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Freedom and Independence of Kids/Teens in Amusement Parks


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First, apologies if a general thread like this is inappropriate. Delete it and I won't do it again if that is the case.

Second, the topic. I am interested in your answers to a few specific questions. I am a father to an eleven year old and my wife is currently pregnant with twins.

1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision?

2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)

3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?

4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?

Thanks!

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Absolutely keep in mind that times have changed - when I was a kid, we were out in the neighborhood all hours of day/night with no supervision, and there were no issues.   Nowadays that would never happen.

but keeping that in mind:

1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision? 
When I was ~8 years old, we started getting Season Passes to Astroworld, and my Parents would drop my Brother (10) and myself there most days in the summer to spend whole day at the park ourselves.
(again, this was in the 70's tho)


2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)
Phone call at mid-day to advise how things were going (a specific time, usually 1pm after we ate lunch).   And a call when we were ready to be picked up.


3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?
Nowadays?   Not without an adult until they are at least 16 years old.
and factor in that with the fights that have been happening in parks across the country involving teenagers?  I fully expect many parks to put restrictions in place, that anyone under age 16 (or maybe even 12) MUST be accompanied by an adult 18+ at all times in the park.


4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?
Check in frequently (most everyone has cellphones these days) and a 3 strikes you're out rule. . . with the strikes being anything from ignoring a text message for more than 30 minutes with no response, to getting in trouble with park security for line cutting)
 

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?
times have changed.

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My responses:

1) I was probably allowed to be in a park alone, or usually with my younger cousin, around 10 years old, definitely by 12.

2) We had to check in every few hours if we were at Darien Lake with the attached campground. If we were somewhere else, we had to meet up with my parents at set times during the day.

3) We just started the smallest kinds of freedom for my eleven year old this year. For example, at SFGA's water park we relaxed in one spot and my son (and his 12 year old friend) go to one ride and then report back on their own. We didn't limit them in terms of distance, just that they had to do one ride and report back after. I also let my kid take a couple laps on the small wooden coaster at tiny little Quassy Park while I browsed separately in the small gift shops. I'll probably let him have complete freedom around 14 if it complies with park rules, otherwise whatever age the parks set.

4) Time related check ins.

5) What's different? Honestly, I think it is just social expectations. The world is statistically a lot safer now than it was even when I was a kid of the 90s, but letting an 11 year old have complete free reign would have a high potential of causing some sort of outrage that it wouldn't have caused for my parents. I'd probably trust my kid next year to have quite a bit of freedom based on his maturity and experience level with amusement parks, but it just wouldn't fly with someone at some point I am sure. 

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Yeah, I think the varying ages on this forum (with most being mid-20s and up), you're going to get skewed results that don't apply to these days.

I'll try to answer as a 38 year old who didn't have their first cell phone until they were 17.

1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision?

The youngest that I can remember being allowed to free-roam a park was 14, with a friend.  My parents were also in the park, but didn't keep track of me.  This was the mid-1990s.

2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)

Again, we didn't have cell phones back then.  The only requirement was to meet back at the designated place at the time to leave.

3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?

N/A - I don't have kids and never will.

4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?

If I did have children, I'd probably let them free roam the park around the same age (14-16), and not require them to check in with me at any point unless they needed something.  Of course, they would have been raised to not act like animals and to avoid conflict with others, and they wouldn't have troublesome friends.  I would also be very selective about which parks they were allowed to visit un-supervised (read into that what you will).  Of course, being the enthusiast I am myself, I would be in the parks at the same time.

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?

N/A - no kids.  But society as a whole has turned into such a shithole that the reasons for discretion are now beyond obvious.

 

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1 hour ago, Mike240SX said:

 

N/A - no kids.  But society as a whole has turned into such a shithole that the reasons for discretion are now beyond obvious.

 

 

Is that true? Isn't the world much, much safer now than it has been at any point in modern times? Aren't basically all violent crimes way down in number? 

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1 hour ago, abovethesink said:

 

Is that true? Isn't the world much, much safer now than it has been at any point in modern times? Aren't basically all violent crimes way down in number? 

