This is probably a fear of many teen parents, they go out of town and their kid has a party. Not only that, but the cops came too. An immediate reaction might be to freak out or flip out, or both without having all the details first. It's common, a lot of people do it. It's human nature.
As with most things in raising teenagers, the actual reaction and discipline or punishment depends. Has the teen done this before? Is this the first time they have ever been in trouble? Was there alcohol or drugs at this party? Did the teen even initiate the party? Did they know the events were going to unfold this way? So many questions need to be answered.
Rewind, How Did This Happen?
Social media butterflies
Teens are all over their phones. Even if they are at a party with everyone they know, they will still be on their phone telling someone else about it. Selfie anyone? Even if they aren't mentioning the party, posting selfies with a party in the background can be easy to figure out. Well, most police departments troll for this type of behavior or might get called by someone else who saw the post.
Teens aren't known for being quiet even when there isn't a party. When you add that into the mix, a quick phone call from a neighbor with a noise complaint can bring the cops knocking really quick. Especially if the neighbor calling knows the parents were out of town.
Why didn't we get invited?
When people pass a party, it's usually fairly obvious by the vehicles alone. Multiple cars in the driveway and/or down the street show people that something is going on. Parties also lead to loud music, people outside, and with every light on, it's hard to have a discreet party.
What Will The Cops Do?
If the cops come and knock on the door during a party because of a noise complaint, they are going to want to break it up or give a stern warning about bringing down the noise level. However, according to Mike Worgul, Criminal Defense Attorney, if the police have reasonable cause to suspect that illegal activity is happening, they may be able to enter the house without a warrant.
Drunk teenagers outside are enough cause for police to enter. If this is the case, they may arrest minors for drinking and the homeowners for allowing them to do so, whether they are home or not.
What Are Social Host Laws & How Do They Affect Parents?
According to Aegis Technologies, parents can face severe consequences for their underage children's parties. Most states have Social Host laws that hold parents accountable for alcohol served on their property even if they're not present at the time.
According to the Social Host Law website, if police find teens drinking on your property, you can be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense under Social Host laws. Parents can also face a civil suit if someone is injured or killed at a party at their home. Prosecutors can also charge teens and minors as social hosts, which can be highly damaging to their educational and professional futures.
Unfortunately, most parents don't find out about anything until it's too late. According to licensed therapist Sean Grover writing for Psychology Today, police traditionally track teen parties via:
- Social Media
- Driving Around-Obvious Party
Stop It Before It Starts
Parents can allow teens to have parties that are safe and enjoyable, without them getting out of hand. Some strategies for parents to keep in mind might be:
- Set a clear and firm no-alcohol rule with your teen.
- Parties should focus on an activity, instead of drinking.
- Make noise control a clear and firm boundary.
- Install a video monitoring system to keep an eye on the home and teens when away.
Home security cameras aren't just for the outside of the home or alerting homeowners if someone is breaking in. Video monitoring systems can also monitor the inside of the home. No, it does not mean that parents are invading their teens' privacy. If someone breaks into a home while the owners are away, they would be able to record everything in hopes of catching the thieves.
If someone breaks into a home while the owners are there, it allows them to see where they are in the home, for their own safety. It's not about spying on kids. Instead, it's about keeping teens and their friends safe while protecting the home and preventing damaging outcomes.
How To Handle The Teen
First things first, when it comes to the teen or teens involved, parents need the facts. Again, it is very easy to blow up over such situations. Parents might want to try taking a step back first, though. Get the full picture, verify the details, and see exactly what needs to be dealt with. Parents don't need to rush to judgment with this either. Having the cops bust an underage party while the parents are away is a huge deal, and the consequences should not be taken lightly.
Deborah Gilboa, MD is the go-to expert on preventing risky behavior in teens. She says to make a list of who your teen impacted with the party and have them write apologies. Examples of that would be:
- The parents of the other teens
- A younger sibling who was home
- Grandparents who may have been lied to
- A coach if they are on an athletic team (to bench them)
Holding teens accountable is more important than grounding them. Parents might want to have them research all the things that could have gone wrong, and do a presentation on it. Another idea is for the parents themselves to call the other parents too. Explain the situation so they know the facts. Whatever parents do, emphasizing the importance of this never happening again to the teen, would be of utmost importance.