Your Teen

AAP Updates Position on Marijuana Legalization

1:30

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come out in favor of keeping marijuana illegal, but decriminalizing its use.

The AAP says the penalties for being caught with the weed should be reduced because a criminal record can have a lasting impact on someone’s life making it harder to get a job, apply for loans for education and even finding housing.

Decriminalization of marijuana “takes this whole issue out of the criminal justice system and puts it into the health system, where it really should be,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, the statement’s lead author from Stanford University in California.

While some people feel that marijuana is as benign as alcohol use, Ammerman says that argument isn’t persuasive, especially when applied to adolescents and young adults.

“It’s not benign for youth,” he said. “It may be benign for adults, but the Academy feels strongly that alcohol is not benign for youths either.”

The statement goes on to state that the negative effects of marijuana on teens are well documented including impaired short-term memory and decreased concentration and problem solving.

Because the drug can affect motor control skills, its use may also contribute to deaths and traffic accidents or injuries.

Another concern is whether smoking pot may affect brain development in younger people.

“There has been some interesting brain development research that shows the brain continues to develop into the mid-20s, and there is some research in regular to heavy users that their brain development is not normal,” Ammerman said.

The Academy also opposes the legalization of marijuana for medical uses that haven’t been evaluated through proper regulatory channels, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

 “These cannabinoids can have therapeutic value, but there have been no studies in children or adolescents.” Ammerman noted.

The Academy does make an exception though "for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate."

While some medical marijuana advocates said they were pleased with the updated AAP policy, they felt that it was a weak effort.

Source: Andrew W. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/26/us-legal-marijuana-pediatricians-idUSKBN0KZ0AK20150126

 

Your Teen

Sugary Drinks May Increase Early Menstruation in Girls

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The consumption of sugar-filled beverages has been linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity and type2 diabetes. A new study shines another light on the association between high-sugar drinks and young girl’s potential health problems.

Researchers found that, on average, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages started menstruation 2.7 months earlier than girls who consumed two or fewer servings of these drinks each week.

The team said their findings raise concerns because earlier menstruation has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer. They say a 1-year decrease in age at first menstruation is estimated to raise the risk of breast cancer by 5%. "Thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk."

In another study, early menstruation has also been linked to a slight increase of risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of the US population consumes sugary drinks on any given day, including around 60% of females aged 2-19 years.

This latest study is the first to associate sugary drink consumption in girls with the age of first menstruation, or menarche.

To reach their findings, Prof. Karin Michels, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and her team analyzed 5,583 girls aged 9-14 years who were a part of the Growing Up Today Study, which involves 16,875 children of participants from the Nurses Health Study II.

At the beginning of the study in 1996, none of the girls had started their periods. In a follow-up in 2001, 159 girls (3% of the participants) had started menstruation.

During the 5-year study, the girls were required to complete a dietary questionnaire that revealed their consumption of sugary drinks. The drinks contained added sugars such as sucrose, glucose and corn syrup.

They were also asked how often they consumed the drinks.

The team found that at any age between 9 and 18.5 years, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks each day were approximately 24% more likely to begin menstruation in the next month than girls who drank two or fewer servings each week.

Overall, the girls who drank the most sugar-laden drinks began their periods aged 12.8 years, while those who drank the least amount began menstruation at age 13.

These results remained significant even after the researchers accounted for other factors that could influence the age of first menstruation, such as body mass index (BMI), birth weight, height physical activity, ethnicity/race, family composition and how often the girls ate dinner with their family.

The team notes sugary drinks have a higher glycemic index than naturally sweetened drinks, which can trigger a rise in insulin concentrations. An increase in insulin concentrations can lead to a rise in concentrations of sex hormones, which can cause earlier menstruation - a potential explanation for the team's findings.

While drinking too many sugary drinks may lead to early menstruation in young girls, the more pressing health problem is likely to be obesity and type2 diabetes. These are problems that can lead to more serious health issues over a child’s lifetime.

