Kayla looked at herself one more time in the mirror before racing down the stairs to meet her prom date. She was psyched about going to the prom with Calvin. Even more exciting was the party afterward. Calvin’s parents had agreed to throw a big bash after the prom and everyone was going! Calvin’s parents were super cool, way cooler than the other lame parents, who’d rather their kids go somewhere else to party. Sure, there’d be alcohol, but at least they’d be safe at Calvin’s with his parents around.
Following the prom everyone flooded to the party. Calvin’s parents held the belief that teens were going to be teens and if they were going to drink after prom at least let them be safe in their home. As his parents greeted the guests at the door they had the teens drop their keys into a bucket. They were being responsible parents because no one was going to leave a party they hosted and drive; especially if he/she had been drinking. As the keys dropped in the bucket, little did the parents know one of those teens…
would have to be taken to the hospital that night for alcohol poisoning
Throughout my career I have been asked my thoughts on “social hosting.” Specifically, I’ve been asked, “If my teen has friends over and I collect the keys, isn’t it safer to let them drink in my home than to risk being out there on the road?” You know teens are going to drink anyway, “So why not teach them responsibility?” I just shake my head in awe at the lack of logic behind that thought process. Being a social host and condoning the use of alcohol with minors is just not a good idea.
What is a Social Host?
Although the definition of a Social Host varies across states, generally it is a person who:
furnishes alcohol with no motive of monetary gain
has no special relationship, such as an employer, with the guest
serves alcohol or condones the consumption of alcohol on property that the host controls.
may be either an adult or a minor.
Most states have social hosting laws. The Alcohol Policy Information System list state by state underage drinking laws. Do you know the law in your state? For the majoritiy of states parents can be held accountable if they host and are aware that minors are drinking but that's not true in Mercer Island, Washington. This town is holding parents responsible for underage drinking at their homes even if they’re unaware that it is happening.
In Mercer Island, there’s a law that states people who own, rent, or lease property where teenage drinking happens can be fined $250. The law went into effect mid-January and they're hoping to get more towns and states onboard with their new social hosting law. One unlucky out of town dad has already been busted.
If lawmakers are coming down on parents who don’t even know their teen’s drinking at home with friends, think what they’ll do if they show up at your house and find you’re aware of the drink fest.
Social host liability laws are needed to help deter parents and other individuals from hosting underage parties and purchasing or providing alcohol to underage youth. Plus, they send out a strong message that hosting alcoholic events for minors isn’t acceptable. According to the University of Minnesota's Alcohol Epidemiology Program, Social Host Liability laws are effective.
Surveys show that the most common sources of alcohol are in the youth’s home or from persons over the age of 21 who purchase alcohol for them.
Research supports social host liability laws. In an analysis of all 50 states, social host laws were associated with reductions in drinking-driving and heavy drinking.
Three key points to ask yourself if you’re entertaining the idea of being a social host:
1. What values are you trying to teach your teen? Providing an illegal haven for teens to drink in the comfort of your home is not a viable option. If you want to teach your teen to be a law abiding citizen then you are the role model. Teaching teens to sneak around the law or that they don't have to abide by it, isn’t a good value to instill.
2. How would you like it if another parent stepped into your role and decided to allow your child to do something that you didn’t condone? Respect other parent’s wishes especially if you have assumed the responsibility for their child by allowing them into your home.
3. If points one and two aren’t convincing, what about a potential law suit? Can you imagine the legal liability of allowing a minor or another person’s child to drink at your home? Is it really worth the risk?
Bottom Line: Creating an underage pub for teens is not a good idea and moreover it’s illegal.
Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.