More Businesses Require Chaperones for Teens

Chaperones for Teens
Mall of America | Image by IVY PHOTOS/Shutterstock

Some popular teen hangouts are now requiring adult chaperones after a recent surge in unruly behavior.

Requiring anyone under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult chaperone is nothing new, but it is a trend that more and more businesses, shopping centers, amusement parks, and restaurants are hopping on board with.

The recent decision to ban teens from congregating in New Jersey’s Garden State Plaza Mall without the accompaniment of an adult (on Fridays and Saturdays after 5 p.m.) comes after a string of disruptive behavior, including a brawl at the food court in 2022 and skirmish in March that attracted police attention.

The mall was a “madhouse” on Fridays and Saturdays, said Jennifer Sepulveda, a Passaic, New Jersey parent, who would frequently drive her son Jorden to the mall to spend time with friends on the weekend.

For Jorden, the loss of his weekend independence was definitely disappointing but not surprising, given the frequent mall fights and general craziness.

“It was the main place to go and roam around and hang out with my friends,” he said, per AP reporting.

Meanwhile, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota — the nation’s largest shopping mall — mandates teens be accompanied by adults after 3 p.m.

Amusement park operator Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. has its own version of a daily chaperone policy in place at eight of its 13 parks, including King Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, and Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Over the past two years, we have seen increasing incidents of unruly and inappropriate behavior across our industry and at other major entertainment venues,” said Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for Cedar Fair, per AP reporting. “We believe these changes will help ensure that our parks continue to provide a safe and positive environment.”

Chaperone policies at these amusement parks will typically require anyone under 15 to be accompanied by an adult after 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. each day.

Lauren Stansbury, a 14-year-old season pass holder at the Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City, believes the chaperone policy hurts anyone with busy parents.

“I don’t really like it,” she said.

Although many businesses see the adoption of the policy as a means to create a safer shopping environment and as a way to reduce disruptions to customers and staff, some critics call the measure too extreme.

After the pandemic-induced lockdowns halted social development, it’s important for teens and Gen Z to have an outlet for independence, claims Jake Bjorseth, founder and CEO of Trndsttrs, an ad agency helping brands understand and reach Gen Z.

“We have to allow spaces for young people to be independent and develop socially beyond the context of the virtual digital environment,” Bjorseth said, suggesting that it could backfire on these businesses by pushing traffic elsewhere.

Capital 8 district manager Noah Peters has seen “huge success” with the chaperone policy in his three theater locations throughout Missouri and Illinois. His chaperone policy mandates teens under 17 be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian after 6 p.m. at all three of his theater locations throughout Missouri and Illinois.

“The reality is that the amount of money we lose turning those without a chaperone away pales to the amount we were losing providing refunds night after night to frustrated guests whose movie-going experience was marred by the noise and disruptions,” Peters said, noting an 80% to 90% reduction in disruptive behavior.

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