13 Year Old Girls Roaming the Mall Without Supervision?

Updated on June 02, 2013
V.C. asks from Atlanta, GA
36 answers

I'm a divorced mother of two girls. My ex allows the 13 year old to visit the mall with groups of her friends without
adult supervision. This is not something that I am comfortable with at all. When I take them to the mall I wait on a bench outside
of stores as they shop but I don't just drop them off to roam freely. I've also recently discovered that he drops them at movie theaters. This is unacceptable to me. When I take them to the movies; I go in with them but sit some rows back. I'm pretty sure that some of the mothers of the other girls assume that they are being supervised on these outings but this is not the case. My ex says that I'm overbearing and that I live in fear. What are your thoughts? Am I going overboard? p.s. We live in a major metropolitan area...not a small town.

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So What Happened?

Super thanks to you for your responses; they were all very enlightening. The mall is in a decent area but as it turns out; they do have a policy regarding unaccompanied minors (must be 16 years or older). My daughter and her friends are good kids so my concern was not with their behavior. Many 13 year olds are very “worldly”; mine is not. Sometimes she still just enjoys being a kid. If I take her sister to a playground; she will jump out and play as well. Lots of 13 year olds are “too cool” for that but she still enjoys that type of thing and I think that is special and wonderful. There is plenty of time later on for teen drama etc. I'm a bit of an "old school" parent so I err on the side of safety when it comes to supervision. Neither she nor her friends have ever complained when I accompany them. I give them plenty of space so I don’t think she feels like I am hovering. When I grew up in this city we were allowed to go all manner of places but believe it or not; we knew many people in the neighborhood and even people that worked in the local stores. This is 2013 and the world is a very different place. I know that can't protect her from everything; but I can mitigate some of the risk in public or semi-public places. I am fully aware that she is growing up and needs gradual independence to properly develop. When you are divorced and sharing custody; you must choose your "battles" carefully. I can't and don't even attempt to get involved in whatever the kids do with their dad over the weekend unless it is an issue of safety. I wish that I could tell you that I met with her Dad and that we discussed this issue like rationale human beings and came to consensus but that is just not the reality. We never had that type of communication when we were married; and we don’t have that type of communication now. We don’t agree on anything including this issue but I felt that for my child; there was a “right” thing to do. Final resolution: Moving forward; she is free to go to the mall or movies with friends but one of us will just hang out in the food court or someplace on premises.
By the way...she later told me that they don't even really shop (none of them had much money), but they just hang around the mall talking. Seems like a roller skating rink; arcade or an ice cream place would be better anyway? Oh well. Thank you all so very much!

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answers from Chicago on

When I was 13, my mom let me ride the train and roam around Chicago. Things were more dangerous in the 80s.

Things are different now: it's safer, and kids have cell phones.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I guess I don't see the issue.

Are they well behaved? Do they follow rules? Are they respectful teenagers? I was allowed to do this all the time as a 13 year old. We didn't do anything, besides shop, get some food, hang out and enjoy a little independence. There was NO shenanigans. Ever. We were smart, respectful, and just wanted to do girl stuff. We did the same things groups of adult women got together to do. We would never leave the the mall or act foolishly. My niece is allowed to at 13. They are the same way. No issues. We are from the Dallas area, and there is nothing small about it.

**By the way, my niece lives in the same house I grew up in. She also goes to the same Mall.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My younger daughter is twelve, even now I would let her run around the mall with her friends. My older daughter is 23, she was 12 when she ran around the mall. Unless you raised the worst child on earth who hangs with the other awful children there is no reason to worry. What I am saying is my only worry was whether my kids were responsible enough not to get into trouble.

Fact is they are his girls as well and he has every right to parent them without fear. Get over it because I would bet there are things you do that he thinks are wrong as well. You want to pick on him expect that he will pick back.

Oh we live in St Louis and I am in the county so we are not in a small town either. What exactly are you afraid of anyway?

