Director's blog: Online help to curb adolescent drinking

Posted on: Tuesday, 12 April 2011

In the first of a series of regular blogs, Director of Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre Professor Dan Lubman discusses parenting strategies and alcohol consumption.

Face-to-face family-based interventions can play a role, but the internet may provide a more accessible approach to the way parents can take on the challenge of adolescent drinking.

Last week, the Victorian parliament debated new secondary supply legislation.

Essentially, the new legislation will mean fines of up to $7167 to adults who supply alcohol to adolescents without parental consent.

The Victorian government’s legislation is a step in the right direction, and it is good that alcohol’s impact on the community is being recognised.

There is strong evidence that starting drinking early in life is associated with problems with alcohol in early adulthood. Despite this, people don’t often see alcohol as a drug.

Hopefully this legislation creates a more frank discussion about the role alcohol plays in society.

It is important to note the crucial role parents can play in their child’s current and later consumption of alcohol. Indeed, it is never too early or too late to learn some strategies to help protect your child from developing problems with alcohol.

In this age of technology, the internet may play an important part in assisting parents with fulfilling that role.

While some face-to-face based interventions for adolescent alcohol misuse have been found to be effective, their public health impact is limited by issues of access to skilled staff, poor uptake and low adherence by families.

A web-based intervention can overcome many of these challenges, and could be a key way to increase participation rates in preventative interventions.

Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, in conjunction with Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne and Monash University, have produced a website which offers effective ways parents can handle the issue of alcohol during adolescence.

The Parenting Strategies website allows parents to complete a survey on their current parenting practices around alcohol and features an interactive program to help them improve how they deal with alcohol with their children.

However, the website is only part of the solution. It is important parents themselves act as role models when it comes to their drinking behaviour. For example, it is better to model responsible drinking yourself than telling your children that when they start drinking they should drink responsibly.

Action now, could well help prevent potential issues in the future.

Details: www.parentingstrategies.net

Professor Lubman has worked across mental health and drug treatment settings in both the UK and Australia. He is Director of Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University.