Parents should talk to kids about alcohol early—before the age of 10—according to new guidelines in the journal Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids begin to have positive thoughts about alcohol as early as age 9, thanks to ads everywhere from buses to movies. "The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more," Dr. Lorena Siqueira tells NBC News. As 80% of teens say their parents are the biggest influence on whether or not they drink, parents should try to "influence children's ideas about alcohol early, rather than trying to change their impressions later, from positive to negative," Siqueira adds, per LiveScience.
But does having the chat with a 9-year-old seem too early? Consider that 21% of youth say they've had more than a sip of booze before 13, doctors say; 79% admit the same by the 12th grade. Among those 12 to 14 who've drank, 50% are considered heavy drinkers—though one survey suggests the actual number of binge drinkers that age is quite low at 0.8%. About 72% of drinkers aged 18 to 20 are considered heavy drinkers. Since alcohol can be deadly, hurt brain development, is the stuff most commonly abused by kids, and lead to alcoholism, parents should take every chance to raise the topic. "If you're driving, and you see someone swerving, talk about that. If you see it in a movie, talk to your kids about it then," says Siqueira. The report also advises pediatricians screen teens for alcohol use. (Meanwhile, kids allowed to sip alcohol drink more as teens.)