Saturday, 28 June 2014

Plus-one parties: What's that all about?

I'd love to know who first came up with the 'plus one' party idea! I can pretty well guarantee that it wasn't a young person - it was much more likely to be some parent trying to be cool deciding to treat their teen's 16th birthday party like it was a wedding or a 21st! Without a doubt it is one of the most ridiculous and potentially dangerous new trends in teen parties and gatherings and the most amazing thing about it is, ask young people about the greatest risk associated with these events and they will almost unanimously state that it is 'plus ones'.

Once again, I know I was a teen a very long time ago, but when I was young (don't you hate saying that, it so makes you sound like your parents?) the largest party I ever went to when I was at school would have had at the most about 20 people attend. Say that to a young person today and they look at you in total disbelief - how could that have ever be seen as a party? The more you talk to teens, you begin to realize that for many of them a successful party has nothing to do with the quality of the event, it's got to do with how many people turn up.

It's important to look at definitions here ... I had a Year 10 girl challenge me recently after a presentation because she felt I hadn't quite grasped what the difference between a 'party' and a 'gathering'. She also had another new term I had never heard of - a 'getz'! After she gave me quite a stern 'talking to' I asked her to put it all into an email and this is what I received last night - it's fascinating!

"A 'gathering' is a small group of people (no more than 20) when there are no outside people that turn up. It hasn't got onto social media and you pretty well know everyone. A 'getz' is an intimate gathering of no more than 10 people. There are absolutely no outsiders and only your very best friends are there. A 'party' can be planned and whole year groups and their 'plus ones' are invited. A 'party' can also be a 'gathering' that has got out of control. It has leaked onto social media or the 'plus ones' have also invited their 'plus ones'. A party can be anywhere from 100 to 500 people, but usually around 200." 

200 people - you've got to be kidding!

Admittedly, you can bet if I showed this email to other teens around the country they would have different ideas of what parties and gatherings (and 'getzes') actually meant but you can see what I mean by the whole 'plus one' problem ... One of the major issues I see for parents is how inviting 'plus ones' can completely change the whole dynamic of a teenage party. Say you are holding a party for your 15 year old daughter and she invites her friends as well as their 'plus ones'. There would be a very good chance that at least one or two of her friends may go out with older boys, some of whom may even by 18 years or older. If these young men turn up, all of a sudden you're not dealing with just teens who are underage, you've got people in your house who are able to drink legally and are highly likely to either bring their own alcohol or expect it be provided. How do you deal with that?

As I said, in my sessions with Year 10 students when I work with them for a full day, we go through a series of activities that get them to highlight the risks associated with teen parties and gatherings and without fail the number one issue they identify is 'unwanted guests' or 'gatecrashers'. When they are then asked to come up with ways to reduce the risk of this happening they always say 'don't allow 'plus ones''! Out of the mouths of babes ...

There are some schools that I go to (I have to admit it is usually the elite schools where parents have the money) where teenage parties have got completely out of control. They have become huge events (whole year groups plus ones) that are almost impossible to control and it is not unusual for an ambulance to be called to take a partygoer to hospital due to alcohol poisoning. I keep saying to parents, keep parties small and then the possibility of problems will be reduced ... The problem is parents are starting 'big' in primary school, inviting the whole year group in Year 1 and then finding it extremely difficult to cut it back in later years. I get that you don't want to leave anyone out, but really not being invited is something they're going to have to get used to eventually - keep primary school parties small (no more than 10) and you'll make your life a whole pile easier in the future!

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