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Summer Leaves a Lot of Time on Teenager's Hands

With summer here many working parents are seeking out activities and day-camps for their younger children while teenagers may be allowed to stay home.   Allowing teenagers to stay at home all day can be tricky. Of course they are “old enough” to care for themselves during the day and will be the first ones to remind parents of this. But just because they are capable of taking care of themselves – doesn’t necessarily mean they should be on their own five days a week.

Adding to the dilemma of allowing teenagers to stay at home is the economy and many parents not having the resources to pay for day camps for older kids who are old enough to “watch themselves”. So what is the right answer on this one? Here are some suggestions:

If you allow your teenagers to stay at home make sure they are involved in some kind of activity that will occupy at least three days out of their week. This could mean volunteering somewhere, having a job or becoming part of a team sport or church group if your family belongs to a religious organization. They need to have a schedule in which they are occupied and making contact with an organized activity outside of hanging out with their friends. Chances are your teenager will protest this idea, but the reality is the more time they have on their hands, the more likelihood there is for them to make a poor choice that can have devastating outcomes.

As a parent having been through this twice with my own kids, I never told them what they ultimately had to be doing - but I did narrow it down to selections I could live with that would also offer them a variety of options. For example, I would contact the local volunteer center and ask what opportunities they had that would be appropriate for teenagers and then go about making sure those options were either in walking distance or there was public transportation.  Some summers I purchased my teenagers a bus card so they could get around safely without needing rides from other teenagers which is another safety issue.  

I also contacted the local park and recreation department to learn what summer activities were offered free of charge. They may be “slim pickings” but chances are they offer something your child can register to attend. My friends and neighbors cooperated on our summer schedules - if they were taking their kids somewhere fun they would bring mine along and vice-versa. Once they were old enough I pretty much insisted they find work a few days a week to begin learning responsibilities outside the home and also to have some of their own income for those expensive shoes or a dress they cannot live without. They learn quickly the value of a dollar when they had to work for it.

Another helpful strategy for keeping your teenager safe is getting to know your neighbors and, while never implying it is their responsibility to keep an eye on your kids, providing them with your cell phone number and inviting them to call you if they thought something was amiss.  

No one wants to think about all the trouble teens can get into but the reality is there is plenty to be had on all kinds of levels from drinking their first beer to trying a cigarette offered by the older sibling of a friend, to the more tragic events of being groomed on the internet to meet a stranger they think is their friend. 

The Polly Klaas Foundation was recently involved in a case where a 15 year old girl thought she was meeting a friend through Facebook. Tragically an adult male had used her friend’s name to create a false Facebook page as a means to kidnap and kill her. While we do not want to be alarmists and situations like this are rare, it is important to remind your teenagers (who think they know everything) to be careful. If your child’s friend pops up with a new Facebook page then have them give their friend a call to make sure it is who they think it is before agreeing to meet them somewhere.

Kids are much more likely to remain safe when they have something structured to occupy their time. Most everyone has heard the old adage “Idled time is a devil’s workshop” well that pretty much translates into “Don’t let your teenagers have all summer to get into mischief.”  Even the best of teenagers make mistakes and our job as parents is to help guide them through their teenage years with enough time to enjoy their summers but not so much time they wind up in harm’s way.

We hope you found this helpful in keeping your teenagers safe this summer. For more information on internet safety for teenagers please visit www.pollyklaas.org

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy summer!

 

Raine Howe
Executive Director


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E-mail: info@pollyklaas.org  ~ Phone: (707) 769-1334 ~ 24 hour hotline: (800) 587-4357