Parents in the UK can legally give their children alcohol from the age of five. That's how early the British start cultivating their binge drinking reputation.
The British press have captured a rather interesting debate on the merits and disadvantages of exposing children to alcohol at an early age.
Some parents said making alcohol accessible demystifies it and gets rid of the perception that it is a forbidden pleasure. Making it out of reach, they argue, is what drives teenagers into wanting so badly to partake of it because it glamorises it.
But critics counter by suggesting that once the kids get accustomed to the supposed thrills of alcohol at an early age, then there is no stopping them in their downhill slide towards binge drinking later in life.
In his report, England's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned that half a million children between the ages of 11 and 15 years are likely to get drunk every month.
The media and alcoholism
Given the facts and arguments for and against exposing children to alcohol during their formative years, how should a responsible media house report on the issue? And does this subject lend itself to an editorial like stand-point or is objectivity and neutrality still an absolute requirement?
I think the fair thing to do would be to capture all arguments but in the end take a stand. Why?
Well, children constitute a special category of news subjects. As such, anything that might jeopardize their future well-being should be pointed out without any fear or compromise.
The effects of alcoholism have been thoroughly documented and it bothers me that this facet could be lost or watered down if the media just play a passive role when reporting on this issue.
It might amount to advocacy journalism but the benefits cannot be gainsaid.
Managing alcoholism information
The downside of this is that a media house might be perceived to be biased towards the moral high ground, which is not necessarily the general view of the audience, especially in a western society.
But I still feel this is a prime example of when to distinguish between, what is in the public interest, and what interests the public.
The bigger picture of the dangers of alcohol abuse should come out clearly despite the hordes of parents still convinced that their children can be safely ushered into the culture of drinking with moderation.
It is however not lost to me that beer manufacturers are among the biggest advertisers and programme sponsors. A media house will be hard put to choose between helping the public make informed alcohol-related choices and risk cutting off a lucrative revenue stream.
However, I am yet to come across any compelling argument against responsible drinking.