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Parenting in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Adrienne's eMailbox September 27, 2000

I did get quite a bit of e-mail about my recent park safety column, which I'll share with you today:

Adrienne's eMailbox for 9/27/00:

A reader writes:

Love your column and the site but I do have one minor gripe with regards to Kathy Fackler. Every story I've read about the accident involving her son states the same fact: her son stepped out of the big thunder train BEFORE it came to a complete stop.

Usually, when the lap bar goes up, that's your sign to disembark.If this is true, thenthe park is not to blame. Of course, when you get angryand upset, you want to pin the blame onsomeone and whobetter than corporateAmerica. 

Look, what happened is terrible but we need to control our kids better. This wasn't some 2 year old who didn't know better.

I realize that people have mixed feelings about Kathy Fackler. Setting aside personal opinions about her son's accident, I do feel that she offers very helpful safety tips for taking children to theme parks. 

My purpose in linking to her was not to debate the merits of her particular situation but to provide this very useful information.

A reader writes:

I enjoy your columns and was reading your new one today about safety in the parks. You mentioned that children under 7 must ride with an adult. I have noticed that the signs at the rides have recently changed to "Younger children should be accompanied by an adult". Does that mean it is now up to the parent and not a "rule" to be enforced by cast members?

And what does "younger" mean? A 3 year-old is "younger" than a 5 year-old. Does that make the 5 year-old sibling look old enough to ride alone? Also, "should" does not mean "must". Could a very young child get on a ride alone according to  the new signage? 

When I noticed these signs I wondered if Disneyland was trying to get out of making the age decision or if it was encouraging parents to possibly up the age of a child who should perhaps ride with a parent. 

Personally, I think it leaves the door open to more children riding alone rather than offering a stricter guideline for age. Have you noticed the signs and what are your thoughts on this?

Along these lines, I also received the following e-mail from a well placed individual:

One small note, you mentioned that the park requires children under 7 to be accompanied by an adult on rides. This has actually been changed. If you look at all the signage in Fantasyland you'll notice that it now says "Young Children should be Accompanied by an Adult". 

This change was made to place the responsibility on the parents to decide whether their child should be accompanied on a ride. The problem with the old policy was that the Park was taking the responsibility unto itself by saying that a 7 year old would be safe alone. Of course that all depends on the 7 year old. So now its up to the parents - the way it should be.

I can't decide how I feel about this change. This does not affect me personally because I don't accompany my son on rides just because a sign tells me to. I do it because that is what I believe I should do as a responsible parent.

Some people are absolutely unbelievable. Under the old policy, when a small child came through the line alone, the cast members [CMs] could ask the child's age and then direct children under 7 to "Go get Mommy or Daddy." My dumb- founded reaction to this information was: "You mean that parents send children that young in line alone??? How often does this happen?" The response I received from an experienced attractions CM was "All the time."

So yes, with this new policy, it is up to the parents, there is no rule or regulation against young children riding alone. CMs are no longer trained to keep children without adult supervision off of rides! Yes, young children can go on rides alone according to this new signage. And your second theory is correct, Disneyland does not want to "cap" the age at which children should be accompanied on rides.

In my opinion, there are two groups who will suffer most for this policy, the first is the children who are cursed with irresponsible parents. There are far too many children whose parents would and do let them ride unsupervised. (Based on the emails I receive, I highly doubt any of them are reading my columns!) The second group is the Cast Members (CMs). If a child rides alone and gets hurt will the CMs become the scapegoats for such incidents?

I know that if I were a CM, I would tell young children that they should go get an adult to ride the attraction. If a parent questioned me, I'd point to the sign and say: "Young children should be accompanied by an adult." But then, I'm also a former teacher who has been known to stop and speak to unsupervised, misbehaving children at Disneyland and in shopping malls. My husband and friends can confirm this.

I'd like to hear from other CMs. I'm not interested in starting a debate or forum for disgruntled employees. But I'm interested in hearing how this new policy is affecting daily operating guidelines on attractions. Do you see young children riding unaccompanied? How do you handle these situations?
Adrienne's eMailbox

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