Underage drinking is a growing problem plaguing many Australian teenagers, many of whom tend to go on drinking binges. Binge drinking or excessive alcoholic consumption can expose them to dangerous situations and serious health problems.
In several Australian states, existing laws only punish suppliers who serve alcohol to minors in licensed establishments, with no legal recourse to help prevent such supply to under-18s at parties held in private homes. Starting on November 1, however, parents in Victoria can take an active role in preventing their children from drinking alcohol at parties as a new law will penalise anyone who supplies minors with alcoholic beverages in private premises.
Parents’ role in preventing underage drinking
Many Australians drink alcohol at home as part of their lifestyle. Such social acceptance of drinking and parental modelling is closely linked to growing statistics of underage drinking. (Source:http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Alcohol_and_teenagers and http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/healthandlifestyle.asp?sid=131&title=Binge-Drinking-%28Alcohol-Intoxication-Disorder%29#C6) Family life is believed to be crucial in preventing problematic social behaviour in children, including underage drinking. Parents are increasingly realizing how their view of alcohol and drinking habits influence their children.
The new law emphasizes the primary role of parents in guiding and protecting their children by penalising supply of alcohol in private parties without their consent. The need for parental consent for underage drinking is so important that its absence can result in liability to anyone caught serving alcohol to minors in parties.
The law will punish minors supplying other minors as well, making it imperative for parents to teach their children both health and legal consequences of underage drinking.
Safest alcohol level for minors
Alcohol guidelines set 2 standard drinks per occasion as a safe level of consumption for adults. A standard drink contains at most 10 grams of alcohol, which is usually the level found in a can of light beer, ¾ of a can of regular beer, 1 small glass of wine or a 30 ml shot of spirits. This safe limit, however, cannot apply to underage drinkers due to their low tolerance for alcohol, smaller bodies, lack of experience in drinking and managing their drinks. Parents are strongly advised to delay the initiation of alcohol to children and educate them about:
* the short term and long term health consequences of alcohol
* appropriate ways of drinking such as sipping small amounts accompanied by a meal
* social pressures to drink in parties and how to respond in certain situations
* safety guidelines such as informing parents of whereabouts, making regular calls to parents, not drink driving and avoiding risky behaviour during parties
Parents who host house parties where minors are invited can minimise underage drinking by insisting upon parents’ consent which may be communicated verbally through personal calls or in writing. Offenders may be liable to pay stiff fines of more than $7,000.