DR. WALLACE: My birthday is coming up in two weeks and I’d like a “bounce house” for my birthday. My parents have said no because they are worried that my friends or other neighborhood kids could get hurt and then their parents would sue my parents! Could this be true?
I think that if one of my friends tripped on a crack in our driveway, they could also sue our family. Or if someone fell going down the stairs from my room the same thing could happen. You get what I mean: Any kid or family could sue our family for any reason at any time.
So why are my parents being such worriers about this? I’ve heard that bounce houses are much safer than trampolines. — I Want My Preferred Gift, via email
I WANT MY PREFERRED GIFT: First, there are companies that rent out bounce houses for special occasions. As part of the rental process these companies provide liability insurance and monitor the unit during its usage.
But if you want to have a permanent bounce house in your backyard, your parents will indeed need to carefully check into their homeowner’s policy to see what coverage, if any, would be afforded to such a product.
Many homeowners’ insurance policies list trampolines and bounce houses as exclusions to the liability policy. Your parents have a valid point here, as my research has educated me that these products do at times become unsecured or can be launched off of their base during even moderate wind if the circumstances are right. These risks are real and they do exist given the public history and documentation of past tragic events.
Trampolines are indeed more dangerous as they usually feature steel frames, unlike bounce houses, which are only supported by pressurized air. Both of these products have their own dangers. A trampoline can at times launch a child or person into the air away from the unit in a very dangerous way.
I suggest that you adjust your request to that of a one-day bounce house rental and invite as many of your friends as possible. Have your parents (if they agree) rent a bounce house unit from a reputable company that has many good referrals and a good insurance policy. Also be sure to keep an eye on the weather whenever this day arrives!
Bounce houses can roll over or become airborne during even modest winds if they are not anchored to the ground properly with stakes, sandbags or any other suitable tool to insure stability. Adults should monitor trampolines and bounce houses at all times during their usage. A good, professional rental company will provide a trained employee to monitor the unit for the duration of the rental.
I WANT TO KNOW WHEN!
DR. WALLACE: I turn 15 in January and I’m ready to date, but my parents won’t let me. When I asked them what age I have to be in order to go on dates, they wouldn’t give me a firm answer.
All of my other friends have parents that tell them they can date at different ages. For example, one of my friends knows that she can begin dating once she’s 16, and another one will be allowed to date when she’s 15 and a half as long as there is an adult supervising the dates.
But my parents won’t go for anything like this. They just keep telling me they’ll let me know later. What age do you feel is appropriate for a teenager to begin dating? — I’m Ready to Date Now, via email
I’M READY TO DATE NOW: Over the years my answer to this very popular question is similar to your parents’ answer! I don’t mean to be evasive, but I also feel that there is no “magic age” for teen girls or boys to begin dating.
Instead of a specific milestone age, I feel that parents should be ready to give permission for their teens to begin dating when the specific teen is both responsible enough and mature enough to begin dating responsibly. By responsibly I mean following rules that include always honoring curfews and following all forms of communications that are agreed to in advance.
Some mature and responsible teens may be ready to date at age 15 whereas others may do better at the age of 16 or even 17. Each case is different, since each teen is a unique individual and each set of parents are as well. Therefore I suggest that you do your utmost to demonstrate both responsibility and your growing maturity on a daily basis to your parents. Pay attention to details, be on time for any event you attend with your parents, and show them you know how to follow the rules. This will greatly enhance your odds of dating sooner, rather than later.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.