The controversy around teenage curfew is as old as the hills. Should parents restrict when they let their child out at night? Parents view curfew as a way to keep their teenagers from harm. States see it the same way too. Hence, state curfew laws are designed to typically restrict people younger than age 16, 17, or 18 from remaining or loitering outside at night. As early as 1995, 70% of the U.S.’s major metropolitan areas had a youth curfew in place. 93% of the cities with a youth curfew believe that it is a valuable tool for police officers to prevent juveniles from becoming victims. But most teenagers will beg to differ, as they see curfews as an infringement on their freedom, which is one of the most significant sources of friction between parents and their teenagers. The concepts are similar to when to leave your child at home alone. It is independent for each child and each situation. Be aware that your child needs to be treated as themselves and be careful not to use issues in your own upbringing and transfer them onto them.
Interestingly in Europe, there are few curfews. Responsibility for knowing what is right is placed on the parents. I live in a village in England, and teenagers will often meet in the park after dark to just lark around, causing no real harm apart from some litter. However, when I lived in St. Pauls in Bristol, the evenings were far more sinister. Therefore a ‘one size fits all approach is not relevant. As parents, we can not always protect our children from harm by having rigid rules. Situations arise that we can not foresee. Therefore as well as rules, it is important to teach your child the core fundamentals of responsibility.
Why Should Teens Have a Curfew?
Should teens have a curfew? That’s a question that has been widely debated. But parents have kept to it to make sure they know when to expect their teenager back home. Whether the time is decided by law or yourself, you have a duty of care to ensure your child is safe. Beyond this, you are their parent and therefore care for them. In most parts of the world, the evenings are not filled with danger as much as news headlines would have us believe. There is also the debate about whether they are really safer online in their bedroom. Below are some excellent reasons for your child to have a curfew rather than just come and go as they want.
- They learn responsibility. Every parent wants their child to become an independent adult at some point. And part of being an independent adult is having a strong sense of responsibility. This is something that’s nurtured over time. One way parents can foster responsibility in their teenagers is by letting them go out at night and trusting that they would return home before their curfew time. When they do violate the curfew, parents hold them accountable. Through this, teenagers learn to follow the rules responsibly, aware that they’d have to be responsible if they fail.
- Time management. Curfew makes it clear to your teen how much time they have when they are out with friends. This forces your teen to consider the distance between where they are and their intended location, how much time it’ll take to get there and back, and what time is left in between. Your teen is bound to plan so that they can avoid the consequences of violating a curfew. Time management and planning skills will serve your teenager well as they journey into adulthood.
- Safety When parents prepare to establish a curfew for their teenager, safety factors heavily in their decision. Their concern mainly revolves around how someone else’s misbehavior might affect their child. The chances of accidents from drunk driving are high late at night. According to a 2016 data from Traffic Safety Facts, of the 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2016, 214 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This is something parents are trying to avoid. If their teenager isn’t driving home late at night, there’s less chance of getting hit by someone under the influence. Also, consider whether it is the times you are concerned about or the people they will be with. If it is toxic friendships we talk about how you might intervene.
- Less violation of state curfew laws. States have different curfew laws for teenagers. A violation is sometimes expensive and takes time to solve. For this reason, parents make sure to fix their own curfew time earlier than the state. This way, teenagers make it back home in time without getting in trouble with the law.
What Time Is Appropriate For Your Teenager To Stay Out at Night?
There’s no universally agreed curfew time or how long your teenager can stay out at night. As above, it depends on what they are doing, who with and where. It also depends on their personality. Are they a risk-taker or fundamentally responsible?
Some parents take a flexible approach. Others take a more rigid approach. This means that some nights parents may tell their children to get home by 9 p.m. if going into a city, while on other nights, curfew might be 10 p.m. if going to a friend’s house. Whether the curfew is for a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old, or a 17-year old, below are some things to consider when trying to pick a time. It is also helpful to talk to them about these things. Often children can make a reasonable decision about their curfew time when they think about these issues. If they make their own curfew time, although heavily steered by yourself, they will have more ownership of it.
