It used to be that to come across youngsters in their early teens with a predilection for hard liquor in their natural habitat would merely mean walking past the local Poundstretcher on a Friday evening and dodging a few bottles of White Lightning.
But according to a study at the Weill Cornell Medical College, rather than hanging out in unlit parks downing cheap cider and smoking cadged cigarettes like the proud generations before them, kids who drink alcohol are now more likely to be found in front of their computers going into chat rooms, hiccupping, and telling everyone they love them.
The study claims that a new crop of whippersnappers who like a tipple are more likely to spend time on social networking sites or downloading music than their peers who abstain between the ages of 13 and 17.
Dr Jennifer Epstein believes that “online material such as alcohol advertising” could be to blame for the link, although she believes dens of inequity like Facebook are becoming modern day shebeens with teens copying their boozy peers on social networking sites which “reinforce teens’ drinking habits”.
Epstein believes that as children are being exposed to computers and the internet at younger ages, it is important that parental control must go further than hiding the key to the brandy cabinet when they go away for the weekend. Parents should “monitor their children’s computer usage, as well as alcohol use”.
Although there was a strong link found in the small scale experiment between alcohol and internet usage in youngsters, according to Epstein there was no demonstrated link between alcohol use and “computer use for school work”, a finding that is unlikely to have come as a massive shock to many.