What's the law?

  • It is not illegal for a child aged between five and 16 to consume alcohol at home or on other private premises.
  • Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can also legally consume beer, wine or cider bought by someone over 18 if they are eating a table meal together in licensed premises.
  • The police can stop, fine or arrest anyone under 18 who is drinking in public.
  • The Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol-free childhood is the safest option, and that under-16s, ideally, should not drink at all.

Some food for thought…

  • Studies have shown that the home is often the main source of alcohol for underage drinkers, so as a parent you need to be aware of your children's access to alcohol and make conscious decisions about the extent to which you want to police it.
  • Children's attitudes to drinking will be shaped by your own, and will be formed relatively early on. While it might be easier said than done, it really is crucial to try to set a good example. This means keeping an eye on the number of units you're drinking, as well as having a few alcohol-free days each week.
  • It's not just what or how much you're drinking – it's about what children associate alcohol with, such as emotions and occasions. Let children know (and remember that actions speak louder than words) that alcohol isn't needed to have fun, and is not a solution to a problem. This should help prevent them from relating alcohol to feeling sad or stressed, and will also help them build their confidence to say no if they're ever under peer pressure to drink.

Find out more about alcohol and parenting.