Teen drinking is not inevitable. More than 58% of high school seniors do not drink alcohol, reducing their current risk of injury.
One way to prevent teens from drinking is to cut off easy access to alcohol. Unfortunately, right now most teens report that it is easy to get alcohol. Almost 72% of teens who drink get alcohol without having to pay for it. They get it from friends or family members, at parties, or by taking it without permission. Underage drinkers who pay for alcohol usually give money to someone else to buy it.
Here’s what you can do to reduce easy access to alcohol:
- Make sure teens can't access alcohol without your knowledge. Unmonitored alcohol, including alcohol stored in a cabinet, basement or garage, can be a temptation. When in doubt, lock it up.
- Exercise your influence. Data shows that teens continue to care what their parents think, even while they are in high school and college. Let your teen know that you don’t want them to drink and that most teens in fact don’t drink.
- Talk to your kids about how to say no to a drink. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests these responses:
- No, thanks.
- I don't feel like it. Do you have any soda?
- Alcohol's not my thing.
- Are you talking to me? Forget it.
- You're pressuring me. I said no.
- Please back off.
In your community
It may have happened already. A neighbor announces she is hosting a teen party, but you shouldn't worry — she's taking the car keys from every kid who comes in. Or a colleague says he's serving alcohol to his high school son's friends so they can “learn to drink responsibly.”
- Speak out, because silence can be misinterpreted. If you hear about a situation, say that you don’t want other people serving alcohol to your teen or condoning teen drinking. Let your friends, neighbors, and family members know that the minimum drinking age is a policy that protects teens, and that you don’t want your teen to drink.
- Take action before a situation arises. Start talking to the parents of your teen's friends early — for example, when your kid is in 6th grade. Tell them about the risks of teen drinking and let them know that you don’t want anyone to allow your teen to drink alcohol.
- Talk to adults who host teen parties. Let them know that the overwhelming majority of parents support the legal drinking age and agree that it is not okay to serve alcohol to someone else's teen — and not okay to turn a blind eye to teens' alcohol consumption.
- Talk to your school board, school principals, teachers, and coaches. Let them know that it is unsafe, illegal, and irresponsible to condone teen drinking. Ask them to discourage this activity.
- Talk to management at restaurants, town halls, and other venues where teen parties are held. Let them know that parents in your community do not want teens to have access to alcohol.
- Let local law enforcement know that you encourage active policing of noisy teen parties that may signal alcohol use.
- Tell local alcohol retailers that you want them to check ID before selling alcohol. Limiting alcohol sales to legal purchasers is an important goal and worth the time it takes.
- Check out other ways to reduce teen access to alcohol.