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answers from Salinas on

When you keep your children under constant surveillance monitoring their every move you are denying them the opportunity to mature and learn independence. You also run the risk of driving them away during the teen years.

Riding the bus, purchasing her own clothes, buying and eating a meal in public, going to the movies are all fun activities but they are also chances for kids is grow up a little. If you trust her and she is a respectful kid then what are you concerned about?

She'll be an adult in five years, will she be ready to take care of herself?

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

We've dropped our 11 year-old and friend off at the movie theater and picked them up afterward. By 13, I will be dropping her at the mall. We live in a city.

When I was 13, in the 1970s and living on a farm, my younger sister and I would ride our bikes 5 miles on gravel roads into our small town. We didn't have cell phones then, of course. Our parents didn't know for sure where we were for a few hours at a time.

The crime rate is the same now as it was in the 1970s, and lower than it's been any time since then. What's changed is parents' level of fear and need for control, and our children's development of self-sufficiency is suffering greatly.

Depression and anxiety is running rampant on our college classes, due to parent's over-involvement in every aspect of their children's lives, they now have limited coping ability: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps

Your ex is not "letting pre-teens roam freely in Atlanta", he's letting teenagers roam within the confines of a mall or movie theater. In two years they will be learning to drive. How will they have the self-confidence to do that, or anything else involved in becoming an adult, if they've never been trusted out of view of a parent.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

at 13 in a group, I don't see anything wrong with this. My mom used to drop me and a friend off at the mall or the movies. We would be picked up right after and if we were even 5 minutes late, I was grounded. I made sure I was never late.
I can see how you could be upset if she was alone, but she's not. She is in a group of friends (meaning not just 1 other friend, a GROUP).

I see nothing wrong with this. She has to learn to be responsible and this is a good way to learn that.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would be fine with my 13 year old getting dropped off at the mall or movies and picked up after. I was younger then that when I was walking to the mall (over an hour walk) with friends. I have to agree with your ex on this one, you may be being a little over protective. As long as they have a set drop off and pick up time and you trust your daughter then I don't really see the issue.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with your ex. At 13y/o your daughter should be mature enough to go to the mall with friends and shop and see a movie without getting into trouble. They are safe in a group, IMO.

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answers from New York on

I have to agree with your ex on this. As long as they are good kids, I do not see a problem. I also think that at 13 they can attend a movie without you sitting behind them. They are not going to midnight shows right. You have to start giving kids some independence.

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answers from San Francisco on

I am surprised at some of these answers. Gangs, drugs, roaming groups of teenagers harassing adults? I live in kind of a sketchy urban area but even our mall isn't that bad! It's the same one we hung out in as teenagers. We liked being in a safe and clean (an air conditioned) environment I guess, the mall gave us that, plus there was security, so we didn't have to worry about anybody bothering us.
What exactly do you think your daughter is going to do?
My friends and I just walked around, looked at clothes, got french fries at McDonalds, looked at boys, stuff like that. When I turned 16 I got a job there. It was like our town center. Sure there were sometimes kids who shoplifted and got busted, but we weren't like that.
Do you think your daughter is likely to fall in with those kinds of kids?
I mean, at 13 I would hope she knows how to find her way around a shopping center and ask an adult for help if she needs it!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

He has the right to do what he wants with the kids unless you take him to court and put a restriction on him. That's sad but how the law is.

I have a friend who did all sorts of restrictions on her ex. Because she didn't want her kids around his family she asked the judge to decree the kids could not be anywhere that smoking or drinking alcohol was going on. She is a Christian woman who has extreme high standards. They drank wine with their dinner and then the guys would go smoke cigars after dinner.

Since these restrictions apply to the kids totally she can't take her kids to Oktoberfest to perform on the stage with the rest of the kids dance class. She can't take her kids to the State Fair. She can't take her kids to a restaurant that serves any sort of beer or drinks. She made her life much more difficult in this process.

