This year’s trick-or-treat festivities fall on a Saturday night. That increases the likelihood your teen will end up at a Halloween party where underage and binge drinking are occurring, making your child susceptible to all of the truly ghoulish dangers that accompany teen alcohol abuse (like drunk driving and sexual assault). As it is, Saturdays are usually the heavy-hitting party day of the week. But add Halloween into the mix and you have some new concerns to contend with — if you’re a parent to a teenager, that is.
Halloween Partying, Boozing … and Alcohol Abusing?
The most obvious of these is that this Halloween roughly one in three Americans plans to host a Halloween party, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey. Inevitably, that many more parties on just one night of the year will up your teen’s chances of exposure to alcohol abuse and its dangers. The intensified risks of underage and binge drinking that a Saturday Halloween entails aren’t the only things to consider. Other realities at play underline the importance of knowing how and where your teen will celebrate Halloween this year. Those include the following:
- A vast number of young adults will be hosting a Halloween party this year. If the same trend in recent years continues, this Halloween won’t be far off statistics from previous years — statistics like the following: two out of three people between the ages of 18 and 24 hosted a Halloween party in the year 2008, and five years later, in 2013, one out of two “millennials” (between the ages of 18 and 34) hosted a party, according to the NRF’s annual survey. If your teen hangs out with older friends, they may thus be at greater risk of underage drinking and its dangers.
- Many minors may also be hosting Halloween parties; of these, many will do so when their parents are out of town. Data collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department from 2011 to 2013 turned up some troubling revelations about the majority of “social host ordinance cases” (instances of parties that involved citations and/or arrests for underage drinking). Strikingly, 55% of these 92 cases involved a minor hosting the party, and more troublingly, two-thirds of these parties took place when the hosting minor’s parents were out of town.But it gets worse. Half of the cases reported “guests severely intoxicated, unable to care for themselves or requiring medical aid because of injury, assault or alcohol poisoning — and where deputies found severely intoxicated party guests, nearly all those who required medical attention were underage.”Such reports are, admittedly, regionally parochial. They nonetheless raise the disturbing possibility that what is true in San Diego County may be true in counties across the nation. In other words, non-chaperoned minors may be hosting parties across the nation where alcohol abuse is rampant, and, in turn, setting the stage for potentially life-threatening medical emergencies to occur. Indeed, research shows that alcohol-related incidents are a leading cause of death among American youth, accounting also for nearly half of all fatal teen car accidents.
- Halloween is one of the 10 busiest nights for bars nationwide. Increasing numbers of grownups are “blowing exorbitant amounts of cash” on both alcohol and costumes, according to an article in the culinary magazine, The Daily Meal. The article concludes that “soon enough, [Halloween] night could become synonymous with booze, not candy.”Here’s why that’s important. If your teen is not sneaking into a club or bar with a fake ID, they may be out and about on the streets trick-or-treating on a night when the rate of drunk driving and accidents due to inebriated drivers is particularly high. Last year, for example, three teen girls in Santa Ana, California, tragically lost their lives in a hit-and-run accident when an SUV struck them in a crosswalk only a block from their home.It’s possible inebriation behind the wheel was not a culprit — but highly unlikely.
Knowing Your Teen’s Risk of Alcohol Abuse
This Halloween, spend some time talking to your teen about where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing:
- Will they be at a party, and if so, will the party be chaperoned and by whom?
- Will there be drinking involved in the night’s festivities?
- Are they aware of the dangers of binge and underage drinking, and if so, how will they avoid them?
- Do they know they can call you if they or a friend is intoxicated and needs to get home safely?
- Remind them of the dangers of drunk drivers on the road and the need to be vigilant pedestrians.
You’ll feel relieved you had the conversation. Any opportunity to become better informed about your teen’s friends, social influences and risks of binge and/or underage drinking is worth the effort. Sources:
- “Don’t Be Tricked This Halloween,” The Archs Institute
- “157 Million Americans Will Celebrate Halloween This Year,” NRF
- “Know What’s Scary? Halloween Parties With Underage Drinking,” North Coastal Prevention Coalition