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What Parents Need to Know About Teen Drinking: How to Prevent, What to Do If You Suspect

Updated: Jan 15

If you’re the parent of a teen, you know that adolescence is a time filled with dramatic changes. With rapid physical and mental growth comes an increase in independence, as well as risky behavior such as experimenting with alcohol at a young age. Fortunately, by arming yourself with knowledge and keeping an eye out for potential warning signs, you can limit your teen’s exposure to alcohol and reduce the risk of negative consequences. Let’s take a look at everything parents need to know about teen drinking so you can best prepare yourself for this challenging stage of life.

What Is the Average Age for First Time Drinking?

The average age for first time drinking is 16 years old. While this is an average, keep in mind that there is a wide range of normal. Some people may try alcohol for the first time as early as 14 years old, while others won’t drink until their mid-20s. The factors that influence when a teen tries alcohol for the first time include things like your family environment, culture, and socioeconomic status. For example, a teen who is surrounded by family members who drink is more likely to start drinking at an earlier age than a teen who doesn’t have that access. The type of alcohol your teen starts with may also have a bearing on when they first drink. For example, a study found that teens who start drinking with beer are more likely to progress to drinking alcohol in risky ways at a younger age than those who choose to drink wine or liquor.

How Many Teens Drink?

In the U.S., about 62% of high school students have tried alcohol. Roughly three-quarters of these teens report having had a drink in the past month. While these numbers are concerning, they also suggest that early intervention can lead to a reduction in problematic drinking.

Why Do Teens Drink?

Teenagers engage in risky behaviors like drinking for a variety of reasons. Some teens may drink because they’re curious, while others may do so because they’re coping with difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, or depression. Those who drink may also do so because they believe it will help them fit in socially. Although this is a common myth.

There are many negative consequences that can come from drinking alcohol at a young age, like increased risk for alcohol dependence, injuries, risky behaviors, and unplanned sexual activity. These troubling outcomes can affect your teen for the rest of their life.

The Dangers of Teen Drinking

Teen drinking is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that your teen’s brain is still developing. Alcohol can disrupt the normal process of brain development, leading to problems like memory loss, poor learning ability, and reduced attention span. While many teens believe that the occasional binge drinking session won’t cause any harm, research shows that even a single incident of binge drinking can lead to significant neurological problems.

3 Ways to Prevent Your Teen from Drinking

The best way to prevent your teen from drinking is to create a healthy, alcohol-free environment. To do so, consider: Developing a strong relationship with your teen - Building a healthy relationship with your child will help them feel empowered to make good choices. Limiting alcohol in your household - You may not be able to stop your teen from trying alcohol, but you can reduce their exposure to it by limiting alcohol in your home. Having open, honest conversations - Talking to your teen about alcohol and drug use can help you to identify risk factors and create a plan to address potential problems.

2 Things to Do If You Suspect Your Teen is Drinking

If you notice any potential warning signs that your teen may be drinking, take action. A good first step is sitting down with your teen to have an open and honest conversation. If you notice that your teen has engaged in risky drinking behavior, reach out for help and get guidance on how to best address the situation. If you don’t know where to start, you can reach out to your doctor or seek out the help of a substance abuse treatment center.

Advent eLearning Underage Alcohol and Substance Abuse Courses

Advent eLearning offers online underage alcohol and substance abuse courses that can be taken on any device and in the privacy of your own home. These coursed are specifically designed for a teen audience and will provide:

  • Learning about the science behind substance abuse and addiction

  • Help understanding the role that peer pressure plays in underage use and how to avoid it

  • Information about the impacts and consequences of substance abuse

  • Strategies for altering negative behaviors

If your teen has been ordered to take a substance abuse court as part of a diversion or alternative sentencing program, it is important to know that Advent eLearning courses are court-approved and provide certification of successful completion.

Advent eLearning courses address a variety of topics including:

Alcohol & Substance Abuse

Anger Management

Animal Care

Boating & Outdoors


Conflict Resolution

Corrective Thinking

Defensive Driving

Financial Crimes

Firearm Responsibility


Hunting Responsibility

Impaired Driving

Juvenile Sexting

Life Skills




Revenge Porn



Traffic Safety

Underage Substance

Victim Impact Panel

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