Parents teach kids to celebrate end of exams with alcohol

18th June 2014

Nearly one in four parents (23%) will be giving their children alcohol to celebrate the end of their exams this summer, a new Drinkaware survey reveals.

On average, a child aged 14-17 can expect to get 9 units of alcohol to take to post-exam parties, holidays or festivals – that’s the equivalent of four cans of beer, an entire bottle of wine or a third of a bottle of vodka.

Outside of the exam celebration period, more than half (54%) of parents surveyed said they have given their child an alcoholic drink. The large majority (86%) of parents whose children have asked them for alcohol have given it.

Drinkaware is urging parents not to give children alcohol to celebrate the end of exams, as their developing adolescent bodies can be damaged by its effects.  The Chief Medical Officer’s guidance states that an alcohol-free childhood is the best option, as alcohol can damage a young person’s developing body. The charity is concerned that giving children alcohol to take to parties could normalise a drinking culture from a young age.

Between 2010/11-2012/13, more than 15,000 under 18s were admitted to hospital because of alcohol (1). Drinkaware warns that drinking to excess doesn’t just lead to having your stomach pumped, but can also leave teenagers vulnerable to serious accidents and injuries.

The survey also found that when it comes to legal and medical advice on underage drinking, there is a clear difference in parent’s awareness levels. Most parents correctly identified the minimum legal age for buying alcohol as 18. However, as many as one in five (20%) say they have no understanding or were not aware of any medical guidance at all. Medical evidence shows alcohol can have a detrimental effect on children’s health and personal safety.

Elaine Hindal, Chief Executive of Drinkaware, says: “The average amount some parents are providing is equivalent to a whole bottle of wine, and that is more than enough to get a 15 year old drunk. No parent wants to think of their child out on their own being drunk and vulnerable, but effectively that is what we could be facilitating by giving alcohol as a reward.

“It is illegal for parents to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. Worse still, it normalises a culture of excessive drinking among young people.

“We want to reassure parents that not all young people drink alcohol, and that it is important to support children to celebrate without it, whether they are going on holiday for the first time with their friends or attending a school prom party.”

Rob Andrew, Joint Chair of Newquay Safe said: “Newquay Safe supports the Drinkaware message that it is important for parents to talk to their children about alcohol. Not all young people drink - but its best they hear about alcohol from their parents to make sure they have accurate information to help them make responsible decisions about drinking when they're faced with them.

“One of the main priorities for Newquay Safe, the multi-agency partnership set up in 2009 to tackle head on the problems of anti-social behaviour that were blighting Newquay, was to focus on how young people got alcohol.

“We knew from experience that parents often provided their children with alcohol and that other adults bought alcohol for young people under 18 if asked. It was necessary to deliver an important message to adults, including parents, that their actions were not only irresponsible but also illegal. Newquay Safe reiterated that the actions of parents who provided alcohol for their children aged under 18 to drink while on holiday without them would not be tolerated; that if their child was found with alcohol in Newquay, it would be confiscated and, if their child was drunk or incapacitated through alcohol, the parents would be contacted and made to collect their child.

“In one summer, parents of 66 unaccompanied young people were contacted because their children were found with alcohol, drunk, incapacitated and/or disorderly, and asked to take them home. Local authorities were also notified to ensure their behaviour was not only tackled in Newquay. In addition, hundreds of cans and bottles of alcohol have been confiscated over the years.

“No nonsense policing has also been a key factor with Operation Brunel, where police officers meet trains arriving at Newquay to confiscate illegal alcohol and drugs from young people to reduce anti-social behaviour and disorder in the town and on the rail network, being particularly successful.

“These actions have made a real difference in Newquay and work continues to promote Newquay and help it to evolve as a safe and enjoyable place to visit.  In fact young people on social media sites are saying that if you are under 18 and want access to alcohol – don’t come to Newquay!”

For age-appropriate tips on what to say when you talk to your child about alcohol, visit



Kelly O’Sullivan, Media and Public Affairs Manager on / 0207 766 9910 / 07879 844023

Sohila Sawhney, Communications Officer on / 0207 766 9910 / 07917 135436

Notes to Editors:

  • (1) Local Alcohol Profiles for England, alcohol specific hospital admissions – under 18 year olds. Data refreshed April 2014.
  • ICM interviewed 1,521 parents across GB with children aged 14-17 years old via online between the 23rd – 30th April 2014.
  • Additional findings from the survey:
  • Drinkaware is an independent organisation which aims to get people to think differently about alcohol. Our entire focus is on getting people to understand the harm it can do to their health, families and those around them. If people understand the impact drink can have, they’re more likely to make a change. An independent charity established in 2007, Drinkaware works alongside the medical profession, the alcohol industry and government to achieve its goals.  For further information visit 
  • Many parents said they were comfortable giving their children alcohol to take on holiday (60%) or to a party (48%). One in four parents (25%) also said they were comfortable providing alcohol for their child to take to a summer festival.
  • Parents who let their children drink alcohol say they do so in order to foster a culture of ‘responsible drinking’.  Nearly half (45%) gave their child alcohol to celebrate a special occasion, and a similar proportion say they trust their child to drink responsibly.