Co-ed sleepovers -- normal or a young boy's fantasy?
October 4, 2007 2:35 PM   Subscribe

How old is too old for a boy-girl sleep over?

My niece (new to our house and under our guardianship) just made a friend yesterday. He's 12 and in middle school (7th grade). My niece is 11 and in elementary school (6th grade). The good news is that they have a lot in common and he seems to be a nice-enough kid.

The bad news is, this morning, she asked if he could sleep over. Previously, under her mother's care, she has had boys sleep over before, but they were either her age or younger.

I don't have experience enough to know what is "usual" or "unusual" about raising kids today (versus when I was young), so I ask the parents in the green for some guidance. So, how old is too old for a boy-girl sleepover? Any advice on how to break it to her without her feeling like "the rules" have changed on her?

Secondary question, what's a fair limit to place on how often he comes over to play and how long he stays, assuming homework isn't an issue?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (62 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As soon as they're old enough to want to sleep over with the opposite sex, they're too old for it.
posted by The World Famous at 2:37 PM on October 4, 2007 [13 favorites]

I think that's too old, personally. Kids that age have sex occaisonally, it's not a great idea.
posted by agregoli at 2:39 PM on October 4, 2007

I had some co-ed sleepovers at that age, but it usually involved a group of kids, not just one or two. This would be in the early 1990s, I guess. The kids were usually family friends; I don't know if that makes a difference.

Is there a spare room or basement where the boy could sleep for the night while your niece sleeps in her bedroom? I don't necessarily think anything is wrong with a co-ed sleepover but maybe it'd make everyone feel better if the two kids slept in different rooms. They could still stay up late and watch movies and eat popcorn, they'd just have to sleep in separate places.
posted by sutel at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2007

Meh, no big drama. Put the kids in separate bedrooms, get them to bed before you are, and roam around in the night unexpectedly. (Father of 12 yo girl, fwiw).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2007

Too old. Let him stay over late then take him home.
posted by CwgrlUp at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2007

I was a 7th grade boy once. Do not allow this. The only exception I can think of is family.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think that's too old, although these particular kids might not be even a little interested in the opposite sex yet.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2007

I was 12 years old in 1998 and sneaking behind buildings on school field trips to do some heavy petting with my girlfriend. Under no circumstances should any seventh (or sixth) grade boy ever be allowed to sleepover with a girl his age - phew!

That being said, I don't think there's harm in them hanging out "too much" as long as there is adequate supervision. Of course, in bedroom with door closed is not adequate supervision.
posted by coolhappysteve at 2:49 PM on October 4, 2007

My thought was "Abso-freaking-lutely too old." But I see other people have other opinions so I guess it could be okay...

I was a 11-year-old girl and I remember what boys my age were into. (BTW, not much has changed in the past two decades).

My mother was always very straightforward when she limited me, and it worked for our dynamic. In this situation, she would have explained to me that while she knew I wasn't having sex, that I was to the age where some children are tempted to experiment, and that she just didn't want to worry that either me or the boy might be faced with too much temptation in the middle of the night.

It'll be easier to set limits now than when she's 13...
posted by letahl at 2:51 PM on October 4, 2007

I can see a well-chaperoned, mixed-gender group of kids having a sleepover at this age, but definitely not just two kids together. Have you had any contact with her friend's parents? I bet they'd have opinion on the subject.

I also think it's great for kids' parents/caregivers to be friends (or at least acquaintances) with each other, in general. It helps create a greater sense of community, it helps you keep better track of your kids, and it gives you a valuable source of advice from people who are in a situation similar to your own.
posted by vytae at 2:51 PM on October 4, 2007

I was a 7th grade boy once, and while I wasn't thinking of sex much at that age, I do think the idea of a coed sleep-over at that age is a bad idea.
posted by drezdn at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2007

Givem what you said she'd been through in your last post ("instability, insecurity, homelessness"), I'd be extra cautious and suggest that he should go home after a fun evening together at your house. If it were your child and she'd been in a stable home her whole life and you were sure that she'd act appropriately and wasn't a potential victim already (though I'm really not accusing the boy of anything at all), it might be okay, but given what you know about her background and the small amount you've shared, I think you need to be extra careful. She still needs you to set the boundaries of acceptability.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2007

Yep, definitely too old to be hanging out together in a closed bedroom. Thinking back some some of the things my classmates were getting into in grade 7 (very early 90s, fwiw)... not something you'd want to let happen under your supervision. I'm not saying that these kids would be getting into that sorta stuff yet, but it's definitely not unheard of. No sense making it easy for them.
posted by cgg at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2007

Second i_am_joe's_spleen.
posted by kmennie at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2007

With i_am_joe's_spleen and kmennie; I don't think him staying over is a problem, although I think it should be in a separate bedroom.

