Millennial & Gen X Parents Are Forbidding Sleepovers Over Safety Concerns, But Some Say They're Teaching Their Kids A Dangerous Lesson

You can only shield a kid so much.

teenagers wanting to have a sleepover, parents saying no Polina Tankilevich, 2jenn,Koldunova_Anna | Canva

Most generations want to do better with their own kids than their parents did with them, and when it comes to Gen X and Millennial parents, that drive seems stronger than ever. 

But one issue has some people asking if today's parents are potentially overcorrecting for Baby Boomers' notoriously hands-off approach, and wondering if it's doing their kids a disservice.

Many Gen X and Millennial parents are forbidding sleepovers.

If you're the child of a Baby Boomer, you surely understand the impulse to take a different parenting path with your own kids. As their children have come of age, Boomer parents have become notorious for the way their parenting has come to seem in some ways downright neglectful — and they've become just as infamous for the often combative ways they respond to their adult children's feelings. 


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And reminiscing about the ways the children of the Boomers basically ran around lawless and feral throughout their childhoods has become a shared cultural in-joke among many Gen X'ers and Millennials. Remember those old PSAs that used to run each night at 10:00 asking our parents if they had, like, any idea where we even were?




So it's no surprise that Gen X and Millennial parents would want to rewrite the script when it comes to parenting, and one of the ways this seems to have manifested is in their attitudes toward one of the most cherished institutions of older generations' upbringings: sleepovers. Specifically, forbidding their kids from both going to and hosting them. 

Many parents are forbidding sleepovers because of safety concerns. 

For most adults nowadays, sleepovers were a seminal part of growing up, full of all kinds of hilarious hijinx from prank phone calls to sneaking out after midnight. They were also where kids often divulged secret information about each other, their families and their classmates. After all, a sleepover is one of the few times young kids are truly unsupervised and able to navigate socializing on their own terms. 

But TikTok and other social platforms are full of Millennial and Gen X parents who have deemed these once-cherished get-togethers totally off limits, namely because of safety concerns. 




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Many parents cite a fundamental lack of familiarity with other kids' parents as the main concern, with some expressing full-on distrust. Others say that hosting a sleepover feels like an invasion of privacy. Perhaps the biggest concern among parents seems to be the risk of their child being molested or assaulted in someone else's home.



One Twitter user even raised the concern that the parents hosting the sleepover might have differing political beliefs or secretly hold allegiances to far-right and extremist religious movements that their child would be exposed to — which, sadly, is not exactly an unfounded concern nowadays.


screenshot of tweets about reasons parents are forbidding sleepovers

Photo: @moorehn / X

But others can't help but feel that this is all a bit overwrought — and that this level of oversight of a kid's social life might even be detrimental.

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Some worry that parents forbidding sleepovers impedes kids' social skills.

There's no doubt about it — the social fabric in America is rapidly unraveling, and we have the data to prove it — and the isolation it is causing is such a problem that the Department of Health and Human Services has extensively studied it.

The community engagement that used to come from civic groups, churches, trade unions and other communal ties has fallen to an all-time low in recent decades, largely being replaced by social media. Studies have shown that this is contributing to the ever-deepening — and ever more dangerous — political divides in our country making our society and communities feel ever more unsafe.

And amid all that, some can't help but wonder if refusing to let kids interact without constant supervision for a single night might be exacerbating these problems — especially if the reason is a fundamental lack of trust in other kids' parents.

"I get it," one Twitter user wrote of the new trend of parents forbidding sleepovers, "you can't trust everyone with your kid, but this speaks to the fact that Gen X & millennial parents are cultivating unbelievably deep levels of social distrust." It's hard not to feel like she has a point.


Add to that the potential impact of parents forbidding sleepovers and other such activities on kids' social development — many experts say unsupervised playtime is crucial to kids' development, both as individuals and as members of society. A study at University College London, for instance, found that kids who were allowed unsupervised play time were, more active, confident and had richer social skills than those whose parents took a more helicopter-parenting approach.

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And though the issue hasn't yet been widely studied, there are already indications that today's young people are lacking certain key skills tied to autonomy. Over-protective parenting can create kids and young adults who do not feel empowered to make decisions or navigate the world, and studies have shown that to likely be one of the causes of the staggering rates of anxiety and depression among Gen Z, many of whom are children of Gen X'ers.

There's even now a so-called "mom concierge" service parents can hire to hand-hold their children when they go off to college and help them with everything from how to do laundry to wake-up calls for class — a skill it goes without saying an 18-year-old should probably already have under their belt.

Even still, you can't blame today's parents for being abundantly cautious, because things really do feel orders of magnitude more precarious nowadays than 20 or 30 years ago. Gun ownership has skyrocketed just in the last three years alone, to take just one example — you never know if the house you're sending your kid to for a sleepover has a firearm in it. 


Still, as with everything, a middle ground is probably the best foot forward. There's no such thing as 0% risk in anything, let alone raising a child, and kids have to learn independence somehow. Many experts say sleepovers are an important rite of passage for this reason, so perhaps a more measured approach is in order. After all, you can only shield a kid so much.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.