Parents' fact file

Facts that might get your kids to think about their drinking

It’s no good just telling children that excess drinking is harmful to their health, you believe you’re untouchable as a kid, – wait for that familiar rolling of eyes, and ‘well you drink Mum, don’t you?’ Or if you don’t drink, it’s that ‘well, what would you understand about it?’ What’s proving far more effective is to focus on what could happen to them now, if things get out of hand and giving them the tools to get out of a tricky situation so that they know what to do if things go wrong.

FACT 1 – You’re the tops

According to the 2012 GfK Roper Youth Report, 73% of children ages 13 to 17 say that their parents are the number one influence on whether they drink alcohol. A survey by the YMCA in 2008 found that parents were important influences but that they weren’t seen by most teenagers as good role models and didn’t set ground rules that they stuck to. Only 21% said that their parents or other adults they knew were good role models.

Although 55% of young people say that their school provides clear rules and boundaries, and their behaviour is monitored in the community by neighbours and others, barely a quarter (27%) say they have to abide by clear rules and consequences in their family, or that their parents keep track of where they are. Know where they are and who they’re with Research clearly shows that if parental monitoring is in place – that is knowing where your kids are, and who they’re with – teenagers are much less likely to begin to use drugs or alcohol at an early age.

Happy dad and teen






FACT 2 – Most teenagers DON’T regularly go out and get drunk, or drink heavily

The first thing to remember is that in spite of the headlines out there condemning ‘booze Britain’ and ‘ladettes’, most teenagers do not go out to get drunk: In fact, the majority of school-going children across Europe, including the UK, have never had a whole drink! The number of teenagers under 15 years experimenting with alcohol is falling in the UK. Regular underage drinking has halved from 26% of 11-15 year-olds in 2001 to 13% in 2011 in England – so 87% don’t drink regularly or to excess.

The numbers of 11-15 year-olds who have never drunk alcohol has increased, from 40% in 2001 to 55% in 2010. Binge drinking (more than 12 units for men and 9 units for women per occasion) has fallen to 16% among 16-24 year old men and 12% among women in 2010. This means that a big majority of young adults (84% of men and 88% of women) go out to enjoy themselves and socialise, not to get drunk.


FACT 3 – ‘The Tipping Point’

Just 3% of 11 year-olds think it is okay to try getting drunk or be drunk weekly – however, this rises sharply for 15 year-olds. This is why it is so important that you talk about drinking, its effects and risks in a balanced way before the age of 13.

Our study of over 4,400 13 year-olds in 34 schools across England in 2011/13 found that age 13 was the tipping point with 42% of Year 8 pupils having had a whole drink by age 13, although overwhelmingly in a supervised environment



There are clear indications that young people’s attitudes towards alcohol are changing for the better. Statistics show that the number of pupils (aged 11-15) who had drunk alcohol in the last week is now 12%, a decline from 26% in 2001. In addition, the number of 11-15 year olds that agreed it was “OK to try drinking alcohol to see what it was like” has dropped from 67% to 55% and now just 11% of pupils think it is “OK for someone of their age to get drunk once a week”, compared with 20% in 2003.

FACT 4 – Don’t send them underground

Talking openly with your kids is hugely important. Secret drinking with friends away from home does happen.

Streets and local parks were the most usual drinking place for 32% of 10-19 year olds (Talbot and Crabbe, 2008), so it’s important to know where your kids are, and who they’re with – and what time you expect them home.






FACT 5 – What happens to teenagers who get drunk

Teenagers are far more likely to be involved in an accident, a violent incident or get in trouble with the police after drinking, affecting their chances of a good career if they end up with a criminal record or losing their driving licence through letting things get out of hand. If a teenager drinks before they are 15 they are:

  • 7 times more likely to be in a car crash because of drinking, and
    11 times more likely to suffer unintentional injuries after drinking.

Even drinking to get drunk occasionally can have serious consequences as it increases risky behaviour. Teenagers who get drunk are far more likely to:

  • Injure themselves or someone else – even accidentally engage in unsafe sex, which could result in sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies
  • Be robbed – especially of cash, iPods and mobile phones
  • End up going home with a stranger on their own get in a fight, an argument or relationship problems get into trouble with the police and end up with a criminal record.

So always encourage your kids to look out for each other, plan how they are going to get home before going out and to keep enough money aside in case of emergencies.

Teens drinking

If you have any questions regarding information on this site, please do contact


Parent newsletter

Conversation starter film clips

Useful links