- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It’s 10 p.m. on a Friday and all that 15-year-old Sylvia Fallon wants to do is hang out with friends at the mall. But she’ll have to dodge security.

Easton Town Center, like many shopping centers nationwide, has a curfew for unchaperoned teens. Here, the witching hour is 9:30 p.m. At other malls, the curfew is as early as 6 p.m.

“I think it’s, like, annoying because what am I going to do anyway?” said Sylvia, striding briskly across the food court at 10:10 p.m., her eyes scanning the plaza for patrolling guards.

“We just try to go by really fast. If you don’t look them straight in the eye, it’s OK,” she said.

The mall, for many teens, is more than a place to spend money — it’s a place to see and be seen.

“Teens don’t really feel like there’s a lot of places for them. They don’t want to hang out at home. They can’t go to a bar or nightclub, obviously,” said Rob Callender of Teen Research Unlimited, a marketing research firm.

Some malls set curfews after fights broke out among teens; at other centers, it was a way to unclog the hallways for paying customers.

The International Council of Shopping Centers does not keep track of how many of the country’s 46,990 malls and shopping centers have curfews, but they are enforced at malls in Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

According to Teenage Research Unlimited, 68 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds spend time at the mall in any given week.

The Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis, the country’s largest retail and entertainment center, began its “parental escort policy” in 1996.

“They like to hang out in big groups, they like to see their friends, but then customers couldn’t walk through the hallways,” said Maureen Bausch, the mall’s vice president of business development.

Teens 15 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 or older after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. One adult can escort up to 10 children at once.

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