Would you let your young (under ten) child hang out with teenagers unsupervised?

From this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=473204

This made me wonder…is this a normal reaction? I don’t have kids, but it seemed a bit much to me. Are teenage boys considered so dangerous, or is this just another example of how back in the day, kids used to go out from sunrise to sunset with no parental supervision and now parents tend to hover more?

Sure, some teenage boys are dangerous, but I wouldn’t assume that most of them would do what those boys did to norinew’s eight year old daughter. Am I so naive?

I was touched inappropriately by a teenage boy when I was maybe ten and I would be careful letting a young daughter out like that. But I also know some teen boys who I would trust because they love kids–or do they? I don’t really know that 100% and would err on the side of not doing it.

I do it all the time: they’re called siblings. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ok, so that doesn’t quite match up with the response you’re looking for.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I think I’d be more comfortable with an 8 year old boy with 2 teenage girls than vice versa.

What I would question is WHY 2 teen boys want to hang out with my daughter (if I had one that age). 8 and 15 (or whatever) have nothing in common–there is no reason for them to be together, really. (I’m sure many will come in and say different. Fine by me–but a shared interest or activity such as gaming, soccer, the clarinet was not stipulated). It’s more “normal” for the teens to avoid the younger ones like the plague and age 8 is not so unsophisticated as to want to be a hanger on, no matter what. (I’m speaking generally here).

All that said, things happen. Teens hang out, kids try to be too old for their age, kids sexually experiment, kids bully. Knowing that, I find myself right back up to my questions: as a mom, I’d want to know what they want with my much younger kid.

I’ve never considered myself a helicopter parent in the slightest and my kids had (have) plenty of different aged/gendered kids. I think no parent can plan for all contingencies and that to do so stifles growth on the part of the child. I hope my comments here are not construed as sympathy for the teen boys or criticism of the 8 year old or her mom. I think the boys need counseling, not jail time and the 8 year old needs to learn to pick her friends more carefully. All have learned (or are about to) hard lessons. It’s a shame it happened at all.

It’s worth noting that in the original situation (see post #39 in the linked thread), they were essentially supervised by two adults, and other children were there too. The poster was listening from a window, her cousin went into the house to make a call, and the other children had wandered off. So this wasn’t exactly a cut-and-dried “two teenage boys came over to play with an unsupervised 8-year-old” situation.

My parents wouldn’t have allowed it unless it was friends of my brother and my brother was there as well. We had free reign to walk around the block too, but if my mom went looking for me and found me playing with two teenage boys then I would be sent inside.

Middle-aged kids (i.e., 12, 13, 14) who routinely like to hang out with 8-year-olds are likely to have some problems, and inappropriate behavior with the younger child would be a concern for me, even if it happened to be the neighborhood mix. But my older sons both did some babysitting when they were around 13 and 14, and some of the kids they babysat were girls who were younger and it seemed okay with everybody.

I have to say, though, that in my own childhood there was a lot of unsupervised play in the summertime, and the request made to norinew’s daughter was far from unusual with these older guys (by “older” I mean “11”), and my girlfriends and I, when we were 8 or 9, pretty much indicated we thought they were kidding us, no way, that kind of thing. There were also boys our own age who thought it didn’t sound like a bad idea at all. Once again–surely they were kidding, and no way.

We would never, never, never have told our parents. :eek:

This. (As Ferret Herder points out, the situation in the linked thread was different).

My son is eleven and plays at the house of another eleven year old boy. That boy has a brother who is about fifteen, and I tend to ask more questions of my son on the days the older boy hangs out with them, just because it was always my experience that older kids wouldn’t be caught dead with younger ones.

So why is he hanging out with the fifth graders? The answer is usually “to play video games”. Well, that makes sense, but my point is that the presence of older kids raises my antennae.

Re the OP it really depends on the context. I haven’t read Norinew’s 4 page thread all the way through but based on some past posts of hers IIRC she’s complained at length about the crappy neighborhood, and how uncontrollable and borderline delinquent many of the neighborhood kids are, especially the teenage boys.

