Parents not responsible for parties

April 3, 2008 — by Ashley Chou

The word “teenager” normally brings to mind a variety of stereotypes, namely drugs, drinking and sex. These pleasures have cast a gray image of irresponsibility, while becoming the juicy topics of discussion among older generations.

Stricter laws on drunk driving, late night ventures and cell phone usage were all enacted in California within the past few years. Granted, most of these new laws have successfully decreased the number of accidents. Up and coming propositions to further restrict nasty tendencies, however, appear more desperate than effective.

In response to the heavy partying and drinking that teenagers are so attracted to, several nearby cities have adopted new rules known as “social host” ordinances. On the list are Palo Alto, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Los Altos and Los Gatos. According to Morgan Hill police, these ordinances fine parents anywhere from $250 to over $1,000 if their house is caught hosting an alcohol-crazed party.

Teenagers, however, continue to get off scot-free. Regardless of how trashed they allow their friends to be, how many neighbors are woken from slumber and how many pieces of expensive china are cracked, the only repercussion is a little lecture. Parents are the ones who get the smudge on their records.

The brand new rule relies heavily on the idea that parents freely let their children have house parties. A $1,000 fine should theoretically dissuade parents from allowing the events to take place.

This message, however, becomes distorted into the complete opposite of the one originally intended. It gives teens the illusion that they may party to their hearts’ content while mommy and daddy take the fall.

From this perspective, it seems as if city councils are promoting the opposite behavior of what the new rules aimed to achieve. The idea of doing something wrong and getting punished serves to teach a lesson.

Ordinances should pay more attention to creating a lasting influence. As teenagers grow older, their sense of independence and awareness of their capabilities increases. With these newfound abilities should come responsibility. Obviously, sending rule breakers to Juvenile Hall is a tad extreme, but nothing emphasizes the message like community service. So why place the blame on parents?

The poor logic of these laws punishes the wrong people. Yes, parents are responsible for their children’s actions. But no, they cannot protect them for life. Teens need to step up and take responsibility—tough punishments included.

This cycle of consequences ends up getting nowhere. If politicians truly want to make a difference, they should reconsider this approach. If they keep their stance, however, there’s not much for teenagers to complain about.

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