I learned two things this week. One, dropping kids off at Disneyland without adult supervision is apparently a thing, and second, until a new admission policy was established earlier this week there was not a minimum age for said unsupervised children in the parks (the new ruling is for the Anaheim parks of Disneyland and California Adventure, the Walt Disney World Parks already have a similar rule in place).
The news has been the subject of much debate here in the Los Angeles area, where some local parents (according to an article in the L.A. Times and NPR’s Airtalk) believe recent events in our society necessitate stricter guidelines on child supervision and perceived safety, while others feel that the Disneyland Resort is an annual pass of relatively affordable daycare for their tweens during school breaks and summer vacation. Some claim that long, unsupervised summers at Disneyland are a rite of passage—they did it, and their kids should have the same opportunity. After all, there are few places in this country that provide child safety as well as Disneyland, and as long as the kids are behaving and buying the occasional churro, what’s the big deal?
The other issue raised by many people, myself included, is that meandering groups of middle schoolers, regardless of how well they were raised, have a tendency to go full Lord of the Flies when left to the spoils of jumbo turkey legs and endless turns on Space Mountain. It happens, and it isn’t a reflection on their parents, schools, or upbringing so much as the fact that candy shops get slippery when coated with hormones, freedom, and sunscreen. At what point does the fun of one group impede upon that of another (where “another” equals the people in the park that are supervising their children)?
After all, everyone in the park is a paid guest, and they are all entitled to enjoy the magic of Disney to the fullest, but should the enjoyment of some rank more than others? Popular opinion appears to be split.
As I stated before, few places are as well-equipped to provide for a child’s safety, environmentally speaking, as Disneyland, but the concept of said safety in a public place is built upon the presence of adults who assume a certain level of responsibility in that regard. Is it fair to Disney cast members or other adults in the park to place the burden of unsupervised children upon them? Is it even necessary?
Why did Disney pick 14 as the age when children are able to attend Disneyland and California Adventure without supervision? Don’t the same arguments about pack mentality and unchecked hormones rage well into the teens (and further)? Is a child any safer at 15 than they were the year before? I don’t know. However, having stood in line behind unsupervised tweens and teens on several occasions I’m kind of leaning toward a minimum age without supervision being set somewhere in the mid-thirties.
The American Red Cross recommends that a babysitter be at least 14, which implies that someone smarter than me believes that kids that age are capable of rational and responsible thought. Also, 14 is the age that most kids start high school, and being excluded from peer activities is tough enough without the law of the (Disney)land adding to it. Whether or not either of those factors played into the decision I don’t know, but 14 seems as good of an age as any to embrace a bit of freedom, and Disneyland is a great place for it.
What age do you think is appropriate for kids to visit Disneyland Resort without an adult?
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).