Teen Curfews Don't Curb Kids' Bad Behavior

teen hangoutIt's a familiar story. Teens have nowhere to hang out and nothing to do. So they start congregating on a street corner. Or in the local bank parking lot. Or back behind the Dumpster at the convenience store. And everything's fine until one bonehead does something really stupid. Suddenly it's all "curfew, curfew, why don't we have a curfew?"

Well, Moms and Dads, because slapping a curfew on kids' backs doesn't do a whole lot more than make parents "feel" safe. Or as 17-year-old Abigail Burman said of attempts to curb kids' freedom at night in her town, "This is suppressive without being preventative."

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I'll admit the teen curfew sounds good. If all kids can't be out and about, then the "bad" kids are off the street. There's no need to try to ascertain which kids are well-behaved and which kids have juvie written all over them. And curfews take the pressure to make kids behave off the police departments and put it back where it belongs -- the parents.

Well. Supposedly.

Studies into the efficacy of curfews, however, show they do little to reduce juvenile offenses. The so-called "bad kids" are already hell-bent on law-breaking, so they simply ignore the curfew.

But it doesn't take a study to tell you what experience has shown. Parents use curfews as much to abdicate their responsibilities as to embrace them. OKing a sleepover sounds a lot more comfortable when you know the kids can't go out painting the town red. But guess what kids do when they're not being given outlets for their energies?

They drink. They smoke. They have sex.

Sure, you just drove the kids off the public streets so they won't annoy you when you want to go pick up a pizza, and you won't have to feel guilty about pre-judging that gang of skaters when you're hitting the grocery store. But you also drove them to do all the things that they WON'T do out in public, where their Mom or their teacher could see them. Hide them away like they're a town nuisance, and they'll become one.

Teen curfews are the easy way out, but they don't address the real problem. Teenagers need things to do. Fun things. Constructive things. Give them something to do, and you won't just "feel" like they're safer; they will be.

Are you a fan of teen curfews? Do you think they work?

 

Image via Samantha Jane Royds/Flickr

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