NC Parents Get Wake-Up Call on Adolescent Brain Development

Statewide anti-underage drinking effort enters third phase with launch of new ad campaign

RALEIGH, NC—July 28, 2016: The NC ABC Commission today launched the third phase of its Talk It Out campaign, the statewide multimedia effort designed to raise awareness of underage drinking and empower parents to talk with their kids about the issue.

Recent research shows that the Talk It Out campaign, launched originally in December 2014, is starting to have an impact on perception of underage drinking and the volume of communication about the issue, but also shows that there is still a large awareness gap.

“While parents are starting to realize underage drinking is a bigger problem than they once believed, far too many maintain the ‘not-my-child’ mentality,” said NC ABC Commission Chairman Jim Gardner. “The reality is that underage drinking can affect anyone’s child. The new ads are raw, attention-arresting portrayals of the real and lethal impacts of alcohol on a child’s developing brain and future potential.”

At the request of Gov. Pat McCrory, researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University submitted a report this year on alcohol and the adolescent brain. This report—detailing the unique characteristics of the adolescent brain, and the how alcohol affects the adolescent brain differently than an adult brain—was a key component in the development of the new phase.

“The adolescent brain responds to alcohol very differently than an adult brain,” said Dr. Wilkie Wilson, Research Professor of Prevention Science, Social Science Research Institute, Duke University. “In fact, the logical decision-making center of the brain is not fully developed until about age 25. Because of the unique way their brains are wired, adolescents are prone to risk-taking behavior and are more inclined to binge drink. Binge drinking slows—and can ultimately stop—the functioning of important components of the brain that control things like breathing.”

According to recent research regarding the progress of the Talk It Out campaign, the frequency of communication and perception of the problem is higher among parents and children who have seen, read or heard an ad than among those who do not recall an ad. More than 90 percent of parents who recall an ad have talked to their children about underage drinking. And since the launch of the second phase of the campaign, nearly 50 percent of parents who recall an ad say the underage drinking problem is a serious problem, in comparison to 40 percent of those who do not recall an ad. But there remains a large perception gap between students (59%) and parents (43%) regarding the severity of underage age drinking.

The goal of the third phase of the Talk It Out campaign is to continue closing the awareness gap, help more parents realize the severity of the issue, and get more parents and children talking about the real dangers of underage drinking.

“In our latest round of qualitative research, parents said they require hard-hitting facts to understand the severity of a problem, and responded most actively to visually compelling information. These new ads deliver both factually and visually,” said Gardner. “It is our hope that these new messages will help parents understand the severity of the problem, and inspire them to talk to their children early and often.”

Click here to view the ads, and learn more about the Talk It Out campaign.