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Teens banned from shopping alone on Black Friday at Mall of America

Mall of America

Do you drop your kids off at the mall for a little post Turkey Day shopping or take them with you but let them go off on their own to browse the holiday sales?

If you shop at the Mall of America, the nation’s largest mall, you won’t be able to do that this year during peak holiday shopping times if your children are 15 or younger.

After a chair-throwing meleeinvolving unruly young people during Christmas week last year, the Bloomington, Minn., mall is extending its parental escort policy this year, the Pioneer Press reported this week.

The policy, which requires kids under 16 to be accompanied by someone 21 or older on Fridays and Saturdays after 4 p.m., will be in effect during mall hours on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and from the day after Christmas until New Year’s Eve. The mall has had the weekend policy since 1996.

The chair-throwing incident, which was caught on video and posted online, wasn’t the primary reason for cracking down on unaccompanied young shoppers, said Dan Jasper, the mall’s vice president of public relations, who cited a record number of shoppers last year on Black Friday.

“We had never opened at midnight on Black Friday prior to last year,” he told TODAY Moms. “We had 217,000 people that day, including some unaccompanied kids who are 14, 15. Just for the safety of everyone, we expanded the policy.”

“The reason behind it is to make sure this is a safe environment,” he said.

While some who weighed in on the TODAY MOMS Facebook page supported the move, others said it was wrong to keep well-behaved young teens from shopping without a grownup.

I think it is unfair to all teens to be treated the same as they are not,” wrote Judie Beford. “There are a lot of good ones and I am proud of them.”

“Not all teens are disrespectful and troublemakers like these kids clearly are,” Pamela Chapman wrote. “In fact, it's been my experience that most are good kids.”

Irene Miscia Martin suggested the mall beef up its security. “Don't make one bad apple spoil it for all the good ones,” she wrote. “We have wonderful teens in our family that love to shop and that would be just wrong.”

Some thought the extended ban on younger kids shopping alone or with friends could hurt sales.

“I think they will be hurting themselves because the thousands of well behaved teens still need presents for their family members,” wrote Jessica Brown.

But Jasper said the policy has helped sales, by encouraging families to shop together.

“Retailers love the policy,” he said. “When we first implemented it, there were concerns that sales would drop. But sales increased following the implementation and remain strong. It encourages more families to come out with their kids and sales went up.”

At a meeting a month ago to discuss holiday shopping, Jasper said the policy was discussed.  “Every single tenant was thrilled because they know it’s a policy that keeps everyone safe and leads to increased sales,” he said.

The mall first started its policy after officials noticed that parents were leaving children as young as 10 at the megamall.

“Families were dropping off their kids and using Mall of America as a babysitter,” Jasper said. “That’s just not safe for everybody.”

Now, he said, the policy gets enforced a handful of times each weekend.