For some parents, the question of when to introduce their teen to alcohol is a major decision. Young teenagers may begin to show interest in alcohol and ask to try your drink – but should you let them?
Parents should delay their child’s introduction to drinking for as long as possible.
Until the early 20s, the brain is growing and forming all the critical parts it needs for learning, memory, planning, thinking, and emotional stability. Drinking alcohol as a teen can disrupt brain development during this critical phase of growth.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that children under the age of 15 are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking, and it is best therefore to delay their initiation to alcohol for as long as possible.
The best thing you can do as a parent is educate your teens about the dangers of alcohol and encourage them to hold off drinking until at least 18. Research shows that parental provision of alcohol to underage teens does not protect against increased alcohol consumption later in life. In fact, there has been evidence to show early introduction may lead to increased binging and alcohol-related problems later in life.
Laws regarding the supply of alcohol to minors in private residences, public places and licensed venues vary between states. In some jurisdictions it can be illegal to provide alcohol to young people on private property without parental permission. Parents may also be required to provide adequate supervision to young people consuming alcohol on their property.
DrinkWise Australia has developed the DELAY program with strategies to help parents and teens delay the introduction of alcohol for as long as possible.