FACT:  When kids drink, parents pay

In Illinois, the Social Host Law, which went into effect January 1, 2013, holds adults accountable for underage drinking that occurs in the home. There are several parts to this law.

• If you allow or host a party at your house and provide alcohol to people under age 21 (or if you know or should have known that they are drinking alcohol), you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This will result in a fine.  Note that you are held responsible regardless if you are the one who provides the alcohol AND regardless if you are home or not.

• If a minor who was drinking at your house injures or kills someone, you are guilty of a Class 4 felony. This could result in both a fine and/or jail time.

• You will not be guilty of violating the law if you request help from the police to help remove the underage drinkers and stop the gathering. This only holds if you make the first one to call—not if the police show up after a complaint from a neighbor and then you ask for help.

In addition, depending on local community ordinances, you may also be held responsible for the costs of emergency services/law enforcement that respond to a call, attorney fees and other costs associated. 

What you can do

FACT: When kids drink alcohol, 65% of the time it is consumed at home or a friend’s house.

As responsible parents you need to not only prevent access to alcohol in your home but also be a positive role model. Your kids need to know where you stand on underage drinking through ongoing conversations about consequences. And, you need to give them the tools and the ammo to make good decisions about drinking in the many different scenarios they may encounter—at a friend’s house, at a party, after school. 

Our best tips for parents: 

Be Aware of Factors That May Increase the Risk of a Child’s Alcohol Use, Including:

• Significant social transitions such as graduating to middle or high school or getting a driver’s license;

• A history of social and emotional problems;

• Depression and other serious emotional problems;

• A family history of alcoholism; and

• Contact with peers involved in troubling activities.

Be a Positive Adult Role Model

• Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, do not operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol.

• Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem.

• Do not give alcohol to your children. Tell them that any alcohol in your home is off limits to them and to their friends.

Support Your Children and Give Them Space to Grow

• Be involved in your children’s lives.

• Encourage your children’s growing independence, but set appropriate limits.

• Make it easy for your children to share information about their lives.

• Know where your children are, what they are doing, whom they are with, and whom they are friends with.

• Make an effort to get to know the parents of your children’s friends. Share your rules about not allowing alcohol use.

• Find ways for your children to be involved in family life such as doing chores or caring for a younger sibling.

• Set clear rules, including rules about alcohol use. Enforce the rules you set.

• Help your children find ways to have fun without alcohol.

• Do not let your children attend parties at which alcohol is served. Do not allow alcohol at parties in your own home.

• Help your children avoid dangerous situations such as riding in a car driven by someone who has been drinking.

• Help your children get professional help if you are worried about their involvement with alcohol.

• Create a pledge between yourself and your children that promises they will not drink alcohol.

Does Punishment Work?

According to a survey by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, here’s what teens say would stop or keep them from drinking again: 

• Getting in trouble with the police/law (68%)

• Getting in trouble or suspended from school (55%)

• Getting suspended or kicked off the team/club (44%)

• Getting grounded (42%)

• Losing computer/Internet/IM (or Internet chat room) privileges (42%)

• Getting kicked out of the house (41%)

• Getting yelled at (37%)

• Losing allowance (33%)

• And losing driving privileges (32%)

What your community can do

There is strength in numbers, so talk with other parents, teachers, leaders and community members about creating a zero tolerance environment for underage drinking. It is important that you and other parents stay on the same page. Some tips:

• Have schools and the community support and reward young people’s decisions not to drink.

• Encourage schools and the community to identify and intervene early with children engaged in underage drinking.

• Put rules about underage drinking in place at home, at school, and in your community.

• Establish agreements of acceptable behavior. Make them well-known, and apply them consistently.

• Do not permit parties and social events at home and elsewhere with underage drinking.