Small Talks: Do More Than Talk

Meaningful conversations are great. They’re also just the beginning. There are many everyday actions that parents, caregivers, and other role models in the community can take that help address and prevent underage drinking. Working together, our actions can help the children in our lives and community gain the confidence to grow up alcohol-free.

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What helps shape kids’ perception of alcohol?

Mainstream media plays a major role in kids’ opinions and perceptions of alcohol. Alcohol companies spend $2 billion per year on advertising—delivered on almost every platform imaginable. Research shows that youths are exposed to an average of three alcohol ads per day. This has an impact! Alcohol advertising increases the likelihood that kids will start to use alcohol. And beyond advertising, alcohol is prevalent in the shows they watch, videos they see, and music they listen to. 

So, what can you do?

  • Pay attention to the media your kids consume and try to reduce their exposure to alcohol marketing.
  • Look for teachable moments when kids are exposed to messaging about alcohol. Do they understand the risks? 
  • Ask them about their opinions and perceptions about alcohol. How do they feel alcohol is portrayed by the celebrities, artists, or influencers they follow?  
  • Educate them about how marketing efforts aim to shape their opinions about alcohol and certain brands.

Use your influence

Every caregiver knows: kids pay attention to what you say and what you do. Kids often try to emulate the behavior of the people they respect and admire. Lead by example and use your influence to help prevent underage drinking. Take the first step with these simple actions:

Two people holding beverages at a cookout

Model responsible drinking

Taking a stand against underage drinking doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol. The key is showing kids that when adults drink, they drink responsibly. Here’s what you can do:

  • If you drink in front of kids, drink in moderation.
  • Don’t talk about drinking as a way to manage stress.
  • If hosting a party, provide alcohol-free alternatives.

Red and blue lights on top of a police car"

Understand Wisconsin laws

When you understand Wisconsin's laws on underage drinking, you can help make sure you and your kids don’t break them. Here are a few facts to get you started:

  • Social hosting for underage drinking is never acceptable. You can face serious fines if other people’s children are allowed to drink on your property.
  • The legal drinking age is 21. Respect it.
  • Wisconsin is one of the only states that allows a legal guardian or spouse of legal age to buy alcohol for a minor at a bar or restaurant. But just because it's legal doesn't make it safe for a young person’s growing body. When you say no to underage drinking in public spaces, like your family’s favorite eatery, you help other parents and caregivers do the same.

Help prevent underage drinking and improve your community's alcohol environment. Learn more about Wisconsin's drinking laws and advocacy at the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project.


The entrance to a liquor store

Be involved in your community

Many organizations, including community coalitions and government agencies, like your local health department, are working together with community members to prevent underage drinking and make Wisconsin communities safer. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Become a volunteer.
  • Support alcohol-free community events.
  • Help limit access to alcohol in your community.


What if I make drinking safer for kids by letting them drink at home?



Underage drinking is never safe. Plus, research shows hosting parties or letting kids “try a sip” makes them more likely to drink away from home.

Effect of COVID-19 pandemic

Being a parent is tough—especially during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all had to deal with new stressors such as employment and financial pressures, mental health issues, and coping with isolation as normal activities were closed. This has led to an increase in adults drinking with their children. A recent study has shown that 1 in 6 parents of younger adolescents allowed them to drink with their family— kids as young as 11.  We want you to know there are healthier ways to connect with your children and spend quality time with your family. Learn more by watching the video below.


Become a role model

Anyone in the community can be a role model and a positive influence to help kids make the right choices about alcohol. Together, parents, caregivers, and other role models can work together to impact underage drinking.


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Last Revised: April 12, 2022