Frequent Questions and Concerns about Underage Alcohol Use

What effect does drinking have on my teen’s brain and body?

Because teens’ brains and bodies are still developing, drinking alcohol can have many serious and long-lasting negative effects, including impairment of healthy development. Check out CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov’s Interactive Body, which follows the path of alcohol through the body and explains its effects on the organs. You can also read Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s report on Underage Drinking and Its Effect on the Brain for more information on teen alcohol use and brain development. For statistics on teens and driving under the influence, see Students Against Destructive Decisions’ Impaired Driving.

What can I do to prevent parties where teens drink alcohol?

Some teens may think that all parties, to be fun, need to be unsupervised and include alcohol or other drugs. If this is the case with your teen, you can help him plan fun parties at a safe location to show him he doesn’t need to partake in these activities to have a good time. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Let the kids use fruit juices to make alcohol-free “mixed drinks,” and point out how much better these drinks taste.
  • Ask your teen if a different trusted adult would be a more appealing chaperone. Your child may be more comfortable if an aunt or uncle provides the necessary supervision.
  • When parties go well, thank your child for being responsible and making smart choices.

Doesn’t it make sense for me to host parties with alcohol so I can keep an eye on all of the teens and make sure they stay safe?

While it may seem like you’re helping kids stay safe by serving alcohol and taking their keys away, you’d actually be undermining the values and boundaries other parents are trying to instill in their children, as well as breaking the law. Serving alcohol to minors is a no-win situation.

How early do kids start drinking?

Children can be pressured into drinking at an early age—many children have had their first drink by age 12 or 13. Because of this, it’s never too early to start talking with your kids about alcohol use and starting to lay the foundation for resistance to peer pressure.

What kinds of consequences will keep my teen from using alcohol?

Many parents struggle with setting effective consequences for alcohol use. Some find that not allowing their teen to use the car for a certain period of time is effective; others may require that their teen stays home for a weekend instead of going out with their friends. Different consequences will be effective for different teens—what’s important is that the consequences are serious enough to deter alcohol use, but not so serious that your child will be afraid to ask for help if she is in trouble or needs a ride home.