- Their schedule. When choosing a curfew time, it’s important to consider your teen’s schedule the following morning. If they have things to do in the morning or generally have a lot during the day, a shorter curfew might benefit them. They need to get enough sleep to function throughout the day properly.
- Safety of the neighborhood. This applies even if your teenager is going somewhere far away from your neighborhood. Whenever they’re back, he or she still needs to come through the neighborhood to get home. If the crime rate in your neighborhood is on the high side, then it’ll be wise to keep curfew time early.
- Structure and boundaries. Some teenagers need structure to function while others don’t. If your teenager is the type that requires strict structure to make responsible choices, you need to take that into account before deciding on a curfew time. Likewise, if they don’t require strict structure, also consider that before picking a time.
How To Make a Curfew Work
Making a curfew work is not always easy because of the pushback you may get from your teenager. Expectedly, you may get frustrated by this, but it’s normal. “An adolescent’s role is to push for all the freedom they can get, and a parent’s responsibility is to restrain that push,” explains Dr. Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist who specializes in counseling parents and adolescents. Here are tips on how to make curfew work. Every household in the land has arguments about this. You are not alone.
- Talk to your teen about it. As a parent, it can be tempting to go ahead and make the decision yourself without consulting your teenager. But involving them in the process leads to more cooperation, as they are more inclined to stick to something they agreed to. “At this stage, parents cannot make their kids stop doing something without their cooperation,” says Pickhardt. On that note, you should start by asking your teenager when they think they should be home. Then ask them what they think their punishment should be if they violate curfew. If you’re uncomfortable with their input, let them know why you think that. As with all things, scaffolding is important. As they get older, curfews can change as they get more independent and more experienced. Perhaps if they can be home on time three times in a row, add 15 minutes to the curfew time. The responsibility is then on them, and they usually respond. If you try and impose a curfew when they already have had plenty of freedom, it is more difficult. Make sure you talk to them about the risks as you can not protect them forever. We have guidance on talking about alcohol, drugs and sexual predators here.
- Stay firm and consistent. Your teenager might still try to find a backdoor into your agreement. This is easier to do in this age of cell phones. They can quickly call to check in with you and then take that as a green light to take more time. You should make it clear that’s not the case.
- Only make curfew exceptions on special occasions. While it is essential to be firm and consistent, there may be days when your teenager has a special occasion like concerts or social activities. Often, it just requires you to extend their curfew time by 30 minutes or an hour. You may do this for your teenager, especially when they’ve been consistent with curfew time. However, make sure you’re comfortable with the event. If you’re not, you can tell your teenager no and explain your reasons. This also shows that you think of them as an individual rather than just imposing an arbitrary thing.
- Hold them accountable. The success of teenage curfew rests heavily on accountability. If your teen violates curfews here and there and gets away with them, the whole purpose of a curfew will be defeated. Your teen now knows that they can stay out as long as they like, and you’ll let them go. You need to be consistent with accountability. Whenever your teen violates curfew time, let them go to bed. Then in the morning, remind them of the consequence and enforce it. Better not to get into an argument on their return when emotions are high. A suitable consequence would be to remove the 15-minute curfew extension till they can show they can keep to this one. It could also be to ground them for a short time. It is always best to take a breather before doing this. An argument as they get in will not get anywhere. Also, having it as part of a discussion is far more constructive. The point of the curfew is for them to learn independence as well as keep them safe. Children can see how the conclusion has been reached, and it is fair and reasonable. It means there is less ill will, and they are far more likely not to make the same mistake again.
- Alter curfew time when they’re ready. Apart from keeping teens out of trouble, teaching them responsibility is another reason parents establish a curfew. If your teen shows responsibility by consistently keeping to curfew time, you should consider extending their curfew time according to what your state ordinance allows.
Here we discuss How to Have a Great Family Night In
Final Thoughts on Teenage Curfews
There are times your teenager will violate curfew time for perfectly reasonable reasons. Maybe the weather was terrible, and they couldn’t drive. They were worried about a friend so took them home etc. This is why it’s imperative to talk to them first when they get home, instead of flying into a rage. Make it clear that they need to call and let you know what’s going on for situations outside their control. Building clear lines of open communication with your child are critical and we discuss it here.