Why teens love doing a Ferris Bueller
When three Irish school-kids mitched off to Bari to watch the footie, their parents were flummoxed. But they're not alone. David Kenny on the teenagers who go walkabouts.
They're sullen, annoying and block the doorways of newsagents and chippers. They cost you a fortune on clothes, fake tan and hair highlights -- and that's just the boys. Teenagers: You can't live with them and, well, you can't live with them.
This month, three Dublin teenagers took "going on the hop" to a new level when they travelled to Bari for the Italy/Ireland game. This would have been innocuous enough if their parents hadn't thought they were just down the road at a sleepover.
The fifth-year students, aged 16 and 17, had packed their bags and, instead of getting the 65 bus, they headed to the airport. Text messages such as 'having a great time at Rory's' kept parental suspicions at bay and their trip was only discovered after it made front-page news.
While these three Ferris Buellers raised a smile, their stunt also raised the question: If your children can sneak off on a foreign holiday, what else could they be getting up to behind your back?
Could they be planning to elope to Puerto Rico? Or fly into a war zone? Are they planning to take out Hannah Montana? The answer is: Yes.
Most teenagers are, by their nature, stupid. For example, last month in New Jersey, a 14-year-old posted nude photos of herself on MySpace for her boyfriend, and everyone else, to see. Her parents only found out when prosecutors lodged child porn charges against her.
When it's not getting stupid teens into trouble, the internet can provide a source of extra 'pocket money'. Remember that the next time you send your kid to their room. A banishment could result in a vengeful online shopping spree.
Last year, it was estimated that children in the UK spent up to £191m (€214m) using their parents' credit cards. According to research by CPP Life Assistance, 70pc knew the sites where their parents shop, and 20pc their usernames and passwords. Incredibly, 98pc of parents thought their children wouldn't be able to use their flexible friends online.
If they're not breaking the bank, they might end up on the West Bank. According to her father, straight-A student Katherine Lester was a "good girl". The 16-year-old was such a dependable daughter that her folks had no worries about getting her a passport to fly to Canada from Michigan with her friends in 2006.
Mom and pop were a little taken aback two days later when she called to say she was in Jordan visiting her 'fiance' -- a 20-year-old from Jericho she met on MySpace.
US officials persuaded the lovelorn teen to turn around and go home just before she entered the West Bank. In September 2007, she legged it again, and met her paramour in Jordan. Eventually she postponed her marriage plans and two months later ended the engagement in an uncharacteristically upfront way. She did it in front of her parents -- and the rest of America -- via satellite on Doctor Phil.
The parents of another Michigan teen, Jasmine Rieberger (16), also thought she had no secrets. They thought she was a bit of a nerd and would soon grow up and out of her obsession with her Xbox.
In January 2004 they arrived home to find a note saying 'I'm not kidnapped' and discovered that she had been using the online gaming console to have a relationship with a 26-year-old man . . . in Puerto Rico. In a haze of teeny hormones Jasmine had run away to be with him and become a professional boxer.
Not all teens with double lives are vulnerable romantics. Some are, unknown to their folks, secret entrepreneurs. Last year, public schoolboy Ye-Ming Yuen (16) fled Britain after making £100,000 (€112,000) from a fake driving licence scam. The Westminster schoolboy manufactured the documents and sold them to pupils so they could buy booze and get into nightclubs.
London-born Ye-Ming printed 4,000 licences on his bedroom PC and sold them for between £15 and £25 each.
While Ye-Ming avoided a court appearance, schoolboy Rhys Stevens wasn't so lucky. Rhys (13), from Colchester, tricked his parents into thinking he had been attending school -- and landed them before a judge.
Rhys waved to his parents each day as he walked through Harwich School's gates and then bunked off. The youngster was being bullied and had an attendance record of just 37pc.
Instead of being sympathetic to the clueless couple, Colchester Magistrates' Court charged them for failing to make sure he went to school. They received conditional discharges, to run for three years each, with a prison sentence if Rhys mitched again.
If Rhys's parents thought they had a problem teen on their hands, spare a thought for the parents of the Californian boy who ranks as either the world's worst plane-jacker or best music critic.
The 16-year-old was arrested in January 2008 after flying to Nashville. According to the FBI he had planned to hijack an airplane by "overpowering the flight crew". As he was armed only with handcuffs, duct tape and, bizarrely, yarn, he may have been planning to overpower them with laughter.
Early reports said the youngster was planning to crash the plane into a Hannah Montana concert. Maybe he wasn't so crazy after all.
In 2006, Fort Lauderdale student Farris Hassan took a solo air trip as well. When it comes to bunking off, he puts our Bari boys in the shade.
On December 11, Florida-born Farris went to school as usual. Two days later his parents received an e-mail saying: "Hi mom, I'm on my way to Baghdad!" Farris was in Kuwait. Despite his dad's pleas he continued on his journey, which involved getting a taxi from Kuwait into Baghdad for the elections.
When this wasn't possible he headed to Lebanon. Then, on Christmas Day he turned up in Baghdad at a food stall, trying to order using a phrasebook.
After their reunion, his parents grounded him for six months and he was thrown out of school. Actually, that's not true. He got a big hug from his mum, the family went out to dinner and his school let him off the hook.
If any of the Bari boys are reading this, you now have the perfect defence -- the 'Farris' Bueller defence. You only went to Italy. Surely that's not worth getting grounded for?