Curfews for Teenagers: How Late Should I Let Them Stay Out?

For teenagers, curfews are a necessary rule that protects them and makes them feel safe. But what's the right limit? We'll help you decide!
Curfews for Teenagers: How Late Should I Let Them Stay Out?
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 08 August, 2023

Adolescence is a complicated stage for parents. Children demand more and more independence and areas of conflict arise in which it is necessary to know how to negotiate with them. One of the most complex is that concerning curfews for teenagers: How late is it appropriate for them to go out with their friends and how can I make sure that my child will be okay?

The truth is that it’s not easy to find a balance between being too permissive and being too strict. On the one hand, it’s difficult for parents to understand that their child is growing up. On the other hand, if we offer too much freedom, this can make the child feel confused and disoriented. Even leading to bad decisions.

So, how do we address the issue? We’ll offer you some keys below.

 A group of teens taking a selfie outdoors.

Understand the moment you’re facing

Before making a decision regarding the arrival time of your son or daughter, it’s important to understand the stage you’re going through and what it may mean for each of you.

For a teenager, these years are crucial and are marked by changes, i.e., they seek to move towards adulthood without having stopped being children. They also want to build and express their own identity and the peer group becomes their main point of reference (Moral, 2004).

Therefore, it’s natural for them to demand independence, seek greater freedom and privacy, and gradually move away from parental supervision to share more with their peers.

However, for parents, it’s also a challenge to stop seeing their child as dependent and be willing to facilitate the way for them to go out into the world. Therefore, it’s normal for doubts to arise, not to know what’s the best decision, and even to feel fear in the process.

Curfews for teenagers are necessary

The first point to consider is that it’s necessary to establish an arrival time. Adolescents, even if they seem very mature (or so they want to appear) still need the guidance and orientation of their parents. The boundaries that parents set make them feel loved and safe.

Allowing your child total freedom in this regard would do them no good (Elias et al., 2014). In fact, according to a review published in the Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, the lack of parental boundaries can put adolescents in risky situations and make them feel disoriented about the best decisions to make.

Don’t be afraid to be strict by setting a rule, as this is a great act of love.

Freedom goes hand in hand with maturity

Deciding on the best curfews for teenagers isn’t simple, as there are several factors to consider. Age is one of them, and it’s likely to be around 13 or 14 years of age when your teenager begins to demand those outings alone with their friends.

It’s likely that, as they grow older, the time of arrival can be extended, but you have to consider that beyond age, what’s relevant is the maturity of the child.

Based on their own personality, the experiences lived, or the context in which they grow, a young person can be more or less mature, conscious, and responsible. And this should be taken into account.

For example, the degree to which they fulfill their school or household chores, the way they solve conflicts, or the type of decisions they’ve made so far, can give us an idea of their maturity.

Take into account the context when setting curfews for adolescents

Another essential point to consider is the context in which the adolescent moves. For example, do they live in a town, a neighborhood, or in the center of a big city? Do they want to go out close to home, to the mall, or do they need to take transportation to get where they’re going?

These factors are all important, as not all areas are equally safe or as accessible to parents if a problem occurs.

On the other hand, it’s one thing for your child to go out with those who’ve been their peers since childhood and another for them to go out with new friends that you don’t know. The influence exerted by the peer group can make an important difference in how these outings will be (Herrero, 2003). So, evaluate the data available to you to decide the best time to go home.

Negotiate and reach agreements

A good way to approach the issue is to start by explaining to your child the reasons why you’ll set a later arrival time. You can do this by asking them what they think is appropriate. It’s possible that their answer will match what you yourself had in mind. If it doesn’t, you can try to negotiate a compromise.

For example, you can ask them to introduce you to the friends they’re going out with or tell them that you’ll talk to the other kids’ parents to arrange a curfew. You can also explain that if they go out close to home, the curfew will be extended a little longer than if they go far away.

You can also tell them that on special occasions, it’ll be possible to lengthen the time limit a little, but on a day-to-day basis, the agreed curfew must be followed.

Establish consequences regarding curfews for teenagers

Setting a curfew for teenagers is only useful if it’s a rule that we ensure is followed. And to that end, as stated on the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, there must be an agreement and consequences for non-compliance that your child must know in advance.

For example, they must know that if they’re late one day, they’ll have to come home earlier the next day or won’t be allowed to go out at all. This consequence depends on what each parent thinks is best, but it’s important that it’s related to the offense committed.

A group celebrating friendship in adolescence.

How much supervision is necessary when setting a time limit for teens?

In addition to setting a curfew, you may be wondering how much supervision to exercise. Should I call my child to make sure they’re okay? Should I pick them up to come home? Again, the answer depends on the context and the maturity of the young person.

For example, if you know where they’ll be and with whom, and this situation produces trust, it wouldn’t be very positive for you to invade them with unnecessary calls. Likewise, if they’re coming home with their friends or neighbors, it may not be necessary to pick them up.

However, if your child is irresponsible, lies about their plans, or must return home alone from far away, you may want to increase supervision.

Final recommendations

These are the main things to consider when setting curfews for teenagers. You can use some guidelines. For example, a curfew of 9:30 for 14 or 15-year-olds and around 10:30 for 16-17-year-olds, but you’ll need to analyze the specific situation in order to make the best decision.

In any case, try to involve the young person in the decision, enforce the consequences, and try to maintain a united front with the other parent. And, above all, remember that this initial decision is always modifiable depending on how the adolescent complies and responds to what has been agreed upon.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.