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Underage Drinking and Social Hosting

By Edited Jan 1, 2015 5 13

Should You Allow Teen Drinking in Your Home?

Is It Ever OK to Serve Alcohol at Teen Parties?

Many parents and other adults believe that the safest place for teens to drink is at home. Because of this dangerous idea, some of these adults not only allow their own children to drink in their home, but they also provide alcohol to their teenagers’ friends. When an adult provides alcohol to a young person who is under the legal age of 21, this is known as Social Hosting.

When my grown children were teenagers, this attitude drove me crazy. On more than one occasion my children were invited to parties where adults were present, and alcohol was being served. Parents need to be taught that Social Hosting is never acceptable, and that it can have dire consequences.


Young Woman Drinking

Consequences to Teens of Social Hosting

When an adult makes the decision to provide alcohol to teenagers, the teens may experience consequences that the adult may not have considered. In fact, when I was researching my Amazon Kindle book, Dangerous Lies We Tell to Children and Ourselves,I was shocked to discover some of the serious results that can occur when teens are served alcohol at a young age.  Listed below are some of those consequences:

Your teens begin to believe that it is acceptable to break the law, as long as they don’t get caught.  If they see that their parents feel comfortable about serving alcohol to their teenage children and their friends, the teens may see nothing wrong with serving alcohol even when their parents aren't around.  They may also decide it is acceptable to break other rules, too.

Underage drinking increases the chances that the teens will become addicted to alcohol later in life. The younger a person is when they first begin to drink, the more likely they are to become an alcoholic.  Parents who serve alcohol to their children may be setting the stage for serious health and addiction problems later in life.

Teenagers who drink are more likely to engage in other risky behavior, including smoking, using drugs, engaging in unprotected sex, and driving recklessly.

Intoxicated teens can injure or kill themselves or others if they try to drive a car or operate other equipment.

If you want to read more about this, use this link to Amazon.com books about teen alcohol and drug abuse.

Consequences to Adults of Social Hosting

If you are an adult who serves alcoholic beverages to teens, you may also experience consequences that you did not consider. Here are some examples:

You can be arrested and forced to serve jail time or pay a substantial fine.

If there is a large party and your home is damaged or someone is injured, your homeowner’s insurance rates can be increased.

If a teen who is not your child is injured either during or after the party, you could be sued by the other teen’s parents. You could be held responsible for medical bills, property damage or other costs.

You could be publicly embarrassed if your name and address are broadcast on local television stations, or printed in your local newspaper.

One consequence that is rarely mentioned is the guilt you would feel if your own teen, or one of their friends, was seriously injured or even killed. Your teenager could also suffer from depression and feelings of guilt if they felt they were to blame for a friend’s death.

How to Avoid Underage Drinking

Not all teenagers drink or use drugs. There is no reason for any parent to assume that this behavior is normal or typical for all teens. Your child can grow to adulthood without ever engaging in risky, alcoholic drinking. While teens are primarily responsible for setting their own standards regarding drinking, there are actions that adults can take that will make it easier for teens to stay sober and abstain from alcohol altogether.

Parents can host parties in their homes that are alcohol free. They should let the teens know in advance that no alcohol or drugs will be allowed, and call the parents of any teen who arrives at the party obviously intoxicated.

When your teen attends parties hosted by other parents, you should call those parents in advance to make sure they will be present, they will not be serving alcohol, and alcohol or drug use will not be tolerated.

Let your teen know that they can call you from any party and you will come get them, no questions asked. One of our own daughters actually called her older sister once, when she decided that her date was drunk and he was making her uncomfortable. We were so glad that she took this brave action.

If you are going out of town, make sure your teen understands that no parties will be allowed in your absence. In addition, ask a responsible adult to house sit in your home or check on your house frequently while you are gone. Even contacting a “nosy neighbor” may be a good way to make sure that no parties are held in your home during your absence. Even if you trust your teenager, this is a wise action. If they know the house is being watched, they are less likely to submit to peer pressure to host a party while you are gone.

With a little effort, you can protect your teen and yourself from the consequences of underage drinking.

A Few Books that Provide Useful Information

Choices and Consequences: What to Do When a Teenager Uses Alcohol/Drugs
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Jan 1, 2015)
Many teens and their parents have no idea about the consequences of teen alcohol and drug abuse.

We Don't Mean to Mislead our Kids, But We Do Anyway

Dangerous Lies We Tell to Children and Ourselves
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Jan 1, 2015)
This book discusses a wide variety of misleading ideas we give to our children, including making them think that alcohol abuse is normal.


May 19, 2012 7:48pm
Thank you for some very wise tips about underage drinking.
May 20, 2012 7:00am
Thank you! I am so glad that my children are grown up, now. I used to get so frustrated when I would discover that they had been to a party and they were served alcohol by other parents! Since I work at a high school, I know that very little has changed since my kids were in school. There are always a few adults ... and it just takes a few.
May 21, 2012 3:41pm
Excellent article. Adults must show the way. Unfortunately, these days there seems to be a culture that says you can't have a good time unless you drink - and drink a lot. It's hard for teens to resist the pressure, so parents need to be vigilant and supportive.
May 29, 2012 8:25am
In my opinion, it is never okay to serve alcohol to minors. Period. Another excellent piece!
May 29, 2012 6:06pm
Great article!!! I never knew that the term for adults providing alcohol to under age youth was called "social hosting". It's never OK nor should it be acceptable in my estimation. And sadly social shame is probably the biggest deterrent rather than just doing whats right. I had a block full of "nosy neighbors" as a kid and to me just the thought of them reporting anything back, kept me in line.
May 30, 2012 4:35pm
Excellent article! I've been there and done that! As in I've been the parent telling thier teenager that drinking is not ok for them yet her friends parents would let them have parties and have alcohol in their homes. It really made me mad that another parent would interfere with my parenting!
Jun 16, 2012 5:12am
It is very frustrating when the adults act like the teenagers and help them host a party complete with alcohol.
Jun 16, 2012 7:33am
I agree! It used to make me so angry would I would find out that other parents had served alcohol to my daughters when they were teens. What were they thinking??
Jun 19, 2012 7:42pm
Great article, and yes you are so right. So many parents do not take this responsibility for their own and other parents children seriously. Like you I am glad that part of my life is over, it is very hard to instil sensible drinking rules into our kids.

Many parents are drinking too much themselves and dont even know what their kids are up too. Good information.
Jun 26, 2012 3:58pm
You've given us a sober and responsible look at this topic. I've heard people defend serving alcohol to minors by saying that in Europe minors drink with their families in moderation and it's not a problem. I don't know the statistics about drinking in Europe so I don't know if that's true. But the point is, we don't live in Europe. Our laws are very clear.
May 3, 2014 4:03pm
Thank you all for your comments. We all need this reminder once in a while.
May 3, 2014 4:19pm
Parents should lead by positive example, and that is what they do when they keep booze out of the hands of kids.
Jan 1, 2015 3:03pm
You are absolutely right that parents need to teach by example. Serving alcohol to teens can have serious consequences for both the parents and the teens.
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