Young Boys Going into Public Bathrooms Alone...

shaunJanuary 25, 2008

Hi all -

I have an 11 yr old son. When we go out to the mall or someplace, if he has to use the bathroom, I used to take him into the ladies room with me when he was younger. But now that he's 11 yrs old, I feel like that isn't appropriate.

But I'm so worried about sending him into a men's room alone. I do it but I stand right there next to the door and wait for him.

It's so much easier when his dad is with us, then they both go in. But there are so many times that his dad isn't along and he has to go it alone.

I had a friend who's daughter (age 7) went into the bowling alley bathroom and was assaulted by a man who was in there so that really freaked me out and now I have this huge concern about letting my son be alone in a bathroom.

Does anyone else worry about things like this?

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Well, if I wasn't worried before, I will be now!

My boys are 10 and 7, and I always let them go to the men's room if they are together. Alone, it depends on where we are. I always stand right outside the door.

I don't worry about my older son, because he's in and out in about 20 seconds (I know, I know, he can't be washing his hands properly). But my younger son sometimes takes a looooong time to finish his business, and then I will open the door (without looking in) and ask if he is OK. He really hates when I do this! but since his other option is the ladies' room, he can't complain. I think that women might be upset if a guy was standing in the door of the ladies' room, but it doesn't seem like my standing there talking to my son ever bothers the men.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 11:09AM
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my guys are 8 and 10 and most places I just let them use the bathroom on their own. Their are certain places like the mall (usually the much bigger busier places) I will stand outside of the bathroom ... smaller places like a restaurant I will let them go on their own.. if things take to long then I go and check on them. On the other hand, in our area bigger places like the mall are doing the family bathroom settings ... mostly after there were a lot of complaints and press about fathers unable to take their daughters to the bathroom.. not wanting to expose them to a mens restroom and unable to take them into the womens and unable to go on their own. They are doing the family dressing rooms too I have noticed lately. Which, I happen to think is a really great idea.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 1:15PM
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Yes it is a concern.

I guess we have to educate them to be cautious, when they go into the bathroom. Its a delicate line, because we don't want to scare them, but a little talk about personal space, is a good place to start.

If I was worried enough, I would not hesitate to walk into the mens !! and see what was taking so long.

Its a shame there are so many undesirables around. Real shame.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 5:57PM
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My boys are 5 and 9 and I do not let them go into a mens room unless my dh is with us and can go in with them. I have always had jobs working with kids, first daycare and now elementary school/jr high teaching. With the elementary kids both day care and schools told us NOT to let kids in bathrooms unsupervised. We would clear out the womens restroom and let kids go in the stalls as we stood in the doorway asking the public to wait. The reason...there had been a few cases across the country of kids being harmed in bathrooms. There was one case where the woman was right outside the mens room door and some guy just killed her son and walked out. A few minutes later mom went in to check on what was taking son so long and he was dead.

With my own kids I obviously do not clear out public bathrooms, but my sons and daughters do not use a public restroom without my dh or I being right outside the stall. I would rather have a bunch of women making faces or comments at me than have my children harmed.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 7:37PM
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OMG! mom2emall Now I don't feel so bad about being so cautious!

What a shame.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 10:21PM
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I was going to mention that incident where the mom was outside (at a park bathroom) and the son was killed. I think his throat was cut so he couldn't yell. It was the most horrific thing I've ever heard and I would NEVER send a child into a public bathroom alone.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 12:22AM
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What makes you think that someone couldn't be hiding in a women's bathroom and slash both your throats when you walk in? Or that if your kid was 16 he'd be safe? I think if you worry yourself about these million to one things, you're not going to be able to let your kids live. Obviously, chances that your child will die in a car accident driving with you on the way to the store is probably like a 1000 times more. Or even him dying from physical complications that could arise due to him holding his pee or bowels because he doesn't want to have a women's restroom cleared out for him, are probably higher. Unless you're talking about some remote bathroom in an out of town rest stop area, I think an 11 year old is more than able to go to the restroom on his own. Just go over some of the basic bathroom safety/stranger stuff with him and use your best judgement when it comes to "public" bathrooms. But, never letting them go when out in public at that age seems a little too much to me. How do you handle it at a restaurant, etc?

What age do you plan to let your child go into bathrooms alone? 13, 18, 24? Do you think psychotic killers who are lurking are going to respect that age?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 12:14PM
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Carla, I found your post very rude. If I do not want my 5 and 9 year old alone in a mens bathroom because I am worried about their safety then so be it. Maybe I am overprotective, but oh well. Some parents are too underprotective and their children become victims.

