An up-and-coming generation of school-leavers is increasingly aware of the potential dangers of binge-drinking at events like Schoolies.

A Griffith University research project involving more than 2200 Year 10 students has raised the alert at 14 Catholic high schools in Queensland during the past 12 months, while also measuring teen attitudes to alcohol and binge drinking intentions.

While early findings showed theGame On: Know Alcoholprogram changed attitudes towards binge drinking for the better, the results also showed one third of Year 10 students having had at least one full alcoholic drink in their lifetime.

“Our study shows the majority (66%) of 14-16 year olds do not drink alcohol,” ProfessorSharyn Rundle-Thiele, Director ofSocial Marketing @ Griffith, said.

The research findings were unveiled just 10 days before 30,000 high school-leavers converge on the Gold Coast for the annual Schoolies festival.

The study also found 5% of Year 10 students reported binge drinking at least once a month and 2% reported binge drinking on a weekly basis. Students who reported higher binge drinking levels reported more frequent alcohol drinking for their fathers.

Attitudes changed

Initial findings indicate Game On: Know Alcohol has successfully increased knowledge about the effects of alcohol. Students’ attitudes towards excessive alcohol consumption were less favourable after their participation in the program. Intentions to drink alcohol were lowered for students who reported alcohol drinking after taking part.

The program aimed to shift adolescent beliefs away from thinking that drinking alcohol to excess is enjoyable and fun. It included activities such as wearing beer goggles and lying in the gutter pretending to have passed out.

“As a mother of three, I want my children to be safe when they decide to go out,’’ Professor Rundle-Thiele said.

“Time spent in schools talking about alcohol is crucial to encourage a more responsible approach when it comes to drinking in Australia. It is important that young teenagers know they don’t have to drink to excess if at all to have a good time.

“This message is increasingly important around an event like Schoolies when risk taking could amplify the associated dangers.”

Game On: Know Alcohol used a range of custom-built online games such as ‘Dumb Driver’, which allows students to explore how alcohol affects control, and ‘Perfect Pour’, which shows students how difficult it is to pour a standard drink.

PhD candidateTimo Dietrichsaid most drinking still happened at home and adults need to consider their own alcohol drinking behaviour if they want their teenagers to stay away from alcohol drinking.

“Our research shows that parent drinking rates impact on adolescent drinking behaviour. Our statistics show that the more you drink as a parent, the more likely your child is to drink alcohol at higher levels.”