Statistically, maybe...I don't have enough data to refute that claim about the entire world.  But I know from my profession that crime in general, yes including forcible robbery, assaults, vandalism, and petty theft are all very much on the rise in many, many parts of the US.  I think also the rise in major incidents of disorderly conduct and fighting in theme parks over the past few years cannot be denied.

EDIT:  I also forgot to mention the general lawlessness (dirt bikes/ATVs terrorizing city streets, addicts harassing people on Main Street, public urination/defacation, etc.) that plague a lot of areas in the past few years.  Even my little local city of 20,000 residents deals with these problems on a weekly basis.  But now we're getting a little off topic.

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The earliest I was allowed to roam a park by myself was probably when I was 11 or 12.  My parents gave me a walkie talkie at Santa's Village so I could go on the larger rides wile they saw a show.  It worked well until someone else had the same frequency as me.

I wasn't allowed to be in a park entirely by myself until high school.  That was when I had a cell phone so I could be reached.

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2 hours ago, michaellynn4 said:

^ Is that really the road you wanna walk down with your thread? Just feels like dangerous, troublesome waters...

Yeah, its sticky stuff, but I wish it wasn't. It isn't really a subjective topic. Two different government agencies track that data. Example:

 

FT_20.11.12_CrimeInTheUS_2.png?w=640

 

It is also very relevant to the conversation of when it is safe for kids to be away from parents. The country is objectively safer when I was a kid in the 90s. I don't know how we have this conversation without data. But if we shouldn't have it, it can be closed. I won't be offended. Not trying to drag this place down. It is all good. Love talking coasters with people here.

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I don't think I ever visited a park alone, and I believe it was high school/when friends had a car/could drive were my first visits without parents. I started working at KI when I was 15 and had my first cell phone in 8th grade. 

It's all up the parents, I mean there are kids under 18 that go to Lollapalooza. I guess the kid could sneak out there to it, same with a park, but idk. 

Over my 4 days at Cedar Point I noticed plenty of 12-14 year olds seemingly without supervision. They kind of make themselves obvious when they're being annoying or loud but for the most part kids are just there to enjoy the park like us. 

The most shocking interaction I had this year was waiting for Gatekeeper and this group of 4 or 5 kids behind me let me know "My shorts are on backwards." I thought it was a joke and wasn't going to respond until one of them tugged at my pocket. No, of course my shorts were on correctly, they were confused on my Lululemon zipper pocket placement. I sternly told them they shouldn't be touching strangers or asking about their shorts/clothes and they looked dumbfounded. No supervision for that stupid bunch. 

 

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^ imagine how confused they would have been by this Lululemon design  (and yes, I have a pair, and no they DON'T look great on me. . and yes, I wear them anyways) 😛

51oGJwEzDNS._AC_UL1245_.jpg

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3 minutes ago, bert425 said:

^ imagine how confused they would have been by this Lululemon design  (and yes, I have a pair, and no they DON'T look great on me. . and yes, I wear them anyways) 😛

51oGJwEzDNS._AC_UL1245_.jpg

I would have told them that I'm fining them for being dumbasses and pay up. 

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39 minutes ago, abovethesink said:

Yeah, its sticky stuff, but I wish it wasn't. It isn't really a subjective topic. Two different government agencies track that data. Example:

It is also very relevant to the conversation of when it is safe for kids to be away from parents. The country is objectively safer when I was a kid in the 90s. I don't know how we have this conversation without data. But if we shouldn't have it, it can be closed. I won't be offended. Not trying to drag this place down. It is all good. Love talking coasters with people here.

I won't argue that, as a country, all crime is on a downward trend.  The numbers don't lie.  I will absolutely argue that in many areas, mostly around major urban centers, the opposite is true.

Take for example, this data for Philadelphia, which is unfortunately not in an easy to read fashion.

In 2020, there were a total of 64,524 Part One crimes reported city-wide.  Part one crimes are your big boys---homicide, robbery, burglary, assault, rape, theft.  In 2018, just three reporting years earlier, there were 63,311.  Not much of a change, but that's only Part One crimes - part two crimes, such as quality of life issues, aren't tracked as well and are much harder to find data on.

