How late should I let my teenager stay out?

The time comes for every teen when they want to be out with friends. This is the natural course of events, pushing the boundaries. But they still need to be safe. Here’s how we have monitored it.

Times for teenage curfew should be age appropriate. Younger teens should be home by 8 pm and older teens (17) by 11 pm.

Of course, it depends on a number of different issues. You are after all the parent/guardian. We as adults must always be the ones in charge, even if that sometimes, unfortunately, means being the bad guy. So what are those key terms to know?
1. What age is your child
2. Your teen’s friends
3. Are they just hanging around street corners?
4. Trust and consequence
5. Make them aware of the danger

What age is your child?

The age of your child is clearly relevant to the time they are allowed to stay out until.

Age Curfew Chart

These are guidelines and for each teen the level of maturity is different. You know your child better than anyone. The reason we don’t just throw caution to the wind and say ‘Yes, be home whenever you like, have a great time!’ is because as parents we want our children to be safe. I still worry about my daughter and she’s in sophomore in college! Just because they reach a certain age doesn’t mean we stop worrying about them.

The reason the times change depending on the age is that we also can’t wrap them in cotton forever. We have to let them mature and find their independence. You may find that your 13/14-year-old is your eldest child and actually quite mature. They may have a lot of household chores and responsibilities already and you know if you set a curfew time that is later they will abide by it. On the other hand, you may have a 16/17-year-old dreamer, who is unorganized, late for everything, and has that long-vacant stare look in their eyes when you are telling them to be home at a particular time.

So just because your child is a certain age it needs some adult discretion as to what time you think they should be home.

The last point to this heading is you need to be aware of your state curfew for teens. Most states are 16 and under and must be home by 10 pm and 17 must be home by 11 pm. Maryland has the strictest curfews with all under 18’s obliged to be home by 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and by 11.59 pm Friday and Saturday.
It’s important to check your state law when agreeing to times for your older teens especially when they are driving.

Your teen’s friends

This to me is probably the most important issue after compliance with the law. Knowing who your teen is hanging out with is key to curfew going smoothly.

I know what you’re saying. It’s hard to keep up. One week it’s Matthew and the next week it’s Tyler (or whomever).
You also have the difficult task of trying to find out information without seeming too inquisitive. If they think you are prying they will shut you down at the first hurdle.

I have a good relationship with my 17-year-old son. He recently moved school and I didn’t know anyone in the new group of his. I was however delighted that he had mixed in so quickly but I was for sure anxious about who he was meeting up with.

We live quite rurally and my son has shown no interest in learning to drive but it means that if he wants to meet friends I must bring him the 15km to town. During this drive to town we make arrangements and I find out who is going to be there.

He knows that a collection time cannot be changed without good reason and don’t text me 10 minutes before collection time to change the time as I have already left the house at that stage.

There are five in his new group and usually 3-4 meet up. It’s important that you know at least one kid’s parents well enough that you have contact details in case your child misses curfew and for whatever reason is not answering their cell.

You do really need to disclose this information to your teen, that this is what happens if you miss curfew – I will start calling people – they tend to get a bit angry if you stalk them without telling them.

Are they just hanging around street corners?

For many teens, in many towns, including ours, there simply is just nothing for them to do. It’s different if they are involved in a club or on a team but for most, they just want to go to the mall and hang out with their friends. This is ok (to a certain extent!) but as the day drags on and evening appears, malls close, and kids move outside. Everyone hates to see a group of teens hanging at the end of a street but as I say sometimes there’s nowhere for them to go.

When I bring my son to town we have an agreement that they go for food in the local diner or they go to the outdoor exercises machines by the lake. At least then they are doing something and not just all in a huddle looking suspicious. My boy, as I have said is an archer, National Squad, so he knows what is expected of him. Any kind of trouble and he’s off the team. He has worked too hard to throw it away for an evening in town up to mischief.

Trust and Consequence

Our boy is a good kid, and we do trust him, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have rules in place.
As I said we live quite a bit out of town and with no public transport. He knows if he doesn’t play by the rules he doesn’t get to go anywhere. Curfew times are set for a reason. If I say I’ll meet him for pick up at 10 pm, well that doesn’t mean 10.10 or 10.15. If he’s late there needs to be a good reason! For every ten minutes he’s late we reduce his curfew the next time by that amount. It’s a pretty effective way of getting them to be on time I think.

If unlike us your teen has the ability to walk, cycle or drive themselves home this needs to be really reinforced. You may find though that the night that they are late is not the moment for the discussion. Tell them you are glad they are home and safe and you’ll chat to them in the morning. Arguments and shouting with teens rarely have a positive effect.

The next day, clearly state your disappointment. Ask why they were late and discuss a consequence of the act. If it was only a couple of minutes then I wouldn’t sweat it too much but if it continued to be 10 minutes late every time then I would mention it.

It’s important to pick your battles carefully. If your teen can understand why you have the curfew time in place, be it state law or owning the responsibility then they might be more willing to be home on time. If they are running late, tell them to stop, and take the time to send a text that they are going to be a little late.

Tell them you don’t want them speeding or racing to make the curfew and possibly injure themselves or get a ticket. If curfew is followed then they should know that instead of consequences there may be a reward. An extra 20 minutes on the weekend curfew.

Teens ultimately like to be rewarded, so extra time might be the motivation they need. They also need to know that trust can be broken just as easily and not to push the envelope too much.

Make them aware of the danger

When I was a teen (a while ago now!) it seemed safer for me to be out. That’s probably not the case at all but I worry as a mom that my kids are safe when they are out.
When I bring my son to town I discuss the dos and don’ts. He laughs most of the time because he knows that I know he’s a good kid. But all it takes is a lapse of judgment.

So I tell him, don’t get involved in chatting with other groups of guys. An argument can escalate in the blink of an eye. If it does kick off, run as fast as you can away from the situation.

Don’t be anywhere you shouldn’t be

And definitely call or text me if you find yourself in a situation that you’re unsure of.
This came to reality just before the holidays. It wasn’t a fight and didn’t involve another group of guys. It was a freak accident. One of his friends lives in town and my son and two others were walking him home before pick-up time.

My son’s friend tripped on a curb and fell and hit his head. He was unconscious. They quickly allocated each other jobs. One ran to the boy’s house to alert his parents, one called an ambulance, and one made their friend comfortable. They did everything correctly.

And then my son text to say he was running late.

The ambulance arrived and took the boy to the emergency room. My son arrived at the pick-up point and explained (quite shook!) what had happened.

I was proud that they had all worked together and had known what to do, and in the days after we discussed how easily a simple trip had escalated into what could have been much more serious. (His friend ended up with stitches and a night of observation in the ER).

Our son certainly got a fright but you can’t keep them wrapped up at home forever.

They need to be able to mature and know that sometimes when they’re out things don’t always go to plan but the most important thing is to seek help.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

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