The grownups in your life have probably told you that you aren't allowed to have
alcoholic drinks, such as beer or wine. But what do kids think about this issue? KidsHealth
wanted to know, so we asked 690 kids ages 9 to 13.
Most kids said teens who drink alcohol
are not cool. More than 90% of the kids said they are very uncool
(86%) or uncool (6%). And 89% of kids said that drinking alcohol at their age (9 to
13) was never OK. That shows that a lot of kids are pretty smart about the dangers
of alcohol. They probably know that it's risky for kids to drink alcohol because:
It can make them sick (like making them throw up, pass out, or worse).
It can hurt their ability to make good decisions.
It can make them do things that are embarrassing.
It can get them into trouble (with parents or police).
It can be addictive, meaning that the person might start needing
alcohol to feel good.
But what about the kids who didn't agree? Three percent of kids said, at their
age, it was always OK to drink alcohol. And although 90% of kids said they never tried
alcohol, or only tried it once, 6% of kids said they often drink more than a sip —
every week or every month.
Some kids might drink because they have problems they don't know how to deal with.
These kids need caring adults to help them solve their problems in a healthier way.
Drinking alcohol is bad for your brain
and your health, but kids who drink can decide to be successful at stopping.
Caring adults can teach kids how to give and receive respect, take better care of
themselves, and make better choices. In addition to parents, a caring adult could
be an aunt or uncle, an older sibling, doctor, teacher, or school counselor.
Kids might start drinking alcohol because it makes them feel good at first or like
they can escape their problems for a while. The trouble with this is that drinking
alcohol makes them feel bad or sick afterward — and they may become addicted
to it. And as for the problems — they're still there anyway, because escaping
doesn't solve any problem.
Why Do Kids Try Alcohol?
Here are the top three reasons kids gave when asked why they try alcohol:
to look cool
to see what it's like
because other kids are doing it
All kids want to be cool. The good news is that most kids we surveyed don't think
drinking makes a person any cooler. But the few kids who said they drink seem to believe
it does. In other words, they might think they're cool, even though other
It's easy to see how a kid might get the wrong message about alcohol. If you have
seen beer commercials on TV, the people drinking it seem like they're having a good
time. They often feature bar or party scenes or people watching sports on TV. Why
can't kids have this kind of fun?
Well, alcohol also has a darker side. Alcohol is a depressant.
That means it slows down or depresses the brain. Like many drugs, alcohol changes
a person's ability to think, speak, and see things as they really are. A person might
lose his or her balance and have trouble walking properly. The person might feel relaxed
and happy, and later start crying or get in an argument.
When people drink too much, they might do or say things they don't mean. They might
hurt themselves or other people, especially if they drive a car. Someone who drinks
too much also might throw up and could wake up the next day feeling awful —
that's called a hangover. Over time, someone who abuses alcohol can do serious damage
to his or her body. The liver, which removes poisons from the blood, is especially
Because alcohol can cause such problems, the citizens and government leaders in
this country have decided that kids shouldn't be allowed to buy or use alcohol. By
setting the drinking age at 21, they hope older people will be able to make good decisions
about alcohol. For instance, they don't want people to drink alcohol and drive cars
because that's how many accidents occur.
If you know someone who is drinking, you might tell one of your parents, a teacher,
or a school counselor.
The person may need help, counseling, or other treatment to stop using alcohol. It's
also OK to ask questions about alcohol and ask for help if you feel pressure to drink
it. Often, parents are a strong source of support because they want you to stay
healthy and they don't want you to get in trouble.
Sometimes it can be hard for kids to say no if someone offers them alcohol. They
might feel peer pressure
to do what someone else is doing, even if they know better. Other kids might act as
if drinking alcohol makes a person grown up or say that a kid who refuses to use alcohol
is uncool or immature. But kids can say no to peer pressure when they know their own
minds and know that alcohol can be dangerous or harmful to them.
Some of the kids we surveyed said having other fun things to do was a good way
to prevent underage drinking. Even more kids (nearly half) had a really good thought
on how to prevent drinking: They said kids should learn more about the dangers of
alcohol from doctors and nurses, through lessons at school, and by talking with people
who have had alcohol problems.
That's smart because the more kids know about alcohol, how it affects people, and
the dangers of underage drinking, the better they can be at making good decisions
about their own behavior. And that — unlike drinking alcohol — is truly