Both also only track reported crimes.  In many areas, many many quality of life crimes go unreported because there's realistically nothing a police department can do in response.  Taqke for example the dirt bikes on public roadways example from above - pretty much every department without "Highway Patrol" or "Sherriff's Office" in their name in this country has prohibited pursuits of such vehicles barring the operator being wanted for a serious felony.  So really, nothing can be done, so the kids continue to be assholes and the PD's hands continue to be tied, and eventually the community gives up and stops calling.

I guarantee you if you look at most major urban centers in the US - Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, San Francisco, LA, Portland, Seattle, and on and on, you will see a very different picture from what the nationwide stats suggest.

Again, my main point is not focused around major violent crime increases...it's the minor, quality of life issues that are causing society in and around these areas to go down the crapper.

You can believe what you want, but take it from someone who is actually on the street dealing with this type of thing on a regular basis, the national numbers and what gets reported in the media do not tell the whole picture.

Don't even get me started on the trend of some (not most) police departments to intentionally under-report crime by reclassifying events to the lowest possible status, making their numbers look better year after year, to argue for increased funding.

And that's the end of my two cents on this topic, I won't delve further in this thread.  If you'd like to discuss it further, @abovethesink,please send me a PM.

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I spent the summer of 2006 visiting Geauga Lake almost every day with a buddy of mine.  We were both 13 at the time.  He had his own cell phone and occasionally one of my parents would let me borrow theirs.  Although there was never really any safety issue since there was never anybody there to begin with :lolr: 

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1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision?

I was first given freedom to roam the park with a sibling around 10/11 but my parents would still be at the park.  Completely unsupervised trips alone started when I was 15/16

 

2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)

At first it was check back in supervised times but occasional would call.  As for completely unsupervised trips, at first my parents would pick me up at a certain time.  Eventually I would carry a cell phone for those unsupervised trips as not having a cell phone would leave to longer and more uncertain wait times

 

3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?

Around 10 years old

 

4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?

As along as they have mobile phones and can check pack at a certain time

 

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?

N/A

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Back in my day (early aughts) I would go with my friends when we were all around 8-10 (sfgam) . I didn't have a phone until I was 14, we kind of just decided where/when we would meet. We also had quarters and pay phones at the front of the park if we needed to call someone. 

 

Have times changed? I don't know, parenting definitely has. I wasn't raised to be overly dependant on my parents, and I had been to these parks several times. I have a 10 year old nephew who's never been to any amusement park, I wouldn't expect him to know how to get around on his own or deal with people. I also have a coworker with a 14 year old who stays in the office after school because she's "too young to be home alone". Maybe she is, but what will they do when driving lessons start? 

 

Do you trust your kids to be safe on rides? Are they comfortable getting on rides by themselves? Paying for food on their own? Not afraid to approach staff if they're having an issue? Stranger danger? They're probably fine. IMO a little freedom will do them good. 

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19 hours ago, abovethesink said:

 

Is that true? Isn't the world much, much safer now than it has been at any point in modern times? Aren't basically all violent crimes way down in number? 

Yes and no.

 

It's just that there's just so much real time info available to us and the reach if the info is far greater than it has ever been with social media and the media sites seeking hits via those for revenue. Reality has been skewed.

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Again, love this topic! Let's keep it on track and not get too caught up in statistics, back in my day, under or over reporting, etc. 

 

1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision?

10. I remember going to Busch Gardens quite often on my own with a group of friends.  My craziest memory was being 15 years old and my parents letting me take a bus in a foreign country to an amusement park completely on my own (no friends or anything). This was before cell phones or anything.  I had an amazing time and was fine and it was great as it was Sydney's Wonderland which is now closed of course, but I can't imagine letting my current 14 year old do this! ...even with cell phones!

 

2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)

There were a few check in's here and there, but no cell phones so that wasn't an option.

 

3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?

I let KT start going to parks with friends, WITHOUT parent supervision at 13.  I used to freak out more and track her on the phone or be in the park, but now she's pretty responsible and has a good friend group so I give them nearly total freedom. They currently have HHN Frequent Fear Passes and are great, responsible, good kids so they can go to the event till like 2am and they all arrange rides and make sure no one is left alone ever. 

