Children link alcohol consumption to abuse

"Children comprehend how alcohol and drugs can lead to abuse." Photo: Arsineh Houspian

"Children comprehend how alcohol and drugs can lead to abuse." Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Australian children are increasingly concerned about our drinking culture, naming the consumption of alcohol and drugs among adults as a leading cause of child abuse.

A global study of more than 6000 children aged 10 to 12 across 58 countries found Australian kids were far more likely to name drugs and alcohol as a threat than their international counterparts.

The survey by international children's welfare group ChildFund Alliance found 70 per cent of Australian children blamed adult consumption of alcohol and drugs for the mistreatment of children, compared with 4 per cent of children globally.

ChildFund Australia chief executive Nigel Spence said the finding revealed a significant increase in concern from the organisation's 2013 survey in which 45 per cent of Australian children blamed drugs and alcohol for abuse.

"We know that alcohol-fuelled violence is commonly reported in the news and may also be experienced in the home," he said.

"This result is a stark reminder that Australian children comprehend how alcohol and drugs can lead to abuse, and demonstrates their high degree of concern."

ChildFund Australia program support manager Philippa Nicholson said adults need to be more aware of how their drinking habits affect children.

"Children are very keen observers and they are acutely aware of risk factors for child abuse," she said. "That's something we need to listen to."

The Small Voices, Big Dreams study found Asian children were most likely to say adults mistreat youngsters because "it is the child's fault" while African children said violence against kids occurs because "the family needs the money children can earn".

About 40 per cent of Australian children nominated the home as a place where kids could be mistreated but more felt being online posed a greater danger.

The study found 85 per cent of Australian children said kids were at risk of abuse or mistreatment online, compared with only 28 per cent of children globally.

Ms Nicholson said while cyber safety campaigns have improved awareness about the dangers of the internet, it was ultimately up to parents to monitor their children's computer use.

"Parents are responsible for ensuring their kids are safe online," she said. "That's about providing children with education and skills to protect themselves. The internet is not going to go away and it is a huge risk to all children."

The findings of the study will be released on Friday with the aim of improving child protection programs in Australia and internationally. 

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