Preventing Underage Drinking

Excitement is in the air during the spring season! High school students are getting ready for major life moments, taking steps towards adulthood as they shop for prom dresses and suits, schedule hair appointments, and make post-prom plans–and that’s just in April! As we move into May, high school seniors prepare for graduation, senior trips, and the next phase of their lives. Many are looking forward to spending one last summer with lifelong friends, before moving onto a new chapter–the last summer to make memories and have fun before big life changes.

Where teens get alcohol

With so many celebrations in store, it’s important that parents remember to avoid ‘social hosting’, that is, providing alcohol to underage youth. Even though alcohol is illegal for anyone under age 21, millions of teenagers get their hands on it every year. According to the 2019 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, which was administered to Berks County students, 64% of high school seniors reported consuming alcohol over the past year. People may be surprised to learn how those youth acquired alcohol: 29% reported that their parents provided it. Another 30% paid someone of legal age to buy it for them.

The dangers of social hosting

Most of the alcohol consumed by youth comes from of-age adults. But when adults supply alcohol to minors, they are not only undermining the parent-child relationship and harming the physical, mental, and developmental health of youth, they are also breaking the law. Furnishing alcohol to underage youth, also called ‘social hosting,’ is illegal in every state. In Pennsylvania, people found guilty of social hosting risk a misdemeanor and minimum fines of $1,000. In many communities, the adult host can be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by underage drinkers.

During this transition time in your child’s life, don’t view alcohol as a rite of passage for your developing teen.

About Parents who Host Lose the Most

Parents Who Host Lose the Most is a public health media campaign designed by Prevention Action Alliance to remind parents that furnishing alcohol to underage youth is illegal and unsafe. By decreasing their access to alcohol, we can reduce the likelihood that teens will drink and therefore suffer the health effects that come from underage drinking.

What can you do as a parent?

  1. Set expectations regarding underage drinking. Tell your kids that you expect them not to drink before they’re 21.
  2. Know your child and know their friends. This is a time of many changes, but some changes can indicate problems. Look for changes in sleep, mood, friends, activity level, academic performance, weight, and personal hygiene.
  3. Keep lines of communication open. Ask your child about alcohol – What do they know? Do their friends drink? Do they feel pressured to drink when out with friends?
  4. Listen in a nonjudgmental way. Try to empathize with them and their concerns.
  5. Be a good role model. If you drink, make sure to set a good example of moderation and making healthy choices.
  6. Secure and monitor the alcohol in your home. Teens can be curious and might get into your liquor cabinet or beer fridge. Notice when things are missing, low, or watered down.
  7. Collaborate with other parents. Work together to make sure children are where they say they are. Communicate your expectations of alcohol use with other parents.
  8. If you are hosting a party, be present and engaged. Check-in on your kids during the party.
  9. Identify resources if your teen develops a problem with alcohol.
  10. Don’t supply alcohol to minors, Parents Who Host Lose the Most!

Visit Council on Chemical Abuse for more information and helpful resources.

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