Exercising parental authority, part II

By Ted Parker

SDPD Neighborhood Policing Resource Team

Dealing With Problems


Parents can provide the best protection children have against drug abuse. However, peer pressures and other outside influences can often undermine your best parenting efforts.

Indications that your child may be involved with drugs include the following: a don’t-care attitude, resistance to discipline, temper flare-ups, new associations, poor school work, truancy, lack of stamina, isolation, poor personal appearance and hygiene, and need of money or unexplained affluence. Parents can get a great deal of information on drug prevention, abuse, intervention, treatment, and recovery from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America’s Parent Resource Center at The parenting toolkit provides advice by age and tips on understanding teens, connecting with and protecting your kids, spotting drug and alcohol use, and helping if they are using.


Drinking is an adult privilege. It is illegal in California for anyone under 21 to drink or buy alcoholic beverages. While the majority of teens to not drink, most are faced with the opportunity and many fail to resist peer pressure to drink. Parents need to teach their children about the effects, dangers, and possible consequences of drinking, and should try to discourage it altogether. Drinking loosens inhibitions and leads to bad judgments that can result in traffic accidents with serious injuries, costly civil litigation, social embarrassment, hefty legal fines, college probation or loss of scholarships, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and various criminal acts.

Parents are the single most important influence on children’s decision whether or not to drink. If you drink you should:

  • Drink in moderation.
  • Forbid underage drinking at home, even on special occasions.
  • Keep track of any alcoholic beverages kept at home.
  • Have non-alcoholic beverages available at home.
  • Never drive after drinking.
  • Teach your children that it is not necessary to drink to have a good time.

Parents should always talk openly with their children about alcohol use and abuse. When they go out you should always ask the following six “W” questions: Where are you going? Why are you going there? Who are you going to be with? What are you going to do? Will there be alcoholic beverages? When will you be home? And when they return you should discuss how they handled the situation if any underage drinking was involved and how they should handle it in the future. If you think your child has or may be developing an alcohol problem you can call San Diego Youth Services at (619) 325-4696 for information and help.
Graffiti Vandalism

Parents need to discuss with their children the importance of respect for property and the effects graffiti has on the victim, vandal, and the vandal’s family. If the graffiti occurs in the City of San Diego, Sec. 54.0411 of the San Diego Municipal Code applies. It makes parents civilly liable for up to $25,000 of property damage caused by their minor children. And Sec. 54.0413(e) makes parents reimburse the city for any reward that is paid for information leading to the arrest and conviction of their minor child for graffiti crimes. If the graffiti occurs in the City of Del Mar, Sec. 36.109 of the San Diego County Code of Regulatory Ordinances applies. Also, Sec. 594(d) of the California Penal Code makes a parent liable for any fine that his or her minor child is unable to pay. The amount of the fines depends on the amount of the damage; the maximum fine is $50,000. Thus, parents have a strong incentive to make sure their children are not graffiti taggers.

The signs of a graffiti tagger include: tags on clothes or other personal possessions; use of tagger jargon; frequent use of baggy jackets and small backpacks that can hide spray cans; paint or dye on hands and under fingernails; and used graffiti devices. If you think that your child might be involved with graffiti and live in the City of San Diego you can call its Graffiti Control Hotline at (619) 525-8522 for further information and organizations to call for assistance. If you live in the City of Del Mar you can call the Juvenile Detective at the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station at (760) 966-3500.

Curfew Violations

Parents should know the activities and whereabouts of their minor children (under 18 years old) and make sure that they are home during curfew hours. In the City of San Diego this is the period from 10:00 p.m. any evening of the week until 6:00 a.m. the following day. Minors can be cited for curfew violations under Sec. 58.0102 of the San Diego Municipal Code, which also defines ten defenses to prosecution. These are summarized as follows:

  • Accompanied by the minor’s parent or guardian, or a responsible adult
  • On an errand at the direction of the minor’s parent or guardian, or a responsible adult, without any detour or stop
  • In a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel
  • In an employment activity, or going to or returning from an employment activity, without any detour or stop
  • Involved in an emergency
  • On the sidewalk abutting the minor’s residence
  • Attending or returning home from, without any detour or stop, an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the City of San Diego, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor
  • Exercising or returning home from exercising, without any detour or stop, First Amendment rights protected by the U.S. Constitution
  • Travelling between activities listed above
  • Emancipated pursuant to law

