Web site aims to prevent underage drinking

May 15, 2009

The Parent Teacher Association is working to bust the myth that underage drinking is an inevitable and harmless rite of passage.

The PTA and the statewide coalition ParentsEmpowered.org are unveiling an expanded Web site to show the harmful effects underage drinking has on developing brains. It also offers an array of interactive tools parents can use to help keep their children alcohol free.

Today, the web site, www.ParentsEmpowered.org, is scheduled to be introduced during the PTA’s annual statewide conference at Brigham Young University in Provo. Conference-goers may also visit information booths and attend a break-out session.

Believe it or not, teens still listen to their parents, according to the Web site. In fact, teens reported in a recent survey that parental disapproval is the No. 1 reason they choose not to drink.

For their part, parents must stay actively involved because areas of the brain that encourage impulsivity and risk-taking develop early in teens, while self-control doesn’t kick in until the very late teens or early 20s, experts say.

“We’ve got to have parents talking to their kids about what the teens are facing every day when it comes to underage drinking,” said Mike Milne, deputy director of the Utah Council for Crime Prevention. “Kids are 50 percent less likely to drink if they’ve had a substantive conversation with their parents but often, parents don’t have the tools or the words to bring up that conversation.”

That’s where the Web site comes in.

The site, sponsored by the PTA, provides information, games, suggestions and skill sets to get the conversation started and keep it going, said Utah County Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Pat Bird.

Other features on the site include a tool enabling parents to send text messages to their children’s cell phones, with reminders such as “FACT: Underage drinking causes brain damage. FACT: We all love your brain as it is.” Parents also have an avenue to ask questions of other parents and prevention specialists about underage drinking and an online calculator to identify warning signs their children might be exhibiting.

ParentsEmpowered.org is a statewide campaign formed in 2006 in response to research compiled by the National Institutes of Health on how underage drinking can cause addiction and brain impairment.

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