Research Shows Parents Are #1 Resource to Keep Children from Drinking

By Zachary Siegel 05/13/15

SAMSHA's Talk. They Hear You. campaign encourages parents to talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol sooner, rather than later.

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Talk. They Hear You. is an alcohol prevention campaign geared toward teaching parents and caregivers to broach the delicate subject of underage drinking in children as young as nine-years-old.

For the past year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has spearheaded a campaign with clear and attainable aims:

  1. Increase parents’ awareness of the prevalence and risk of underage drinking.
  2. Equip parents with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to prevent underage drinking.
  3. Increase parents’ actions to prevent underage drinking.

In 2013, roughly 8.7 million persons aged 12 to 20, or 22.7% of this age group, reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Of that 8.7 million, 5.4 million of them reported binge drinking. SAMHSA’s research shows that parents have a significant influence on their children’s drinking habits, “so it’s critical that they start talking to their children early about the dangers of underage drinking,” especially in that 9-15 age range.

By the age of 12, 10% of young adults say they’ve tried alcohol. But by age 15, that number jumps to 50%. Which is by and large the reason for Talk. They Hear You.’s recent implementation, which has been successful in encouraging parents to speak sensitively about alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use in young people may lead to poor academic outcomes, risky sexual behaviors, and the potential use of other addictive substances. There is also evidence that chronic alcohol use in children may damage their developing brains. Talk. They Hear You. therefore empowers parents to be active in the success and safety of their children. Bringing up alcohol and other drugs to children needn’t be taboo.

Part of the program’s success is also its technological sophistication. There is a phone app available for iPhone and Android to help parents practice conversational skills in difficult situations, by offering key talking points and non-confrontational ways to discuss the subject. 

To begin the conversation with your child, visit Talk. They Hear You. on YouTube. Use  #TalkTheyHearYou to find them on Twitter.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.