Helping children understand the health benefits of laying –off these kinds of drinks (whether regular or artificially sweetened), when they are young will make it much easier for them to resist getting hooked by the time they reach the age of puberty.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Source: Honor Whiteman, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288587.php

Your Teen

Excessive Gum Chewing May Cause Migraines

2.00 to read

Kids love to chew gum but the smacking, popping and bubble blowing has driven many a parent and teacher to their breaking point.  There’s another side to gum chewing that may be more than just annoying. According to a new study, excessive gum chewing may be giving kids migraines.

Dr. Nathan Watemberg, with Tele Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center, noticed that many patients reporting headaches were excessive gum chewers. After completing his study, Watemberg believes that some migraine patients can be cured of their headaches without further testing or medications simply by eliminating their gum chewing.

"Out of our 30 patients, 26 reported significant improvement, and 19 had complete headache resolution," said Watemberg. "Twenty of the improved patients later agreed to go back to chewing gum, and all of them reported an immediate relapse of symptoms."

The study involved 30 patients, 6 to 19 years old, who had chronic migraine or tension headaches and chewed gum daily. He asked that the participants stop chewing gum for one month. They had chewed gum for at least an hour, some up to more than six hours, per day. After a month without gum, 19 of the 30 patients reported that their headaches went away entirely and seven reported a decrease in the frequency and intensity of headaches. To test the results, 26 of them agreed to resume gum chewing for two weeks. All of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.

Two previous studies linked gum chewing to headaches, but offered different explanations. One study suggested that gum chewing causes stress to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the place where the jaw meets the skull. The other study blamed aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in most popular chewing gums. TMJ dysfunction has been shown to cause headaches, while the evidence is mixed on aspartame.

Watemberg supports the TMJ explanation. People who chew gum excessively put a significant burden on the TMJ, which is already the most constantly used joint on the body, he says.

"Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches," said Watemberg. "I believe this is what's happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively."

Watemberg says his findings can be put to use immediately. By advising teenagers with chronic headaches to simply stop chewing gum, doctors can provide many of them with quick and effective treatment, without the need for expensive diagnostic tests or medications.

If your child suffers from nagging headaches and is a daily gum chewer, you might want to conduct your own study. Explain that the gum chewing may be contributing to his or her headaches and ask them to quit for a month. If the headaches stop- you’ve probably found the problem. If they continue, have your pediatrician or family doctor check your child for other causes.

Dr. Watemberg’s findings were published in the online journal, Pediatric Neurology.

Source: Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131219130937.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmind_brain+(S

Your Teen

Growing Use of E-Cigarettes Among Teens

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A new study says that e-cigarette use among teens is accelerating at a rapid pace, particularly in Hawaii. Nearly one-third of the high school students that took part in the study said they had tried e-cigarettes.

An e-cigarette is a device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into an inhalable vapor. Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble tobacco cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Researchers surveyed more than 1,900 teens in Hawaii. The average age was between 14 and 15 years old. The teens were in ninth and 10th grades, and from both public and private schools, according to the study. The survey assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use.

Twelve percent of the students reported using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Seventeen percent had used only e-cigarettes and three percent used cigarettes only.

Study author Thomas Wills, interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at University of Hawaii Cancer Center, said his team was surprised by the research results in several ways.

"We had thought that persons who used e-cigarettes would look pretty much like smokers on the psychosocial variables we measured, like sensation seeking, impulsivity and peer smoking" he said. "It turned out that the students who only used e-cigarettes had a lower risk profile than smokers and dual users -- persons who use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes."

Electronic cigarettes hit the American market around 2006- 2007, after taking hold in China and Europe. According to the FDA’s website, it does not currently regulate these products, but has proposed extending its authority to cover additional products that meet the definition of a tobacco product under the proposed rule: Tobacco Products Deemed To Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (Deeming).

Forty-one states have laws forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and many cities in states that do not forbid the sale, have regulated the sales through ordinances.

E-cigarettes have helped many adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes or cut-down on their use. What is stirring concern over the increase in use among teens is the worry that these products are creating a new generation of teens addicted to nicotine and possible health risks. Nicotine is an extremely difficult drug to quit.

