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Is it OK to let teens drink at home?

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Posted: Thursday, December 25, 2008 10:00 pm

Dear Straight Talk: My boyfriend wants to let his sons throw a New Year's Eve overnight party, with alcohol, rationalizing that it will be safer than an unsupervised party where kids might drive, over-drink, or do other stupid things. His sons are 19 and 16 and knowing them, it will be a huge party. I'm aware that many parents throw these booze parties, but I question their judgment. What do you think of this? And how do you make kids safe on this holiday? - Nicki, Redding

Ashley, 21, Auburn: My parents agree with you, but I agree with your boyfriend. It's better to let kids drink at home, supervised, than somewhere else. My friend's dad used to let us party at his house, and nothing was ever broken or stolen, and nobody got hurt. To make sure nobody drives, have everyone drop their keys in a basket, then hide the basket.

Chris, 20, San Pedro: I always appreciate parents allowing a party at their house. Unless you lock teens in their rooms and force them to sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight through the keyholes, they will probably find a way to drink on New Year's Eve. I remember a guy's 21st birthday party. His parents took shots with the kids, chugged from a beer bong, and when his mom took a keg stand, the party got going loud. Contrast this with a party in Manhattan Beach where the father greeted us like a sergeant at Alcatraz and later kicked a bunch of people out for being too loud. Parents have a huge responsibility when alcohol is present and must find a balance between these two examples.

Dominic, 22, Fair Oaks: For our prom after-party, some concerned parents allowed festivities at their house. They took heat from other parents, but it was a lot safer than partying under sketchier conditions. As for keeping things safe, take the keys, all of them.

Graham, 15, Fair Oaks: Having supervision is best, however, someone may report your boyfriend. Also, you can't guarantee kids won't figure a way to drive.

Mariah, 17, Collinsville, Okla.: I don't see much going wrong if teens have permission to drink from their parents.

Jack, 18, Fair Oaks: Providing minors a safe place to party may seem responsible, however the gesture can have big-time consequences. If police respond to a noise complaint, or someone falls into the bonfire, the misdemeanor punishment in California for supplying minors with alcohol is up to a $2,500 fine and one year in county jail.

Dear Nicki: That's right. And "parental permission" means nothing. Furthermore, if someone dies in the bonfire, the pool, their own vomit, or has a hide-a-key and gets killed on the road after leaving the party, if it's in California, your boyfriend could be charged with involuntary or vehicular manslaughter with 4 to 6 years in prison and $10,000 in fines - not to mention getting sued for everything he's worth in civil court. These house booze parties are the most misguided form of micro-parenting out there: "Let's keep Johnnie out of harm's way; let him get hammered here at home where it's safe." Alcohol is simply not a safe beverage for teens and assisting minors in its use is madness.

How do you keep kids truly safe on this holiday? If you cannot keep them in a non-alcoholic setting (which shouldn't be difficult for most teens under 17), all you can do is instill the cold facts of personal responsibility (like I am doing here for you). Don't, under any circumstances, provide the red carpet.

Write to Straight Talk at http://www.straighttalkforteens.com or PO Box 963, Fair Oaks CA 95628.

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