Behavior & Development • Oct 30, 2014

Social Hosting: Who’s responsible?

social hosting“Well, teenagers are going to drink anyway so why not let them drink where it can be supervised and controlled?”

I often hear adults who practice social hosting say something along these lines.  These adults believe that giving alcohol to minors in a home setting is safe because they take the car keys of all the attendees and have them spend the night.

Effects of Alcohol

They could not be more wrong.  Alcohol is a drug.  Alcohol is a dangerous and addictive drug.  Alcohol is often a gateway drug.  Alcohol has profound effects on the central nervous system and young people who are not yet complete in their growth and brain development are especially at risk to these effects.

The frontal lobes of the teenage brain are undergoing important developmental changes during this period of their lives. Alcohol can disrupt this development. To give a teenager alcohol is to expose their vulnerable nervous system to the damaging effects of this drug, and therefore jeopardize their development and future well-being.

In addition, all the party attendees are exposed to possibly dangerous behavior resulting from alcohol intoxication. No one can predict how a person will respond to alcohol. There is no way to know whether they will become violent and aggressive, depressed and morose, or experience other psychological symptoms such as suicidal ideation.

Some individuals are also especially prone to alcoholism and other addictive behaviors.  To give them alcohol at a young age is to set them on the path of addiction.  The vast majority of today’s alcoholics report beginning drinking in their teenage years.  Further, giving alcohol to minors is often a prelude to sexual molestation, and can lead to other problems such as vulnerability to date rape.

Finally, social hosting models antisocial behavior. By giving teenagers alcohol, social hosts enable and encourage disrespect and disobedience of our community standards, laws, rules, and mores leading to increased potential for antisocial behavior in our young people.

Rather, adults should educate our teenagers about the deleterious effects of alcohol on their developing brains and bodies, provide an ongoing dialogue about the effects and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, and provide them with the tools and skills that will enable them to say “no,” resist peer pressure, and make good, healthy choices for themselves.

Thus, there is nothing safe about the practice of social hosting.  Social hosting is dangerous.  Social hosting is illegal in both Missouri and Illinois.  Social hosting is child abuse.  I would encourage anyone who hears of any adult social hosting and providing alcohol to minors to call 911 and report that person to the police.  In addition, I would encourage them to call the child abuse hotline and report that adult for suspicion of child abuse.  In Missouri, the hotline number is 800-392-3738. In Illinois it is 217-785-4020.  Please help us protect our children and their future from this dangerous, illegal, and abusive practice.