Sometimes it feels
like alcohol
is everywhere

As parents we can feel the pressure to introduce our children to alcohol. After all, we probably started drinking when we were young and alcohol seems to be everywhere.

But things are changing.

Adults and children are drinking less than they did 10 years ago and many of us take time off the booze during Dry January to feel the benefits of not drinking and to think about drinking less. Most children do not drink regularly. Since 2002 the number of 11-15 year olds drinking regularly has gone down from one in four to nearer one in 10. 1

Despite what the figures say, it can still feel like most young people drink and parents don’t want their children to miss out socially. But times have changed and if your child chooses not to drink, they won’t be alone.

Friends looking at phone

Most 11 - 15 year olds have never had an alcoholic drink.

Alcohol and children – what’s happening?

Despite what your child might be saying to you, more children and young people than ever are choosing not to drink. Nine out of 10 young people aged 11 -15 years do not drink regularly, compared to one in four back in 2001. 2

For 16 and 17 year olds, binge drinking is also going out of fashion. Only around one in 20 (6%) has been binge drinking in the previous week compared to almost one in three (30%) in 2002. 3

Friends are important too. If children have friends who drink regularly then they are 10 times more likely to be a risky drinker themselves. 4

Often parents worry more about their children smoking or taking illegal drugs than they do about them drinking alcohol. The fact is drinking, smoking and taking illegal drugs can often go together.

Compared to those who don’t drink, young people who drink alcohol regularly are four times more likely to smoke regularly too. They are also three times more likely to take illegal drugs. 5

Most children will take their parents advice about alcohol.

How much influence does a parent have?

When parents don’t allow their children (aged 11-15) to drink 87% choose not to drink.

But, children whose parents allow them to drink are four times more likely to be a risky drinker than those whose parents don’t allow it.

And, children who think it is ok for them to drink at their age are three times more likely to be a risky drinker than those who think it isn’t ok. 6

Parents can let their children know that it’s not OK to drink by talking about the fact that most young people don’t drink and explaining about the social and health risks linked to alcohol.

Dad and son cooking dinner

Take some time out to talk.

A helpful guide for parents

As parents you have more influence than you think. You can help your children to avoid alcohol harms by:

  • learning about alcohol risks for young people,
  • understanding the myths,
  • talking to your children about alcohol,
  • agreeing rules,
  • being good role models.

Advice from England’s Chief Medical Officer

The advice from England’s Chief Medical Officer is that ‘Children and their parents and carers are advised that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. However, if children drink alcohol it should not be until at least the age of 15 years’.

Find out more about the 5 key recommendations in our article here.

  1. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people. England 2016
  2. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people. England 2016
  3. ScHARR, University of Sheffield (2018) Youth Drinking in Decline
  4. Balance (2016) Children and Young People’s Perceptions Survey
  5. NHS Digital (2016). Smoking, drinking and drugs use among young people. England 2016
  6. Balance (2016) Children and Young People’s Perceptions Survey