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kids at conventions

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I spent last weekend at a convention of the parlor game industry (card games, board games, etc.) helping some friends market their games. One of the things we were doing was running a room where people could play our games--"try before you buy" or an opportunity to meet other fans of a favorite game. Mostly it was great fun!

However, we had some problems with kids in our game room. These particular games, while designed by and for adults, are attractive to and playable by kids as young as 6, and we try to give kids the same friendly treatment as adults in terms of explaining our games, suggesting one that the individual might like, and teaching the rules. MOST of the kids who came in were fine, but there were a few obnoxious ones, and naturally those were the ones who kept coming back, running around the room, trying to pull people out of other games to get enough players for the one they wanted, whining when adults didn't let them win, being overly noisy, etc.

Most disturbing, and totally unexpected by us, was that kids 8-12 years old would turn up for the MIDNIGHT games UNACCOMPANIED and stay as late as 5 a.m. without parents coming to check on them! They came liberally supplied with sugary caffeinated snacks and were very hyper. Nothing terrible happened--no injuries, no major throwing of objects, no total freak-outs (but a couple of exhausted frustrated sobbers), no flagrant defiance of the staff. That's why we didn't take any action about this during the 3 nights. But in our wrap-up meeting, we found that the whole staff was really thrown by this situation and unsure how to handle it. Our #1 conclusion was that we needed to ask the convention organizers how to handle unaccompanied children after hours. We certainly want to avoid liability problems, but more than that, we are concerned about what these kids are doing running around alone after hours, and we want to be sure they're safe when they leave our room.

One couple, tho, who'd become enamored of our company during the con and were attending our meeting with plans to volunteer with us next year, were upset that we'd question the kids' freedom. Their argument seemed to be that "everybody" lets their kids run around at cons, therefore it was rude and prejudiced of us to object. Their example was a recent church con they attended, at which their 14yo stayed up all night every night wandering the hotel with other young teens and having a wholesome good time, while her parents slept peacefully in their room. They said of course they wouldn't let her wander around the STREETS like that, but "a con is a safe atmosphere" and they trust their kid to behave appropriately.

This was a convention of 10,000 attendees, held in an enormous convention center with a confusing layout, attached to a high-rise hotel with the connection between the two running alongside the very active hotel bar, located on the border between downtown and a warehouse district. It is true that the general vibe of the attendees was peaceful and affable, but late at night most of the building was very empty....

Are we childless and young-child-parenting folks off-base in about this?!
post #2 of 4
Sorry I totally disagree with them. While yes some parents do let their kids run allover at all hours, that doesn't make it right. I'm not sure if you heard of this case, but a few years ago a little girl was raped and murdered in a Nevada (not Las Vegas) casino after hours when she was allowed to play in the video game room. Her father was gambling and not watching her. She was about 8 if I believe. We were horrified that this father tried to blame the casino for what happened. This occurred after midnight, why this father would allow a young child to be wandering alone is beyond me. It is not anyone elses (unless they are paid or volunteer) job to babysit or watch someones child.

I would never allow my child to run around a convention or hotel all night alone or with other kids. What are these people thinking??? If it was me I would have a no unaccompanied minors rule for the game room.
post #3 of 4
sci-fi and gaming and anime cons often have kids like that...it's usually a pretty closed environment (i.e badge checking in con areas). I'd make behavior standards and leave the parenting (or lack of) to the parents.
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
We thought about a "no unaccompanied minors" rule, but many kids of 16 and 17 were there and not posing any problems at all, and many younger kids who came in alone during the day (usually with parents attending something else in the same immediate area) were no problem. We don't want to discourage them from attending, nor do we want to give an "unfriendly to children" impression.

Clarity, of course we need to have behavior standards (which apply to adults as well as children) but the problem is enforcement. When an adult misbehaves, we can throw them out and assume they'll be okay. If we kick out a child (or, for that matter, whenever a child leaves our room alone late at night) we are concerned that he/she will get lost or harmed on the way back to the hotel. The majority of attendees were staying in hotels not connected to the convention center (meaning they had to go out onto downtown streets) and the connected hotel had a lot of non-con guests (hardly a closed environment) and a bar full of drunken revelers. True, it's not our legal responsibility to get those kids "home" safely...but we'd feel terrible if anything happened to a kid we'd kicked out. What would you suggest we do when we want a kid to leave?

Arduinna, I read a long article about an 8yo girl raped and murdered in a Nevada casino, and perhaps it was a different case than the one you're talking about, but this girl was abducted when she went to the restroom alone (killers had climbed in thru a window) and her dad let her go alone because there were no female adults in their party and he thought 8 was too old to go into the men's room. I think it was reasonable to expect that she was likely to be safe. In the situation as you describe it, however, while one can EXPECT that casino security and the relatively low odds of child murder will prevent such a thing from happening, that doesn't excuse the father from properly supervising his child. It's neither his nor the casino's fault this happened--it's a freak accident--but plenty of less serious things can happen to an 8yo left unattended in a video game room: harrassment by older kids or intoxicated adults, getting lost, falling down and getting hurt, theft of her money...none of these is life-shattering, but they'd be less devastating and less likely to happen at all with parents present.

I don't at all mean to suggest that parents of preteens need to keep them within sight at every single second in every type of public place. I just think it is foolish to think kids are more protected in an environment restricted to people who bought con badges, or in an indoor space, or among people who share one of your interests, than they are on the street. Maybe at a very small convention (like a few hundred, not 10,000) in a hotel with no other guests, you could trust "the village" to care for your child, but in a big con that's implausible.

MrBecca and I decided on the way home that this convention center was analogous to an airport: We might leave a preteen with strict orders to stay within one small area until we returned within no more than an hour, we might allow her to go alone to some specified location and return to us within no more than an hour, but we surely wouldn't go to sleep in our hotel room and allow her to wander the airport alone all night! We wouldn't be ABLE to sleep!

I guess that's the aspect of it that we understand least: These kids indicated that their parents were not playing games in some other room; they were asleep in the hotel, allowing the kids to come back whenever they got tired. : Most parents don't let their PRETEENS stay out at the mall, in the park, etc., after parents have gone to bed, so they must be thinking this situation is different, but I don't see how.
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