Raising a teenager in South Africa is no walk in the park. As a parent, many worries are keeping you up at night: are your kids safe, do they have sensible friends, are they responsible when you aren’t around? You have to put their wellbeing first, but you can’t “baby” your child forever. At some point, they’re going to drink alcohol, and you might wonder whether it’s better to let them drink under your roof instead of behind your back.
A big misconception about demystifying alcohol for teenagers is that allowing them to drink at home will make them less likely to experiment without your knowledge. However, according to Sandra Pretorius, director of Sanca Horizon Alcohol and Drug Centre: “Having alcohol at home isn’t going to prevent children from drinking with their peers where no supervision is available. And, of course, rewarding children with booze for excelling at school – something that 42% of parents in the UK sample group admitted to doing– is another no-no”.
You also need to keep the law in mind here. As Mona-Lisa Snyman, a legal professional at LAW FOR ALL points out: “We have to keep our kids’ best interest at heart. Not only is underage drinking in South Africa illegal, but The National Liquor Act (2003) says that no one may supply liquor to minors.” There is one exception: parents may occasionally allow their child to drink a small amount of alcohol, but it must be done under their supervision. According to Snyman each province also has its regulations, and in most places in the country, kids are only allowed to drink a small amount of alcohol for religious purposes. “You sometimes hear stories about kids that were drinking at a Sweet 16, this is a big no-no!” warns Snyman.
It’s also important to remember that no one may sell alcohol to a minor, and a seller must make a reasonable effort to determine if the person buying booze is over 18. Children are also not allowed to lie about their age or try to persuade someone else to buy alcohol for them.
The law is strict when it comes to alcohol, and anyone who doesn’t comply with these rules and regulations can be fined up to R1000 000 or face up to 5 years behind bars.
I know my child is experimenting with alcohol, but just how worried should I be? How bad is underage drinking in South Africa?
According to Aware.org, 50% of teenagers in South Africa drink alcohol. One of the organisation’s studies also showed that someone who starts drinking under the age of 18, which is illegal, is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who starts consuming booze after the age of 20.