I have had the stranger danger talks with them, but I just feel at their ages they are not safe in a mens bathroom. Neither of them object using a stall in the womens bathroom, they still have their privacy.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 1:22PM
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Carla, you may be right but I'd rather be safe than sorry.. tell it to the parent's of every murdered or missing child that didn't take precautions. There have been many abductions of children that were allowed to go to the restroom alone and while it may be a one in a million chance it will happen to MY kid, I wouldn't take that chance with my child's life. You may be willing to but so were the parents of the ones that have been victims. Someone is going to be that one in a million, it won't be mine.

and my daughter is 17, I still go with her to the restroom when we are out shopping if she asks me to. (sometimes she does if she's uncomfortable with where it is. That's what parents do... they are there for their kids whenever the kid needs them, regardless of age.)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2008 at 3:58PM
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I'm not talking about a 5 year old. I'm talking about an 11 year old. There's a huge difference. And, I don't think most parents whose children are abducted or murdered, should have to feel they are at fault by not taking precautions. Seriously, what makes you think these killers can't/don't hide out in women's room too and end up taking you both out? They're flukes -Nothing more. It could be the men's room one day and the women's room the next. How do you know which is safe? If you really want to be safe why not everyone stay out of all public restrooms? Why draw the lines at men's rooms or think they're safe just because you are there?

Being overprotective is fine; but realize what you need to be overprotective about. Play and know the odds and understand that you really can't plan or ever prepare for flukes. Do you have any idea how many kids have even been killed in a restroom by themeselves? Do you even know if the story you've heard circulated is even true.

I am curious, what do you guys do when you have an 11 year old in a restaurant (again, I am not talking about a 5 year old-- that's understandable not to let him go alone) or where ever who isn't allowed go to the restroom by himself? Does he just not go, do you go home, does he use the woman's room, what? Is he embarassed; how does he handle this if he is out with a friend and their family... like at a movie? Do you instruct other adults that take your kids out of your rules? What does the school personal do on field trips? What do you do at the swimming pool when the sexes have to enter through their own bathrooms (around here it's at age 6) and they generally don't make any exceptions. Does he just never get to go swimming? I am wondering, because serioulsy, I have never seen an 11 year old boy in the women's room around here. Is it the norm with people where you guys live?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 1:26AM
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At our Y the max age for girls in the men's room and boy's in the girl's room is 6. My 9yos are permitted to use the girls locker room alone when my husband takes them (only at the Y though, not at a Waterpark or something like that). However, even though I don't think he likes it very much, he takes our 4yo girl in the men's room.

There are separate locker rooms there though for men and women over the age of 18, adult locker rooms basically, as well as a family locker room, although that one doesn't have showers.

However, when the family locker rooms were shut down for remodeling, I saw quite a few older boys in the girls locker room with their mothers, and nobody complained.

For school field trips, I have gotten quite a few letters home stating the need for male volunteers to help in the restroom, so I guess the answer to school field trips is that no, the children don't use the restroom or locker rooms unsupervised.

I really think it's a matter of personal judgement. If you're not comfortable, take your child in with you. As far as these horrible incidents being flukes, I'm sure they were, but I'm also quite certain that all of the parents of these children ended up in some way holding themselves responsible for what happened...whether they were or not.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 9:07AM
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I think parents in these cases probably take more responsiblity than they should. I'm would bet if imammoma's 17 year old daughter was gunned down in the food court at the mall (which I would bet is a lot higher chance than the bathroom incidence), she would feel guity for letting her go to the mall that day, etc. And, I would bet there are lots of parents whose kids die in school setting shotings (again a lot bigger of a chance I would bet) that may feel guilty that they didn't home school or that they sent their kids to that specific school on that day, etc. But you can't have your kids live in a bubble.

Everything you do with your kid is a chance. If you let your kids drive in a car; go to school, cross the street, drink a soda (that "could" be tainted) or have a babysitter (even a relative), you are always taking a chance. I'm just saying that you need to realize what things are worth worrying about and which aren't, and understand what the odds are in order to make responsible decisions for your child.

I'm personally thinking 11 is pretty old for a boy to be using a lady's room unless it's in some remote strange area. I'm actually thinking his chance of being killed by a woman (who happens to have a gun) and freaks out by seeing him in the women's room may be higher than him being murdered in the guy's room. Or what about having to deal with a crazy woman with a case of road/ bathroom /rage over having to wait her turn for an 11 boy to use the girl's room? If you're going to be that overprotective, you need to think of the possible problems and bad situations you could be putting your child in too.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 12:15PM
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Oh for heavens sakes Carla! Relax. I don't take my 11 yr old in the womens room anymore. And he does go into the men's room alone. Re-read my post! My goodness.

