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Having Small Talks could prevent underage drinking

In a major effort to prevent underage drinking, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) launched Small Talks, a campaign to reduce the number of kids who drink alcohol before the age of 21.

This statewide effort, encourages adults – especially parents and caregivers – to have short, casual conversations with kids, starting at age eight on the dangers of underage drinking.

“Underage drinking is a real problem in Wisconsin, and it starts earlier and can be more dangerous than you might think,” said DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “But parents, loved ones and other caring adults can make a real difference.

“Research shows that adults are the most powerful influence on a kid’s choices about underage drinking. All you have to do is talk. There’s no big production necessary. You can have a small talk anytime, anywhere.”

Many of these everyday opportunities to have a small talk, are happening right now during the time spent at home during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Small talks can happen while watching a TV show, playing video games and listening to music.

Help a kid sort out what they see on TV, hear from friends and hear from their favorite bands, before someone hands them a drink.

Despite recent success reducing underage drinking, there is an ongoing need to prevent it. According to recent surveys, in Wisconsin, 65 percent of teens have tried alcohol, nearly 42,000 high school students report trying alcohol by age 13, and two out of three teens don’t see underage drinking as a risk.

Underage drinking is risky. When youth drink alcohol, they can damage, and even block, the development of healthy pathways in the brain that shape how kids behave, feel, grow and learn. Damage like that can have lifelong emotional, physical and social consequences.

Visit the Small Talks campaign website, SmallTalksWI. org, for underage drinking talk facts and tips. A series of new data dashboards on the DHS website, provides the most upto- date data on alcohol use in Wisconsin, and its consequences.

People who struggle with harmful alcohol use, or whose loved ones are struggling, can call the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline at 833-944-4673. This free and confidential service is staffed by trained specialists, who offer information on local treatment services.