Last week, around 300 Tots100 bloggers joined us for a Twitter chat, in association with Drinkaware, on a very important topic – kids and alcohol.
Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances many kids will ever have encountered, and the risks are serious, with more than 5,000 children admitted to A&E every year with alcohol-related injuries and illness.
On average, children take their first alcoholic drink at just 13 years of age, so it’s important that we talk to our children before this point to ensure they are informed, and confident to make safe choices around alcohol.
Helping provide expert advice and information during the Twitter chat were Dr Sarah Jarvis and Superintendent Julie Whitmarsh, from Devon and Cornwall Police. We were also joined by hundreds of bloggers and Twitter users sharing their thoughts and ideas.
The chat with a brilliant success, with our #kidsandalcohol hashtag reaching 3.7 MILLION impressions in just one hour, and trending UK-wide.
For those bloggers who weren’t able to take part on the evening, we’ve pulled together some of the best information from the evening for you to read through. Hopefully this will help you when you come to have those all-important conversations with your children about drinking, and keeping safe:
Educate younger children and be honest
It’s healthiest to delay your child’s first drink as long as possible. Best thing to do is talk to them in their pre-teen years
Average age of first supervised drink is 13.3 years, average of first unsupervised drink is 14.3 years – so start talking from age 7
Important to realise introducing kids to alcohol earlier doesn’t make them drink less in later life – they’ll tend to drink more
A conversation with your child about alcohol in a TV storyline or film is a great way to broach the subject
Use every opportunity to TALK and TEACH your kids – relaxed, at easy and confident in how you pass on your values
A child drinking too much can experience brain damage, altered personality, memory problems and inability to learn
Model good behavior at home – you’re the most important role model!
Children who see their parents binge drink more likely to do so themselves
We often see parents dropping children off on holiday with car boots full of alcohol
Kids are ‘monkey see and monkey do’ so be aware of how much and why you drink especially when children around
Mid 30s friends often say they can’t enjoy themselves without alcohol. If that’s your view, why would kids think any different?
Give older children good reasons, and the confidence to say ‘no’
Teens with hobbies and Saturday jobs are often less affected. Looking for ways to get kids involved
Make it clear that adults can drink safely in moderation but children’s bodies are still developing so it isn’t safe
Alcohol makes young people vulnerable to sexual assault. There are people who spot vulnerable kids a mile off
Even small amounts of alcohol can affect kids’ memory and school performance in the short and long-term
Allow older teens to learn about alcohol in safe ways
Make a low alcohol punch for older teen parties so they can feel grown, but you can control the strength
Make sure your children know what a measure is. Lots of kids drinking glasses of vodka, as though it’s wine!
I’d advise my kids if they want to drink, know your limit and stick to one kind of drink
Always stay with someone in trouble and explain to kids they can ALWAYS call in an emergency
Teach kids that police are there to help and it’s okay to seek it if you need it
Talk to other parents – they’ll feel just as concerned as you, and you can agree ground rules for parties
I’ve told my teen it is okay to hold a drink in your hand and not drink it!
People think alcohol cheers them up, important for teens to realise the opposite is often true
Alternate drinks, have drinks with low-alcohol content, drink slowly and if necessary pretend you’re ill!
Consider setting up an account with a trusted cab firm so kids can always get home if they need to
Kids drunk in 2012 face a risk we never did – their antics could end up on Facebook and haunt them forever – seen by uni admissions etc
Important for kids to understand that drinking too much and craving alcohol is an illness that needs help
My parents had a very open house, I think that gave them a better perspective on what me and my friends were up to
I’ve tried to reach my son to be respectful of young, drunk girls – they might appear keen, but…
Let children know you will support them, no matter what
When you talk to kids about drinking, listen to their side of the story and talk through how they could act differently in future
If your child comes home drunk, try not to over-react, stay calm and wait til the next day to discuss it
The worst thing you can say to kids about alcohol is nothing at all
There is loads of information about how to talk to kids about alcohol on the Drinkaware website.
Parenting Coach Sue Atkins has also put together this guide for parents on curbing teenage drinking with loads of great advice.
You can also listen to this interview with Dr Sarah Jarvis on Radio 2 earlier this week with loads of tips for parents – start listening at 1 hour in.