by Jenine Koziolek
Recently, I was looking at a book to purchase for my child. The book was about truth and lies, and in the description, the book asks, “Can it really rain cats and dogs?” I don’t know how the book answers this, but it got me thinking about how information is presented to our children. Moreover, is the information always a real representation of the product?
Take, for instance, the three frogs that sequentially croaked out the syllables of a popular beer brand during a Super Bowl ad in the mid-90s. Or an ad with beautiful horses that have a snowball fight, which wrapped audiences into the special moment — only to have a type of beer announced. These commercials convey alcohol as the sidekick to a fun, enjoyable time.
It is estimated that the typical American will see 100,000 beer commercials before he or she turns 18. With this exposure, our children are constantly challenged to decipher the messages about alcohol, not only with the ads they see on television, but with social media, friends, billboards, clothing paraphernalia and more.
We know one thing for sure — the odds are they are receiving the message about alcohol.
But is the message truth or a lie? Is it the message you want them to have as a child faced with making a big choice — deciding if it is OK to consume an alcoholic beverage?
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the organization that has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month for 28 years, statistics show benefits of having crucial conversations about alcohol use with children. This helps ensure they are receiving the facts and developing healthy refusal skills when faced with the decision to drink alcohol.
Here are some facts to review:
- Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States
- One in every 12 adults (17.6 million people) suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence
- More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems
- 100,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, such as drinking and driving, falls, fires, other accidents, and alcohol-related homicides and suicides
- More than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on or has abused alcohol
- Alcohol is a primary factor in the four leading causes of death for young people ages 10-21
- Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21
- Alcohol-related problems cost America $224 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, health care costs, crime and family problems
Caring adults in a child’s life have the power of influence. Even more influence than the frogs or whatever catchy item they put in an advertisement. Talk with your child about the dangers of alcohol — it could save his or her life.
Jenine Koziolek is an Outreach Specialist at Fountain Centers. Fountain Centers is a Mayo Clinic Health System program for substance abuse and addiction celebrating 40 years of providing services in southern Minnesota.