The Downside to Teens and the Mall

So your teen wants to go “hang out” at the mall?

It’s Friday night and your tween/teen wants to go to the mall to hang out with his or her friends. The mall seems like a safe enough place to hang out and you’ve seen lots of other kids there so it isn’t like the mall being a Friday night hang out location is a surprise. Though you know that the mall is teens and the mallintended to be a place to purchase all kinds of goods in one convenient location and not a hangout, there aren’t many places in your area for kids to gather so you’re leaning toward allowing the outing to the mall.

Before you allow your child to head out the door consider this:

Did you know that the mall is a common place for kids to buy, sell and use drugs and alcohol?

Groups of kids tend to gather in areas such as the food court, bathroom, arcade, or outside areas with benches or fountains. These groups may be engaged in drug and alcohol use, fighting or sexual behavior.

Did you know that kids under the age of 18 can find friends or acquaintances at the mall that are willing to buy cigarettes for them?

Kids under the age of 18 who have cash can ask a friend or acquaintance over the age of 18 to purchase cigarettes for them. The older kid enters the store with the younger kid’s money, presents the cashier with ID showing they 18 or older, purchases the cigarettes, and then exits the store and gives the cigarettes to the younger kid.

Did you know that kids that have been given some of their parent’s money to spend at the mall don’t always spend it as their parents expected them to?

For example: A tween/teen heads to the mall with $20 because that’s the only bill his or her parent had to give them after using the ATM. There is discussion about using the money to get something to eat and to buy some socks. The parent comes to pick the kid up from the mall and asks for the change. The kid explains that there is no change because they were with a friend who had no money so they bought something for the friend to eat and the socks were more expensive than they expected them to be. The more likely reason that there is no change is because the kid used the parent’s money to purchase something they did not have permission to. When giving kids money to use at the mall, parents need to let them know ahead of time that change will be expected as well as receipts for all purchases made with parent’s money.

If the tween/teen goes to the mall with his or her own money, parents should know how much money is being taken to the mall and what he or she plans to buy. Parents should also ask to see receipts and items purchased. It might be money that the kid earned but parents are responsible for teaching their children to spend money wisely and for making sure they are not using their money to buy things that are illegal, unsafe or against house rules.

Did you know that there are stores in some malls the sell drug related items such a t-shirts with drug and alcohol messages or images, paraphernalia for using drugs such as bowls for smoking marijuana, and sex toys?

Parents need to let kids know ahead of time that purchasing items in these stores is not acceptable. Kids are not permitted to wear t-shirts with drug or alcohol messages at school and should not be allowed to wear such messages at home either. This eliminates any reason for these t-shirts to be purchased. Using drugs is illegal so purchasing paraphernalia intended for drugs use is also unnecessary. Tweens/teens and sex toys? Really? Let’s not even go there.

Parents – be smart. No matter where kids go it is in their nature at this age to explore. If you chose to allow your kid to hang out at the mall, set rules and consequences for breaking those rules before dropping your kid off. Make sure they know you expect them to be visiting with friends and not using drugs or drinking alcohol. Set rules on how money is to be spent and expectations that you will be asking for receipts and to see items bought when they return home. Set expectations for what stores they should be looking to buy items in and what stores they don’t need to be spending time in.

Not sure what kids are up to at the mall? Think that the information above can’t be true? Visit the mall on Friday or Saturday night. Go to the food court, bathroom area, arcade, and outside areas where the kids are gathering. Look and listen to what is going on.

Personally unless they need to purchase a specific item at the mall, I would not recommend the mall as a place to hang out. If it is Friday night and they don’t have a place to go, suggest that they invite a few friends over to the house. If they tell you that the house is too boring, too bad. The only reason the house is too boring is probably because they intend to do things at the mall that aren’t allowed at home.

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