In addition, parents can be cited if they knowingly permit or by insufficient control to allow the minor to be present in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the City of San Diego during curfew hours. The San Diego City Council approved the present version of this ordinance by passing an emergency ordinance on Feb. 22, 2010, with minor language modifications to the existing ordinance because the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District had ruled on Feb. 4, 2010 that the existing ordinance was unconstitutional.
In the City of Del Mar the curfew hours are from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., as defined in its Municipal Code Section 9.08.020. Parents should check the curfew hours for any jurisdiction in which their children might drive at night because they and the defenses vary, e.g., in the unincorporated areas of the County, some of which are in the Del Mar ZIP-code area, the curfews are from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They should also note that the evening curfew time may be an hour earlier than the time a child under the age of 18 with a provisional California driver license cannot drive without a licensed parent, guardian, other adult 25 years of age or older, or licensed or certified driving instructor in the vehicle, which is 11:00 p.m..

Daytime Loitering and Truancy

Parents must also make sure that their children are attending school during school hours. It is now unlawful for any juvenile who is subject to compulsory education to loiter in any public or unsupervised place, or on the premises of any establishment between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on any day when school is in session for the juvenile. It is also unlawful for the parent of any juvenile to knowingly permit or by insufficient control to allow the juvenile to violate this daytime loitering and truancy law. Parents will be warned the first time the juvenile is cited. Parents may be cited for an infraction if the juvenile is cited a second time, and a misdemeanor if the juvenile is cited a third time.

Unsafe Driving

Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in California. Nearly 20,000 16-to-19 year olds are killed or injured in collisions annually, and roughly one in five teens will be in a crash during the first year of driving. Because driving involves great risks of personal injury and property damage, and driver education only deals with driving skills, parents need to do the following to make their teens safe drivers:

  • Know and understand your teen. Not all are responsible enough to drive at 16.
  • Set a good example by following all traffic laws and safety rules when you drive.
  • Select a high-quality driving school that encourages parental involvement and progress reports.
  • Create a written parent-teen driving agreement that specifies rules, conditions, restrictions, and consequences of driving behavior. State that driving and drinking don’t mix.
  • Have your teen drive the safest vehicle the family owns, and make sure he or she is properly insured.
  • Set a schedule for regular practice driving sessions with your teen. They should be no longer than 45 minutes. Be direct with your instructions and keep your comments as simple as possible. Stress defensive driving.
  • Set a time each week to discuss safe driving.
  • Discourage driving at night and with passengers.
  • Make sure your teen gets enough sleep. Driving while drowsy can be as risky as driving while intoxicated.
  • Stress the need for total concentration on driving, and avoidance of distractions from using cell phones or text messaging.
  • Stay out of cars that others might drive in an unsafe manner.
  • Teach basic vehicle mechanics and what to do in case of an accident or emergency.
  • Stress the criticality of all persons in the vehicle wearing seat belts.

Another reason for parents to be concerned about their children’s driving is that parents are legally responsible for any injuries and damage that their minor children might cause while driving. Information about driving and traffic safety can be obtained by calling the SDPD Traffic Division’s Community Relations Office at (858) 495-7822.
Another good source of information is the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Web site. Visit its page on teen driving safety


  1. It has links to California’s provisional driver’s licensing program and an example parent-teen driving agreement. The former, in Vehicle Code Sec. 12814.6, states that during the first 12 months after issuance of a provisional license the licensee my not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or transport passengers who are under 20 years of age unless accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver who is the licensee’s parent, a licensed driver who is 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor. There are several exceptions to these restrictions, one being that the licensee can transport an immediate family member under the age of 20 if he or she has a signed statement from a parent verifying the reason and containing a probable date that the necessity of the transportation will have ceased.

Gun Violence

Gun violence has become a major health issue. In 2005 firearms were the leading cause of homicides and suicides of young people 15 to 24 years old in the United States. Parents need to teach their children that: (1) guns don’t solve problems; (2) guns can kill or cause lifelong disabilities; and (3) there are enormous differences between real life and the fantasy world of television and all of its violence. Furthermore, parents need to exercise complete control over any guns in their home. Those who have guns should keep them unloaded, uncocked, and stored in a securely locked container. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence suggests that gun owners adhere to the following additional guidelines:

  • Store your gun and its ammunition in separate locations known only to you.
  • Store your ammunition is a locked container away from heat and moisture. Never throw it out in the trash.
  • Child-proof your revolver by placing a sturdy and tamper-resistant child-safety lock on the trigger or on the firing mechanism.
  • Child-proof your semi-automatic handgun by removing the magazine, disassembling the frame from the slide and magazine or securing it with a child-safety lock.
  • Never leave the keys to your child-safety locks or gun and ammunition storage containers where they are accessible to others. And make sure the keys cannot be duplicated.

