Precocious preteens who are “too cool” to be seen with their parents will have to suck it up at Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts starting this Saturday, the day the theme parks ban unaccompanied kids aged 13 or younger.
Disney spokesperson Suzi Brown explained in an email that the company decided on the new rule after reviewing recent surveys of its guests and speaking with several child welfare associations. "Cast members" (i.e. employees) working the front gates will now engage any guest who appears to be younger than 14 and without someone who appears to be older starting this weekend.
“This is just upon entering the parks,” Brown clarified, “not ‘at all times,’” as earlier reports have claimed.
There was no word from Disney on how employees will decide who looks 13 and who looks 15.
Disney’s decision to set the age limit at 14 years or older coincides with the recommended age for babysitters by the American Red Cross. Prior to its new policy, the theme parks had no age restrictions for guests arriving solo.
Brown said those who have annual family passes and routinely drop their children off for the day will be notified of the changes.
The company went public with the rule one week after the drowning death of a 13-year-old in a pool at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The child was swimming with his younger brother and cousin at the time.
Brown, however, said the policy change was not related to any specific incident but rather a way to streamline Disney’s guidelines across its U.S. parks.
“We regularly review all of our policies, and we identified an opportunity to provide a consistent age of admission and address a question we occasionally get from parents."
Disney may have done a good job at getting its message out to the public, but not everyone at the parks is aware of the change. A security representative at Disneyland in California reached by phone Monday night claimed to be “unaware of any alterations to the policy.” A ticketing representative for Disneyland was similarly confused and had heard of no policy changes regarding age limits for children entering the park.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) released its revenues for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 last month, saying resorts revenues increased by 7 percent to $3.4 billion and segment operating income increased 4 percent to $577 million. The company said the increases were due to strong spending at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts -- presumably by adults aged 14 and older.