"Kids will try any psychoactive device that seems interesting," said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior consultant for scientific affairs at the American Lung Association. "But the American Lung Association is very concerned about that because we think one of the major deleterious effects of e-cigarettes is hooking a whole generation of kids on this very addictive substance that is nicotine."

He noted that e-cigarettes are only one of many available "nicotine delivery devices," which also include items resembling pens or USB drives that release puffs of nicotine vapor.

Recent studies suggest that the overall use of e-cigarettes by teens in the mainland is lower than the results from the Hawaii study, but adolescent use continues to grow in popularity. 

The big question is, what are the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapor products? Since there is not any current government oversight on how these products are made, it’s difficult to know what other chemicals are being used in their production.

"Parents have to make it clear to kids that these things are not necessarily safe," Edelman said, "and to live a full and complete life, it would be good if they were drug-free."

Results of the study were published online on Dec. 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/growing-use-of-e-cigarettes-among-teenagers-694585.html

Your Teen

U.S. Teen's Heart and Breathing Fitness Declines

2.00 to read

How’s your teen’s cardiorespiratory fitness? Cardiorespiratory fitness means the body’s heart and lungs function properly when participating in demanding exercise or activity. Cardiorespiratory fitness measures maximal oxygen uptake, also known as VO2max. This is the greatest capacity of the body to use oxygen during exercise.

A low level of cardiorespiratory endurance is associated with an elevated risk of premature death from all causes. High cardiorespiratory endurance is strongly protective against coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to a new government report, today’s U.S. teen’s cardiorespiratory fitness is decreasing.

Using a specific measure, the researchers found that only about half of boys and one-third of girls between the ages of 12 and 15 had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. The overall percentage of fit teens went from 52.4 percent in 1999 to 42.2 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Regardless of their age, it turns out that the boys had better cardiorespiratory fitness than girls. Researchers noted that as adolescent's weight increased, this measure of fitness declined.

A smaller percentage of overweight and obese young people had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness than teens who maintained a normal weight. This is particularly significant, given that about one in five U.S. teens between the ages of 12 and 19 is obese.

Regular physical activity offers teens and children many extra benefits.

       Helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.

       Helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.

       Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.

       May help improve students’ academic performance, including academic achievement and grades, concentration and task management.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s fitness level, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about programs designed to specifically help teens get fitter.

Sources: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, http://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-health-news-265/cardiorespiratory-fitness-among-u-s-teens-has-dropped-in-past-decade-report-688187.html

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/facts.htm

Your Teen

Newer Cars Safer for Teen Drivers

2:00

One of the most exciting days in a teen’s life is when he or she gets their driver’s license. It’s also one of the scariest for parents. Parents know that it takes time and experience to become a competent driver. Teens often believe that because they can stop at stop signs, put on their seat belt, Parallel Park and stay in a well-defined lane, they are competent enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), list motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Seven teens –ages 16 to 19- die every day from motor vehicle injuries.  According to a new study, more teens could survive serious auto accidents if they are driving newer cars.

While older cars may be less expensive, newer models are more likely to come with better standard safety features. Larger and heavier cars may also offer more protection.

"We know that many parents cannot afford a new vehicle," said the study's lead author, Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Our message to parents is to get the most safety they can afford."

Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2012 from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which included information on 2,420 drivers ages 15 to 17 and 18,975 drivers ages 35 to 50.

The majority of teens that died (82%) were in cars that were at least 6 years old. A smaller, but significant proportion of teens (31%) were in cars 11 to 15 years old. For comparison, fatally injured teens were almost twice as likely as their middle-aged counterparts to be driving a car that was 11 to 15 years old.

Researchers say that they can’t prove that older cars driven by teens actually increase the risk of death if they are in a motor vehicle accident. However, there is good reason to think that teens would be safer in newer cars.

Older cars have older seatbelts that can wear and tear with age. Airbags were not required in cars till 1997 and 1998 for trucks. Today, they are standard equipment. The biggest safety upgrade though, has been the addition of electronic stability control.

