This is part of the Youth Rights 101 series. Please check out Youth Rights 101: Introduction for the rest of the series and more information.

Aren’t curfew laws necessary to keep kids safe and out of trouble? Should kids really be out so late?

The real question is, should anyone be out so late, of any age? Why is it so questionable for 16-year-olds to be outside late at night, that some cities and counties have set youth curfew laws legally requiring them to stay home during certain hours, while 36-year-olds outside late are presumed innocent?

Some claim curfews are to keep youth safe from dangerous city streets, yet the 36-year-old, who is no safer on those streets, need not fear arrest for such “self-endangerment”.

Curfews don’t make cities safer and, when enacted for that supposed purpose, are an admission that the city is unsafe and its officials don’t care to do anything real about it. You don’t keep people safe by treating them like the criminals. Using curfews for this reason is to say that, if a teen is attacked late at night, it was her own fault because she “shouldn’t have been out”. This is victim blaming!

If curfews are the answer to an out of control crime problem, wasting already-insufficient police resources on innocent teens only gives real criminals of any age less chance of being caught! So it is unsurprising that, even though many cities still look to curfews for crime reduction, curfews have shown to be useless in that area!

Some have claimed curfews help parents enforce their own curfews, yet this forgets that not all parents want this “help” (especially since some curfews punish parents whose kids violate it), that law enforcement should not get involved in a simple matter of household rules. And even so, it is up to the teens themselves when to be out, not the parents, and certainly not the government.

For something so simple as the right to move around, to go outside your house, why is this simple right for youth so often denied in many places and in jeopardy in others? Why doesn’t “innocent until proven guilty” apply to teenagers? It comes down to, as with most or all anti-youth policies, seeing youth as some “other” kind of people entirely, who aren’t as entitled to the rights and respect of the majority, and that what freedoms they do have can be sacrificed (without their consent as they’re too young to vote) to give the voting public the illusion of safety and therefore score political points for those in charge.

What do you think? What are some other ways youth are harmed when their ability to go outside is legally inhibited? Tell us in the comments!

See Also:
Curfew FAQ
Our Curfew page
Our Curfews and Status Offenses forum
Our Curfews blog posts and articles
Our Curfews papers and research
Alex Koroknay-Palicz’s Testimony Against the Montgomery County Curfew


  1. For this post I notice that you dropped using the word “youth” (which includes all young people) and instead use “teenagers” which only includes people 13-19.

    While this may not be the intent, it sends the message that only the free movement of those 13 and over is worthy of attention, or maybe support.

    But all of the arguments against curfews for teenagers you advanced apply equally to younger children.

    I can appreciate the impulse to want to play things safe and avoid raising people’s paternalistic impulses (though why disregarding paternalist desires is worth it for teen freedom and dignity and not for that of younger children further demands explanation). This however ultimately leads to an untenably inconsistent position as arbitrary as the pro-curfew position you argue against.

    But maybe I read too much into this and writing “teen” rather than “youth” was just an oversight, if so please do correct my mistaken assumption.

    On another point – I don’t know why you state as your initial question “The real question is, should anyone be out so late, of any age?” Thats not in my mind a worthwhile question in a non-totalitarian society. Many people just like being out at night, or their sleep patterns are such that it makes sense for them. It is really not our place to ask why anyone wants to be out late. Lots of people stay out all night for social reasons like parties or recreational reasons like star gazing or observing nocturnal insects or birds, or because they like running at night, or any number of other reasons.

  2. Curfews are bologna! No one except the criminals should bee banned from being outside. And why would anyone waste valuable police time catching innocent minors? Also, curfews aren’t just bad for teens but for any minor/youth. A ten year old has as much right to go outside as a tineteen year old, or a forty five yearold for that matter. Curfews are nothing but a newsence to both the minors and their parents.

  3. Let’s be real. Teens are vandalizing private property at alarmingly high rates. But our question should not be how we can stop them, but why they’re doing this in the first place. Rather than passing laws that criminalize a massive and diverse group, we need to find out what’s getting our country’s youth so angry–and “because they’re teens” is not a valid answer!

  4. A cop who busts a kid for curfew violation could be using his time to catch all the criminals that supposedly make going outside so dangerous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *