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8 Myths about Underage Drinking, Busted

8 Myths about Underage Drinking, Busted

When it comes to tough topics like teenage drinking, parenting advice seems to come from everywhere—other parents, magazines, message boards. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction and make the right choices to keep your teens safe.

To help set you up for success, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we hear from parents like you and debunked eight popular myths about teen drinking.

Myth: Drinking underage is a rite of passage for every teen.

A common misconception that many hold about drinking under 21 is that it’s a rite passage. No parent wants their teen to be left out. You may think letting them drink while they’re a teenager will help them fit in. But the reality is that most teenage students don’t drink. In fact, according to the Missouri Student Survey, only 33% of Missouri teens reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days. This means that nearly two-thirds of the students aren’t drinking. By choosing not to drink, your teen can still have a healthy and happy social life.

Myth: Letting my teen drink at home under my supervision is safe.

While on the surface this myth may seem like a creative way to keep your teen from driving drunk or showing them how to have a safe perspective on healthy drinking habits, it actually does the opposite.

Research presented by Richard Mattick, a professor of Drug and Alcohol Studies at New South Wales, found that while the intentions may be good, this tactic rarely works. When you allow your teenager to drink at home with you, all they learn is that it’s okay for them to drink underage.

Your questions, our answers: Is it legal for a minor to drink alcohol at home?

Even with adult supervision in a familiar place, serving alcohol to minors is not only more likely to lead to unhealthy perspectives about underage drinking—it’s also illegal. No matter which way you cut it, a minor drinking at home can have legal ramifications that set a less-than-positive example.

A teenager smiles next to text that says "Is it legal for a minor to drink alcohol at home? Underage drinking is illegal in the United States and isn't in the best interest of your teen."

Myth: Every teen has the same chance of getting addicted to a substance.

It is true that every person can get addicted to a substance over time. Unfortunately, some of us are more likely to become addicted than others, especially if someone in your family has been addicted to alcohol. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there isn’t one single gene responsible for making someone an alcoholic. Instead, there are multiple environmental, social and genetic factors that can play into the risk.

Since it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint these factors for a person, it’s important to wait until someone is 21 to let them drink alcohol. At this age, the brain has had more time to develop and the risk for addiction decreases.

A girl stands next to teenage drinking parenting advice that says "there isn't one single gene responsible for making someone an alcoholic."

Myth: I drank as a teen and turned out fine, so it’s okay for my teen to drink.

If you chose to drink while you were in high school, it’s important to understand the differences in drinking culture today. During the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, many states across the country lowered their drinking age. As a result, the number of drunk driving crashes increased greatly. To curb the number of people involved in these crashes, many states began raising the minimum age back up to 21.

During this time, if you were an older student, you might not have been drinking illegally. Today, however, every state has a legal drinking age of 21.

Nowadays, more and more teenagers have started to binge when they drink. Binge drinking is when a person consumes an unhealthy amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. Usually, it means four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours. This kind of drinking can be extremely dangerous for anyone, but especially for teenagers.

Myth: If I’m too strict, my teen will drink even more when he or she leaves home.

It’s a great thing to want to set teens up for success when they graduate and head off on their own. But there are better ways to do that than by letting them drink in middle or high school. In fact, according to the Youth Service Bureau, teens who grow up in homes where parents didn’t have strict rules on alcohol were more likely to abuse it as adults.

Teenage drinking parenting advice

Myth: Teens in Europe drink earlier and they do fine.

In many countries in Europe, the legal age for drinking is much lower than here in the U.S. But a study presented by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation explains that teens in European countries report higher intoxication rates than teens in the United States. Additionally, many of these teens also report intoxication before the age of 13. This can be dangerous for the healthy development of the teenage brain, and deadly if teens choose to drive drunk.

Some countries, such as France, have even fought to tighten the control of the drinking young people can do in their country.

The truth? Drinking underage is illegal in the United States and isn’t in the best interest of your teen.

On the surface, these myths seem like reasons to relax the rules when it comes to underage drinking. But the truth is that no matter how it’s done, drinking under the age of 21 is against the law. It can also harm your teen as his or her mind and body continues to grow and develop.

By setting solid expectations on underage drinking in your home, you can help set your teen up for success in the long run.

Kaitlyn Inman