The youth of Australia are trying alcohol for the first time at a younger and younger age. It appears that the first sip of alcohol is consumed at an average age of 15.5 years old. Why so young? Most put it down to the Australian culture, believing it is a right-of-passage and considered ‘not to be a big deal.’ Is this the case? The legal drinking age is 18 years old to consume alcohol, for a reason.
So, is it really a big deal allowing youth to try alcohol at a young age? Are we preparing them for what is to come? Well, new research shows that we should delay teenager’s first taste of alcohol as we used to think that the teenage brain was fully developed and was at the same level of development of an adult, however this is not the case.
From the ages of 12 to our early twenties – the brain is in a state of intense development called ‘frontalisation,’ a time where the brain is growing and forming imperative parts that it needs to learn, plan, think, retain memories and even impact on the emotional stability of the child. This process, when the brain is in intense development, is crucial and any interruptions mean that certain areas of the brain may not form correctly and have impacts on the child in later life. This is as alcohol consumption at a young age can impair these developments, and therefore the brain may not develop to its full potential – ultimately stunting its growth.
The longer that a teenager delays the first taste of alcohol means that they have greater chance of their brain full developing, as they have not impaired its development due to alcohol. This means that they will be able to reach their full potential and have greater chance to succeed in life.
Therefore, deterring your child from the consumption of alcohol and talking to them about the consequences of alcohol is the best thing that you can do as a parent. Explain to the child that even though their friends may be trying alcohol for the first time, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily have to as well. The peer pressures of alcohol among teenagers is ever present, however if they know the risks then they will be able to make an informed decision and make the right decision – not to be involved in alcohol consumption and wait until they are of legal drinking age.