THE BLOG

Parents Think 57% of 11-15 Year Olds Have Tried Alcohol, But That's Not Right - Time for a Conversation

08/10/2014 12:02 BST | Updated 07/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Predicting what teenagers think is tricky - as a mother of two, I know how hard it can be. Our annual AB InBev survey into young people and alcohol shows this is particularly true when it comes to attitudes to drinking.

There is a huge gulf between parents' perceptions of young people's views on drinking and what teenagers actually think and how they behave.

What may come as a surprise is that parents significantly overestimate how many young people drink and how often they do so.

Our poll found that, on average, parents believe 57% of 11-15yr olds have tried alcohol - but official government data shows the actual figure is 39%. Overall, 7 in 10 parents thought more young people had ever tried alcohol than is the case.

Similarly, parents think almost seven times more 11-15 year olds drink alcohol at least once a week than actually do. The average prediction in our poll was 34%, but in reality 5% of young people are weekly drinkers.

The research revealed regional differences too. Parents in the North West overestimate the extent of underage drinking more than parents in any other part of the country, whilst those in the East Midlands were the most likely to overestimate how many young people drink every week.

And despite the fact underage drinking is in decline, our survey revealed that nationwide 70% of parents believe it has increased compared to five years ago.

These numbers matter, as they show a genuine gap between what we parents think our teenagers are up to and what is actually happening in their lives.

The best way to bridge that gap is for parents to talk to their children about responsible drinking. But as any parent knows, what starts as a conversation can easily start to feel like a lecture.

We want to make these discussions easier for parents and to ensure they receive as much information and support as possible. This is why we have been working hard with a range of partners to improve the help available to parents as part of our ambition to be the Best Beer Company bringing people together for a Better World.

Last year we launched a three year partnership with the Alcohol Education Trust (AET), focused on helping parents talk to their children about responsible drinking. This support has enabled the AET to appoint a new parent training coordinator in the North West of England to provide expert advice directly to parents in schools. This appointment builds on the success of the AET's existing coordinator in the North East, also supported by AB InBev UK.

Parents can also learn from each other. Three years ago we set up our Family Talk UK Facebook page, an online platform designed to make it easier for parents to share their experiences about talking to their children about alcohol.

The more conversations we have now with our children, the more likely they are to drink responsibly when they grow up. It is crucial parents are given the support they need to make this happen.