Parents do not have to wait until their children get into their teen years before talking about booze. The American Academy of Pediatrics advised that parents and pediatricians talk to kids about drinking alcohol as early as 9 years old when they have not yet likely tried their first sip of alcohol.

Lorena Siqueira, from the Florida International University, and co-author of the AAP report aimed at preventing binge drinking in young people, said that the reason why the subject of alcohol should be discussed with kids before they even get to middle school is that children start to develop impressions about alcohol when they are as young as 9 years old.

Siqueira cited surveys that show children begin to think positively about alcohol by the time they reach 9 to 13 years old and the more they are exposed to alcohol marketing and advertising, the more that these young people are likely to drink. If kids already started drinking, such exposures could lead them to drink more.

The pediatrician said that it is best that parents influence the ideas of their children about alcohol instead of changing their impressions about the substance later on.

She said that alcohol is the substance that is most often abused by children and adolescents but its consequences are often downplayed because it is a legal substance.

"When I have kids in the ICU [intensive care unit], and I tell the parents it's alcohol, they're relieved," Siqueira said adding that parents should not feel relief when this is the case because alcohol is a killer.

Alcohol use is also associated with death and serious injury such as those involving suicides, vehicular accidents and homicides in youth.

For their study published in the journal Pediatrics, Siqueira and colleagues reported that 21 percent of young people claimed to have had more than one sip of alcohol before they reach 13 years of age and 79 percent have done so by the time they reach 12th grade. Kids also drink in excess since they are inexperienced with consuming alcohol.

"Among youth who drink, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adult drinkers, rising from approximately 50 percent in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72 percent among those 18 to 20 years of age," the researchers said.

Pediatricians were likewise urged to screen young people for alcohol use. The researchers said that using structured screening instruments to screen for alcohol use in adolescents is recommended.

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