Parent's Resource Center

Teenagers

The Law Rights & Responsibilities
  • In the United States and Australia parents and guardians are usually legally responsible for the care of their children until the age of 18, but different people and cultures expect certain responsibilities at different ages.
  • Teenagers and children under 18 who leave home are still the responsibility of their parents or guardians.
  • Usually a teenager's parent/guardian has legal guardianship, custody and control until they are 18 years of age.
  • If a young person under 16 years of age, leaves home, the situation is considered more serious than a young person between 16 and 18 years of age. This is partly because it is usually more difficult for a young person under 16 to support themselves emotionally and financially.
  • If a teenager, under 16 years, leaves home without their parent's consent and the parents feel their child may be in physical or moral danger they can go to Family and Children's Services for assistance. Each case is different, so a variety of methods, including mediation, counseling or family therapy, may be used to help seek a reconciliation within the family.
  • If the parents don't know where their teenager is living, they may also contact their local police station and report the young person as a 'missing person', in which case the police will try and locate the young person.
  • For further information on teenagers and the law contact the Youth Legal Service on telephone (08) 9328 9097 or 1800 199 006 (free for country callers). Their booklet 'How it is!' covers basic legal information on issues that affect young people under 18 years of age.
The Police
  • All people, including teenagers, can be questioned by the police at any age. They have to give their correct name and address if asked. If they give a false name and address they can be charged by the police. However as a general rule people do not have to make a verbal or written statement unless they wish to.
  • No person, including young people, has to answer any other questions, give statements or sign papers. However, it's usually sensible to do so if the situation can be explained simply. It's important not to be rude or aggressive with the police.
  • Generally police can only require a young person to go with them if they are under arrest, but there are some exceptions:

     

    • If a driver of a vehicle tests positive to an alcohol test (Random Breath Test), they may be required to go with the police for further testing and possible arrest

     

    • If the child is away from home or school or not under supervision of an adult, the police may suspect they are in physical or moral danger (for example, hanging around with drug dealers), the police may have the legal right to take the child home or to school.

     

  • If a young person is under arrest the police must tell them they are under arrest and why. The police are required by law to contact their parents or legal guardian as soon as possible. If neither are available then they can call a relevant agency such as Family and Children's Services.
  • A juvenile should ask to have mum or dad present. If there is not a parent or responsible adult present the juvenile should politely state that they do not choose to answer any questions.
  • If a young person is between 10 and 18 years old and breaks the law, the police may give them one of the following:

     

    • an informal caution or verbal warning
    • a formal caution
    • refer them to a juvenile justice team
    • charge them with an offence and require them to appear in court.

     

  • If a young person is found guilty of an offence, the courts have the option to:

     

    • require them to attend a lecture
    • put them and their parents on a 'good behavior bond'
    • place them with a youth community based worker
    • order them to pay a fine, court costs or restitution
    • place them in a detention center, prison or work camp.

     

