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by Abigail Van Buren

Teens Left Home Alone Find It Tempting to Stray

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old who believes what you told "Worried Mom in Minneapolis" was incorrect. I agree that there are some immature 14-year-olds, but not all of them are immature. Although I wasn't mature at that time, I know people who are. Just saying that about all 14-year-old boys is unfair.

Her son showed her that he could spend the night at a friend's house without an adult and not do anything wrong. I was left alone at night at a friend's house, and my friend and I knew not to do anything illegal or stupid. Most 14-year-olds do have that much sense. -- MAD 15-YEAR-OLD IN DURHAM, N.C.

DEAR MAD 15-YEAR-OLD: No one accused the boys of doing anything "wrong." However, it's better to be safe than sorry. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In response to "Worried Mom in Minneapolis," we just returned from the emergency room after picking up our 14-year-old son. He had shared one bottle of whiskey with two other 14-year-old boys at 11 a.m. Two of the boys were found inebriated after falling on their way to a 7-Eleven store to get something to eat. Had they stayed home, they may have ended up dead from choking on their own vomit when they passed out.

One of the boys' fathers had left them home for one hour while he took his daughter to her mom's. Imagine what could have happened had they been left alone overnight. -- AN ORDINARY MOM WITH AN ORDINARY SON IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ORDINARY MOM: Your son is overdue for a frank discussion about the fact that guzzling alcohol can not only make a person sick, it can lead to overdosing, which can be fatal. At this point he may be willing to accept it. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: This is for "Worried Mom in Minneapolis." I am 42 years old, and I was left home alone at age 14. Because of it, I grew up fast. (I am female.)

It takes only one time to meet the wrong people or be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fortunately, I had parents who gave me good morals that stuck when they weren't around. Trust me, I was no angel, but I never got caught because I guess I was lucky.

Yes, it gave me the chance to grow up faster than the girls next door. I'm lucky I survived. Really.

Kids at that age can get caught up in a lot of trouble that they're not even looking for. Morals or not, it's so tempting to cross that thin line these days. And the price (drugs, disease) is a lot higher than it was in 1970.

If parents give children that freedom, they should know in their hearts that their children are strong enough to handle the pressure. I knew better than to go out, but I did anyway. Most kids will, just for the challenge. You can't "smother" 14-year-olds, but be sure to keep an open mind -- and never leave them unsupervised at night! -- BEEN THERE, DONE IT, BRADENTON, FLA.

DEAR BEEN THERE: I agree. Teen-agers do not have to be "bad" to exercise poor judgment on occasion. One way to avoid trouble is to avoid temptation. Temptations are less powerful when an adult is present.

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