Idle time can land kids in hot water

With school out for the summer, now is the time for parents to consider how they can keep their tweens through teen-age children in line and out of hot water amid the glut of seasonal “down time.”
Parents would be wise to have frank dialogue about some common, all too often unforeseen legal pitfalls many kids experience during the summer months. This advance awareness of legal and parental consequences can better assure that children use good judgment as they hang out with their friends and otherwise enjoy their summer break.
While specific laws and policies vary from state to state, here are some key legal considerations during the summer months:
Curfew: Most parents have no idea of the laws relating to curfew in their region, which vary from city to city. Generally, 10 p.m. is the most common curfew time; however, there are exceptions of how late minors can be out by themselves at night. Breaking curfew can result in legal consequences such as the child being temporarily detained by police or even community service for repeat offenders.
Graffiti and Vandalism: Some may see it as a form of self-expression, but those who mark up community walls and buildings with graffiti are breaking the law. Kids who are repeat offenders here may find themselves financially liable, and may face criminal penalties. Parents are also often found financially liable when their kids damage, destroy or deface the property of others, sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars in reparations.
Underage Drinking: In a recent survey, nearly one in two ninth graders reported they had consumed at least one alcoholic beverage at some point. Forty percent of the 11th graders surveyed admitted drinking enough alcohol to become “drunk” or “sick.” There are a litany of legal offenses associated with minors and alcohol or drugs, which range from misdemeanors, felonies and juvenile hall. These considerations are in addition to the threats to the child’s health, safety and well-being.
Tobacco Use: It has been reported that one in five high school seniors smokes at least once a month. In most, if not all states, getting caught smoking means an appearance in juvenile court, or being charged with a misdemeanor. Most retail outlets also check the identification of anyone seemingly under the age of 18 attempting to purchase tobacco products, so misdemeanor charges could apply if a minor uses a false ID to make such a transaction.
Web Surfing: Sure, your children can chat with friends and play games in cyberspace. However, they also have access to a world of information only appropriate for mature audiences. Pornography is rampant on the Internet, and your child can access that material with just a few easy clicks of a mouse. Even if unsolicited, a recent survey found that one in three children ages 10 to 17 had been exposed to unwanted sexual material online. Parental control software is paramount if you are unable to supervise your child while he or she surfs the World Wide Web.

Jeff Isaac is the principal attorney at “The Lawyer in Blue Jeans Group” based in San Diego, California. He can be reached via email at jeff@lawyerinbluejeans.com or through his web site at www.lawyerinbluejeans.com.

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