Social media turns teenage kicks into a nightmare scenario for parents
Party fun ... can be memorable for the wrong reasons. Photo: Ben Rushton
POLICE are being called out in alarming numbers to shut down teenage parties in Sydney because of out-of-control violence and illegal behaviour.
And Detective Inspector Kelly Kortlepel, a manager of crime prevention for NSW Police, blames social media.
The number of teenage parties are not on the rise, she said. But the number of gatecrashers are.
Judi Hausmann … uninvited guests spell trouble. Photo: Tamara Dean
"When people react to being asked to leave or not being allowed in by fighting or throwing bottles and they are in large groups then the respect of the person hosting the party is a problem," she said. "Internet, SMS, email lists and online noticeboards means your guest list can't be managed any more.
"In the old days, parents knew who their kids were interacting with but on social media the issue becomes friends of friends. When things go viral, there are hundreds of people aware of the party."
If Judi Hausmann can't manage a party, no one can: she owns one of Australia's largest PR firms and regularly oversees celebrity-fuelled events for her clients, juggling the media, the socialite set and door lists with aplomb.
Over the top ... left, Mary-Anne, Sarah and Annabel have seen parties that have got of control. Photo: James Brickwood
But even she was left helpless when presented with 300 uninvited teenagers looking to gain access to her son's 15th birthday party in the eastern suburbs.
"The limit was 150 people and I was firm on that," Ms Hausmann said. "We agreed on four security guards, that all bags would be checked, and the bags would be locked in the house, and the house would be locked with four adults each having the key.''
They registered the party with the police, informed their neighbours, banned alcohol, searched bags and did all the right things.
The party started at 8pm. Within the hour, she had shut it down and called police.
''Teenagers were jumping the fence, jumping our neighbours' fences and trying to push our front gate over just to get in,'' she said. ''Everybody had to show photo ID - but kids showed up with photo ID with their photo but in other people's names, who they had figured out would be on the list.''
It's a story that 16-year old north shore school girls Sarah, Annie and Mary-Anne know all too well.
"There are not many parties on these days," said Mary-Anne. "Parents won't hold them because things get stolen, houses get ruined. Sarah invited 100 friends to her 16th birthday party last year and over 300 showed up."
While Sarah's party, like the Hausmanns', was alcohol free, the street party of 300 gatecrashers was not. When Sarah's mother heard a bottle smash on the street an hour after the party started she shut it down.
"The person who has the party never has a good time," said Sarah. "I was really embarrassed and worried for my parents and the stress was out of control for me."
"People don't want to have parties now because they're nervous for their parents," said Annie, who also experienced gatecrashers at her 16th party.
Teenagers interviewed, but not wanting to go on the record, relayed stories of those inside a party texting friends outside to let them know who hadn't yet arrived so they could pretend to be them and get past the door list. Others simply text friends to meet them on the street where the socialising happens.
But throw underage alcohol on the list and you have more than a minor problem - as Ms Hausmann experienced with a 13-year old guest who had consumed a substantial amount of vodka before arriving at the party.
"She started to vomit and eventually ended up in an alcoholic coma," said Ms Hausmann. "Luckily we happened to have a paramedic who was a guest at the party and my husband is a doctor so we knew how to manage it. She is alive because of that."
Should the 13-year-old have died, there would have been a coronial inquest despite Ms Hausmann throwing a responsible party.
Many teenagers go ''fishing'' for alcohol outside bottle shops by paying adults to buy booze for them. One teenager described filling nail polish remover bottles with clear spirits, another arrives with a gift-wrapped present for the party host that disguises booze. Others place ''goon bags'' down their jeans, where security guards are not allowed to search.
Ms Hausmann said she was surprised that only one parent of an invited teenager called to check on the adult supervision for her son's party. Sarah's mother says she received four calls from a hundred invited.
Educational and developmental psychologist Fiona Martin puts this down to parents not wanting to embarrass their children. "Teenagers need to know their parent is not their best friend," she said.
"It shows them that you care if you call the parents of the teenager having a party.
''Your teenagers may not like it but it's a good parenting idea to talk to other parents and make sure that the parents putting on the party have set rules and boundaries."
Despite the parties being shut down, Ms Hausmann and Annie and Sarah's mothers all insist the kids invited, and most of those who were not, are ''good kids''.
"The IQ of a group goes down as the group gets bigger," Ms Hausmann said.