Thursday, December 11, 2008

New mall rule not friendly to all teens

By Mary Garvin
Guest Columnist, Abilene Reporter News
Sunday, November 9, 2008

As an Albany High School junior who lives 30 minutes away from Abilene, the new "Family Friendly @5" hours at the mall, while I believe were made with good intentions, are extremely inconvenient to out-of-town teens, like myself, and our families.

I understand that this is a private business that has the complete right to make its own rules and policies, but it must know that this policy affects more than the people of Abilene, who have access to the mall every day of the week. This also affects the out-of-town students who can only get to the mall on Saturdays after 5 p.m. due to work and extracurricular activities.

Also, many of our parents work in Abilene and don't want to spend their time off driving back to Abilene only to wait on their mall-deprived teenagers who want to soak up every unnecessary moment of Wet Seal they can get.

It is true that the mall is open to anyone of any age group all week long, and that Saturdays shouldn't be much to sacrifice. From a small town girl's perspective, it's not so much a sacrifice, but an inconvenience.

Living in a town like Albany means that every time we need clothes for an athletic event, party, or just clothes, there's a trip to Abilene. The highlight of a 16-year-old is getting his or her license and taking a trip to Abilene to see a movie and shop with friends and, for once, not their parents. Trust me, the parents are just as happy.

As soon as we get our licenses, our parents don't have to take off work just to take their mall-deprived child shopping for school clothes and spend their Saturdays as a chauffeur.

While there are other places to shop in Abilene, there is no place like the mall. Although the policy probably wasn't made with "punishment" in mind, that's sort of what it is to out-of-town students who simply cannot get to Abilene until Saturday afternoons.

If the reason for this new policy really is because of children who cause disruption, then security should have stepped it up and gotten rid of them, not banned their entire age group on Saturdays. If this is the case, that sounds more like how parents ground their children when they do something right and need to learn from it. But this is like a permanent grounding, so how do we know that the problem will get any better?

While I think that this policy was made with good intentions, the mall is going around the problem, and not directly assessing it. To me, directly assessing it would be asking security officers to do more than card teens, but to actually kick them out if they really are causing trouble and then call those children's parents. This way, it will let the parents do something about it and hopefully teach the kids that unless they get their act together, they will not be allowed in the mall.

It is very encouraging and amazing that the mall has chosen to support family time, and I am happy that people are taking advantage of this. But again, not all teenagers will give up their Saturdays to spend time with mom and dad and the siblings they can't wait to get away from. And not all families see this as an advantage, but an inconvenience.

Also, the mall is a safe place for teens to spend their weekends. In a time where parents are constantly worried about their children falling into peer pressure, the mall is one of the best places for them to be -- public and safe.

Saturday night is not like every other night of the week, it is usually the big party night. With teens not being allowed in the mall without their parents, some might turn to other activities to fill their social time slots on Saturdays, like the parties that the majority of parents would rather not have their children go to. Not public, and not safe.

I respect the owners' right to make their own decision for their business, I just would like them look at it from a small town perspective as well as Abilene's. If you agree that the policy should be changed, write a respectful letter to the owners encouraging them to reconsider.

Mary Garvin is an Albany High School junior and the feature editor of her high school's newspaper, The Lion's Roar.

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