Ultimately, McCartt said, though newer model cars tend to have more safety features, protecting your teens is not as straight forward as just steering clear of older vehicles. "We did find older vehicles that met our safety criteria," she said.

Still, it's a rare older vehicle that has electronic stability control — an important safety feature that helps drivers keep control in extreme maneuvers, McCartt said. "That's something that is standard on new cars since it was a requirement starting in 2012," she added.

Extreme maneuvers can quickly happen when something unexpected happens while driving. There are also plenty of distractions that can take your eyes off the road such as reading or replying to a text, eating or drinking while driving, cell phone calls, Changing CDs or radio stations, video watching, looking at or entering data for a GPS, talking to passengers. The list goes on. These distractions are certainly not limited to teens, but they have the least experience behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers that can be found at http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens.

They also have a list of recommendations to consider when purchasing a car for a teenager. They are:

•       Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

•       Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no mini-cars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

•       Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.

•       Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Most teens will eventually get their driver’s license – that’s a given.  If a teen is still a minor, it’s up to the parents or responsible guardians to help choose a car that will give them the best chance of survival if an accident should happen. That choice may include a newer model.

The study was published online in the journal, Injury Prevention.

Source: Linda Carroll, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/cheap-old-car-might-carry-deadly-cost-teens-study-n271321

http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens

Your Teen

4 Dangerous Teen Trends Parents Should Know

2:00

When kids get together they not only share the latest gossip or fashions, but also dangerous trends.

Children in middle school and high school are sharing videos of kids their age doing incredibly perilous activities and many times, their parents don’t have a clue.

Today, parents need to know what kinds of influences their kids are being inundated with. The types of trends that are gaining in popularity aren’t necessarily the ones that your child will easily divulge.

As the school year reconnects students and introduces new peers into the mix, pre-teens and teens-in search of recognition-are either doing or considering doing some seriously stupid things.

We know that kids in this age group act out impulsively with little thought given to consequences. There’s a scientific reason for this type of behavior.

Brain scans reveal that the frontal lobes, used in making critical and objective decisions, do not mature until about age 25.

Since the brain is still developing, choices teens make can be strongly influenced by peer pressure, a need to stand out among others and intense emotional feelings. A pre-teen or adolescent’s decision making may become overwhelmed by their immature circuitry.

While you may think your child would never do something truly dangerous, he or she may surprise you.

Here are four popular trends that parents need to be aware of:

The Fire Challenge: This one is particularly dangerous. Teens are taking the “fire challenge.” They are dousing themselves in flammable liquids, lighting it and — in theory —extinguishing it before being seriously injured, while recording the act and then sharing the video on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Yes, our kids are recording themselves being engulfed in flames, flailing and screaming in pain. 

There are thousands of the videos circulating and injuries have included severe burns and hospitalization. Officials around the country, along with the American Burn Association, are asking parents to warn their child about the game.

Many parents just can’t believe their child would actually do something like this, but even “good” kids are taking the challenge. Be sure and talk to your child about these types of videos and persuade them not to share or promote them with friends.

Synthetic Pot or Spice: Also called “Scooby snacks,” “K2,” or any of half a dozen other names, teens might consider this an “alternative” to pot, but it’s dangerously more potent. These “synthetic cannabinoids” consist of dozens of chemicals manufactured in China, Eastern Europe and American labs.

The drug looks like potpourri or lawn clippings. The pieces have been sprayed or soaked with a solution of designer chemicals.

 Because of the popularity of these drugs, there has been an explosion of ER visits related to Spice or K2 over the past few years. There’s been a reported death in California of a 19 year –old that took one after he took just one hit of Spice. So if you hear your kids talking about it, know that despite the name, the only thing that is being cooked here is your teen’s brain.  

Dirty Sprite: Although this may sound like a soda that’s got dirt on it- it’s much more insidious than that. When you hear a reference to “Dirty Sprite,”. Kids are talking about the latest teen party drink. It’s also called “Drank” or “”Lean.” It’s a combination of Sprite, candy (usually Jolly Ranchers) and prescription drugs or codeine cough syrup.

