What should I say to my kid about underage drinking on TV shows?

It really depends on your kid. While teens who watch shows that feature underage drinking, such as Awkward and Pretty Little Liars, are more likely to have positive associations with alcohol, not all kids are influenced the same way. One study indicates that kids who tend to be "reactive" -- doing the opposite of what they're told -- are less swayed by what they see on TV. But you don't need research to tell you that all kids are different.

So, though it's important to talk to your kid about underage drinking on TV -- or any other behavior you don't want your kid to emulate -- it's also important to listen. As you share your family's values regarding alcohol, pay attention to how your kid perceives the information he takes in from media.

Here are some ideas to guide the conversation:

Use the Empire State test. Just because everyone else is jumping off the Empire State Building doesn't mean you should do it too. If your kid seems to be more accepting of underage drinking (possibly due to being influenced by TV), offer counter-messages that explain the risks.

Talk about how the media portrays underage drinking. Is it fun and carefree with no consequences? What would happen in real life if kids drank like they do on these shows? 

Talk about the privileges of adulthood. Many of these shows depict teens doing grown-up things. But certain rights come with being an adult, not to mention that adult's brains and bodies are mature enough to handle the effects of alcohol. 

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Comments

Teen, 13 years old written by anyahelizabeth

There is one big problem with this tough and it is that even if you shelter and try to protect your teens from this media they are still going to see it and hear about it from people at school. So honestly, in my opinion, you should be focusing more on promoting safety around and with alcohol and by normalizing the idea that people will be people and you shouldn't do something because everyone else is. If you shelter your kids from something that is normal (not saying that it's right) when they finally move out or have a chance to be alcohol they are not going to be used to it and want to try it even more, whereas if it was a normal thing they would no their boundaries and stay within them. Also to add to this point if someone wants to do something enough they are going to find a way to do it that might not always be safe again if it is normal they may not be as intrigued and interested to do it as someone who has never seen or talked about alcohol at home.
Kid, 10 years old

Tell kids that the law is that you must be at least 21 years of age before you can drink alcohol. Tell them the privileges of being an adult and that adult bodies can handle the effects of alcohol. Tell them the ginormous consequences that will happen if they are caught drinking underage. Also limit access to media with drinking in it. When kids are 21 years old and in college, then they can make their own decisions, just make sure they don't get drunk.
Adult written by Just my opinion .

I believe that your child will drink, but most likely not until late high school or college. That's what's most common. I think stressing alcohol safety is more important. Teaching limits, to never go to parties alone, and how to be responsible will be more effective. A lot of kids don't drink until college and are away from parents and by that point it's their choice. Just be open about your past mistakes and they won't be as afraid to open up to you!
Adult written by MiketheTzar

Statistically your child will drink underage this may mean the start in College, High School, or even Middle School. You can play the "not my child", but numbers don't lie. Teach them to respect alcohol, not fear it. As your children approach a more appropriate age (first check your local laws as well as your comfort level) talk to them in earnest about alcohol. About types of alcohol, how it effects a persons body and their mind, if you feel comfortable you can even offer your children some alcohol. Alcohol shouldn't be the enemy binge drinking should be.
Adult written by Monera

Honestly, alcohol is overblown in society. People wonder why teens turn to it in an unhealthful way, but it's this big off-limits thing that adults freak out about. In countries like Spain or Italy or France, alcohol is just an average drink that everyone has during meal times. Kids drink it too! Even then, you don't hear about European kids going into chaos spiraling down bad roads! I think the root of the issue is alcohol is this big forbidden thing rebellious teens want to drink in order to defy their parents and society. In Europe, you want to rebel?, Just wait until dinner! People want what they can't have. If alcohol was compulsory, I bet many teens wouldn't be caught dead with it! The psychology is simple, people want what they can't have! Also, who's to say adults can handle alcohol either! Alcoholism is a prevalent problem in many adults, and kids see it. How can kids make healthy choices and be told drink is "adult privilege" and adults can "handle it" when the very adults in their lives are the ones making the bad decisions? Adults must lead by example and clean up their own act first....