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Social Hosting: Don’t enable underage drinking

By Cathy Pitalo

Parents are the No. 1 influence on their teens, even more so than peers, and they must keep talking — even if they think their teens aren’t listening or are going to drink anyway. Make it clear that underage drinking is not acceptable — and definitely don’t enable it on your property.

Hancock Community Coalition received the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Drug-Free Communities Grant, providing funds for youth substance use prevention. In January 2019, a survey of more than 1,600 high school students in Hancock County indicated that 26 percent had consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days. Many youth state that they are consuming alcohol at parties with adults present.

Social hosting occurs when adults knowingly allow underage drinking on their private property. This applies to a big party with many minors present, or a small gathering of just a few. If alcohol is consumed by minors on private property (including a camp or barn), and the adult who owns that property is aware, that adult would be in violation of the Social Host Law. This law became effective on July 1, 2011, and a violation is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 90 days’ imprisonment per minor.

If your teen is hosting a party:

  1. Help plan the party
  2. Invite only a specific number of people
  3. Don’t send email invitations or post on social media. These can be forwarded to a large number of people, causing you to lose control of who has this information
  4. Make it clear alcohol is not allowed
  5. Be there to supervise
  6. Have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available
  7. If there is alcohol in the house, know what is there and secure it from the teens.

If your teen is attending a party:

  1. Ask questions!
  2. Know where the party is
  3. Ensure that there will be responsible adult supervision
  4. Discuss your expectations with your teen. Don’t accept that “kids are going to drink”
  5. Assure your teen that it’s okay to call you if they need to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

Our youth are our future. We must give them the tools they need to make wise decisions for themselves, even in difficult situations. As parents and a community, let’s make them strong enough to say no.


Cathy Pitalo is the project coordinator for SAMHSA’s Drug Free Communities Grant in Hancock County. HYPE-Hancock Youth for Positive Efforts and Hancock Community Coalition are partnerships with Hancock Resource Center. For more information, contact Pitalo at (228) 463-8887.

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