There are YouTube videos of teens creating the concoction, and even sweatshirts with the recipe printed on it.

Experts warn that Dirty Sprite can be addictive and tell parents that it’s best to keep prescription meds locked up, as well as discarding ones that have expired. If you think that it won’t help to talk to your kids about prescription drug abuse, you’re wrong. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use them, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Texting and Walking or Driving:  Every year a new batch of teens is behind the wheel, especially once school begins.  Never stop reminding your teen of the dangers of texting and driving. They may roll their eyes or give you the typical “I get it mom (dad)” response, but repeated warnings stick in the mind. A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that among teens, 25 percent reported responding to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent admitted to holding multi-message conversations.

Since videos are one way that other dangerous trends are spread, you can share more valuable videos by showing your teen stories that show the outcomes of teens’ texting and driving. They act as a third-party negotiator that makes the point clearly.

But perhaps the best type of parental influence is to just be a good role model. Sadly, adults are the biggest offenders of texting and driving. The “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude never brings about the desired results.

It's not just driving, either. Pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19-year olds have been increasing and the death rate among older teens is at least twice that of younger kids, according to SafeKids.com. It's unclear how many of those are because of mobile devices, but it's worth reminding your teen, "eyes up while walking." 

These are only four of the most dangerous trends this year. Kids are often too afraid to say no to their peers. As parents, it’s our job to teach them how and to report what they are seeing and hearing from other teens.

Research, open communication and reminders are essential to helping your child understand that these are not the sort of activities that will bring a brighter, happier or healthier future.

Source: Kavita Varma-White, http://www.today.com/parents/fire-challenge-spice-4-things-parents-should-get-clue-about-2D80183586

Your Teen

Summer Viruses Are Gearing Up

1.15 to read

Is it hot enough for you? Summer is here and will continue for a bit! Winter viruses are a distant memory (good bye flu and RSV), summer viruses which have been laying dormant are once again rearing their angry heads.

My office has been overflowing with really hot feverish kids of all ages.   I think the most likely culprit for much of the illness we are seeing right now is an enteroviral infection.  For some reason, it makes us parents feel better if we can “name that virus”, seems to help validate the illness.  

Enteroviral infections typically cause a non-specific febrile illness and with that you can see fairly high fever. In other words, just like the thermometer as summer heat arrives , 101-104 degrees of fever is not uncommon in these patients.  Remember the mantra, “fever is our friend”. I think it is almost worse to have a high fever in the summer as you are even more uncomfortable because it is already hot!

With that being said, if your child has a fever, don’t bundle them up with layers of clothes and blankets.  It is perfectly acceptable to have your younger child in a diaper and t-shirt, and older children can be in sundress or shorts rather than long sleeves and pants.  Bundling may increase the body temperature, even while you are driving to the doctor’s office. I often come into a room with a precious baby who is running a fever and they are wrapped in blankets, let them out! That hot body needs to breathe.

These summer enteroviruses may cause other symptoms as well as fever, so many kids right now seem to have sore throats and are also vomiting and having diarrhea. With this type of virus you also hear complaints of headaches and body aches (myalgias).  The kids I am seeing don’t look especially sick, but they do feel pretty yucky!  Just kind of wiped out, especially when their temps are up.

Besides treating their fevers, treat their other symptoms to make them comfortable.   If they are vomiting do not give them anything to eat and start giving them frequent sips of liquids such as Pedialyte (for the younger ones) and Gatorade or even Sprite or Ginger Ale. Small volumes are the key. 

I often use pieces of Popsicle or spoonfuls of a Slurpee to get fluids in kids. I always tried to pick drink colors for my own kids that were easier to clean up, in case they were going to vomit again, so no bright red!  The cold fluids may also help to soothe a sore throat. Once the vomiting has stopped, and it is usually no more than 12-24 hours, you can start feeding small amounts of food, but I would steer away from any dairy for a day or two. Again, nothing worse than thinking your child is over vomiting, fixing them I nice milkshake (comfort food) and seeing that thrown up!  Many a mother has come into my office wanting to strip after being vomited on, in a hot car no less.   I don’t think there is a car wash around that can fully get rid of that smell!

