A dad I spoke with recently, we’ll call him Tony, is having trouble with his 14-year-old daughter, who we’ll call Sara. Sara wants to go to the Austin City Limits Music Festival this year with a gaggle of her 14-year-old friends. If you are unfamiliar with the ACL festival, it is a three day, outside concert with several stages and lots and lots and lots of people (see above picture, taken at the 2004 festival). Also, cell phones often don’t work because of the crush of people trying to use them. It’s fabulous fun if great, live music is your thing.

Tony feels Sara is too young to go without adult supervision. His primary concern is that there will be drugs at the festival (he is, of course, correct), and he doesn’t want Sara exposed to drug use. Sara pointed out that she has seen people using drugs before (primarily smoking marijuana), and has no interest in doing them herself. Tony and Sara’s tentative agreement is that she can go with her friends for one day. When Tony made that agreement he was not aware that Sara’s cell phone might not work at the festival.

But it is totally appropriate for Tony to put his foot down on this one. Sara is getting close to an age when she can go to the ACL festival with a gaggle of girls and no supervision. But she’s not there yet. Fourteen-year-old girls need a chaperon at an event this big and unruly. They don’t need a constant chaperon – but one of the parents (or a particularly cool aunt or uncle) who would enjoy going to the festival anyway needs to be on-site. The girls need to check-in with that adult at specified times and places. This gives the girls the most freedom at the least trouble. There are too many contingencies where then girls would benefit from an adult being available – including just getting tired and wanting to go home before they thought they would. In two more years, one of the girls could drive the whole group, and by then they’ll be old enough to go without any supervision.