Page last updated at 00:59 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Parents warned on children's safety risk from alcohol

Drinking beer
Parents should recognise the risks of alcohol to young people, say ministers

Parents in England are being warned not to under-estimate the "dangerous consequences" of under-age drinking.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls says parents worried about their children's safety should recognise the connection between alcohol and "risky behaviour".

This follows a survey suggesting many parents do not rank drinking alcohol as a serious risk to their children.

Mr Balls says parents must make "the link between alcohol and the impact it can have on a young person's safety".

The children's secretary's advice comes ahead of a publicity campaign which will promote a "safe and sensible" approach to alcohol among young people.

New year parties

The survey, carried out by the Mumsnet website, found that under-age alcohol consumption was not a major concern for parents of children aged between nine and 16.

They were more worried about issues such as drug taking, traffic accidents and teenage pregnancy.

The survey also found that only about a quarter of parents talked to their children about the risks associated with alcohol.

And almost two-thirds of parents were not concerned that their children would drink alcohol by the age of 16.

With new year celebrations approaching, Mr Balls urged parents to advise their children that alcohol was often a factor in other concerns - such as accidents and teenage pregnancy.

"Research tells us that young people who regularly drink alcohol are more likely to fall behind in school, be involved in road traffic accidents or have unsafe sex," said Mr Balls.

"If parents discuss the link between alcohol and these other issues, they can make sure it's their child making the decisions, not the alcohol."

Earlier this month England's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, criticised parents for an over-liberal approach in allowing their children to "get a taste" of alcohol at a young age.

He warned that 500,000 children between the ages of 11 to 15 years will have been drunk in the past four weeks.

Early exposure to alcohol could lead to binge drinking in later life, he said, advising that young people under the age of 15 should drink no alcohol.



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