OGDEN — Parents need to wake up and smell the alcohol, experts say in a new campaign alerting them to the signs their children may be getting “trashed.”
For the next several months, local garbage trucks will serve as mobile billboards in Weber and Davis counties to help remind parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of alcohol on the developing brain.
Weber Human Services and Waste Management have teamed with Parentsempowered.org to help get the message across, said Zac Snow, prevention specialist with Weber Human Services.
The mobile billboards will carry various messages such as, “What part of their brain don’t your kids need?”
According to parentsempowered.org, a media and education campaign funded by the Utah Legislature and designed to prevent and reduce underage drinking, binge drinking begins as early as the sixth grade. Yet, more than 60 percent of Utah parents are unaware their child is drinking. In addition, 45 percent of Utah kids who begin drinking before the age of 13 will become alcohol dependent.
Snow said a teen’s brain is more vulnerable to addiction and dependence.
“There are two key brain areas that research has indicated are affected by drinking during the teenage years,” Snow said. “The prefrontal lobe is responsible for making judgments and controlling impulses. This area is crucial in the development of our personalities and behaviors that we engage in.”
The other area of the brain is the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory and is also vulnerable to the affects of alcohol because it is still developing.
“Research has found that parents have greater influence over their children’s choices to drink than they realize,” Snow said. “Recent figures indicate that underage drinking increases among teens whose parents consider drinking acceptable. Research has also indicated that when teens feel close with and involved with their parents and parents feel closer to each other, teens are less likely to drink or start drinking.”
Recent data from the Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey (SHARP) in Weber and Morgan counties indicated that close to 60 percent of sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders who reported using alcohol in the last year also reported drinking at their own home or someone else’s home without permission.
The data also indicates Weber and Morgan counties are higher than the state average for lifetime alcohol consumption among students at those grade levels.
Snow stressed the importance of parent involvement with their children.
“Knowing who they are friends with, what activities they are engaged in, where they are going to be are all part of parental monitoring, having clear rules, expectations and bonding with teens.”
Snow said parents should talk with their children about the dangers of underage drinking and make sure they understand the risks. Bonding, setting clear rules and boundaries and monitoring kids can go a long way.
“Underage drinking is a real issue that needs to be taken seriously. Ideally we want underage drinking to stop,” Snow said. “Realistically, though, we hope that through utilizing the media and educating parents we can drastically reduce and prevent underage drinking in the state.”