14 is the average age NC teens drink for the first time, researchers find

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Underage drinking is not a new problem, but it's one we can't ignore.

"We can change the culture of underage drinking in North Carolina," said Jim Van Hecke, Deputy Director of the ABC Commission

On Wednesday, Talk It Out North Carolina hosted a conference with dozens of treatment providers, community leaders and educators, urging them to start the conversation.

"We're encouraging parents and adults to engage in conversation with youth and help them to understand the dangers of underage drinking," said Kurtis Taylor with the Alcohol Drug Counsel of North Carolina.

RELATED: The best way to talk with your children about underage drinking

Researchers found that the average child in North Carolina will try alcohol for the first time at the age of 14, and experts said that's not surprising.

"What I'm finding in the research is actually that it's getting younger and younger, and many of the stories I've heard -- and some I personally know -- they've started as young as 8," said Leah Wright of Wake Monarch Academy.

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That's why experts said now is the time for parents to talk to their children.

"We can change the early onset use of alcohol," Van Hecke said. "And every time we move the needle up it changes future problems for our society."

Talk It Out NC said an effective way for parents to have the conversation is it talk with, not at, their child.

The organization also suggests using the 5 Ws:
-Where are you going?
-What will you be doing?
-Who are you going to be with?
-When will you be home?
-Will there be alcohol?

More information on how to start that conversation can be found online.
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