School and employment
  • The compulsory age for school is from age six to 15. Generally children in this age range can't have a paid job in school hours.
  • Teenagers can get a full time job once they are 15 years old. A tax file number is needed when money is earned and income tax must be paid for money earned over a set amount.
  • Between the ages of 13 and 19 teenagers can join the Army Cadet Corps, Naval Reserves or Air Force Cadets. From 15, they can apply for an apprenticeship with the Navy, Army or Air Force. If under 17 they need parental consent but from 17 can apply on their own.
  • Young people who have no home or support may be able to get a Young Homeless Allowance. Between 16 and 18 years of age teenagers can apply for a Youth Training Allowance while they look for work and take part in any training offered.
  • Contact the Department for Social Security for further information on 13 28 50
Marriage and sex 
  • People over the age of 18 can marry without permission of parents or guardians.
  • It's possible for a person under 18 years of age, but aged 16 years and over, to marry with the permission of a magistrate or judge and parental/guardian consent.
  • The judge or magistrate must be satisfied that there are exceptional and unusual circumstances.
  • Pregnancy is not a guarantee of obtaining the permission of a magistrate or judge.
  • The court may look at the degree of maturity, length of relationship, financial situation and degree of current independence.
  • Where parents or guardians have refused consent, a judge or magistrate can make an order allowing the marriage if it's proven that the parents/guardians have unreasonably refused and if the young person has received marriage counseling.
  • There is no law prohibiting young people over 16 years old having sex with a person of the opposite sex who is also over 16 and who is not supervising or caring for them.
  • Homosexual conduct between males where either person is aged under 21 years is an offence under the criminal code
Safe sex Rights & Responsibilities
  • Teenagers sexual behavior has changed in the last 20 years. There is an increased focus on sex in the media, menstruation begins earlier and people marry much later.
  • It's a long time between sexual maturity and marriage or the desire to have children.
  • Young people need information about sex, particularly safe sex and use of contraceptives because of AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also need to know their rights and responsibilities.
  • Ignoring discussion of sexual issues is not very realistic. Remember that:

     

    • sex is a normal and healthy part of life, a source of comfort and pleasure and can be part of a relationship with someone we care about
    • telling teenagers not to have sex doesn't help them learn how to protect themselves
    • teenagers need information on how to protect themselves.

     

  • Teenagers don't use contraception for the following reasons:

     

    • they may not have had any sex education
    • they fear their parents will find out
    • they might believe that sex is meant to be spontaneous, not planned
    • they might think that condoms are only to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

     

  • The WA Health Department runs a youth safe sex campaign and can provide information on safe sex, how to talk about it with your teenager and where to get extra information, counseling or personal advice.
  • Other services can also help:

     

    • your doctor
    • Parenting Line  in Australia(08) 9272 1466 or 1800 654 432 (free for country callers)
    • Kids Help Line In the United States1 800 551 800
    • Family Planning Association In Australia (08) 9227 6177 or 1800 198 205 (free for country callers).

     

  • Some ways to help teenagers make decisions about safe sex include:

     

    • encouraging them to TALK to their partners about what is a big step - and its consequences
    • rehearsing what they might say in particular situations
    • encouraging them not to give in to peer pressure
    • researching safe sex, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases for themselves
    • being prepared if they decide to go ahead - to have and to use condoms
    • making sure young people have accurate information about sexual intercourse.
Health
  • When a teenager turns 15 they can get their own Medicare card.
  • When a teenager is over 16 they generally don't need the consent of parents or guardians to have treatment.
  • Doctors can ask for parental consent if the teenager is under 16 and if they feel the teenager doesn't understand what is being done. Usually doctors will not talk about the treatment with parents or guardian.
  • At 18 a person can enter licensed premises and be served with alcohol. They can also buy cigarettes and tobacco.
Driving Rights & Responsibilities
  • From the age of 14 it is the responsibility of every person riding in a car to wear a seatbelt. The driver and the passenger who isn't wearing a belt can be fined.
  • From the age of 16 people can get a license to drive a moped and apply for a student's pilot's license to fly a plane.
  • From the age of 16 years and nine months teenagers can get a learner's permit to learn to drive a car provided they are being taught by a qualified instructor. From the age of 17 they can get a learner's permit with anyone who has held a driver's license for more than four years. At this age they can also get a motor cycle license for driving a motor cycle not exceeding 250cc capacity, and a private pilot's license if they have consent from parents.
  • For the first year of a driver's license people must display 'P' plates on the front and rear of the car.
  • At 18 people can get a driver's license for a vehicle which can carry more than 12 people, a license for a tractor or non articulated vehicle (truck/trailer) or a commercial pilot's license .
  • At 20 people can have a license to drive an articulated vehicle (truck/trailer) and at 21 people can drive a taxi, bus or commercial vehicle.
  • It's compulsory for anyone riding a bicycle to wear a bicycle helmet at all times when on a road or dual use path.

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