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12 year old at a sleepover – what a crazy idea!

When I finally heard back from the parents of my son’s friends, here’s what they said:

  • “12 is way too young for sleepovers.”
  • “We have a strict no sleepover rule for everyone in the house until they turn 16.”
  • “I don’t allow my kid to go to the city, so he can’t come.” (The city? I live in Portland, so yeah it’s a city I suppose. Sorry it’s not the burbs).
  • “Will there be junk food and movies?” to which I said, probably, it’s a sleepover, to which the parent said, “I don’t agree with junk food or movies, so no.”

At Cedar’s previous sleepovers we’ve had a packed house. This year, we had THREE kids, counting Cedar. Besides the two who slept over, another mom did let her son come over, but only for 3 hours, because she had a strict home by dark rule. She also gave me a laundry list of rules before she’d let her son come, including stuff like no scary movies and no video games over E. I didn’t ever bring up the fact that I was planning on sending the kids outside to play, because my gut told me no way would this mom be on board with shenanigans like that. Not having experienced parents like this much before, this sleepover issue was depressing, both to me and my son. I thought, maybe my son’s just fallen in with a strange crowd of friends with overprotective parents. Not all parents frown on sleepovers nowadays, right? Wrong.

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The many alleged ‘evils’ of sleepovers

The Education.com article proclaiming the many hazards of sleepovers has since been removed, maybe due to backlash from free range parents, but it’s not unique. After my recent sleepover experience, I looked up “childhood sleepovers” online and found that many parents don’t allow sleepovers. How come?

  • One parent says, a home may have “Pornography, internet access, cable TV, pin-ups, violent games, loaded guns, fireworks or uncovered swimming pools.” My personal favorite fear from this parent was,  “Even something as simple as a dartboard can be dangerous to kids that are not aware of its dangers.” Pin-ups? Is this the 60s? On a side note I also don’t hand kids guns at the door.
  • Another writer who is really freaked out about sleepovers notes, “Sexual experimentation can occur at sleepovers… sleepovers are a prime opportunity for a child molester to engage in child abuse” and she notes a dad might drug your daughter then molest her.
  • Parents will most likely go to bed, leaving the kids all alone, at which point major mischief will occur and/or it sets kids up for child abuse via the other kids.
  • Your child may eat refined sugar or other junk food.
  • The sleepover kids will sneak out of the house and drink or do drugs.
  • Another problem is that, “Plans cooked up by children alone can often turn into recipes for disaster.” I like how this point further indicates how stupid people think their kids are. Kids do have brains. Raise them to use them, you know?
  • “Sleepovers are difficult to regulate and can easily get out of hand… issues like vandalism and sexual assault may occur.” Sigh.

I found dozens of articles like the ones above and apparently more and more parents are enacting strict no sleepover rules, probably because they’re reading these articles is my guess.

sleepover dangers, sleepovers, sleepover benefits, slumber party dangers, slumber parties, dangerous sleepovers, dangerous slumber party, childhood dangers, social skills, child independence
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What really happens at sleepovers

“At Kayla Hereford’s slumber party in Campbell, Calif., Katie Johnson committed a classic error. She fell asleep, making her easy prey. And so she paid the price: She awoke rolled in toilet paper.”

The above is from an awesome pro-sleepover article I found and it sums up my thoughts. Once, in a very great while you’ll see something on the news that proves yes, bad things have happened at sleepovers. However, be rational. You know schools are toxic, teachers have abused kids and peers bully right? So, are you going to homeschool? Kids die in car accidents DAILY so are you only taking the bus from now on? I don’t think the one in a million chance of something bad happening is a good reason to just say no to sleepovers. Most sleepovers are fun, not hazardous. Personally, I don’t hand out crack, porn or even dartboards at my son’s sleepovers. Mostly what the kids are doing at my house is hanging out playing video games, watching movies, building inventions, playing basketball outside, playing zombie board games, going on scooter or skateboard rides and getting into debates about the merits of the latest video game medals. Scary stuff. When my partner’s teen daughters have sleepovers, it’s much the same, minus the basketball and scooters. A lot of movie time, makeup, some junk food and staying up late.

Yes, I give the kids homemade pizza and sometimes other “junk food” but I also leave out a tray of organic fruits and veggies. Yes, I go to bed before the kids, because if you think my idea of a fun Saturday night is listening to 6 tween boys talk about butts, video games and farts, you’d be sadly mistaken. I leave my door open though and tell my son, “Get me if there’s an emergency – otherwise have fun and let me sleep.” And yes, I even let them go outside without me and watch scary movies. It’s not a big deal. I went to sleepovers as a kid. My girlfriends and me would sneak out (gasp) and go walk around the neighborhood at night, mostly to chat about the boys we liked (oh no). We freaked ourselves out with scary movies and ate a fair amount of candy too. Sometimes we’d even sleep outside, in the backyard. We survived and those slumber parties are some of my fondest memories.

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Common sense not fear

The worst thing about the anti-sleepover articles is how parents imply that pro-sleepover parents maybe just don’t love their kids. You don’t know how many times I’ve read, “If YOU want to let your kid go to sleepovers fine, but I just love my kid too much to do that.” Are you kidding me? I’m going to turn that around and say if YOU love your kids, give them an ounce of freedom. Sleepovers have awesome benefits like encouraging social skills and independence, teaching your kid to manage when he moves out and goes to college (if you let him I guess), and are fun. Plus, don’t underestimate a little free time for parents. If kids are at your house, they ignore you, which rocks, giving you time to read or relax. If your child is at another kid’s house you might actually get a date night. Parents and kids shackled to each other 24/7 is a recipe for disaster – some independence is healthy.

I get it, parents today are terrified because unlike when we were kids the bad things that happen today are plastered all over the news. But common sense will go a long way. When you take your kid to a sleepover, go inside and talk to the parents a little. Do they seem crazy? Are kids drinking beer when you arrive? Well, don’t leave your kid there. Has your kid told you something weird about another house? Don’t let your kid go there anymore. In fact, this happened to me. One of my son’s friend’s parents thinks it’s a-ok to smoke pot in front of kids. My son told me, and since I don’t think that’s ok my son doesn’t go there anymore. But I don’t think ALL parents smoke pot now. One bad apple does not mean all parents are bad. Most parents are like you. They want kids to be safe and happy. Just use common sense and it’ll be fine. If you need some help, read this really great common sense guide or the sleepover survival guide.

What do you think? Are sleepovers really that dangerous? Let us know in the comments.

+ You’d Let Your Kids Go on a SLEEPOVER?! Isn’t That Like a Death Wish?