A new piece of legislation on the responsibility of parents for teen’s alcohol use was recently passed on Mercer Island, a affluent community in the Seattle area. In March, the first parent was actually cited when his son had a party while he was away. This piece of legislation is not without controversy: questions like “should a parent be responsible for teen behavior when they are not present?” and  “If the teen drinks at home, is s/he safer than drinking alcohol outside?” often come up, but I thought of something different when I read the newspaper article in the Seattle Times. Did the teen have any idea that inviting a few friends over could get so out of hand?

From the news report, the teen invited a handful of friends to his home via text message because his dad was away. Those friends then sent the invitation to other friends… he had dozens of people coming over before he had time to even think about it. As our access to technology increases, we’re able to connect with people in an instant, but this connectivity comes at a price. While it is wonderful to see updates of old friends on Facebook, the politically incorrect comment posted on our wall by a friend can be viewed by hundreds, if not thousands of people.

We’ve had previous posts on ‘sexting’ and and social media sites that talk about this quick access. In those posts, we discussed how a teen sending a semi-clad picture to a boyfriend or girlfriend could quickly turn into the latest gossip in a school district. These things can lead to bullying, social isolation, extreme embarrassment; and in some cases, depression and even suicide. In the case of the Mercer Island teen, his text to a few friends led to an out of control party with police citations for his actions and a citation to his dad.

Whether or not you agree with the legislation, talking with your teen about expectations, including behavior with alcohol or parties and the potential consequences of sending a text, are important.

Here are some past posts on setting ground rules, communicating, and discipline that have useful tips:

Ground Rules

When Your Teen Drives You Crazy

How Do You Discipline Teenagers?