Oh and by the way, enjoy your artichokes, they're good til Sept 2011.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 3:02PM
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"I'm just saying that you need to realize what things are worth worrying about and which aren't"

I feel that the bathroom incident is worth worrying about. And yes, they are true. In 1998 there was a 9 year old boy in California who had his throat slit and died in a public bathroom by a 19 year old who thought god told him to go on a killing rampage. A seven year old girl was raped an murdered in a Nevada bathroom right around that same time.

I agree that we can not protect our children from everything, but a dying in a public bathroom I can save them from. Why chance it?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 11:14PM
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Good point Mom2emall.

There does come a point, perhaps around 11, that the child will need to go into the toilet on their own. At that stage, they need to be very aware of any danger signs.

Its a gradual process of letting them control their own lives.

Parents can do their best, but we can't always protect them from the evils in the world.

A while back I had to go to the loo in a McD, and was shocked to walk into a bathroom with those blue lights. It was very confronting, and I was nervous. There was a sign there saying how they had to have these lights because it was hard for drug users to see the veins in their arms. I hated thinking that drugs users would do that in a family restaurant, but it must have been an issue for that one ! Put me right of my junk food !


    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 1:20AM
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The boy that had his throat cut was from my community. There were also three incidents of young girls disappearing, one from a farmer's market when her parents let her go to a port a potty alone. They found two of the girls' bodies later, one has never been found (to my knowledge) They were between 8-11. Those are local cases to me and I stand by what I said.

And Carla, I let my kids drive and they take precautions. My son won't drive if the weather is very bad. My other son was struck by a car in a crosswalk. I don't discourage him from walking in crosswalks, I urge him to be careful but the driver wasn't paying attention. Thank God he was okay. If one of my kids were hurt by a random shooting incident, I would hardly blame myself unless maybe I sent them to the store because I was too lazy to go. And if the only reason I send my child to the restroom alone is because I am too busy or lazy, then yes, I would feel guilty if something happened. More so, if they asked me to accompany them because they felt uncomfortable. Yes, it's true that adults can be victims too, but telling a child that feels better if you go with them to go alone because they are old enough is being irresponsible and lazy. And if you aren't willing to do what you need to for your children to feel safe and secure, perhaps you shouldn't have any.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 2:52AM
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I dont know what age i will let my son go into a public bathroom by himself. He is only 5 right now. My GF and i were having this discussion not too long ago. Her son is 9. She does not let him go alone either. Of course she tries to choose family restrooms. She will even look for single unit restrooms. But if she does not find them she will take her son in the womens. I know i will too at that age. By age 11 i will probably be more trusting depending on where we are at. But i would still look for family or single unit restrooms. I dont think children turn into bad adults because their mothers walked them into the bathroom. Before having kids it would bother me when i saw an older boy in the womens restroom. Now im a mom. I get it!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 10:13AM
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I actually can't stand to go by myself to a restroom at reststops. Who knows who can be hiding there...But at least as an adult I would be able to judge the situation and maybe escape or fight back. Young child might not have as good of a reaction. They might freeze in fear. Or if a killer tells them be quiet or I kill your mommy (which often happens) and kids just stay quiet to protect their mommy. I wouldn't want to take a chance. And btw it also depends on the looks and the size. Not every 11-year-old looks that age. When I was 11, I look like 8 and some boys look very young. I think that Carla is just playing devil's advocate or just exercises in rhetoric.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 6:35PM
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You can't imagine how bad it can be. I won't tell you about it, most wouldn't believe it, It's even hard for me to believe it now. But it was in the newspaper, probably all over the country. Stand by the door and when the child opens the door tell him you will be waiting "by the door", loud enough for anyone inside to hear you.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:51PM
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Jonesy that's exactly what I do. *high-five*

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:05AM
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Hey, I actually got a reply........thanks shaun. LOL

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 1:09PM
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You're welcome!! LOL!!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 3:30PM
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The OP's question, does anyone else worry about stuff like this, would clearly be answered "yes."

My cut off is around 8. I have boys ages 5, 11 and 14. Obviously, the oldest does his thing without even asking. But I will allow even the 5 y/o to go into the men's room alone if I am standing right outside or it is a familiar location. I sometimes send him with his brothers, but not in the most high-risk, isolated or crowded situations. If I stopped at a truck stop or roadside rest I would take him with me. My 11 y/o would pee his pants before he walked into a women's restroom with me, I am not kidding. I have an 8 y/o DD and I do not always take her to the restroom. If I have a clear sight of the r.r. door, she is fine by herself.

