Parents Held Responsible for Teen Drinking

In order to combat the underage drinking problem, many counties have enacted social hosting laws. These laws hold accountable anyone who is hosting a party where underage drinking is occurring. Different states and counties have variances in these laws, but all center on targeting the person who is supplying the alcohol and/or allowing underage drinking to occur.

Underage drinking has long been a problem, especially during high school. Maturity levels have a lot to do with the inability to drink moderately, which was a contributing factor when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 many years ago. Social host laws make it illegal to host parties where people under the age of 21 are consuming alcohol, and police note that in areas where this law is in effect, there are less incidents of underage drinking parties.

Bettina Friese with the Prevention Research Center in Okland has been researching the underage drinking problem in our country and has found that most teens receive multiple texts in a weekend regarding underage drinking parties. Additionally, Friese conducted a survey of 1,100 teenagers and found that 39 percent of them hosted parties where alcohol was involved. The survey also indicated that 70 percent of the teenagers surveyed said that their parents have known that they were at parties where drinking was involved.

It seems that parents are most concerned with drinking and driving. Most parents feel that it is safer for teenagers to drink under the supervision of an adult, rather than at someone else’s home where there is no adult present. While it may be true that adult supervision could be better, this train of thought is a bit short-sighted due to the overall legality of the consumption as well as the message of approval that sends to young people.

This mindset is also shared by law enforcement, and was the catalyst behind enacting the social host law. Ignoring some parent’s excuses that their child is ok to drink under their supervision, police agencies and lawmakers have begun to crack down on parents who allow underage drinking in their home. In states like California, if the parent is unaware that underage drinking is occurring in their home, the child will receive the fine.

“We found that cities with more stringent and enforceable social host laws had lower levels of drinking at parties among teenagers compared to cities with less stringent laws, or without any kind of social host law,” explained M.J. Paschall, a researcher who has been looking into the effectiveness of these types of laws throughout the country.

Perhaps fining parents will continue to help reduce underage drinking problems in more areas around the country.