Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not really hurting

Teenagers. They're always going around and doing, well, stuff. Some of that stuff is beneficial, as they have an energy and passion that can be unrivaled, when tapped into correctly. Some of that stuff is destructive, because that same energy and passion left unchecked can lead to negative results if not properly guided. Of course, teenagers tend to have a common gathering place outside of the schools. No, we're not talking about gas stations where they hope to find someone who will buy them cigarettes. We're talking about a different bastion of consumerism; the shopping mall.

Malls and teens have always enjoyed a tenuous relationship. On one hand, seemingly free money coupled with mass quantities of disposable goods seems like a match made in heaven. On the other, large gathering spaces without adequate supervision seems like a recipe for destruction. Many malls across the country have tried to accentuate the positive while curtailing the negative, enforcing curfews where teens need adult supervision after a certain time of day.

Take, for example, the Clearview Mall in Louisiana, which has started enforcing a "Parental Escort Policy". The terms of the policy state that anyone under 16 must be accompanied by someone who is at least 21, or they won't be allowed to stay in the mall. Of course, this wouldn't be America if the teens just sat down and accepted the policy. Instead, a group is planning a boycott of the mall itself, all due to the ruling.

We should point out quickly that the people that fall under such a policy are the ones who cannot drive themselves. Sure, mass transit may be one of the options, but, at least as far as Clearview Mall is concerned, gone are the days where parents drop their children off at the mall while Mommy and Daddy dash off to the casino for a night full of one-armed bandits and hot tub revelry (after all, why else would they try and dump the kids off knowing that they'll only spend their parents money?).

One of the students behind the boycott showed his generation's nimbleness, by posting a forum for the boycott on MySpace, but also their lack of information, by referring to the policy as a ban. Hate to break it to the kids, but a ban would say that nobody under 16 was allowed in the mall. Period. End of sentence. No chance for kids to come in with a drinking-age companion. They just wouldn't be allowed in. So, in all honesty, this really is a supervision policy.

The question is, will the boycott work? Sure, the mall has to be concerned about losing a potentially rich demographic, or at least one that spends freely because many of them aren't concerned with bills, rent, or child-support payments. The teens, on the other hand, will have to contend with finding a new place to loiter, possible (gasp!) even deciding to set new gathering areas in the outdoors, maybe in these new-fangled parks that we keep hearing about.

All we really know? The chances of there being a 7pm Hannah Montana concert at Clearview just got a lot slimmer.

No comments: