'Parents must not let pupils party with alcohol'
Parents must take a lead in ensuring alcohol does not feature in Junior Cert celebrations over the coming days, according to Alcohol Action Ireland.
Despite the natural urge to celebrate the milestone, alcohol should never be part of the celebrations for children who are still developing and are too immature to cope with consuming alcohol, said Conor Cullen, head of advocacy for Alcohol Action Ireland.
"Alcohol should play no part in these celebrations, even though some children may feel that they have to drink to celebrate and others may come under pressure to do so, despite not wanting to," he said.
"It is important, for parents, in particular, to remind teenagers that alcohol does not have to be part of their lives at a young age and to support them in making healthy decisions.
"Young people themselves should also respect the decision of their friends and peers who choose not to drink alcohol," he said.
While most children under the age of 14 have not experimented with alcohol, 15 is typically the age of 'initiation', he said.
Yet children who start drinking at this age are potentially setting themselves on a dangerous path for the rest of their lives, he said.
"Risky drinking behaviour is commonplace among Irish children who drink alcohol from the age of 15 onwards.
"Far from being a rite of passage, drinking alcohol may well serve to delay the development of vital coping, personal and social skills; project young people into risky situations and lay the ground-work for future physical and mental health difficulties," he said.