In a recent survey of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, more than 43 percent said they have tried beer. In the Winchester area, 19 percent of the 10th-graders reported binge drinking, meaning five or more drinks at a time. Officials said that's a statistic parents can help bring down.
Justine Beck Rose is the Executive Director of Clean Inc., The Winchester-Frederick-Clark Office on Youth and Families.
"The trends that we're seeing is not that children are using at younger and younger ages and it's not experimenting taking a drink and feeling silly. It's that these kids are drinking to get bombed," Rose said.
Parents have more of an impact than they may think.
"Too often parents think ‘I have no influence, it's the media, it's their peers’ and kids tell us that that's absolutely not true," Rose said.
But there are some kids who slip through the cracks. Teresa Clay also works at the Winchester Office for Families and Youth.
"There can be many conscientious parents who think they know where their kids are and what they're doing and their kids are making choices that are very different from what the parents think they're making," Clay said.
Experts said many parents pass up the opportunity to talk to their kids.
"You see a beer commercial -- there's a moment to have a talk. You overhear a story about a classmate. Let's have another talk. You always have to have that conversation," said Shari Dameron, who is also at the office.
And the sooner the better. A local research project shows students who start drinking in middle school are more likely to be binge drinkers by the time they graduate.
Jane Hubbell is the executive director for the Harrisonburg Office on Children and Youth.
"It's not happening at school. It's happening out of school time. It's happening in family's homes that might not be at home at the point after school hours. It's one of the reasons we're working so hard to have safe havens for youth," said Hubbell.
She said the best thing you can do for your child is to keep open communication.
The Winchester Office on Youth and Families is holding a community summit in October called "Straight Talk About the Impact of Underage Drinking." It will be held at Shenandoah University and it open to families. Call (540) 722-3589 for more information.
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Source: National Council on Alcoholism contributed to this report