Parents are being warned about the risks of alcohol to their children.
A new campaign – What’s The Harm – is encouraging parents to delay the moment when their child first starts to drink.
The campaign, launched by Balance, is raising awareness of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance that an alcohol-free childhood up to 18 is the healthiest and best option, and that if children do drink this should not be before the age of 15.
Officials say alcohol can affect children’s developing brains, liver, bones and hormones, their mood, mental health and risk them falling behind at school.
A new survey of north east parents shows nearly 78 per cent would first talk to their children about alcohol before the age of 15, but 43 per cent think children should have their first taste of alcohol before 15.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Parents have a right to know about all of the alcohol harm which children face if they drink. Every parent wants the best for their child and we know it can be hard knowing what is the right thing to do around alcohol.
“However, we know from speaking to north east parents that there’s a myth that providing alcohol at a young age makes children less curious when in fact it can be a trigger for drinking.
“We found that a lot of parents were not aware of official guidance around children and were more likely to call on their own experiences growing up when making decisions about alcohol.”
North Tyneside mum Joanne Good, 40, lost her 16-year-old daughter Megan Craig-Wilkinson on January 1, 2014. Megan died in her sleep after drinking alcohol at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party.
Joanne said: “As a parent, it’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is when it comes to alcohol and your children.
“A lot of parents think if you provide them with a little bit of alcohol in a controlled environment it’s safer, and that’s what I did.
“But going through what I’ve been through, my perception of alcohol has completely changed and my advice to other parents would be to delay introducing alcohol for as long as possible. Be open and honest, tell them about your experiences.”
She added: “I think children see alcohol and think it’s fine because it’s legal and often presented as a good thing – but it’s not, it’s dangerous and our children are more vulnerable to its effects.
“Take some time to research the guidelines and talk to your children as house parties are starting early these days.
“Megan is always in my heart, she was here, real and a part of me.
“Megan wasn’t intoxicated or a heavy drinker, but I think sharing her story and the dangers of what can happen from drinking and being sick might have more of an effect, rather than just telling your children not to do things.
“Hopefully when they go to a party, they’ll think of her and maybe they’ll have a non-alcoholic drink instead.”
Parents are encouraged to visit www.whatstheharm.co.uk to find out about the facts and the myths about children and alcohol.