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answers from Norfolk on

This is why some malls have banned minors under 16 who are not accompanied by an adult.
The kids shop lift, get into trouble, harass other shoppers, pick pocket, fight in gangs, deal dope, etc.
There was a protest by some when one mall around here imposed the ban - and then adults flocked to the mall because they could shop in peace with no mobs of unruly teens hanging out.
Business improved so much that other malls are thinking of implementing the same policy.
A mall is private property and a place of business.
It's not a playground nor a day care center.
The policy is a smart business decision no matter what size town you live in.
I've said it before - people have kids and think they are done right around when they turn 12 yrs old - and they have 6 more years of raising to do.
And between 12 and 18, unsupervised kids can make some horrendously stupid choices.
You're not going over board.
Just having an adult nearby is enough to make kids think twice - and that's usually enough to keep them out of trouble.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't have an issue with it as long as the girls are being responsible. Some malls and movie theatres are putting a stop to chiildren being dropped off due to a few teens who have caused trouble. Overall, most kids are fine doing this.

We live in the Dallas area. My daughter was at the mall and movies with friends at that age as well as babysitting neighborhood children until 1am or so.

The places we frequent are safe but nothing is 100%. I refuse to live in fear and raise my daughter to live in fear.

Your daughter is 13...... you have to give children some slack so they gain independence and learn. I'm not saying throw them out to the wolves but at least let go (start with baby steps like the mall and movies) and let them grow and discover.

At 13, your children don't want you hovering like a helicopter.. Show them that you have trust in them and trust the way you have parented them. If you continue to hover and keep a tight leash on children, you will push them away.

Communicate your concerns and review safety measures with your daughter. Keep your lines of communication wide open because the ride to age 18 can get rough at times.

Do you really think your Ex would purposely put your children in a dangerous situation? I think not because they are his children too!!

Good luck!

ETA: @Mamazita.... I am SO with you on the driving. I still hate it when my 18 yr old heads out driving. I trust her, I just don't trust others and we have some major freeways and traffic issues in the DFW area!! I do believe the driving which started at 15 with training was the hardest thing I've done with her so far!!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I suppose it depends on what kind of area these malls and movie theaters are in. If it was a dangerous, high crime area I'd be concerned. Otherwise I wouldn't.
Of course my kids were babysitting other peoples' children at 13 so they were certainly capable of handling themselves in an enclosed public space, AND they had phones at that age so we were always in touch. But our mall/theater area is clean and safe with lots of security so I didn't worry too much.
I worried a lot more once they started driving!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

At the age of 13 I was allowed to take public transportation from my urban neighborhood in St. Paul, MN to the Mall of America and spend unsupervised time there. My parents knew I was not a trouble maker, nor were any of my friends. I was raised with a very large dose of freedom and street smarts.

It is a large, public environment. I'd say that unless your particular mall is known to be dangerous, or you cannot trust your daughter and her group of friends, I'd be with your ex on this issue.

ETA: I say this as a self-acknowledged over protective parent. I'm much more concerned about my kids wandering around the neighborhood than I would be about them in a mall.

I spend a TON of time at the mall--walking around with my kids, taking them to the kids' area play zone, and sometimes actually shopping. It is very rare that I see teenagers at the mall causing trouble. It all depends on the reputation of your particular mall. Some malls here in the Chicago area I'd never even go to MYSELF, but others are fantastic.

