HSE suggests parents organise alcohol-free celebrations

Parents urged to run Junior Cert events to keep students safe from alcohol harm

The Health Service Executive has suggested parents participate in the celebration this year by organising alcohol-free events. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

The Health Service Executive has suggested parents participate in the celebration this year by organising alcohol-free events. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

 

Parents are being asked to take steps to ensure their teenage children celebrate their Junior Certificate exam results safely and are aware of the dangers of underage drinking.

More than 61,650 candidates will collect their results from their schools this morning or through the online examination results service examinations.ie from 4pm.

Alcohol-free events are held throughout the country every year to celebrate results night, but some 15- and 16-year-olds manage to acquire alcohol despite the annual warnings.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has suggested parents participate in the celebration this year by organising gatherings at home or elsewhere, or by attending age-appropriate events where alcohol will not be available.

While research shows that alcohol consumption is not a feature in the lives of most students aged 14 or under, charity Alcohol Action Ireland says a clear age of drinking “initiation” exists in Ireland as the picture changes dramatically when children reach the age of 15.

Research carried out into alcohol consumption in Ireland on behalf of Alcohol Action Ireland found that Irish children are exposed to a lot of alcohol marketing, which increases their likelihood of drinking alcohol and engaging in risky drinking behaviour.

Vulnerable

The charity, which works towards reducing levels of alcohol harm in Ireland, says children and young people are particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related risk and harm, as their bodies and brains are still developing.

Dr Bobby Smyth, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist with the HSE said: “Children are now commencing drinking about two years earlier than they did a generation ago. Over 50,000 children are going to commence their drinking careers in Ireland in the next 12 months.

“While relentless alcohol advertising and sale of drinks at pocket-money prices in our supermarkets contribute to this problem, it is important for parents to realise that they are the biggest single influence of their child’s drinking.

“This was confirmed in Ireland a couple of years ago by the winners of the Young Scientists Competition in their study demonstrating that teenagers who are permitted to drink on special occasions by their parents experience more alcohol-related harm.

‘Harmful’

“Granting permission to drink to celebrate the Junior Cert results is more likely to be harmful than helpful,” he added.

Congratulating students on receiving their results, Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said, “Of course, it’s also a time to celebrate – but it’s important to do so carefully and responsibly.”

AskaboutAlcohol.ie offers support for parents in relation to their children and alcohol. Parents can also contact the HSE Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459 if they have a question in relation to teenagers and alcohol.