Reports show that alcohol use is common among young people, with one-third of Australians between the age of 12 and 17 reporting recent drinking and about 4% regularly engaging in risky drinking behaviour.
Parents are the main supplier of alcohol to children under 18. While purchasing and drinking alcohol at licensed premises is illegal for children under 18, they are allowed to drink alcohol at home with their parents’ permission.
Schools can play a critical role in teaching young people about the dangers of underage drinking.
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), young people are more likely to follow the rules if their family, community and school coordinate their messages about the dangers of consuming illegal substances and alcohol.
Aside from encouraging parents to reach out to each other and schools, ADF said alcohol and drug topics should also be discussed throughout the students’ education as part of classes focused on health and wellbeing.
Recognising this, a preventative program called ‘Smashed’ has announced its online resources will now be free for Australian teenagers to access. Smashed helps young people avoid risky behaviours and better understand the dangers of underage drinking in a flexible format that can be accessed anytime.
The online program – facilitated by Gibber Australia – is an adaptation of Smashed Live which was launched in Australia in 2018, with the program having so far reached more than 94,000 students who have attended 514 performances across 437 schools.
The course is linked to state health and physical education curricula for the age group, targeted to Year 8 and 9 students and is delivered either via schools or can be completed by individuals in their own time.
According to a post-performance evaluation of students, 95% have been able to accurately identify the key dangers and risks associated with underage drinking after taking part in the Smashed program.
Gibber CEO, Tim Watt, said teachers that have used the program say it brings the curriculum to life in a way that they can’t.
“Our experiential learning approach helps students make sense of what they learn in the classroom,” Watt told The Educator.
“Smashed shows the dangers and risks of underage drinking in a context that students can empathise with and understand. Learning what peer pressure is for example, is important but being able to experience it and working out how to deal with it, all in a safe learning environment, that’s life changing.”
Watt said Smashed then acts as a catalyst or reference point for teachers, students and parents to continue that conversation long after the program has finished.
Principals say the program has significant potential in helping young people develop healthier attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol.
“Smashed is an important program which teaches high school students about the dangers of underage drinking and the risks of this destructive behaviour, Australian Secondary Principals’ Association president, Andrew Pierpoint, said.
“I encourage all schools and students to take part in the Smashed Online program, especially those currently in lockdown, or those who won’t have the opportunity to see the Live performance at their school.”
With the online course currently available, the Smashed Live tour will again roll out to schools in Queensland from Term 4.