Parents in the Del Mar Heights neighborhood of San Diego can get help from the Juvenile Service Team at the SDPD Northwestern Division by calling (858) 523-7000 regarding signs that their children might be involved with guns, where to look for guns that children might hide at home, and what discipline measures would be appropriate. Any guns that are found should be turned in at any SDPD or County Sheriff’s facility. Answers to questions about gun safety can be obtained by calling the SDPD Pistol Range at (619) 527-6070. Parents in City of Del Mar can call the Juvenile Detective at the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station at (760) 966-3500 for help on these matters.
Information on effective strategies for preventing violence against youth can be obtained at

  1. This site also contains facts and data, and up-to-date information on violence prevention activities in California. At the national level the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center’s Web site at

contains information on hot topics, prevention and intervention programs, publications, and research and data on violence committed by and against children and teens.


Shoplifting is not a game or sport. It is theft! It has serious consequences for both the child and the parent. If the value of the merchandise taken is less than or equal to $400, the crime is petty theft. The first time it is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of at least $50 but not more than $1000, or imprisonment in the country jail not exceeding six months, or both. The second time it is punishable as a felony with imprisonment in the country jail or the state prison not exceeding one year. If the value of the merchandise taken is more than $400, the crime is grand theft, which is punishable as a felony the first time. As noted in below under parental liability, judges can order parents to pay these fines for their minor children.

For petty thefts by an un-emancipated minor, California Penal Code Sec. 490.5(b) makes parents liable to the merchant for civil damages of not less than $50 nor more than $500, plus costs. In addition, parents are liable for the full retail value of the things taken if they are not recovered in a merchantable condition. Total damages are limited to $500 for each action brought under this section.

Signs that your child might be shoplifting include: wearing new clothes or jewelry, or possessing items that you know he or she does not have money to buy; finding tags or package wrapping hidden in the trash; wearing baggy clothes or jackets when it is warm; and leaving the house with an empty backpack or large purse. Some of the things a parent can do to prevent shoplifting include the following: teaching that shoplifting is theft and that it is wrong to steal; telling your child that being in the company of a shoplifter is as bad as stealing, and that all persons involved can be punished; encouraging your child to choose friends carefully; knowing your children’s friends; keeping your child busy to minimize unsupervised free time; and perhaps as a last resort, enrolling your child in a shoplifting prevention class. You can get information on this and other classes, workshops, and programs for juveniles and parents by calling the Corrective Behavior Institute at (619) 528-9001.

Internet and Cell Phone Dangers

Although the vast majority of online services and Internet material is legitimate and benign, there have been numerous incidents of children receiving pornographic material, providing personal information under the pretext of possibly winning a prize, or sending money for promised benefits or products. Warning signs of these dangers include: excessive late-night computer use; secretive behavior about computer associates; password-protected bios, files, or logical drives; and hidden files or directories. The following are some things parents can do to minimize these dangers:

  • Set reasonable guidelines for Internet and cell phone use. Prohibiting Internet use is not a good idea because it is too easy for children to establish accounts at a friend’s house or many other places. But do set time limits on computer use. People, not computers, should be their best friends and companions
  • Keep the computer in the family room or other area where its use can be monitored. Don’t allow computers to be in your children’s bedrooms.
  • Children should not have separate log-ons. But be aware that children can access the Internet away from home.
  • Talk to your children about their Internet use. Encourage them to come to you with any problems they encounter online. Make sure they understand the importance of password and privacy protection, and not to share passwords or log-on names with anyone else. And don’t let them use their pet’s names as passwords.
  • Never allow your child to meet someone they have “talked” to online. Tell your child that people online are not necessarily who they might seem to be.
  • Use filtering software to scan for offensive words and phrases in chat rooms and then end the conversations by signing off.
  • Install a browser that limits the websites that your younger children can visit to those vetted by educational professionals. Some will send you periodic e-mails that detail you children’s Internet activity.
  • Install a monitoring service like McGruff SafeGuard. It’s free and also scans any chat or text conversations for bad language and other inappropriate communications. Go to

for details of this service.

  • Have your children promise not to turn off any programs you might install to monitor their computer use.
  • Understand how online services work.
  • Check the computer’s cache and history to see what websites have been accessed.
  • Ask your children for their passwords and log-on names, and to share their blogs and online profiles with you. Be aware that they can have multiple accounts on multiple services. Search for you children’s identifying information and monitor their screen name(s) and websites for inappropriate content.
  • Prohibit your children from downloading any games, movies, programs, etc., trying to win free things, or buying things without your permission.