I do not think Carla has been out of line at all. I think she makes a good point about evaluating risks in life. I let my kids do way more other things *just for fun* that are more likely to result in injury or even, in extreme cases, death (sometimes I have to sit at 14 y/o DS's hockey games with my eyes closed, where checking is part of the game). And driving? It's not a matter of "if" a teen will be in an accident, it's "when" and "how bad." And you can't control the other drivers, road rage, drunk drivers, stupid drivers. Every summer someone's child is killed in an accident at a theme park, no one's fault, just wrong place at the wrong time. Only thing to do is not go on rides. To some degree, I worry about ALL of it, cuz I am their mom. But I have to let it go ... cuz I am their mom. Kids need to be protected. But it's not the only thing they need. They also need to feel empowered enough to move through life and all its minefields (figuratively speaking). Otherwise, we'd protect them right out of living life.

My inner momma bear worries. So it is a conscious decision to weigh the risks and decide which ones to ignore because sometimes it really is in my kids' best interest to give them some space.

To be perfectly honest, the prayer in my head when the 5 y/o goes in alone is "Please let him hit the hole not the floor."

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 5:26PM
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In my small city at a public park a young boy was killed in the park bathroom while the mother waited for him on the play ground. This happened about 20yrs ago in my town that has only had three murders ever, all involving a child, and the person never was found. Parents, especially now a days, can never be too careful with their children at any age. I'd rather my child be protected and safe than worry about making someone feel uncomfortable or pissed off at me because I brought a boy in the womens bathhroom or because I stood guard while he was in the mens room unaccompanied. They will get over it in about five minutes and your child will still be safe. Having your child go into the bathroom with you isn't going to make them grow up and become a psyco freak and if it makes you feel better than who cares! Just do it!!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 3:13AM
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I am bothered letting my son go into the mens washroom alone as I too worry about all the freaks and creeps out son will be 8 this month and has been going to the mens washroom himself for about a year now, usally with my husband.If his father is not with us i wait outside the door. I am lucky that my son will sing or humm or rhyme or make noise of some sort, as he likes to hear the echo. so i being at the door can hear him , which does reasure me that he is ok and if he is taking a bit i will open the door and ask him if he is ok and wait with the door open till he says yes and whats taking so long ect.And there has been times where i have had to open the door to "remind" him to hurry up when i have herd him trying to strike up conversations/tell jokes with the other guys/boys in there, which we always talk about right after he is out of the bathroom.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 1:50PM
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The difference between the food court & the restroom is the privacy enjoyed by a predator;
once the door closes, the child is at a predator's mercy.

& pedophiles/predators are less likely to "take out" a child & parent than they are to just wait for a more vulnerable target.

Having your son or daughter sing is a great idea.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 6:16PM
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These days the pedophiles network via the internet. They converse and exchange info as to the good spots to get kids.

Just something to think about. Also we should be educating our kids how to handle themselves. For example, using passwords is out, approaching store employees when lost is out, but approaching cashiers and moms with strollers is OK. For all I know, even those options are out!

Someone start a new thread on proactive kid safety, will ya?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 7:15PM
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Good idea!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 10:32PM
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I have a 10 year old son, and when I look at him and really think about it 10 is still very young. I usually take him in the women's bathroom with me and will continue to unless my husband is there to take him. I have never known another woman to mind that my son came into the women's bathroom with or with out me. Women's bathrooms just seem safer to me, its mostly these darn men that abuse and kill, women usually just kill thier own.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 6:30PM
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When my son was young I also took him into the ladies room. When he was 10 or so, he insisted he wanted to go to the men's room. I would stand by the door, and I mean right up at the door with my ears peeled! If a man would enter the men's room I would start a conversation with my son while I stood at the door. I also lectured my son about anyone approaching him. I told him to yell as loud as he could. I told him to kick hard and run fast. I never minced words. I looked at him square in the eyes and told him these things. I was extremely protective of this part of his life. It is something mothers do. I remember the feelings I had when he entered the mens room for the first time by himself. He was so proud and felt so grown up. I was completely panic stricken!! I instinctively knew I needed to stay in contact with him. I also remember one time when a man left the bathroom and give me a warm smile....he knew exactly what I was doing. Ahhh, the memories.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 7:04PM
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My son is 9 and he hates coming into the women's room but I don't care. Last weekend at the mall he was protesting loudly about going into the women's room, after he entered a stall an older woman told me that she thought I was making the right decision and she never minds a young boy in the women's room.

My older son was once bullied by another boy in the bathroom who wanted his wallet (well he doesn't carry one but he was very shaken). If all three of my boys are going in together I let them but by themselves- no way.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 11:07AM
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