For some parents, the question of when to introduce their teen to alcohol is a major decision. Although the majority of underage teenagers in Australia are choosing not to drink alcohol (72.5%)1, some may begin to show interest in alcohol and ask to try your drink – but should you let them?
According to medical health expert Dr Andrew Rochford (pictured left) “While it’s easy to see a child’s body growing during their teenage years, it’s not as obvious that their brain is growing too. Throughout their teens and into their twenties, their brain continues to grow and form. The frontal lobe and hippocampus – the areas of the brain that are associated with motivation, impulse control and addiction are going through the most dramatic growth while you’re a teenager. Drinking alcohol while this growth is happening can disrupt your child’s brain development and even damage their brain.”
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that children and people under the age of 18 years of age should not drink alcohol to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol.
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 that following serves of alcohol teenagers are more likely to report binge drinking, experience alcohol-related harm such as accidents, blackouts, be involved in fights or problematic drinking in their future adolescent years.2
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 - Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix brochure
- 72.5% of underaged teenagers (14-17 years) abstained from alcohol in the previous 12 months (National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2019). (NB: this figure was rounded down to 72% for advertising materials)
- Aiken, A., Chan, G., Yuen, W. et al. (2022). Trajectories of parental and peer supply of alcohol in adolescence and associations with later alcohol consumption and harms: A prospective cohort study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 237, 109533.