Are Teens Still Drawn To Malls?

As summer winds down for most of the country, an interesting trend seems to be emerging: teens rarely hang out in malls.

An article from NPR has cited two malls in Atlanta where teen presence is noticeably lacking. One may think that it could be economically driven, or something as challenging as reducing teen presence deliberately, but interestingly enough, it could also be due to technology and social media.

In Lenox Mall, teen presence is not as prevalent as in other cities, and preteens seem to have more buying power than teens; but in Atlantic Mall, the presence is even less.

Atlantic Mall has a policy in which teens younger than seventeen cannot buy movie tickets after 8pm. Their policy even goes further by prohibiting people ages 17-21 from walking in the mall property after 11pm. With rules like these, I can understand why teens would be reluctant to meet their friends in a place where they’re perceived as liabilities.

As far as hanging out with friends, some teens who may in the past would have hung out in these malls, now prefer to be with their friends in each other’s homes. In addition, with the ease of accessing social media and other forms of entertainment via phone or computer, it’s easy to see why they would prefer this option, and not be subject to rules that chase them away.

As someone who grew up in an urban setting, malls were our designated places to meet on weekends. Whether we bought anything or not, my friends and I would pass the time shopping and window-shopping. For me, going to the closest mall by bus or subway when I was 15 was an accomplishment, a rite of passage that paved the road to other firsts going forward. Walking around in malls gave me the freedom to be with my friends without being reliant on my parents for a few hours. It was not uncommon for my friends and I to linger around the mall, shop at the stores we could afford and eat at the food court without fear of being questioned due to being unaccompanied by an adult.

My fifteen year-old daughter does like going to the mall, but for her and her friends, it’s more than just shopping, it’s a way for them to be independent within an enclosed setting. As much as my daughter and her friends like being in the mall, they do prefer to be in each other’s homes. Aside from curbing shopping spending, they can be free to socialize without worrying; even with the advancement of technology and the proliferation of social media.

That’s my view on this, what’s yours?

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