Alcohol consumption in Wisconsin is endemic. Seven of our larger cities/metropolitan areas are pretty regularly listed in the top 10 of the “most drunk” in the country. Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, alcohol use and abuse even extends to youth under age 21.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 49% of Wisconsin teens have tried alcohol. Nationwide, the prevalence of underage drinking decreased by seven percentage points from 2019 to 2021, yet in Wisconsin, it decreased by just four percentage points.
One in six Wisconsin high schoolers report having tried alcohol by age 13, and two out of three Wisconsin teens don’t see underage drinking as a risk. However, we know teens who drink can suffer real damage—exposing their developing brains, lives, and mental health to serious, even deadly, consequences. Underage drinking can lead teens to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and even alcohol addictions, or cause them to make poor decisions they may not have made otherwise.
Lots of commercials are popping up on TV right now encouraging parents to talk to their teens and even pre-teens about the dangers of underage drinking. Research shows age eight is when children start to form their earliest opinions about alcohol.
Numerous factors can lead children to experiment with alcohol, ranging from the influence of peers to the aggressive marketing strategies that go unchecked. Some children might view alcohol as a means to manage the challenges or trauma they face in their educational environment, household, or community. The good news is that parents hold significant power to effect change and steer their children away from such choices.
The best protection teens have against this dangerous substance is involved, intervening parents.
Parents need to guide their children through the messages they receive from peers and the media and address the topic of alcohol before it becomes a real-life temptation. As Christian conservatives in an increasingly secular culture, instilling values early on is essential, so beginning discussions about the risks of underage drinking at a young but appropriate age is both proactive and necessary. These conversations are an opportunity to reinforce the Christian principles of self-control and respect for the body as a temple, as well as the conservative values of personal responsibility and discipline.
Of course, this applies to more than just conversations about alcohol consumption. Children are being bombarded with progressive and immoral messages about all aspects of life, meaning involved and proactive parents are needed now more than ever. If parents don’t take this responsibility and opportunity, they can be sure the culture will gladly do it for them.