‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, but mental health experts say it’s also a period when teens are most likely to experiment with alcohol.
For many teens, December marks the first time they will take a drink, Ann Ortega, an alcohol and drug prevention program coordinator, told a group of parents gathered Monday night at Pacific Park in Glendale.
“Kids have a lot more times in their hands and maybe also a lot more unsupervised time,” she said at the community safety event.
As December often welcomes many holiday celebrations where drinking is prevalent, Ortega urged parents to closely monitor their children and alcohol supplies.
About 42% of teens obtain alcohol from home and 17% get it from their parent or family members, according to an underage drinking study by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Glendale.
The service agency, a nonprofit outpatient mental health organization, asked Glendale, La Crescenta, Burbank and other area teens about their access to alcohol.
More than half of the teens surveyed said obtaining alcohol was easy, according to Ortega, who works for the service agency.
Teens, she said, are inclined to model their behavior after adults in their circle.
Still, Ortega said while many teens say they want to appear “older,” 80% of them also believe parents should have a say on whether they use alcohol.
“Our kids are listening,” Ortega said. “They are paying attention to what we say about their behavior linked to drinking alcohol.”
The consequence for allowing teens to drink alcohol is also stiff for adults.
Adults, who are arrested and convicted for purchasing alcohol for teens, must pay a $1,000 fine and must serve at least 24 hours of community service, Glendale Police Lt. Tim Feeley said.
Business owners who sell to teens can also lose their liquor license, he added.
Teens caught with alcohol receive a $250 fine, must serve 24 to 32 hours of community service and get their drivers license suspended for a year, according to Feeley.
“Unfortunately, when we’re young you don’t think about the future,” he said. “You just think about right now and that you want to have fun. You don’t think about what could happen down the road.”
Hosting a party can also become a liability for adults, especially if teens are attending.
Adult hosts, he said, are responsible for any property damage, injury or death that was the result of underage drinking.