How to create a Parent Network

Across the nation, juvenile crime appears to be out of control.

But in Anchorage, parents are reversing the trend

Media and entertainment glorify gangs, drugs, alcohol and teenage sex. Many parents feel powerless.

But in Anchorage, parents are reversing the trend. Kids are safer, and crime is dropping. One key is PARENT NETWORKS, a simple idea turned into an effective grassroots program by Mayor Rick Mystrom.

Kids network all the time. They know each other's telephone numbers. They find out what's going on, and they plan activities together. But parents are often isolated and out of touch. It's time they learned about networking.

PARENT NETWORKS are informal groups of parents who communicate with each other on a regular basis about kids' activities, rules, curfews, parties and problems. They help parents participate in their children's lives in a proactive, positive way.

Get your kids help to list the names of their friends, their parents and their phone numbers. If your kids don't care to participate, pick up the phone. Call the parents you know and work up a list of parents of kids who do things with your kids -- through school, sports, music, clubs and the neighborhood.

Invite the other parents over.

Call and invite the other parents for coffee or a potluck. Find out the family rules that you and the other parents in your network share.

  • Are you the only parent in town who establishes family curfews?
  • Are you the only parent who calls ahead when your child is invited to a party or to stay overnight?
  • Do your other network parents want to be called when there is a potential problem?
Five positive ways to use your PARENT NETWORK:

1. Encourage network parents to call each other if there's a problem.
When parents become aware of a problem that requires parental leadership, encourage them to call each other. If they become aware of a dangerous situation, urge them to contact the Anchorage Police Department. For dispatch, call 786-8900. In an emergency, call 911.

2. When your pre-teen or teenager is invited to a party, find out if there will be an adult present.
Call the parents of the teens hosting the party. As the obvious. Will there be adult supervision? Will alcohol or drugs be present? When will the party end? If there is no adult in charge, alert your network parents.

3. Share vital information on rules and laws affecting young people.
Under Alaska's "Use It, Lose It" Law, youth from 14-20 can lose their drivers' licenses if a peace officer finds "probable cause" they have been using alcohol or illegal drugs. Anchorage's Curfew Ordinance forbids youth under 18 to remain in public places or private establishments after 11 p.m. on winter Sundays through Thursdays, and after 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. In June, July and August, all curfews begin at 1:00 a.m.

4. If your kids haven't checked in, call your network to help located them.
For their safety, you should know where your children are at all times. If they haven't checked in, call your network. Have you visited the home where your child is spending a lot of time? You may make new friends, or you may find an unsafe situation. It's your job to check it out.

5. Explain PARENT NETWORKS to your children and enlist their help.
Some teenagers resist the idea of PARENT NETWORKS, but most eventually buy in. Here's why. Once parents know each other, they are less anxious about where their kids are and whom they are with. When this is less worry, there is more trust. When there is more trust, parents give their kids more freedom.