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.