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Parents Who Host: Underage Drinking is Against the Law

Summer is finally here. It is the season of graduation parties, picnics, and bonfires. As people are excited to gather again after the pandemic closures, the Portage Substance Abuse Community Coalition would like to remind adults about the health and safety risks of serving alcohol to youth at parties.

“Underage drinking poses a range of risks and negative consequences,” said John Garrity, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. “We encourage everyone, especially parents, to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is unhealthy, unsafe, and unacceptable.”

Parents and guardians supplying alcohol to those who are underage is one of the leading factors behind underage drinking. Studies show that alcohol consumption by adolescents interferes with brain development and may cause learning problems. Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are more likely to report academic problems, substance abuse, and delinquent behavior in both middle and high school. By young adulthood, early alcohol use was associated with employment problems.

Not only is it ethically inappropriate to provide youth with alcohol, but it is also illegal. As a parent, you cannot give alcohol to your teen’s friends under the age of 21 under any circumstance, even in your own home, even with their parent’s permission. You cannot knowingly allow a person under 21, other than your own child, to remain in your home or on your property while consuming or possessing alcohol.

Adults could be charged with a 1st degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum of 180 days in jail and $1000 fine per charge.

In considering these risks the “What Ifs” must also be considered. “What if someone drinks at the residence and is involved in a horrific accident resulting in serious injury and/or death? Serious felony charges and civil lawsuits could be pursued against the host,” stated Portage County Municipal Court Judge Kevin Poland.

Parents can help by talking to their youth about the dangers of drinking and by supervising parties. Encourage teens to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol. Parents can also serve as positive role models by drinking responsibility if they choose to drink.

Research show that children whose parents are actively involved in their lives are less likely to drink and report that parents are the leading influence in their decision not to drink.


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