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By the time they're in middle school, kids have been exposed to alcohol via billboards, ads, and TV shows--usually showing drinking in a positive light. The more kids are exposed to such images, the more likely they are to drink, a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found. If they're drinking already--and 21 percent of kids have by age 13--then they'll drink more. Maybe that's the reason that 72 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds are considered heavy drinkers.
That's why the AAP is advising moms, dads, and healthcare professionals to start talking to kids about the dangers of drinking as early as age 9--before that first sip. Because it's still developing, a kid's brain is especially vulnerable to damage from too much beer, wine, and other cocktails.
This is especially true when kids binge drink--something 5.4 million of 12- to 20-year-olds do. Binge drinking is defined as having three or more alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period for girls; for boys, it's four or more drinks in the same time period. Given their inexperience, teens are especially prone to downing their booze this way.
Convinced your tween won't listen to your words? You'd be surprised: 80 percent of teenagers say their parents are the biggest influence on whether they drink or not (yes, even more than their classmates!). You don't have to go overboard, but do mention how drinking can cause people to do stupid stuff and how drinking and driving don't mix.