 

4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?

My big thing is making sure no kid is ever alone.  When they're arriving to the park, when they're walking around, or at the end of the night I make sure everyone has a buddy so they're never alone, especially near giant transport areas. I like her to check in on her cell phone too, but with locker policies I have to sometimes not freak out if she doesn't write back for a while!

 

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?

I think we're pretty similar. I'm probably a little more strict than my family growing up, but that's because my parents were of the generation "go out and play and don't come back till it's dark" where I'm in the generation of "all girls/women are going to be kidnapped/raped if you do anything". 

 

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On 9/30/2021 at 11:16 AM, abovethesink said:

 

1) At what age were you personally given freedom to roam a park without adult supervision?

 

2) What, if any, restrictions were put on you when you were allowed to first do this? (I.e. check back at certain times, cell phone check ins, etc)

3) At what age did/would you allow your child(ren) to roam a park without your supervision?

4) What, if any, restrictions do/would you put on them?

5) If what you were allowed to do and what you would allow your kids to do are considerably different, why? What has changed or what is different about you versus your parents?

Thanks!

1.  I was 12 and my dad put me in charge of my stepbrothers 10 & 8 and let us loose in 1984 Magic Kingdom + EPCOT.  Even then I was like "Are you sure this is ok" but that quickly wore off and we had an incredible time

2. No restrictions whatsoever. 

3. I'd be comfortable with 16 solo and maybe 14 with a group of friends; i have an 18 year old but up until recently he's preferred to stay with us anyways (because he gets more food that way lol).  I do little 'test cases' here and there though, for example last year at Silver Dollar City I let my 8 year old son ride, and reride, Thunderation as much as he wanted by himself.   There's lots of seating in that area so I picked a spot where I could see him exiting/reentering the queue but he couldnt see me very well, so I could judge how he was handling it, and he was fine.  So kind of building up to full free roam.   As Mike put it though, this would definitely vary depending on the actual park.

4. Meet at X at certain time.  At least a certain amount of responsiveness/acknowledgment of texting.

5. On paper the ages are the biggest difference but I can look back and see that what my dad did was probably not the best approach lol although we were fine and behaved etc etc. The technology angle is probably the biggest difference really.  Having a way to contact them at any time or vice versa via cell is big.  

 

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Oh this is a cool topic! Thank you for posting it! 

 

I went with friends and no adults starting in junior high, so probably about 11 or 12. There were exactly three rules:

 

1. Be back by this time at this meeting spot.

2. Don't go off by yourself.

3. At least one person must have a watch at all times. If, say, there's a group of 4 and you split into 2 groups, one person in each pair must have a watch.

 

What would I do now? Same basically, with some adjustments for technology. No need to meet up at a particular time if you can just text to find each other.

1. Charge your phone the night before and have a full charge when you arrive at the park.

2. Charge a back up battery and bring it with you, with the proper cable to connect to your phone.

3. If I text you, text me back as soon as is reasonable.

4. Don't go off by yourself.

 

My kids haven't actually asked to go to a park with friends and not us yet, but these are basically the rules we've used when we've gone to parks as a family and they want to go off by themselves. Theme parks are pretty safe places, all things considered, so I'm not too worried about things happening to them.

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So I don't really think this is a cut and dry answer, some parks you'd probably be fine leaving them alone at while others I wouldn't risk it. So here's some tips I'd recommend based on family trips we've done in years past:

1. Research the park you're going to, honestly parks like Dollywood, Holiday World, Cedar Point are probably safe bets for younger ones to go alone and have more freedom. Some other parks such as Six Flags America, Boardwalk parks, Fun Spots, etc aren't necessarily unsafe, but the crowds and employees aren't as attentive as other parks.

2. We live in the 21st century and have cell phones, so that makes planning a lot easier. With that said, we used to have meeting spots before cell phones and a general area/time we'd meet back up at. I even do this with my significant other sometimes because when we're at parks we don't really like to have two phones on us since we only keep the one for my medical device. We always knew as kids to meet back where we said we would and I recall around 11 was when I started to get some more freedom at the safer parks to go on my own.

