It’s graduation season for high-school seniors, which also means an increase in celebratory parties and a spike in teenage drinking.

Every year, underage drinking is responsible for at least 189,000 emergency room visits and approximately 4,300 fatalities of youth between the ages of 12 to 20 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Statistics show June and July are the most popular months of the year for teen drinking and that most teens try their first taste of alcohol in the summer- about 940,000 by the end of the season!

If it’s illegal for minors to buy alcohol on Long Island and across the United States, how are they getting their hands on it? Unfortunately, their own parents are sometimes to blame.

Serving to Minors is ALWAYS Illegal

No matter who or where you are, serving alcohol to minors is never legal. Parents who serve or allow minors to consume alcohol at their residence are in for a big shock if they believe their own homes are safe territories for underage drinking. In fact, in the last few years on Long Island…

  • The parents of a house party in Sound Beach were arrested after a teen was taken to the hospital for drinking too much. The couples claimed there were only supposed to be a ‘few friends’ but at least 100 minors showed up to drink.
  • Parents from Dix Hills were arrested back in 2011 for hosting a party that caused the death of a 16-year-old girl. She was hit by a car walking home from the party after having too much to drink.
  • A Deer Park mom was charged with violating the law in 2017 after hosting a party with at least 200 people in her home and alcohol freely flowing to minors of all ages.

Last summer, Suffolk County launched a social media trolling initiative to significantly reduce the number of adults serving alcohol to minors. Using online clues, authorities were dispatched to either warn parents that an underage keg party was set to occur or arrest parents clearly condoning dangerous behaviors.

This year, both Suffolk and Nassau County police departments are prepared to crackdown on underage drinking and are warning parents to be aware of the serious and possibly fatal consequences of allowing teens to consume alcohol in their home.

Social Host Laws: What You Need To Know

Social host laws came about to hold adults and homeowners responsible for any injuries or deaths resulting from serving alcohol to minors under their roof. Suffolk and Nassau counties both have strict regulations when it comes to violating social host laws and it’s important for parents and their children to understand the legal implications before graduation party season begins. If you host a party with underage drinkers, you can be liable for:

  • Injuries sustained in your home
  • Injuries sustained outside of your home
  • Car accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Drinking illnesses
  • Assault and rape resulting from party drinking
  • Other criminal actions performed by party guests

Parents could not only be criminally charged for these incidents but financially held accountable for damages. It is also possible for parents to be held liable even if they are not home, as long as it can be proven they had prior knowledge of the drinking or a history of allowing minors to drink at their residence.

If your child is 18-years-old or older and hosts a party with underage drinkers without parental supervision, consent, or knowledge, your child could be the one held legally accountable. Making sure to review the laws with your teens, especially if they are no longer minors, is extremely important in helping to prevent serious and long-term consequences of a party gone wrong.

Serious Risks of Underaged Drinking

More importantly than getting into trouble, parents should be worried about the health risks of minors consuming alcohol. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 90 percent of teen alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more beverages in a sitting for men or four or more beverages for women. Binge drinking is a dangerous habit that could lead to a number of immediate and future health conditions, including:

  • Seizures
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fainting (blackouts)
  • Impaired breathing
  • Liver problems
  • Coma
  • Neurological issues
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Death

Binge drinking at a young age makes teens highly susceptible to longterm addictions, interfering with the brain’s growth at one of the most critical stages of development. The CDC reports teens who drink alcohol are more likely to…

  • Be absent from school.
  • Achieve poor or failing grades.
  • Engage in violent behaviors.
  • Acquire legal problems such as assault, drunk driving, or truancy.
  • Participate in unwanted, unplanned or unprotected sexual behaviors.
  • Experience disruption in growth (physically, mentally, and sexually).
  • Become a victim of physical or sexual assault.
  • Experience memory problems.
  • Abuse other drugs.
  • Elevate their risk for suicide and homicide.

What To Do About Underage Drinking

The safest move to make as a parent when it comes to underage drinking is to never allow it in your home. It’s not worth the risks, the consequences, or the possibility of someone’s life, to throw a graduation party that makes your child popular with their friends. If you’re a parent who has become aware that underage drinking is occurring when you are not home or were surprised upon arriving home to find drunk minors scattered about, here’s what you should do to protect everyone involved:

  • Immediately demand the drinking/party to cease and ask everyone to leave the premises.
  • Involve local authorities to help remove minors from your home if you are unable to come home, if teens are extremely intoxicated or if guests refuse to disperse.
  • Set ground rules with your children when it comes to alcohol consumption in your home or at the homes of their peers.
  • Review the health consequences of mild or excessive drinking in regards to teenage development in hopes to prevent your child from binge drinking in the future.

Graduation day is an extremely exciting time for parents and teens- don’t let alcoholic beverages ruin the celebration.