Most enteroviral infection last anywhere from 2-5 days. There are many different enteroviruses too, so you can get more than one infection during the season. This is not just a virus you see in children, so watch out parents you may succumb as well. Keep up good hand washing and your child should stay home from school, the pool, camp, day care etc. until they have been fever free for 24 hours. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Teen

Underage Drinking Deaths Not Just Traffic Related

2.00 to read

Because of all the publicity, you might naturally think that most underage drinking deaths are related to driving while intoxicated. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) wants parents to know that the dangers of underage drinking are even greater off the roadways.

MADD analyzed 2010 data from the FBI, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on deaths related to underage alcohol use.

What they found may surprise you. The study showed that only 32 percent of underage drinkers died from traffic related deaths. 68 percent were from other causes. Researchers found that 30 percent died from homicides, 14 percent from suicide, 9 percent from alcohol poisoning and 15 percent from “other” causes.

"As parents, we are definitely aware of the dangers of drinking and driving," says MADD national President Jan Withers. "I think we're not as educated about all the dangers that drinking before age 21 can be related to. And they're very, very real."

Child health experts agree that talking with your child about alcohol use should begin before they are at the age where temptation and availability are present. That can range anywhere from pre-teen to college age. It’s never too late to have that discussion.

Sometimes parents mistakenly believe that if a child is introduced to alcohol drinking in the home that it’s much safer for them. They believe that their kids are in a controlled environment and not on the road afterwards. But as the analysis shows, being on the road isn’t the only concern parents should be thinking and talking about.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that one-quarter of people ages 12-20 (9.7 million children) reported drinking within the previous month. Among those who did not illegally buy booze themselves, 21.4 percent were supplied alcohol from parents, guardians or other adult family members.

Bill Windsor, Nationwide Insurance’s associate vice president of consumer safety said "Parents think, 'If they do it here, they won't do it somewhere else,' " he says. "But that's just not the case. It's important for parents to know that there is a significant danger here and it goes deeper than just taking away the car keys."

Studies and surveys have shown that kids who drink do worse in school, get pregnant at higher rates, are more likely to carry out or be the victim of physical or sexual assault, engage is high risk behaviors, and have a higher frequency of alcoholism later in life.

On MADD’s website blog, Debbie Taylor writes about her decision to ignore a bottle of rum her teen-age son, Casey, had hidden in the garage. She knew he drank occasionally with his friends, but “put it off as ordinary teenage stuff.” She had already talked to him about drinking and driving, telling him the risks were too great. He seemed to understand and take it to heart.

Four months after she found the rum, he died of alcohol poisoning. He had been hanging out and drinking with his friends.

She writes on her blog, “If only I had talked with Casey about the dangers of underage drinking and told him that I didn’t want him drinking at all until he was 21!  I had blinders on when it came to alcohol, youth, peer influences and the dangers that come with the independent, recklessness and perceived invincibility of youth.  I had the illusion that outside influences weren’t a big factor—what they saw on TV or in the movies, or how friends or family could influence his actions.   The myths we tell ourselves—“we did it when we were young and nothing bad happened” and “it’s normal, everyone does it”, “it’s a rite of passage” or “it’s harmless experimentation and how else are they going to learn,” are all false!  We need to change our thinking and the drinking culture that is so prevalent in our communities”.

All the thoughts a grieving parent would have after such a tragedy.

Follow Debbie’s advice and have that important conversation with your own child about alcohol. Not just about drinking and driving but all the dangers associated with drinking. Keep having it until they understand. Kids are most influenced by two factors - peers and parents. Use that power to inform and influence your child’s thinking and actions. That’s all you can do. The rest is up to them.

 Sources: Larry Copeland, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/17/underage-drinking-madd-alcohol/2070405/

http://www.madd.org/blog/

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