Children who use networking sites like MySpace, Friendstar, Facebook, Xanga, and LiveJournal should be warned about online predators and harassers. They should be taught to do the following to prevent and deal with any problems that might arise:

  • Never to give out their name, address, phone number, or any other personal information that can identify them. Avoid posting anything that would enable a stranger to find them, e.g., school names. Members’ profiles become public information. And never say they are home alone.
  • Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to know, especially anything that might embarrass you later. What’s uploaded can be downloaded and passed around or posted online forever.
  • Never send out any pictures of themselves, their families, or their friends.
  • Be careful about adding strangers to your friends list. People aren’t always who they say they are.
  • Report harassment, hate speech, and inappropriate content to you.
  • Check comments regularly. Ignore and don’t respond to any that are mean or embarrassing. Just log off if the harassment bothers you.
  • Avoid misleading people into thinking you are older or younger than you are.
  • Don’t talk about sex with strangers.
  • Block people from sending you messages or e-mail, or delete them from your “buddy list” if they harass you.
  • Change your password if someone hacks into your profile. Change you username and e-mail address if someone repeatedly bothers you.
  • Contact the company that runs the site to have any profile of you deleted if it was created without your knowledge.
  • Talk to someone you trust if you are upset about what is being said about you. If you are scared or threatened contact a Juvenile Service Team office at your nearest SDPD area station and inform your Internet Service Provider.
  • Report any attempted sexual exploitation on the

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Cyber Tipline

  1. This line is Congressionally mandated and your information will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation. Or call NCMEC’s 24/7 hotline at (800) 843-5678.

Children should also be warned about virus creators, identity thieves, and spammers. These cyber-criminals are increasingly targeting users of social networking sites in an effort to steal their personal data and the passwords to their accounts. One of the tactics they use to gain access to this information involves sending social networking users e-mails that appear to come from online friends. For example, some Facebook users have been receiving e-mails from their “friends” that claim to contain a video of them. When they click on it they download a virus that goes through their hard drives and installs malicious programs. The virus, known as Koobface, then sends itself to all the friends on the victim’s Facebook profile. A new version of the virus also is affecting users of MySpace and other social networking sites. Cyber-criminals are tricking social networking users into downloading malicious software by creating fake profiles of friends, celebrities, and others. Security experts say that such attacks, which became widespread in 2008, are increasingly successful because more and more people are becoming comfortable with putting all kinds of personal information about themselves on social networking sites. They warn that users need to be very careful about what information they post because it can be used to steal their identities.
To avoid problems on social networks or anywhere in the Internet, users should be warned to:

  • Not to click on any links, videos, programs, etc. provided in messages, even if a “friend” encourages you to click on them.
  • Get program updates from the company’s website, not through a provided link.
  • Make your account so private that only your friends can see the details.
  • Scan your computer regularly with an updated anti-virus program.
  • Be suspicious of anyone, even a “friend,” who asks for money over the Internet.

Additional information on Internet dangers to children and how to keep children safe online is available on numerous websites. These include the following:

San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force


National Cyber Security Alliance


San Diego County District Attorney

: See the Protecting Children Online page under Protecting the Community.




Federal Bureau of Investigation

: See A Parents Guide to Internet Safety under Cyber Issues on the Reports and Publications page.



  1. See resources for parents.

Juvenile Victimization

Although the overall crime rate is decreasing, juvenile-on-juvenile crime is increasing. Young people are about three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than adults. Outside of the home, they are most likely to be victimized at the end of the school day. Some safety principles your child should know include the following: develop conflict resolution skills, avoid deserted locations, avoid threatening persons, travel with a friend(s), always let someone know where you are going, walk confidently and be assertive, meet stares eye-to-eye, never appear vulnerable or weak, be familiar with places to go for help. School police can often provide assistance in dealing with this problem.

Students, teachers, and parents can call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 to provide anonymous tips about safety concerns and potential problems at their schools. And students in the San Diego Unified School District can receive cash rewards of up to $1000 for tips or information that solve or prevent campus violence or vandalism to school property. However, actual school emergencies should still be reported by calling 9-1-1.

