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Parents Get Crib Sheets For Talking With Kids About Drinking

Parents often dread talking to tweens and teens about alcohol. So the government is here to help. Really.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched a campaign today that aims to get parents talking with their children about alcohol as early as age 9.

Age 9? Eek!

That early start is important because children start to look at alcohol more positively between ages 9 and 13, researchers say. About 10 percent of 12-year-olds have tried alcohol. That number goes up to 50 percent by age 15.

Underage drinking is a serious health risk, contributing to 4,700 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost all underage drinking is binge drinking, which poses its own dangers and also ups the risk of accidents.

And researchers have found that teenagers really do take their parents advice into account when it comes to deciding whether to drink or not. One study found that 80 percent of the teens said their parents were the leading influence on whether they should drink or not.

OK, so how to do it? The new website, called "Talk. They Hear You," lays it all out, from data points explaining why underage drinking isn't safe to templates for a parent-child pledge.

Then there's practical advice, such as never serving alcohol to teens in your home, and making it clear that you don't want your child drinking at parties or getting in a car with a driver who's been drinking.

The toolkit includes scripts for discussing touchy subjects like why it's OK for parents to drink; a parent-child pledge; and even suggested texts you can send: "Have fun tonight. Remember, alcohol can lead you 2 say things and do things u wish u hadn't."

Practice videos that help parents rehearse those little chats will come along this summer.

It must be "buck up, parents" day here at Shots.

Earlier, CDC Director Tom Frieden urged parents of teens to talk to them about the dangers of texting and driving. That's after CDC researchers reported that teenagers who text while driving are also more likely to indulge in other dangerous habits, including drinking and driving and not wearing seat belts.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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