It’s more serious than most parents realize.

Many parents don’t realize that alcohol is connected to the issues they fear most for their kids. When a research study asked parents in Pennsylvania what issues worry them most, underage drinking was far off their radar. They mentioned drug use, violence and bullying more than anything else.1

But the reality is that alcohol is the substance most often abused by children and teens.2 And it can cause both short-term and long-term harm.

Short-term effects of drinking alcohol can include:

  • distorted vision, hearing and coordination
  • altered perceptions and emotions
  • nerve cell and brain damage
  • impaired decision-making, which can lead to risky behaviors like drug use and unsafe sex
  • school absence, poor or failing grades
  • aggressive behavior
  • lack of participation in activities and sports

Long-term effects of alcohol use can include:

  • addiction
  • cirrhosis and cancer of the liver
  • serious vitamin deficiencies
  • heart and central nervous system damage
  • memory loss
  • stomach ailments
  • alcohol poisoning

Children are at greater risk of harm.

Children’s bodies are still developing, and alcohol can affect healthy growth. Alcohol can cause permanent damage to organs like the liver, heart, and stomach as well as the central nervous system. That’s why the Know When. Know How.℠ campaign aims to prevent underage drinking.

The younger children start drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol as adults. Children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent later in life. That’s a four times greater chance than children who do not.

1PLCB Underage Drinking Focus Groups, Summary of observations and recommendations from 8 focus groups across the state with Pennsylvania parents of children between the ages of 5 and 15, Center for Opinion Research, May 2017.

2Siqueira, L. VC Smith, Comm Subst Abuse, and Committee on Substance Abuse, “Binge Drinking,” Pediatrics 136, no. 3 (2015): E718-E726.

Illustration of a dinner party with a kid holding a glass of wine.

2 in 5 PA parents find it acceptable for kids to drink alcohol on "special occasions"

About the same percentage of parents (37%) believe it’s natural for children to experiment with alcohol and trust their child to experiment responsibly.

Tip: To help your child avoid the risks associated with alcohol, it’s important to learn the facts. It’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol – regardless of the situation. And children who begin drinking at an early age can be four times more likely to have problems with alcohol later in life.

Dear Parent

Your child looks up to you. Let them know what you’re telling them is intended to keep them safe, not frighten them.