An increasing number of parents believe it is acceptable for children aged less than 15 to drink alcohol at home, a new survey has found.
According to the findings, 9% of parents felt this was acceptable in 2015, however this year, that figure had risen to 14%.
"We are talking about young people who are about 15 years old. This is simply too young to be drinking alcohol and the harms associated with drinking from such a young age cannot be underestimated," commented Dr Liam Twomey, chief medical officer of Drinkaware.ie, which commissioned the research.
The survey of over 500 parents of children aged between 11 and 15, found that around 40% of parents are not confident about talking to their children about alcohol, yet over half believe it is acceptable for their child to drink at home before the age of 18.
Meanwhile one-quarter of parents do not know the drinking rules imposed in their child's best friend's house, and a similar number believe other parents do not know their rules.
The research was released to coincide with the Junior Cert exam results, which are issued on September 13. According to Drinkaware CEO, Niamh Gallagher, the organisation receives ‘countless calls and emails' from parents particularly around this time of the year, who are unsure of how to discuss alcohol with their teenagers.
"They often worry that friends have more influence on if or when their child will drink alcohol, but this just isn't the case. Family members, in particular parents, are the single strongest influence on young people's attitudes towards alcohol.
"Parents should be empowered by this and get involved in their child's plans for results night celebrations. Now is the time to have that all-important conversation about alcohol," Ms Gallagher said.
Drinkaware offers the following advice for parents and guardians to help ensure that Junior Cert results night is a safe one:
-Don't wait for an alcohol-related incident to happen - talk to your child about alcohol early and often
-Talk openly about your child's plans - who is going and where? How will they get home? Will alcohol be available? What is the curfew?
-Set rules for the night together. You should both be fully aware of your rules in relation to alcohol. What are the consequences for breaking the rules?
-Engage with other parents. Talk to the parents of your child's friends and ensure you are familiar with their rules about alcohol
-Safety is key. Remind your child that they can call or text you if they feel unsafe or unwell at any point during the night
-Provide an alternative to a night out. Could you host a party in your home? If so, remember that it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors and parental supply of alcohol is associated with increased risks.
For more advice for parents, click here
Meanwhile, the HSE is also urging parents to take steps to ensure their children have a safe night out after getting their results.
It insisted that alcohol ‘should play no part' in Junior Cert celebrations. More information for parents is available here or they can contact the HSE Alcohol Helpline for advice on 1800 459 459.