With graduation and summer parties just around the corner, I was thinking about what it means to be a parent with children who are at an age where they may drink. No, I’m not talking about kids who are 21 years old. I’m talking about underage drinking. Because, let’s face it, many of us drank illegally when we were kids and so will our children no matter how hard we try.
While many parents may think allowing their teens and their teens’ friends to drink at home under adult supervision keeps kids safe and leads to healthier attitudes about drinking, the truth is that there are serious negative consequences for both parents and teens. The Partnership at Drugfree.org and The Treatment Research Institute (TRI) recently announced a new, interactive web resource for parents and caregivers to help inform them about one of those negative consequences: parents’ legal liabilities if they serve alcohol to teens.
“As someone, but especially as a mom, in recovery from alcohol abuse, I know firsthand that drinking at an early age can have some pretty serious consequences,” said actress Melissa Gilbert, spokesperson for The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “There really is no safe way for teenagers and underage kids to drink alcohol. Parents – even well-intentioned parents – who allow kids to do so in their homes are under the false sense of security that it’s less dangerous. But there’s more harm than good in their actions.”
Unfortunately, many parents subscribe to common myths and misperceptions related to underage drinking. Let’s kick some of those myths to the curb!
Myth: Some parents think providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as teens get older and subsequent drinking problems later in life. Truth: The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.
Myth: Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts. Truth: A greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly (in the past 30 days) versus American youth, and for a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of young people report having been intoxicated before the age of 13 than is the case in the U.S. The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.
Myth: Some parents believe that being ‘too strict’ about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave the home and do not have as much parental oversight. Truth: New research from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are MORE likely to abuse alcohol and to use other drugs.
Myth: Parents who serve alcohol to teenagers at home are under no legal jeopardy. Truth: A majority of states have civil and or criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to underage kids at home.
New Web Resource Helps Educate Parents on State-By-State Liabilities of Providing Alcohol to Teens
The new resource, which can be found at socialhost.drugfree.org features an interactive map of the United States and explains each state’s “social hosting” laws in detail, while outlining the civil and criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to minors. For the purposes of this tool, social hosting was interpreted as broadly as possible: defined as “when an individual over the legal age (18 or 21) serves, furnishes or permits the possession or consumption of alcohol to a person underage (generally 20 years or younger) on property for which s/he has responsibility.”
The launch of the resource comes amid prom and graduation season, already underway across the country, and a time when many parents will face the decision of whether or not to allow underage teens to drink alcohol in their homes.
Underage drinking continues to be a pervasive problem among American youth. According to the latest Monitoring The Future study of 8th, 10th and 12th graders:
- Nearly half of teens (44 percent) have consumed alcohol within the past year, while more than one in four teens (26 percent) reports having been drunk in the past year.
- More than a quarter of teens (26 percent) said they had consumed alcohol within the past month, while more than one in seven (15 percent) reported being drunk in the past month.
- One in seven teens (14 percent) said they have had five or more drinks in a row within the past 2 weeks.
- More than three-quarters of 10th graders (78 percent) say it is fairly or very easy to get alcohol if they want some and more than half of 8th graders (58 percent) say the same.