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Facts about underage drinking and what parents can do


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A survey by the American Medical Association shows that underage youth obtain alcohol easily and often, and many times the source of their alcohol is their own parents.

The polls also show parental opinions and behaviors about providing alcohol to teenagers and perceptions on how youth acquire alcohol.

"From a public health standpoint, these findings are frankly disturbing," said J. Edward Hill, M.D., president of the AMA. "While it is of great concern to see how easily teens, especially young girls, get alcohol, it is alarming to know that legal-age adults, even parents, are supplying the alcohol."

Parents make the ultimate decision about whether their minor children are allowed to drink alcohol. Parents can take the following stands: zero tolerance or monitored tolerance.

• Zero tolerance consists of the belief that the child understands that consuming alcohol is not accepted and, if the child chooses to do so, they will experience consequences.

• Monitored tolerance is parents who believe that alcohol consumed by their child is allowable under the guidelines in which they as a parent agree to.

Parent supplied alcohol

Here is some information made available to parents by AlcoholPolicyMD.com:

The poll of teens, aged 13-18, found that nearly half reported having obtained alcohol at some point. In all age groups, girls nearly always ranked higher than boys in obtaining alcohol. In the adult poll, about one out of four U.S. parents with children, aged 12 to 20 (26 percent), agree that teens should be able to drink at home with their parents present.

"Policies and law enforcement efforts to stop minors from obtaining alcohol are important, but this data reveals how easily avoided those policies and laws can be when legal-aged buyers are the leading source of alcohol for children," said Hill. "And even parents who do not buy for their children could be unwitting sources if their alcohol at home is left unsecured."

Two out of three teens, aged 13 to 18, said it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. One third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, which increases to 40 percent when it is from a friend's parent. And one in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents.

"Parents allowing underage children to drink under their supervision are under a dangerous misperception," said Hill. "Injuries and car accidents after such parent-hosted parties remind us that no parent can completely control the actions of intoxicated youth, during or after a party. And the main message children hear is that drinking illegally is okay."

The polls were funded as part of the AMA's partnership with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Other key findings of the two polls include:

• Nearly one in four teens, aged 13 to 18, and one in three girls, aged 16 to 18, say their own parents have supplied them with alcohol; and teens who have obtained alcohol reported that, in the past six months, parents were the suppliers three times on average.

• While 71 percent of parents with children, aged 12 to 20, disagreed with the statement that teen drinking was okay if a parent were present, 76 percent think it is likely that teenagers get alcohol from someone's parent – and they knew about it.

• One out of four parents of children, aged 12 to 20 (25 percent), say they have allowed their teens to drink with their supervision in the past six months. Approximately one in 12 (8 percent) indicated they have allowed their teen's friends to also drink under their supervision in the past six months.

• While only eight percent of parents of children aged 12 to 20 indicated that they allowed their teen and his/her friends to drink with supervision in the past six months, 21 percent of teens attended a party where the alcohol was provided by someone else's parents. And 27 percent of teens attended a party where youth were drinking with parents present. This discrepancy suggests parents are unaware that other parents are allowing their own children to drink.

"The AMA applauds parents who discourage and disallow underage drinking," said Hill. "We hope that such parents willing to stand up for their children's health will be more vocal in their communities, letting children and other parents know that no adult should substitute their judgment for a teen's own parents. Drinking is not a rite of passage. Fatal car accidents, injuries and assaults, and irreversible damage to the brain are not rites of passage for any child."

What can parents do?

What can parents to do change these statistics?

• Decide which stance your family will take: zero tolerance or monitored tolerance.

• Communicate clearly the guidelines established for your home.

• Inform other parents of your guidelines and ask parents their guidelines, especially parents in whose home your child will be spending a lot of time.

• Keep open communication with your child.

• Be on guard for signs your child may be drinking. Warning signs are available on numerous online sites.

• Trust is earned; always confirm your child is where they say they will be.

• Children need parents, not friends. Hold them accountable for their actions. Holding children accountable for their actions is difficult but not as difficult as burying them at an early age or watching them be handcuffed and put away for killing or seriously injuring someone else.

• Know the law. Canyon Lake Ordinance 11.06.020 regarding prohibition of parties, gatherings, or events where alcohol is served to, consumed by or in the possession or underage persons states: "No person responsible for an event shall allow, arrange, assist, permit, or host a party, gathering or event where alcoholic beverages are in the possession of/or being consumed by, or served to any underage person. (Ord. 128, passed 4-20-2010)