What’s Safest on Prom Night?
The terms “safe” and “teen drinking” never go together. When you host a party and allow underage drinking, you can’t predict the behavior of the teens present. Even if you take away the keys, alcohol poisoning, fights, risky sexual behavior, assaults, and other harmful situations may occur. There are countless stories of tragedies every year that take place when young people are allowed to drink in what the adults feel is a “safe” environment.
In addition, you are sending the message to young people that underage drinking and breaking the law are okay. If it is okay to drink at their friend’s house with adults present, then why wouldn’t it be okay to drink elsewhere? And if it is okay to break this law because it’s “unreasonable,” then what other laws can be broken?
Providing alcohol to minors poses serious legal ramifications. Under the social host laws in Missouri, any adult can be held personally responsible and sued for anything that happens as a result of giving alcohol to minors or knowingly allowing minors to drink. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for a minor and adults who provide alcohol to minors could be charged up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine up to $500 PER MINOR
Prom Tips for Parents
Stay involved throughout the planning of your teen’s prom. Use these tips to keep your teen safe:
- Ask your teen for a detailed itinerary for prom night including venues, times and contact numbers.
- Establish an agreed-upon curfew and stay up until your teen returns home.
- Know exactly what after-prom activities are taking place and where—if at a friend’s house, call the parents to confirm and make sure that alcohol will not be present, or consider hosting an after-party in your home (see our tips for hosting an after party below).
- Remind your teen not to use alcohol or drugs or ride in a vehicle with anyone under the influence. Make sure to tell your child that you expect them to stay alcohol and drug-free, even if other teens are participating in substance use.
- Know who is driving or ask the appropriate questions of limousine or party bus services (see our transportation tips below).
- Meet your teen’s prom date prior to the big night and know the names of each individual in your teen’s prom group.
- Provide an ‘out’ for your teen: A contact number of someone they can call at any time to get home or get help. Make sure they have this number on-hand or in their phone before going to prom.
- Again, never allow underage drinking on your property! Even if you “take the keys,” allowing youth to drink threatens their physical safety and harms their brain development. Skip the booze and protect the teens (and yourself) from the risk of serious health, personal, and legal ramifications.
Tips for Discussing Prom Safety
1. Initiate the conversation
Start by noting the excitement of prom and how you want your kid to have fun. Transition with something such as “Prom is also a time when there is a lot of pressure to do things like drink, smoke, do drugs, or go places that are unsafe. I want you to have a great time, but I want you to be safe and smart.” Have this conversation a few times before the busy prom-day schedule, but also give a reminder the day of the dance.
2. Make a safety plan
During your conversation, talk to your teen about what to do in various situations, such as someone bringing alcohol to the dance, their ride is driving dangerously (perhaps while drinking or texting). Make sure your teen knows that they can call you if they are in an unsafe situation.
Consider setting up a code word or phrase with your teen that cues you to pick them up so they don’t have to say “come get me, my ride is drinking.” Tell your teen you will be ready to answer that call and go get them, no questions asked. If your teen knows they will be attacked with questions when you get there, they are less likely to call you if they are unsafe. Instead, pick up your teen and make a commitment to discuss the events later when both of you are calm.
Set a clear curfew and establish times when your teen should call you to check in, perhaps when leaving the dance, arriving to the after prom, when heading home, etc.
3. Be mindful of your tone
Throughout your talk it’s important to give credit to your teen when possible. Make sure it is a conversation, not just you talking down to them or lecturing. Perhaps begin by saying, “I trust that you know these things already, but it’s important to me that we review them.”
Strive to find a balanced approach. Parents shouldn’t lecture or scare their teens with gloomy worst-case scenarios, but they also shouldn’t be too friendly with their teens by letting them call the shots on their prom night. Declare firm, clear guidelines in a caring way.
How to Host a Safe After-Prom Party
- Write a guest list of a limited number of teens. Keep it to that list and say “no crashers” because if too many kids show up, you’ll have to close the party down.
- Agree ahead of time to the hours of the party.
- Stress that alcohol and drugs will not be tolerated. If kids bring in beer or any other substance, they will be asked to leave. If this does happen, be sure to take the alcohol or drugs that the teen brought, so they can’t drink away impaired.
- Make it clear that those who come to the party are to stay at the party because people going in and out will be disruptive to the neighborhood, and some might be leaving to drink and come back and cause trouble.
- Monitor the party by walking by once or twice during the evening (for example to bring in more food, collect empty plates and cups). Keep some of the food and party treats upstairs if the party is in the basement. If the kids realize parents are around, their behavior will probably be calmer and safer.
- Invite another parent to keep you company (and to help supervise).
- If you have agreed to have a large party, tell the neighbors, and tell the police. The police may be able to make suggestions regarding parking, and if they’re keeping their eye out for you that night.
- There is no “responsible use” of alcohol by minors. Not only does allowing minors to consume alcohol send a message that some laws are meant to be broken, but adolescent drinking can bring about a host of dangers, damage teen brain development, and lead to lifelong health or legal ramifications.
Tips for Prom Night (Hired) Transportation
Drinking and driving is always unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. If you decide to hire a limousine company or other transportation service, here are some questions you can ask them to protect your kids:
- How long have you been in business?
- Are each of your drivers licensed and insured?
- Are each of your buses licensed and insured?
- Since this is a group of high school students, will you allow them to bring alcoholic beverages on the bus? Will you be checking bags, coolers, etc?
- If the driver suspects that there is underage drinking occurring on the bus, what is their protocol?
- What will your driver do if my teen asks to go somewhere that is not on my pre-approved list of locations?
- Do your chauffeurs/drivers have to pass drug tests?
Once the driver is hired, you should:
- Exchange phone numbers with the driver and encourage them to call you if there are any signs of underage drinking or other illegal behavior.
- Provide the addresses for the prom and after-prom party and instruct the driver to only go to locations you approve.
- Ask the company to not use the privacy screen so that they can be fully aware of what is happening in the vehicle.
- Give the transportation company a curfew and set designated times that you want the vehicle to arrive at specific locations.