Increasingly, parents around the country are getting arrested for allowing their teenagers to drink at home. A New Rochelle
dentist and his wife made news this New Year's Eve when they allowed their daughter and fifty of her friends to have a party. Police were called to the house, where they found teenagers consuming alcohol. According to the police account, the mother said that she thought it was safer for her daughter and her friends to be drinking at home than in the streets. The parents have since been charged with a felony and face a year in prison.
Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, a mother of four who is a leading expert on teens and alcohol and other drugs, is concerned about the trend of prosecuting parents. "Whether you agree with the New Rochellecouple's strategy or not, clearly their motivation was keeping their daughter and her friends safe," said Dr. Rosenbaum. "I ask those who criticize them: would you prefer your son or daughter spending New Year's drinking in the park or in their cars, and then driving home?"
Before high school graduation, 77% of young people will have tried alcohol. "No parent wants their teenager to drink, but our biggest priority has to be keeping our children safe," added Rosenbaum. "We know the most lethal aspect of underage drinking is drunk driving. Putting responsible parents behind bars for trying to prevent that may ultimately lead teenagers into much more dangerous situations."
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, in 2003, nearly 2,400 teens died in car accidents involving alcohol. New zero tolerance policies also penalize young designated drivers. In Naperville, Ill., a sober 20-year-old can be ticketed under 'presence' laws for chauffering friends who have been drinking. "Young people will tell you that eliminating parentally supervised homes where they can 'hang out' will not stop them from drinking," said Rosenbaum. "Instead, they say they will simple move the party to the local park, the beach or some other public place. And they'll get there by car."
Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum is the director of Safety First
), a project dedicated to providing parents of adolescents with honest, science-based information about alcohol and other drugs. The Safety First
booklet has been translated into 10 languages, and has been distributed to 140,000 people around the country. Safety First
is an allied agency of the California State PTA.