Forget the sleepover rituals of junk food, "truth or dare'' and late-night gab sessions that have ushered tweens into teens for decades. A new generation of parents are sticking to strict no sleepover rules.
They call them "sleep unders'', "half-overs'', "late nights'' and "breakfast bashes.'' Come in your jammies, bring junk food, play all the games you want, but at a certain point these children will be tucked in under their own roof where their parents know the rules about R-rated movies, Internet use and adult supervision.
DO YOU ALLOW IT?Are your kids allowed to sleep at a friend's house? Do you let other kids spend the night at yours? What's your criteria for saying yes? Post your comments in the Tweens and teens forum.
"In the old days it used to be that you would build up to a sleepover and you knew everything about that family'' says Stacy DeBroff, a Boston mother of two and author of four parenting books including The Mom Book! "But now a more vigilant kind of hyper-concerned parent says unknown dangers may lurk, I don't know every variable ... and so I'm going to hover and basically swoop in and take you out.''
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
While plenty of families believe slumber parties are harmless good fun, several news stories about molestation at sleepovers -- including a Vermont father who was charged in June with drugging a 13-year-old friend of his daughter with a smoothie and then fondling her -- have given parents who worry about slumber parties concrete reasons to avoid them.
Gabbie Newsome said anxiety about creepy male relatives is partly why she and her husband decided against sleepovers when their daughter was 3.
Now 11, Allison knows the drill. If it's a group sleepover, she can stay until around 10:30, when her parents arrive to shuttle her to her own bed. Newsome, a Miami mother of two, worries she's being overprotective, but says the "what if'' factor outweighs it.
"You read so many horror stories. The kid's father going into the room and doing something,'' said 37-year-old Newsome. "We just don't feel comfortable with people we don't know.''
Now, experts say, many children throwing sleepovers simply invite everyone in the class to prevent hurt feelings, meaning parents receive invitations from families they've had little or no contact with. For mothers and fathers who are concerned about safety, this is frightening.
But even families the parents know well may not share the same values.
Newsome, who does allow her children to spend the night at a few relatives' homes, recently picked up her kids up from a cousin's and found them watching an R-rated movie that she and her husband had decided was inappropriate.
Lisa Sipes says she can't think of any parents she trusts enough to let her 4-year-old daughter Lainey spend the night with.
"There needs to be a certain level of supervision that not all parents take the time to offer,'' said Sipes, a 32-year-old mother of two from South Florida. "Even friends that I'm close with. I don't parent the same way they do.''
Mothers and fathers who fondly recall their own late but otherwise harmless nights of spooky stories and giggling dismiss these concerns as overanxious parenting.
Kendra Ridley, a Virginia Beach mother of two, says sleepovers were one of her greatest childhood memories and she won't deny her two daughters, 10 and 5, the same fun.
Of course, it has to be with parents she trusts. But those families do exist, she says.
"The world was just as scary when we were little, we just didn't have 24-hour news cycles to hear about it,'' Ridley says.