As a kid, growing up and heading to the theme park was practically a right of passage. For me, it started in eighth grade when our graduation field trip was to Six Flags Great America. It continued throughout high school. Youth group trips, scout trips, trips with my friend Jeff's family, then later with a bunch of my friends every summer after I got my license. All these trips had one thing in common, no real hands-on chaperone. The teens and tweens heading to Worlds of Fun this year, however, won't get that chance.

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After a series of fights involving juveniles at Worlds Of Fun on their opening weekend, the theme park has implemented a chaperone policy requiring teens and kids 15 years of age or under to be accompanied by someone 21 or older after 4:00 PM.

The policy strikes me as odd. As a middle-aged man without kids, I'm left to wonder. Is the park's problem with unsupervised juveniles really with young teenagers and tweens? Is 16 years old, really the magic age where teenagers will act with respect and decorum? Is 4:00 PM really the magic time when tweens and young teens turn into obnoxious twerps?

Cause the way I see it, you can have plenty of problems with 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, and even those teenagers the law says are adults. I mean, yeah, junior high-age kids can be rambunctious and snotty. Yet, older teens don't become perfect ladies and gentlemen. Between trying to find themselves, pushing boundaries, and exploring some freedoms they can be downright nasty.

We don't know what age the teenagers were who caused the problems at Worlds of Fun opening weekend. News reports are calling them teenagers or juveniles, which would indicate they're probably 17 years of age or younger since Missouri law raised the age of being charged as an adult to 18 years old back in 2021 according to KY3.

I think the theme park settled on "15 and under" and "4:00 PM" to limit the number of unsupervised teenagers roaming around as day turns to night. I think they also might have chosen 15 as the cut-off age for a couple of reasons. One, 16-year-olds can drive. Two, there probably aren't a lot of teens 15 or younger who are really going to be hanging around the park into the evening hours anyway. Of course, this is just my speculation.

It's actually not a bad compromise. Before we could drive, when we went with the scouts, or the school, or a youth group, we were probably wrapping up the day around 4:00 PM. Even when I went as part of a family, I don't remember ever actually staying much later than 6:00 or 7:00 PM.

Of course, that's my experience, and we lived about an hour away from the theme park. I've met folks who grew up a lot closer to the park who reminisce about their parents buying them season passes and using the park as a babysitter over the summer. The chaperone policy might be designed to address this practice too.

Not to mention, teens, when they reach 16 can have the full un-chaperoned teenage theme park experience, just a little later than I did.

I'm bummed some unruly, disrespectful, teens messed it up for all. Because going forward, it's going to be a little harder to be a teen at Worlds of Fun. Then again, it seems it's just plain harder to be a teenager today.

You can learn more about Worlds of Fun's chaperone policy on their website here.

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