Parents on Kids: Pierced Ears, Sure; But a Late Night Out – Not So Fast

Question: Mom, Dad, can I have a credit card?

Answer: Nope.

Nor, for most parents, can a teen-ager have a glass of beer at a family event, attend an unsupervised party, or, if a girl, stay out past 11 p.m.

Click here for a PDF with charts and questionnaire.

So much for rampant permissiveness. Instead this ABC News/Good Morning America Weekend poll finds significant parental constraints on children's activities. Four in 10, for instance, rule out social networking websites and unsupervised use of the Internet. A quarter forbid the pre-technology sport of hanging out at the mall. And for those who do see these and other activities as appropriate for teens, the starting age is the mid-teens, generally 15 or 16 years old.

There's at least one activity, though, that gets a break: Just 10 percent rule out a girl getting her ears pierced, and those who allow it say on average that it's OK at the tender age of 9.

There's good reason most other activities, when permitted, are seen as appropriate only starting in the mid-teens: Fifteen is the average age at which parents say childhood ends and young adulthood begins. Then again, more than a third say childhood continues right up through age 17 – and they're the parents who are much more apt to restrict kids' activities.

In addition to checking views on activities by children, this poll also examined two things parents may initiate: talking with their children about sex and about family financial problems. Finances, perhaps surprisingly, are more sensitive: Twenty-six percent of parents rule out such a talk entirely; however, the rest say the average appropriate age is a fairly young 13. Very few, 5 percent, rule out the talk about sex; the average age is 13 for a boy, 12 for a girl.

This survey supports a series of special reports on parenting, "How Young is Too Young?," airing on ABC's Good Morning America weekend programs starting this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20 and 21.

NO-NOs – There's broadest agreement on three of the 16 activities tested: Seventy-six percent of parents say it's never appropriate for someone under age 18 to have a glass of beer or wine at a family meal or special event. Seventy-one percent rule out giving kids a credit card, even one that has a restricted balance and is linked to a parent's account. And about as many, 69 percent, say it's never OK for a minor to attend a party where there are no adults supervising.

A bit farther down the list, but still fairly widely rejected, are staying out past 11 p.m.; 54 percent say this is never acceptable for a girl, 49 percent for a boy. (There's also a single-digit double-standard on unsupervised dating, ruled out by 28 percent in the case of girls, 22 percent in the case of boys.) Forty-three percent of parents rule out social networking accounts and 37 percent turn thumbs down on any unsupervised use of the Internet. Thirty-six percent say it's never OK for a child to see an R-rated movie even with a parent.

Lower on the list of outlaw activities are hanging out unsupervised at the mall (27 percent of parents say that's not appropriate for any minor); girls wearing make-up regularly (16 percent); having a cell phone (14 percent); walking or biking unsupervised outside the neighborhood (11 percent); ear piercing (10 percent); and having a part-time job (6 percent).

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