Would I have trouble in MY middle class, college centric neighborhood leaving my 8 year old daughter outside for time with 2 teenage boys? If I knew the parents of the boys, and felt they were trustworthy I probably would not feel I had to helicopter that scenario every minute, but then again I was a horny male teenager myself once (though not sociopathic) and I think I’ve got a pretty good radar for regular kids vs incipient predators, and a very short tolerance level with regard to putting up with smartassed disrespectful kids.

Based on Norinew’s description of her situation and social environment I would not have allowed my daughter in the yard with those boys while visually unsupervised.

However, in the real world you can’t keep your eyes on your kids 24/7. I panicked when my kid was 4 and we were shopping in the mall. Although I tried to keep her close she wandered away from me at the first opportunity in the mall. I turned around for a few seconds to buy an item and she literally disappeared. I screamed her name on the main concourse and terrified half the mall. She was over 100 feet away in the main corridor about to turn a corner.

It’s easy to judge until it happens to you.

It isn’t so much that teenagers are dangerous, as that they can be remarkably stupid, and that stupidity just multiplies when you have more than one. It’s also the age disparity, as has been mentioned. 14 and 8 really have nothing in common and it’s just too easy for the older ones to think it would be funny to get the little kid to do something goofy. It wouldn’t have to be anything wrong, really, just stupid. Kids don’t have good judgement, generally, and that tends to get worse when they’re in groups.

In the situation that started this discussion there had been a mix of kids in the yard and then most of them left for one reason or another. In that case I probably would have gone out to shoo the teens out, too. I likely would have waited until I was done with what I was doing, though, not running out there the minute I noticed. Just kind of “Okay, time for you guys to head out now.”

Kids in general can get stupid in one heck of a hurry. Better to prevent than to have to stop it in progress or deal with the aftermath.

This.

And this.

My son (15) watches his little sister (3), sometimes for a whole evening, on his own. But if a (male) friend of his is here, I won’t leave them for more than 20 minutes, and that very reluctantly. They’re good kids, but I can’t trust them to maintain awareness of her for longer than that if they have one another to interact with. And the other boy got kicked out of two elementary schools for “inappropriate” conduct years ago. Now, they were incidents with age-mates, so I have no reason to think he’s a pedophile, but I’m not willing to test that theory too far…

In a more general sense, a larger mixed gender group of teens would be fine. Even three boys would be preferable to me than two. Two teenagers of either gender can get real dumb - a third is often willing to be the brakes when they threaten to get out of control.

Exactly. Those were jackals waiting for an opportunity.

Our next-door neighbor has older kids and it’s funny, when their youngest boy was 8, he’d come over to play with our then-3-yr-olds occasionally. But now that he’s 9, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with our kids.

My girlfriends talk about it too, there seems to be a stigma among children about playing w/younger kids. So it probably would cause me to raise an eyebrow if someone post-pubescent wanted to play with a pre-pubescent (I think I’m labeling that age spread correctly).

It wasn’t like they went off into the woods together—they were outside her bathroom window.

I never had kids of my own but I would be suspicious of older boys who wanted to hang around with my daughter. As cited, there’s often an immaturity there if they don’t connect with their age group. Hopefully I would have met them and sized them up first anyway. Actually if I had a girl, they’d have to get past the razor wire, sniper’s nest and landmines just to ring the doorbell, but that’s another story.

The thing that’s really difficult here, IMO, is that when you’re a kid your neighborhood is your world. If it’s a rougher part of town, you’re going to be stuck with rougher kids. If the parents veto every potential friend, the kid’s going to be mighty lonely. Plus, they need to learn socializing skills. In smaller towns, it’s much the same.

Later on they get bicycles and they’re more mobile, riding across town to the swimming pool or what not. Then what? I guess the main hope is safety in numbers because one kid can break the “Lord of the Flies” mentality.

It’s so context-dependent. What happened to **mudgirl ** and norinew was one of those things that happens without giving you a chance to think and plan beforehand. It was all just too fast.

If I had an opportunity to think things out beforehand–my answer would usually be no. If they were “bad” kids a definite no, if they were “good” kids also a no, just because at that age they’ll be far too wrapped up with each other to watch what a younger child is doing.

