On conventions at a young age.
My friend and I are thinking about going to a con, but we’re only thirteen. We are meeting up with some people a couple years older that us, but it’ll just be us for a period of time at the con. Do you think its safe and that we should go considering all the creepers out at cons?
Anonymous

Scream. Scream. Scream scream scream.

I’m sorry, that would be my maternal instincts. I wasn’t allowed to go into cons until I was 16, and even then my parents were close. Do you know these people? Even then, they’re still young, too.

Most conventions have a stipulation that anyone under 16 be accompanied by a guardian over 18. Being that young, it isn’t really safe to go out anywhere alone, especially at a con. Unaccompanied minors have really terrible things happen to them at cons sometimes.

Cons are generally safe! But going out alone at thirteen just isn’t wise anywhere.

Okay, I just had to say something here. I went to my first anime con when I was 13 turning 14-ish. And while it wasn’t until a year or two later, I DID meet people I met online at conventions. My experiences were nothing short of amazing, and I never had a safety issue. Cons were the HIGHLIGHT of my teenage life and if I didn’t have them, I’m not sure what I would have done, as high school was kind of a big pile of shit for me. IT CAN BE A SAFE EXPERIENCE. Perfectly safe! I did not have ONE problems at cons in my teenage years. They were smaller then but that does not mean they were without their risks But you have to be SMART about it, and also, not let yourself be pulled into some of the inappropriate shit kids are doing at cons these days.

For one, I checked in with my parents several times a day. This was before the era of cellphone, so we set up physical check in points. These days with the way communication is, it may be easier. But physical meet ups ARE a good thing - that way they knew I was safe, and it kept me on a schedule. If an adult or older sibling can’t be physically with you the whole time, make regular check ins.

For another, I usually stuck with at least ONE friend I knew or trusted if not more, and always stayed at the con itself. We might break off at different times to do certain activities, but there is safety in numbers. We NEVER left the convention area when we were that young, when we did, it was with an adult. This is ESPECIALLY important at Otakon, and doubly so if you are not used to big cities. Inside the con, there is security and con staff EVERYWHERE, and if there is a problem, it is easy enough to get help. (Last year while working for Funimation, I had the pleasure of  helping a distraught 11 year old girl who had been separated from her sister. With the help of con staff they were reunited within a half hour.) Outside the con you don’t have that same safety net.

And finally, I just had common sense. When I did meet people from the internet, it was never after dark, it was in an open common area where staffers were available, I had other people with me I knew and trusted, and I did not allow myself to be alone with them until I knew them better. I never had an issue. In general, I was not a crazy kid. The craziest thing I did was run and hug a guy dressed as Enishi all excitedly, LOL. (and….okay once I jumped into a fountain AHAHAHA DO NOT DO THAT KIDS.) But I did not do alcohol, drugs, or anything illegal. I did not throw things. I did not make innuendos at strangers. In short, I stayed in public areas of the convention and did very little to draw attention to myself and that is the BIGGEST piece of advice I would give to kids at cons these days. 

Unless you are staying at a con after dark (because after dark is when there is a lot of drinking and carousing), I really do not see a problem with youngsters being there, but with proper supervision, behavior, and most important of all - sense are KEY. Cons are a lot bigger than when I was young. And honestly, I have seen a LOT of inappropriate behavior from younger fans (those reports often outnumbering the creeper reports) which endless upsets me and makes me wish they’d stay home. It does NOT have to be that way, though. So yeah, BE SMART and BE SAFE.

/rant

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