3. You know your kids better than any of us. Some kids are more mature than others to make responsible adult decisions. First, make sure they want to go on their own, if they're worried, it's easy for kids to panic and get scared. It happens, but this will depend on the maturity level that really only you can decide with your child.

4. Cell phones again make things easy now a days for planning in most cases. Go over the plan B though, explain to your kids the basics of safety. I learned this really young and it stuck with me and actually became more useful of situational awareness as an adult. Very, very important things for every kid to know: Never go with a stranger. If lost, only ask help from employees, if you REALLY can't find an employee with a nametag ask a group that appears to be a family, avoid people alone/strangers alone. Always trust your gut! If someone gives you a bad feeling it's probably for a reason. Locate guest services and lost kid locations in parks, same with first aids. These are always the safest locations to go if you become lost. 

I know some other posters have said "not anymore in todays age" and such, I don't actually agree with that statement. We're just as much at risk as we were years ago, we didn't get an influx of bad people in the last 20 years that suddenly decided to be bad people out of the blue. Just be smart and aware, you're the parent and as long as you give enough freedom while also being safe about it, it's a really good environment to let your kids grow. I know the days of running around amusement parks on my own at Cedar Point and Disney as a kid really helped me establish an independence I didn't really know I was gaining at the time. Now 20 years later those life lessons taught me a lot, I got lost once and it was at a park I was unfamiliar with when I was 12. With the planning I was taught from my parents I was able to find them within 30 minutes which was a relief for them and myself! It also taught me to be a bit more aware of my surroundings. 

Funnily enough, the only time I can distinctly remember ever feeling "stranger danger" was at the Hershey Hotel. I was actually 21 and looking at some bears around the gift shop table and this old man came up to me asking me about teddy bears. I was at the hotel on business with my first company and they were filming some shots for a commercial we were doing. I was in complete shock what was happening and he was trying to buy me said bear... I looked very young for my age back then, to the point that also at Hershey I got asked if I needed a kids menu on my 21st birthday with those same coworkers... they got a kick out of those situations, but I knew it was wrong and when the man realized I knew what he was doing he disappeared as quick as he appeared. So I don't want to say it's "never" happened, but I can say all those lessons from being younger paid off in that situation as well. In my opinion it's good to let your kids experience the world in as controlled of environment as you can, you won't always be there to offer that controlled environment, so learning young can really help later in life.


I should also add that I normally went with my brother who was two years younger than me until I was about 12 or 13. I guess I didn't "go it alone" all the time, but by the time I was 14 I would take the buses at Disney World and such on my own. I knew to be responsible and my younger brother took a little longer to get to to that point. So again, it's not a one size fits all kind of thing.

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Since I'm from Saint Louis, as soon as my daughter is old enough to facebook and start fights, I'm going to buy my $40 season pass (aka- summer babysitter) and drop her off at the park constantly. That's the status quo for SFSTL.

 

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7 hours ago, prozach626 said:

Since I'm from Saint Louis, as soon as my daughter is old enough to facebook and start fights, I'm going to buy my $40 season pass (aka- summer babysitter) and drop her off at the park constantly. That's the status quo for SFSTL.

 

This girl is going to be on SNL by 18 and be the best stand up of our time, I'm calling it!!

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Quote

BRteller: I know some other posters have said "not anymore in todays age" and such, I don't actually agree with that statement. We're just as much at risk as we were years ago, we didn't get an influx of bad people in the last 20 years that suddenly decided to be bad people out of the blue. Just be smart and aware, you're the parent and as long as you give enough freedom while also being safe about it, it's a really good environment to let your kids grow.

 

 

ah. . .but you see, you (and the others arguing that it's no more dangerous now) are missing the key point that NOW we are aware of the potential danger, and back then most were not.

Very true that there hasn't been an influx of violent criminals - but now the information is available 24/7 in multiple places.   It was *not* back then.

If my parents knew there were several active serial killers in Houston around the times they were letting us stay out in the streets with our friends?    NO WAY would we not have had a curfew, and/or multiple rules about who we could be with, where we could go, and how often to contact home.

 

so yeah. . when I say "times have changed" ?   they absolutely have.

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