ETA2: All malls have different policies about teens. Some have no set policy; some have curfews. The Mall of America enacted a teenage policy on Fri-Sun after they saw problems increasing. It's been quite effective. My brother works for a police department whose responsibilities overlap with the Mall of America police. There's nothing he's told me so far that has made me think that the mall isn't a safe place for law-abiding teens to be.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

When I was that age we took the bus to the mall and the movies ourselves. I certainly hope that by the time my boys are 13 they will be able to take the bus to the mall and movies themselves. My boys are nearly 8 and 11, and when we go to the mall I sit on the bench, and when we go to the movies they go and watch one movie and I watch a different movie, we meet in the lobby after. I am not sure what the definition of a major metropolitan area is, but we are in a city of about 750 000. It does sound like you live in fear, although I don't know what it is like where you live. We have crime here of course, but the kids don't go to the mall in those high crime areas and most of the crimes happen late at night after my kids are home in bed. The mall is a very safe, busy, well lit public place, at least it is where I live, and I have been teaching my kids to be independent and use common sense to keep themselves safe. To me it sounds perfectly safe and normal for 13 year olds to be in malls and theatre's in groups.

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answers from Washington DC on

At what age would you let your daughter go unsupervised? I worked at the mall at age 14, and around 12 we were dropped off and wandered around by ourselves. I get that times have changed, but what is your cut off? I would let her go for an hour or 2 at first, as long as she followed your rules. I would stress that she stay with her girlfriends at all times, and no going into public bathrooms by herself. Teach her how to keep aware of her surroundings and what to do if someone makes her uncomfortable.

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answers from Springfield on

I was taking the bus to the mall by myself by the time I was 10. I began taking the bus when I was 8, but that was a very short route, and my parents trusted the bus driver to make keep an eye on me.

During the summer, I would take the bus to and from different summer activities. When I was 12 I was volunteering at the YWCA's summer camp, and I took the bus there (downtown) every morning and home each evening.

Springfield, Illinois, had a population around 100,000 at the time. You can't live your life in fear!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

We live in different times. My children will not be mall rats, period. Until they can drive, they will have a parent within walking distance of them. At 13, she really doesn't need to be buying anything without your approval, so there is no need to leave her at the mall without a parent, right?
I have seen the groups of teens at the mall, and most of the time, they are wreaking havoc, and have no intention of buying anything. They are rude to adults, get in the way of those really shopping, and just don't need to be there only "hanging out".

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answers from Phoenix on

Whats wrong with that?I don't have a 13 year old yet but i don't see anything wrong.If they have a phone and something goes wrong they can call someone.They need to learn they cant always be alone.There fun for the kids do.Nothing wrong or scary will happen.Just trust her.You cant hold her in your arms forever.

Teen years are the hardest years of being a parent,I know its hard to let your child be independent.Soon she will be an adult.She needs to experience some fun without her mom sometimes and just hang out with her friends.

I hope this helps

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answers from New York on

If the store allows it and she's not causing trouble, I don't see why not.

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answers from Kansas City on

Honestly it depends on the maturity level of your daughter. Will she stay with her group of friends? Is she generally honest? Does she have a cell phone to call home if she needs to? Do you for sure know that her friends' moms don't know this is happening? What is the mall/theater like? The one in our area is very safe, so I wouldn't be as worried as if it were in a bad part of town.

My kid is only 6, but she's generally pretty mature. If she had friends that I knew and felt that I could trust as well when she was 13, I would probably let her go. What 13 year old wants their mom watching them watch a movie?

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answers from Kansas City on

I was dropped off at the mall and the movies when I was at age. Of course, that was more than 20 years ago and it seems the accepted/expected role of parents and parenting has changed since then.

Still, I wouldn't have a problem with this. 13 is a freshman in high school. She is growing up and will need the chance to be independent and responsible on her own. What is it you are worried about? She will get into trouble? Then that's something you address with her as a parent. She will leave the premises? Again, make the rules and consequences clear. By sitting in the same theatre with them, what are you hoping to prevent?

I can't imagine my mother had the time or interest to watch my every move...or every movie.

I understand it's hard to navigate the world with and for our children. It can be a fine line between living and living in fear. And should something (whether it is what you are imagining or something else) happen, no amount of "the other moms said it was ok" is going to help.

