Young people and parties
Parties and socialising with peers are a fun way for young people to learn personal and social skills they need as they become adults.
Parties can be an opportunity for young people to:
- strengthen friendships and be accepted by a peer group
- make new friends
- show off friends to family
- learn the skills of planning and entertaining
- celebrate milestones in growing up.
They can also give parents an opportunity to see their child growing up and socialising.
Hosting a party: your legal responsibilities
If you are hosting a party for your son or daughter it is important to know your legal responsibilities.
As the host you have a duty of care to all your guests, whether the party is in your home or at another venue.
You are responsible for ensuring everyone's safety.
If there is an injury or any property damage due to your lack of supervision, you may be considered negligent under the law.
Underage guests and alcohol
You have extra responsibility to supervise guests under eighteen years, especially if there will be alcohol.
You should let parents of underage guests know if alcohol will be served.
If you're having your party at a licensed premises, for example a pub or a club, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to drink or even carry alcohol.
In a private home, it is legal for a person under 18 years to drink alcohol. However, it can only be served by a parent or guardian and under responsible supervision.
Plan the party with your son or daughter and agree on the ground rules before the party is announced.
It can help to make a list of all the things you agree on. These could include:
- how much will be spent on the party
- who will pay for what
- how many friends will come
- whether invitations will be sent by phone, mail or in person - discourage sending invitations by social media or text message as they could be passed on to others
- how the music will be managed and what time it will be turned off
- what food will be served
- what activities you will have - a pool table, jukebox, dancing, karaoke, games or competitions can take the focus off drinking
- whether smoking will be allowed, and if so, where
- whether to have alcohol, how to control the amount, and the things you need to do as the adult responsible for party safety
- what to do if someone gets sick or drunk
- what you will do if drugs are used
- any rooms in the house that will be off limits
- how guests will get home - this is especially important for people living in country areas
- who will set up for the party and clean up afterwards - expect your son or daughter to help
- who will make the ground rules known to the guests, and how this will be done.
It also helps to:
- check with police about noise regulations
- put someone in charge of the sound and keep within the acceptable volume level
- let guests know the party is invitation-only
- register the party with police
- let neighbours know about the party
- have a plan for dealing with gate crashers - some parents hire a person from a security company with skills in managing crowds and uninvited guests
- make sure the venue is suitable for the number of guests - check there is enough space, lighting and toilet facilities
- check the extent of your insurance coverage
- get parents’ phone numbers in case you need to contact them
- have spare bedding ready.
During the party
Keep the party venue safe and secure by:
- having only one entrance and exit
- making sure your driveway is kept clear in case you need emergency access
- having a list of invited guests at the door or requiring people to show their invitation
- keeping an eye on what’s happening by wandering around the party and ensuring guests are safe - don’t just stay in the kitchen
- checking on areas of the house that are ‘restricted’
- checking the garden and boundaries, ensuring gates and side entries remain secure
- not allowing guest ‘pass-outs’, and ensuring guests stay on the property and don’t gather in the street - you are still responsible for guests around the party vicinity.
Have other responsible adults at the party who:
- are willing to not drink and help supervise
- know how to calmly deal with difficult situations
- have access to a first aid kit and mobile phone and know what to do in an emergency.
If you don’t allow alcohol
Be prepared to act if you find some young people drinking.
Remove the alcohol and tell them you will take care of it while they are in your home.
If you do allow alcohol
Make this clear to parents beforehand.
Ensure young people under 18 years don’t take alcohol from the party to drink somewhere else.
If you know they’re doing this you could be held responsible if anything happens.
While they can legally consume alcohol on private premises it is against the law for them to drink alcohol in any public place.
This includes on the footpath, near their cars or in a nearby park, unless they are with their parent or guardian.
Make sure food is easily accessible throughout the party. Remember that salty nuts, chips and crackers make people thirsty.
Consider having a ‘chill’ part of the house in case someone needs space. Check on them to make sure they are OK.
You can help control how much alcohol is consumed by:
- considering providing alcohol yourself rather than letting guests bring their own
- have a responsible adult serve alcohol away from where people are gathering
- use small plastic drinking glasses and discourage stubbies and cans
- don't let people top up drinks - this makes it harder to track alcohol consumption
- don't allow drinking games
- only provide light alcohol options
- serve alternatives to alcohol like water, soft drinks and juice
- stop serving someone who is drunk - remain calm and polite to avoid arguments.
Getting guests home
Suggest drivers give you their keys when they arrive. Remember, it is against the law for a person on P plates to have any alcohol in their system if driving.
Stop serving alcohol, turn lights up and music down half an hour before the party is due to end so guests can leave at the agreed time.
When your teenager goes to a party
When your teen gets invited to a party, it might be helpful to do the following:
- speak to the parents beforehand to check who will be supervising the party
- ask for a contact number for the house
- ask if there will be alcohol and be clear about whether it is OK for your teen to drink or not
- decide on transport arrangements to and from the party
- have a back-up plan if your teen wants to leave early
- make sure they can contact you during the party if needed
- ask the parents the average age of the people at the party
- discuss what time you expect them home and be clear about the consequences if this doesn’t happen.
If you are concerned, go to the door when you drop your teen off or pick them up.
If you don’t think the party is suitable for them to attend, be calm and clear about your reasons.
Their safety and wellbeing is your responsibility.
Finishing high school is a big milestone for many young Territorians.
Parents often worry about whether to let their son or daughter attend a school leavers’ celebration because of negative images in the media.
It is also common for young Territorians to want to travel to Bali or to the Gold Coast in Queensland to join the Schoolies festivities, and this can be concerning for parents.
If you decide it is OK for your teen to attend a Schoolies festival, it is important to plan early before they make arrangements with friends.
Open communication that includes the expectations you both have is a good place to start.
From there you can work out together how they can have fun while keeping safe. It helps to agree on:
- who they will go with
- how they will get there and back - and who will pay for it
- where they will stay
- what they will do while there
- how they will pay for things while they’re there
- how they will keep themselves safe
- their back-up strategies if things don’t work out as planned
- what they will do in an emergency
- how they will keep in contact with you.
Some families organise for one parent to fly with the young people travelling together and then stay at a different venue.
If you need to contact the police you can call them on:
- triple zero (000) for emergencies
- or 131 444 for non-urgent police attendance.
You can get more information and resources to help young people party safely on the following pages:
- alcohol and other drugs - Australian Drug Foundation, NT Party Smart
- legal services - Lawstuff, Reach out
- counselling and relationships - Kids Helpline, Parentline
- learning and development - Raising Children Network.
This information was adapted from the Parent Easy Guide series © Parenting SA, Government of South Australia.
Last updated: 11 March 2016