Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on how protective parents should be when it comes to letting their teenager hang out with friends alone.

By Rosalind Wiseman

Q. Many of my 13-year-old son's peers are dropped off at the local mall and allowed to walk around with friends unsupervised. We don't permit this. Are we being overprotective?

A. I think you can let go a little, especially because you (or another parent) will be providing transportation both ways. Just review with him commonsense safety issues like not becoming separated from the group or leaving the mall. In addition, be clear about unacceptable behavior (such as shoplifting, looking the other way when friends shoplift, trashing stores, and being rude to store owners). Remember, for most 13-year-olds, getting to hang out at the mall is just the kind of limited freedom they relish.

Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.