Children 'allowed to drink at 13'


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The Independent Online

The average age at which UK parents allow their children to have an alcoholic drink is 13, a new study has found.

Half (50%) of 10 to 17-year-olds who have had a drink say it was their parents who supplied the alcohol, the poll for charity Drinkaware found, making adults the most common source.

Almost three-quarters of children (72%) said they would turn to their parents first for advice about alcohol, while 43% of parents worried that their child's friends have a greater influence on drinking behaviour than they do.

In those families where the child had drunk alcohol, the average age at which parents allowed them to have the first drink was 13.8 years old, according to the study.

Of the 10 to 17-year olds polled who had drunk alcohol, the majority (55%) had been with their parents the last time they had a drink.

The study found that while 83% of parents said it was important to talk to their children about alcohol, 32% admitted shortcomings in their understanding about its effects.

It also revealed that 67% of teens questioned had never felt encouraged to drink alcohol,

The charity is launching a 'Mumtank' panel of mothers, with experience ranging from health and child psychology to education, to help parents tackle issues around alcohol.

Drinkaware chief executive Chris Sorek said: "These findings will help to reassure parents that their children are more likely to go to them for advice about alcohol than their peers.

"So it's really important that they have the right advice, information and support to talk to their kids. Evidence shows that the earlier children start drinking, the more likely they are to drink more and more frequently as they grow up.

"Parents are key to tackling the UK's drinking culture in the long term, and we want to help them ensure their kids don't grow up to be the next generation of binge drinkers.

"Drinkaware's Mumtank aims to bring the debate about children and alcohol to life and spark lively discussion by increasing awareness of the issues, providing expert advice and questioning pre-conceived ideas about children and alcohol."

Carrie Longton, the co-founder of Mumsnet and a member of the Mumtank panel, said: "Talking to children about alcohol can be a complex and tricky issue, and we know from Mumsnetters that there is concern about when and how to best tackle the subject.

"Mumtank is all about raising awareness amongst parents of the importance of opening up a dialogue about alcohol with their children earlier rather than later as well as arming parents with useful factual information tips and advice."

Superintendent Julie Whitmarsh Devon and Cornwall Police and a member of the ACPO Group on reducing alcohol-related harm said: "As a police officer on the frontline, I regularly witness firsthand the negative effects of underage drinking.

"Preventing the sale of alcohol to anyone under 18 is part of any police officer's role, but a more pressing problem that's harder to police is that of 'parent dealers' - parents supplying their children with drinks.

"I believe that we need to do more to help parents understand the importance of the role they have to play in educating their children about alcohol. The Mumtank is the ideal forum for this and I'm very pleased to be involved."