Media Violence

Media violence is also a health hazard for children. It has been estimated that young people have seen over 200,000 acts of violence by the time they graduate from high school. This exposure may result in aggressive attitudes and behavior, and insensitivity to violence. The following 10 tips from the Minnesota Medical Association are designed to help deal with this problem: (1) set clear limits on TV viewing and video game playing, (2) don’t use the TV as a babysitter, (3) don’t make TV the focal point of family activities in the home, (4) offer other enjoyable activities at home, (5) select what your children watch, (6) ban unacceptable programs, (7) identify high-quality programs, (8) know what your children are watching, (9) discuss media violence, and (10) have a voice in local TV programming.

Child Abduction

The number of children reported missing each year is staggering. The following precautions will help protect your child from abduction:

  • Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, restroom, store, playground, or other public place. Accompany younger children to restrooms.
  • Walk your child to and from school, and point out dangerous spots and safe places to go for help.
  • Have your child walk or bike to and from school with a friend. There is safety in numbers.
  • Don’t put your children’s names on the outside of their clothes. Children may respond more readily to a stranger who calls them by name.
  • If your child takes a bus to and from school, have your child stay with a group while waiting for the bus.
  • Make sure that the school will not release your child to anyone but yourself or a person previously designated by you, and that the school will call you back to verify any call saying that some person will come to pick up him or her.

And make sure you teach your child the following:

  • Never to leave school with anyone they don’t know.
  • Turn around and run to the nearest safe place if a person appears to be following them on foot, or a vehicle slows or stops by them.
  • Not to hitchhike or accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK in each instance. Tell them to say NO and run away to a safe place if offered a ride by a stranger. If avoidance is not possible tell them to make a big scene by screaming, yelling, kicking, and resisting.
  • The difference between a stranger who may be a danger and one who may be helpful. The simple “stranger-danger” message is inappropriate because the danger to children is much greater from someone who is not a stranger.
  • Stay away from any adult who asks for help, e.g., “Can you help me find my dog?” or asks for directions (an adult should ask another adult, not a child for help), or tries to get you to go somewhere with them, e.g., “Your mom’s hurt and she told me to come get you.”
  • Keep all doors and windows locked when at home alone. And not to open the door to a stranger or let an uninvited neighbor or acquaintance into your home.
  • Not to tell a caller that you are not at home. Have your child say you cannot come to the phone, ask the caller to leave a message, and say you will call back.

For additional information on how to prevent child abduction and what to do if it happens go to the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Web site

and look at the resources for parents.

Multiple Problems

Several organizations offer programs that can help children with multiple problems. One is the YMCA Youth and Family Services offers classes, workshops, and counseling on many subjects. Parents should call (619) 543-9850 for details.

The California National Guard has several youth programs for different age groups and areas of the state. One is a statewide residential program conducted at the Grizzly Youth Academy at Camp San Luis Obispo. It is called the Youth ChalleNGe Program and is for 16 to 18 year-olds who are high school dropouts or at risk of dropping out. For further information call (800) 926-0643.

Parental Liability

In addition to the liabilities mentioned above, parents are legally liable in various ways for the acts of their children. These are additional reasons for parents to deal with their child’s behavior before it results in criminal acts.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor Parents who fail in their legal duty to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control over their minor children can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine per count. This is stated in California Penal Code Sec. 272(a).

Liability for Fines, Penalties, and Restitution

Under California Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 730.7 juvenile court judges might order parents to pay fines and penalties assessed against a minor that they have legal and physical custody and control of, and also to pay restitution to the victims of the crimes committed by their minor children. The upper limits on these payments are specified in California Civil Code Secs. 1714.1 and 1714.3, as noted below.

Liability for Civil Damages

Under the California Civil Code Sec. 1714.1 parents are liable for civil damages of up to $25,000 for each tort or act of willful misconduct of a minor in their custody and control that results in injury or death to another person or in any injury to the property of another. This limit is adjusted every two years for changes in the California Consumer Price Index. If a parent is insured, the maximum liability of the insurer is set at $10,000.

Civil Liability for Injury Caused by Firearms

Under California Civil Code Sec. 1714.3 parents are liable for injuries caused by the discharge of a firearm by a minor in their custody and control, where the minor was permitted to have the firearm or the firearm was left in a place accessible to the minor. Damages are limited to $30,000 for injury to or death of one person, or $60,000 for all persons in a single occurrence.

Restitution through Mediation

One way for parents to avoid liability for the acts of their minor children in civil lawsuits is to work out an agreement for repayment of the victim’s losses. This can be done by mediators who assist the victim and the youth in talking about the incident and its consequences, get the youth to take responsibility for his/her actions, and draft a realistic restitution agreement.