Perhaps you are uncomfortable with where/which mall or theatre she is going to due to its location or clientele. That is a specific thing you can address and then maybe work together to find a different ones that you feel are more appropriate. Or you can walk through them with her one day and let her know your concerns and work out ways to address them together.

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answers from Chicago on

I have a friend in mall management. Teenagers under 16 cannot be left at the mall alone. A parent or responsible adult has to be somewhere in the mall. If groups of kids that age are found wandering around, they are taken to the office and their parents are called. Usually it's because they are being loud, loitering in stores and causing trouble. If they weren't doing those things, they probably wouldn't get noticed. Obnoxious young teens are one of the biggest complaints of store owners at my friend's mall.

Because I know the rules, I have never let my kids wander the mall unsupervised until they can drive there themselves and spend their own money.

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answers from Rochester on

Things have changed a lot since we were children, sadly. When I was 11 or 12 I could go to the mall with my friends, to a movie, bike across town, etc...of course, I live in a town of about 20,000...not a metropolis.

I think your ex is nuts if he's letting pre-teens roam freely in Atlanta. Absolutely crazy. Good for you for protecting your children.

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answers from Washington DC on

At 13 I was flying all over the world by myself, but I can honestly say that my mother never let me go to the mall alone. I don't let my daughter go to the mall with friends unless I'm there. I'm happy to go off shopping and meet her and her friends at a designated time. I do see them around the mall - and I try to be unobtrusive. Most of the time, my daughter and I go to the mall together for some quality shopping / bonding time. We also live over an hour from the closest mall, so this sort of thing doesn't happen frequently...

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answers from Philadelphia on

I started dropping my daughter and her friends off at the mall when she was in 8th grade (13 yo) but they were always shopping, not hanging out. I would give them 2 hours to shop and then I would pick them up. I know it is hard. I don't like the mall much either.

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answers from Appleton on

I worked at the largest mall in Wisconsin. Malls are not safe.

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answers from Williamsport on

Yuck I hate malls....
But aside from that...

To me the main concern at malls for young teenagers would be

1) Pervert serial killer kidnappers staking out the malls just waiting for the chance to nab a victim. I hate to say it, but in a trust-worthy group of kids who KNOWS they are not allowed to split up...this is not very likely. Now, could a serial killer be stalking the girls around the mall waiting for one to split from the group to use the bathroom and then drag her out through a back exit after drugging her..?......maybe but it's a stretch.

So, when my daughter is that age in a few short years, I'll usually be saying no to the mall because it's a waste of time, and once in a blue moon I may let her go...but we hardly go now...and our mall is super safe and po-dunk and has never had any crime. But it's just lame to window shop all day imo as a kid. Are there old men watching the young girls on benches? Yup. But that I know of, none have kidnapped one.

2) If the teen is a problem child with bad friends I might be concerned about her meeting with other bad teens or shoplifting or general mayhem....but your daughter is probably not like that....

So really, all you can do is ask you ex not to do that, but you can't do anything about it short of court. But if you feel the other parents are unaware, then that's not OK and you should make sure he handles notifying them or do it yourself.

Movies: Meh. If she is trust-worthy and with a group and will really go in the theater she says she will....you probably don't need to go in there with her unless it's a shifty theater, or she has no movie manners and needs supervision. Now could a serial killer pick her out of a group and find a way to nab her from the theater....sure if she's not really where she says she is and she's loitering around and leaving her group....or if he nabs the whole group.....but then you are living in fear. But that's you're right, but you can't make him do the same. But again, he needs to level with the other parents so they know their kids are in there alone.

I feel for you, I'm divorcing and my ex does not have the same ideas about a lot of things as I do...it's going to be interesting...

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answers from Hartford on

It sounds like your former husband is trying to get out of parenting duty for a few hours and is giving away his common sense in order to give himself some "free time."

