Social Host Law

As your children grow, you can positively impact their decisions if you have clear rules about not drinking alcohol. Alcohol can harm their health and can cause significant financial, legal, and emotional costs to you and your children.

Alcohol causes immediate and long-term damage to the brain. Adolescents suffer the same negative effects as adults, even when they drink only half as much (American Medical Association, 2003).

Important Things to Consider

  • You will have to answer to yourself.
  • You will have to answer to parents.
  • You will have to answer to the courts.
  • You will have to answer with your wallet.
  • Don’t give kids alcohol; it’s not worth it.
  • What will it cost you?

Important Reminder



Don't Do It.

It Can Cost More Than You Think.

It's Not Worth It.

Did You Know?

  • The legal drinking age in Massachusetts and every other state is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. If you do, you may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. (G.L. c.138, sec. 34).
  • You may also be sued civilly. If you are sued civilly, a jury may decide whether you are liable and how much you will have to pay for injuries caused by your guests.
  • You could be prosecuted criminally or sued civilly if you knowingly allow a person under 21 to drink at your home, and he becomes very ill or dies from alcohol poisoning or other injuries.
  • You could be civilly liable if you give permission for your underage child to drink in someone else’s home and he injures or kills a third party.
  • You could be civilly liable if your child has a few friends over when you are not at home, it develops into a drinking party, and a partygoer injures himself when fleeing after the police arrive.
  • Even if you win a criminal or civil lawsuit, it is an expensive process. Lawsuits can take years to  conclude. They put a tremendous amount of strain on you and your family.

Important Facts

  • Four out of ten youths who start drinking before the age of 13 will develop alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some point in their lives (Grant & Dawson, 1997).
  • Four out of ten middle and high school students (ages 12 to 17) who drank alcohol in the past year had a serious problem related to drinking. Incidents of sexual assault, date rape, motor vehicle accidents, drowning, and suicide can occur more commonly among these youths.
  • 45% of 7th and 8th graders in Massachusetts said that it was easy to obtain alcohol. 78% of high school students reported that alcohol was easy to obtain (Massachusetts Youth Alcohol Prevention Task Force, May 2002).
  • Parents often don’t know that four out of five teens have the opportunity to drink alcohol; only three out of five parents believe children have access to alcohol.
  • On a typical weekend in the United States, an average of one teenager per hour dies in a car crash. More than 45% of these crashes involve alcohol. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 2002)
  • If drinking is delayed until age 21, a child’s risk of serious alcohol problems is decreased by 70% (Grant & Dawson, 1997).


If you are worried about yourself, a friend, or family member who may be abusing alcohol or other drugs, please visit the Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline  website or call 800-327-5050 for information and treatment options.

For more information on the prevention of alcohol and other drug use, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website.