Seattle – Speak to your teens and speak to them often.
That’s the message for parents at a Prevention WINS Coalition event hoping to prevent underage drinking. Experts say many teens who drink usually start their Freshmen year of high school.
And if you ask a teenager how easy it is to get alcohol these days this is what many say.
“I think it has gotten more accessible and the perception of it is that everyone does it,” said Nathan Hale High School student Emma Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe is a member of Raiders Against Destructive Decisions and she along with other teens participated in Thursday’s event.
According to the National Institutes of Health by age 15 about half of teens admit to drinking. Doctor Leslie Walker of Seattle Children’s says teens who start that early or younger are up to four times more likely to develop alcoholism as an adult because the brain is still developing.
“There are a lot of things that get pruned different connections that are being made and what alcohol does is really bind to some of the connections in the brain,” said Walker.
The coalition made up of doctors at Seattle Children’s, Seattle Police officers and local parents produced a documentary and emphasized the number one prevention method which is parents talking to their kids.
“Start early have a serious conversation when they are going into 5th grade if you haven’t already started, they are going into middle school and their world is getting bigger,” said parent and coalition member Carolyn Bernhard.
Father to two teenage boys the issue hits home for Seattle Police officer Kipp Strong
He’s seen too many young people die from drinking and driving.
Just this month alone in Western Washington there have been several teen DUI deaths.
A 14 year-old boy in Seabeck was killed when the car he was riding in plunged down a ravine . Also a 15 year-old Tacoma boy died after a car hit a tree. The 17 year-old driver who hit the tree was allegedly drunk and is now facing vehicular homicide charges.
With proms and graduations around the corner police are expecting more drunk teens on the roads and more parties to bust.
“At these parties we see robberies, assault, property damage,” said Strong.
Parents in denial could be up for a rude awakening.
“It’s so prevalent I can guarantee someone will know who is doing it,” said Ratcliffe.
Experts say parents should be role playing with their kids so they know how to get out of dangerous and uncomfortable situations.