What’s The Harm Campaign

EVERY parent wants to do the right thing about talking to their child about smoking, drugs and other risks…but how many of us ever talk to our children about alcohol?

Our children have had a tough year – but with lockdown easing, parents are being encouraged not to add alcohol to the mix and help children stay away from alcohol as long as possible.

2020 saw alarming headlines about alcohol, with more people drinking at harmful levels, alcohol deaths rising, over 770,000 hospital admissions from alcohol, and the low mood and anxiety from alcohol adding to people’s mental health problems.

When it comes to alcohol and children, it can be difficult to sort the myths from the facts, but evidence shows that alcohol during childhood can harm developing bodies and brains and worsen feelings of low mood and depression.

Children who drink regularly are also more likely to smoke and take illegal drugs, have accidents and be involved in risk taking behaviours.

The Chief Medical Officer advice is that no alcohol under 18 is the healthiest and safest option but if they do drink, it should definitely not be before the age of 15. For young people aged 15 to 17, it was suggested they should only drink in a supervised environment, and no more than once a week.

Susan Taylor, Acting Head of Policy for Balance, said: “Every parent wants the best for their child and we have all seen from 2020 the devastating impact of alcohol on health and mental health.

“The reality is that too many children are ending up in hospital, in A&E or with real problems in their lives because of alcohol.

“Our children have had a hard year and are just now adjusting back to school, hobbies and friendships, and do not need alcohol dragging them down, or putting them on a path towards health problems in the future. The longer we can delay drinking alcohol in the lives of our children, the better.”

One of the biggest myths among parents is that providing children with alcohol can help them handle drinking when they’re older. However, evidence is very clear that introducing drinking at a younger age risks giving children more a taste for regular drinking.

Research with children shows that parents and carers are the number one source of alcohol for children – for 7/10 11-15 year olds who drink.

To find out the facts and the myths people can visit Whatstheharm.co.uk and download the free Parents Guide which can help parents have a conversation with their child about alcohol.

The best advice is to talk to your children about alcohol before secondary school, don’t consider letting them drink before 15 and if you can, delay it until they’re 18 for the best start in life. Every year around 340 North East children are admitted to hospital as a result of drinking, with many more ending up in A&E departments.