Time to set a curfew? Local experts offer helpful guidance
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
1. How to set rules and expectations?
2. What kind of transportation is safe?
3. Are there local curfew laws?
It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday and your 15-year-old asks to meet friends at the movie theater.
As a parent, your brain swims with questions: Is there a local law that limits how late teens can stay out? Do you OK the late night or set a curfew? Should you plan to pick up your teen – when you’d rather be sleeping – or allow your teen to use a ride-sharing app?
While a few curfew laws do exist, experts say the most important step parents can take is to talk to their teen beforehand and establish rules you both can live with.
“Each family may approach this differently, depending on afterschool activities, employment and the responsibility level of the youth,” says Tammy Fields, director of Palm Beach County Youth Services. “The key is open discussion and adherence to the times established.”
What should be part of that discussion, you may wonder?
“Several factors should be taken into consideration,” says Marielu Santiago, former Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) therapist for the Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County, “such as the age of the teenager, maturity level, safety of the neighborhood and parents’ level of comfort.”
1. HOW TO SET RULES AND EXPECTATIONS?
Sit down for a family meeting and make sure to listen to your teen, Santiago says. Then set expectations for cellphone communication and consequences for lack of responding. Discuss the concerns and risks of breaking curfew while setting realistic boundaries and rules.
You may want to set rules around who your teen can hang out with and where she can go, as well as the type of activity she can take part in. For example, you may decide to say yes to the movies but no to parties.
Then talk to your teen about what he considers to be realistic rewards or consequences for following, or breaking, the rules.
You may also want to reward your teen with praise or extra time out for special occasions (a school dance or music concert, for example) if he or she consistently follows the rules.
2. WHAT KIND OF TRANSPORTATION IS SAFE?
Now that your teen is out and about, chances are you’re thinking about how to get her back home.
Do you pick up? Carpool with other parents? Allow her to be driven home by older friends with driver’s licenses. Or do you let your teen use a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft?
“This is an individual family’s decision, but if such a service is used, it is advisable for it to be done in pairs,” Fields says.
It also depends on the teenager’s maturity, Santiago says. She suggests considering the family’s comfort level and the teen’s awareness of safety and high-risk situations.
Either way, parents should be having a family conversation with their children right now, says Kelly Powell, former program director of Safe Kids Palm Beach County.
"Regardless of your family’s personal decision whether or not to use Uber, make sure to have your child ask the driver, 'What's your name?' to check that it is the correct person, and then walk around to the back of the car to confirm the actual license plate number before entering the vehicle," Powell says.
3. ARE THERE LOCAL CURFEW LAWS?
If you’re hoping your local county or city will be the curfew enforcer, you may be disappointed. There is no enforced countywide curfew ordinance for minors, according to Palm Beach County Public Affairs. Parents may contact their specific municipality for local information.
All of this can be a little confusing, so parents may visit Palm Beach County Sheriff’s website to call their local community policing officer to check neighborhood curfew information.
OK, so let’s say your teen stays out past curfew, despite your best efforts, and gets caught. What would be the legal consequences of that?
Citations issued for a city curfew violation would be civil, not criminal, says Nazli Matt, attorney for Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County’s Juvenile Advocacy Project.
“Minors receive a written warning in the first violation,” she says. “The second violation is deemed as a civil infraction and $50 civil fine and court costs would be assessed. A third violation might result to an assessment up to $500 in civil fine in addition to the court costs.”
- Tammy Fields, director, Palm Beach County Youth Services
- Marielu Santiago, former Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) therapist, Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County
- Kelly Powell, former program director, Safe Kids Palm Beach County
- Nicole B. Ferris, Palm Beach County Public Affairs
- Nazli Matt, attorney with Juvenile Advocacy Project, Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County
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Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
Community Policing Units — a partnership between the citizens, other agencies and the Sheriff’s Office that strives to addresses the root of problems, rather than the symptoms, at 34 sites561-688-3000 Website Email
Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County
Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P, offers free seminars and one-on-one guidance to help families improve the parent-child relationship561-616-1222 Website Email
Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P — free seminars and one-on-one guidance to help families improve their parent-child relationships561-841-3500 Website Email
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County
Children’s Advocacy — free legal services for the disadvantaged related to health care, education, foster care, juvenile court issues and relative caregivers561-655-8944 Website Email
Palm Beach County
Youth Services — local services and support for children, including mental health, education, summer and other programs561-242-5700 Website Email