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answers from Washington DC on

See BK's post. She's right. People forget that malls are PRIVATE property and you cannot just dump kids there to roam; malls are not a public convenience, they're private businesses. If you know what mall or malls they're frequenting, check the mall policy; I bet it's against policy, as BK notes, for kids under a certain age to be on the property without an adult somewhere on the property as well. Yeah, most malls don't enforce it much or enforce it well, but it's a place to start.

Do you know the girls she is going to the mall and the movies with? Or does she have separate sets of friends when at dad's than when she's with you? If these are girls you know, be bold -- contact their parents and let them know that you understand that the group is unsupervised. Only you can know if this is going to infuriate your ex; only you know if you feel close enough to these other parents to share this -- but if I were one of those moms I sure would want to know. You write that you're pretty sure tht some of the moms of the other girls do assume there is supervision when there is not. If these moms are people you know, yourself, do not let the fact your daughter is on your ex's "time" make you afraid to talk to these moms.

My daughter is 12 and does not roam any mall with or without friends, and won't next year or ever. There are much better things for any kid to be doing if they or their parents have any imagination. A fun shopping trip for a short time with age-appropriate adult supervision (and it does not have to mean standing right next to them) is fine, but hours of just roaming as a pack is begging for trouble.

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answers from Houston on

The mall policy is there to protect themselves. So, do not rely on the age they set. They may set it at age 29 in order to free themselves of any potential liability.

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answers from Columbia on

I'm not an overbearing, overprotective parent. Atlanta is a dangerous city and common sense dictates that you don't just drop your daughter off at that age.

I live in a much smaller, safer city. There are about 50,000 people here and not much violent crime. I wouldn't have a problem with dropping my kids off at the mall or theater and then picking them up after.

But not in Atlanta.

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answers from New London on

You are not going overboard. It sounds like the other parents let their kids go and do not call the other parent to see if the children are being supervised.
Good for you for being there for your child. It only takes one second for something to go wrong.

I would follow up w/ what BK said and call the mall management and see what mall's policy is.

I worked at a few malls when I was a teen. The bad things that happened at the malls were never put in the local newspapers. One night, a woman walked out of the mall and something awful happened. The incident was never written about.

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answers from Honolulu on

I would not.
And it depends on the area you live in.

Some parents may feel proud of the fact that they allow their even younger kids, to go out without supervision. And they like to tell people that.
But, I have seen many many kids, that age and older... who are by themselves, or among their friends alone at a mall without supervision and they really are not the angels their parents think they are. I also see them, NOT staying at the mall... but crossing the streets to other places. When I was a kid that age... MANY MANY MANY of the kids, after they got dropped off AT the mall... then would, spit up, go to other places or walk around the neighborhoods or at the other areas around... the mall. They do not stay, IN the mall. BUT... at pick up time, the kids return to the mall and go to the exact spot where they are supposed to be picked up by their parent. And then, the parents think they were angels. Who only stayed IN the mall. Of course they don't tell their parents they wandered around. AND some of them, if there were boy and girl mixed groups of friends at the mall... "couples" would split up and then go behind some building and make out and grope each other. The other friends knew. The parents did not.

C'mom. This happens all the time.
I see it myself. I know some of these kids, they get all embarrassed when they see me, because, they are not being the "angels" their parents think they are. And they are roaming around, where they are not supposed to be. I know that. Oh but their parents beam about how mature and smart and good their kids, are. But they do not "see" their kids at the mall with their friends. Because, they are not, there to see anything.

But some do still prefer to supervise their kids and their friends.
Then again, some parents like to say that their kids go anywhere they want without supervision and they are being so independent and they are proud. They say their child is so mature and independent and smart and all those good things. But this has nothing to do with being supervised or unsupervised. Even smart mature independent kids may drink/steal/get convinced of things or get carried away with things.

It does not just depend on the "maturity" of the child.

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answers from Kansas City on

Depends on a lot of factors:
Mall policy
Maturity of the child
Day & time
Perceived safety of the area

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