A 14-year-old girl owes $20,000 in damages after a house party — and her parents are on the hook

The dangers of teenagers throwing house parties — like these kids in the movie <em>Project X</em> — are numerous. (Photo: Everett Collection)
The dangers of teenagers throwing house parties — like these kids in the movie Project X — are numerous. (Photo: Everett Collection)

After using her parents’ credit card to rent a house in which to throw a wild party, a Canadian 14-year-old is in major trouble — $20,000 worth, actually. That’s the amount of damage the teens caused, and which her parents must now pay.

Last week, police responded to a call that reported an “uncontrolled party” at a neighborhood home in West Vancouver, where nearly 200 teens were seen “flooding out” once officials arrived, according to CTV News. Left in their wake was a house with much destruction — to walls, furniture, and artwork, all of which her parents will be held accountable for.

According to the police report, the young girl responsible for the event had used her parents’ credit card without their permission. But the parents will still have to find a way to pay.

And while that might seem like a nightmare to any mom or dad, parents in the U.S. would not only be financially liable, but likely criminally as well, thanks to the threat of social host laws in many states.

There have been numerous cases of parents facing charges for hosting parties that involve underage drinking. While in this particular case, the parents weren’t present and the fete wasn’t even at their own home, their names were on the credit card used to lay out payment for the rental house.

Social host laws hold non-commercial individuals, including parents, landowners, and tenants, responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control,” according to the Center for the Study of Law and Enforcement Policy — meaning that guardians remain responsible whether they provide the alcohol or not. (Luckily for these parents, though, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled against social host liability law in the 2006 case of Childs v. Desomoreaux.)

Legal problems aside, though, the Canada party disaster can serve as a much-needed teachable moment for teens who may be thinking about throwing their own out-of-control party.

“The first thing parents have to do is talk to their kids,” child and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Approach it in a two-pronged way. Empathize with your kid and align yourself with them so that they know you’re on their side. Explain the peer pressures and negative outcomes. Secondly, explain that this is our home that we’ve worked so hard for, and as a part of the family, you need to protect it too, and our resources.”

It’s also important to have an adult supervising, she says, as a grown-up’s presence can help a teen deflect inevitable peer pressure.

“You’re actually helping your child by having an adult in the house or a neighbor stopping by, because you’re giving your child an out,” Greenberg explains. “Kids get really scared, and they’re going to be secretly grateful that you helped them,” especially with social media‘s ability to turn a seemingly innocent party into something that is out of a kid’s control.

As for what can be learned after a child makes the mistake of throwing a party that results in financial disaster? Greenberg says the bottom line is that “young teenage children and unlimited credit cards are a dangerous recipe.”

“These parents should work out a plan for the teen to pay,” she says of the 14-year-old Canadian girl, adding that this extreme example should serve as a talking point for parents everywhere. “Show your kids the article, and ask them what they think. They want to know that you value what they say. They want to feel relevant and want to be heard.”

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