With graduations, college visits and summer vacations on the horizon, many teens see this time of year as a rite of passage into adulthood. It’s no surprise that some partake in imbibing alcoholic beverages before they reach age 21. But the fact remains that underage drinking is a problem with numerous societal consequences. The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) is joining other organizations across the country to observe April as Alcohol Awareness Month.

Most youth aged 10-18 report that their parents have the greatest influence on whether or not they choose to consume alcohol, reports the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR, formerly The Century Council). However, 65 percent of youth say they obtain alcohol from friends and family and 43 percent report that they drink at home when parents are present. 

“Fortunately parents and kids are talking more than ever about underage consumption and alcohol misuse,” said ABD Administrator Stephen Larson. Nearly half of parents say they have spoken to their 10-18 year old child at least four times in the past year about the dangers of underage drinking. 

The ABD encourages parents, teachers, health care providers and community members to begin a conversation with youth about the harms of alcohol. Here are some tips that can help parents make a child's school experience a safer one: 

  • Make sure your teen has a plan for the evening and that you know the plan.  
  • Know all of the "hot spot" destinations, including online ones!  
  • Make an inventory of the alcohol in your home and secure it if needed.  
  • Know who is driving. If there is a rented limo, make sure they have a policy not to allow alcohol in the vehicle.  
  • Discuss the school's rules with your teen and the consequences for violating them.  
  • Encourage seatbelt use.  
  • Do not rent hotel rooms for party-goers.  
  • Communicate with other parents and school officials.  
  • Stay awake for your child’s return home and let them know you will be waiting.  

Underage drinking is an ongoing problem both locally and across the nation; avoidable alcohol-related tragedies continue to take their toll on youth and society. Unfortunately, combating the problem requires more than just law enforcement and regulatory sanctions. Iowa’s regulatory agencies and the alcohol retailer community must work cooperatively to deter teens from drinking as well.