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A Parent's Watchful Eye Does Keep Kids From Drugs, Alcohol: Study
  • Posted May 7, 2024

A Parent's Watchful Eye Does Keep Kids From Drugs, Alcohol: Study

Parents can be very effective buzzkills for their teens, just by letting kids know they're being closely watched, a new study reports.

Teenagers are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs when parents keep tabs on their activities, according to findings published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

What's more, teens don't need to be busted at least once by their parents to get on the straight and narrow, results show.

Simple awareness that parents are monitoring their behavior wound up cutting teens' use of alcohol or drugs by 40%, without any actual punishment being doled out, researchers found.

“Some parents think drinking or using drugs is something that kids are just going to do, no matter what,” lead researcher William Pelham, an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Diego, said in a news release. “But that's not true. Parents can make a difference.”

Previous studies have found that teens are less likely to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco if they have parents who remain aware of their activities, know their friends, and know their whereabouts when they aren't home, researchers said.

The assumption up to now has been that monitoring works because parents are more likely to catch kids red-handed and inflict some sort of punishment like grounding them or taking away their smartphones, Pelham said.

But it appears that assumption is wrong, based on survey responses from more than 4,500 11- to 15-year-olds from communities across the United States.

Overall, nearly 4% of kids said they'd used alcohol or drugs in the past month, and there was no evidence that parents' monitoring had increased the teens' likelihood of getting caught.

On the other hand, other kids said there were times in the past month when they had a chance to drink or use drugs, but they chose not to out of fear their folks would find out, results show.

If not for those second thoughts, substance use would have been 40% higher among the teens in the study, researchers said.

In other words, if teens know their parents are keeping track of them, that might be enough to keep many from drinking or taking drugs, Pelham said.

Pelham warned that might not apply to all teenagers. The study focused on younger teens who were not heavy substance users.

Kids with more serious substance use issues might need negative consequences to set them to rights, Pelham said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on parental monitoring.

SOURCE: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, news release, May 7, 2024

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