I hate quoting entire posts, but this sums up my feelings very well. In the context of the OP, though, I did think that that reaction was over the top given that there was adult supervision and there were originally other kids around. I agree that the kids in the referenced thread sounded like predators in the purest sense of the word. In my humble opinion, the OP of the linked thread sounds like an extremely responsible, loving, aware mother. What happened to her little girl is no more her fault than her little girl’s and to assume otherwise is absurd.

No, you’re right, and I didn’t mean to make it sound like norinew was letting her kid hang out with predators unsupervised…it definitely sounds like a freak thing that you really can’t beat yourself up over.

The virulence of the post I quoted, though, just surprised me because it just never would have occurred to me to automatically think that a teenager who is hanging out with a younger kid is a predator. Though I suppose now that I think about it, and that you guys mention it, it is a bit odd–I don’t even like hanging out with young kids now, let alone when I was fourteen or fifteen.

No offense, but I’d put your antennae down for this one. When I was 14-17 I wouldn’t mind at all when my best friends little brother (who was 8-11) tagged along with us. He was the catcher (and ball fetcher) when we played baseball. He was the ref when we played basketball. And he was a 4th when we would play video games. When he got annoying, we sent his ass home.

Basically, he got to hang out with the big kids and we got a little helper. It was never weird and because his brothers were four and five years older than him, he was actually a pretty mature little kid.

And when it comes to video games, if you’re bored, it doesn’t matter how old player two is because you’re not sitting there discussing anything deeper than “Holy shit, I just blew you up with a rocket!”

No, I would not allow a young daughter of mine to spend time with any males other than her dad or brother without supervision. I’ve heard about enough cases of kids being abused by trusted family friends and such that I know predators don’t always make themselves obvious.
You never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head, and the “nice kid” from next door could just as easily be planning inappropriate sexual experimentation with a young girl as a kid who looks like a troublemaker.

Really? how is that feasible? like, if she goes to spend the night with a friend who has brothers or a father…what then? Does the friend’s mother have to be there at all times? Or what about male relatives? You wouldn’t let your child be alone with their grandfather or uncle?

I think it’s a damned crying shame that people think no men can be trusted with children anymore. If I were a guy it would break my heart that I couldn’t smile and wave at a little girl without somebody thinking I was some kind of monster.

I don’t think being cautious of much older kids with your little one is or should be related - mostly I’d be cautious just because the older kids might not pay enough attention, or might play too rough and accidentally hurt a smaller child, or might do something really freaking stupid (Hey, see if she’ll eat this!), not because they’d molest her. Teenage boys sexually acting with much younger children is not normal, as far as I know. And it wouldn’t be something I’d be afraid of in a normal situation.

I mean, how would you feel if you were a fifteen year old boy and nobody left you alone with their kids because you might rape them? Is that what our society has come to? Do we not let boys babysit anymore? Or can they only babysit boys, while teenage girls can babysit either gender? Because that’s a crying shame, and seriously unfair to the vast majority of teenagers, who might have adolescent lapses in judgment but aren’t child rapists.

ETA - when I was that age my favorite babysitters were boys. Boys play basketball and stuff with you. Girls sit around on the phone when they’re not supposed to. These boys would have been anywhere from 15 to 18. They were good, responsible young men and it hurts me to see people assuming otherwise.

Is a teenager alone more responsible than a pair of them? Sure. But that’s because dumbass increases logarithmically in teenagers, not because they’re all predators.

This is just it, isn’t it? You can’t be with them 24/7. You can’t put them in a cage. And even if you could, they’d never learn how to be safe when unsupervised.

The thing that wasn’t mentioned in the earlier thread or this, IIRC, is that it could have been soooooooooo much worse. My God/Og, if they had lured her into the woods or something, I hate to even think. I’ve heard plenty of stories about ppl who were molested as children etc. and nobody was around, it went undetected and possibly repeated, and they grew up with it on their psyches.

If you want to ensure that your kids become fully-fledged adults, you can only teach them, weigh out the risks as best you can, and hope. Not to be too snarky, but people who aren’t satisfied with that might want to consider investing in porcelain dolls instead. Kids are going to get cuts and scrapes, they’re going to break the neighbor’s window, etc.

See the bit in “Parenthood” where grandma discusses the difference between the merry-go-round and the roller coaster.