to escalate to arguments, we might be able to keep the odds they drink down. An impressive 80 percent of teens who reported that they haven’t argued with their parents over the past 12 months claim they didn’t drink. Among those who answered they had only argued one or two times over the past year, 72 percent have never had any alcohol. (Slide 5) Interestingly, if both parents live in the household, and the students report they haven’t argued with them over the past year, that number rises to an astonishing 82 percent.

3.  Keep the kids busy: There’s an old saying that applies: “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” In other words, if your kids are busy doing activities that engage them, they won’t have time for, or interest in, getting into trouble with drinking or drugs. Regardless of whether your kids are involved in extracurricular activities in or out of school, the more they are involved in some sort of activity, the less they are involved in alcohol.

However, not every activity offers the same value. The study looked at chores, [Click here to read more]

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