It's not really a "sleepover," it's more like he's a "guest spending the night." There's a difference.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:59 PM on October 4, 2007

depends on how advanced these kids are. i read your previous question about your niece (and i've gotta add at i think you're fantastic for taking her in) and it seems like a friend is probably the best possible thing in the world for her right now

i remember when i was in 6th grade that i wasn't interested in boys in any sexual way, but i also had classmates who definitely were.

have you observed how they interact together? to the best of your ability to interpret 11 and 12 year olds' behavior, is it all silly, platonic friend interaction, or is there a hint of 6th grade-level flirting? how well do you know this boy? because he'd probably be the one to initiate anything sexual given his age, although it's perfectly possible that a 6th grade girl with a crush would as well. but you should know if she's started to go in that direction, right? i remember when my middle school friends started to become interested in their hair and makeup and boys. they started dressing in a more "mature" way (although nothing as overtly slutty as the kind of stuff peddled to preteens today. i guess i'm just getting old). they got a lot more boring, as well.

anyways, is she at all moving in that direction yet? cause in that case, i'd say definitely put him in another room. not in her bedroom. maybe do that in any case. but let her have her sleep over... while watching they like a (unobserved and unobtrusive) hawk.
posted by buka at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2007

if jr high isn't too old, when is? If it's not a bad idea now it will be later and then it'll be a bigger issue.
posted by Large Marge at 3:18 PM on October 4, 2007

I wouldn't worry about it. Maybe they'll experiment, but they probably won't, and even if they do, it'll be a learning experience and no one will probably get hurt.
posted by fvox13 at 3:26 PM on October 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

If she brought it up, I think that it might be time for a more general discussion about boys. Some thinking and asking other parents about how boys-who-are-friends works in this age group is needed; you can't really expect her to know how the social rules are evolving.

In volunteer clinic, I have seen pregnant 12 year olds. They aren't wild kids from bad families, either. They just didn't know better and have the cognitive development you'd expect at 12.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2007

If they were old friends and you trusted the boy and knew they were "just" friends, I'd say it might be OK. But a middle school boy who just met your daughter? Not so much. Don't let him sleep over--that is, unless you don't mind having another child new to your house and under your guardianship in about nine months).
posted by HotPatatta at 3:30 PM on October 4, 2007

I think it's definitely too old.

Aside from anything you might be worried about *happening*, there is also the fact that pre-teens & teens can be cruel & petty. If some catty girls or jerky guys hear that your niece is having sleepovers with an "older" boy, she might be harassed, labeled a slut, or just made fun of about her "boyyyyyfrieeeend".
posted by tastybrains at 3:32 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's a problem. Put them in separate rooms to sleep, if you're concerned about it.
posted by lemuria at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2007

Definitely too old. Past the age of 8, co-ed sleepovers need to have four or more people. Children are innocent, but they can also be very, very sketchy.
posted by Phire at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2007

Too old, unless in separate bedrooms, for all of the reasons cited upthread.

Agree that well-supervised mixed group, like a New Years/Halloween/whatever all night movie-fest, would be fine.

As for how to break it to her, well, you certainly don't want to sexualize the context of the friendship to her, so "what might happen" isn't a great tactic. And you don't want to us a reason that isn't quite the issue and won't hold up anyway, like that he's too new of a friend. You don't want to tell her that it's what people might say (though I agree with tastybrains) because there are plenty of circumstances when you'll be telling her to ignore what people say.

You do have the advantage of being a "new" parent figure to her, so you can fall back on "I'm not comfortable with it" and hold firm to "no."

As long as it's okay with his folks, and as long as he doesn't drive you nuts, I think it would be okay to let him stay late and visit pretty much as much as he wants.
posted by desuetude at 3:47 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I disagree with Damn Dirty Ape... not even family should sleep in the same room (by themselves... if there's a bunch of people, maybe). I was molested by a cousin at that age.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:59 PM on October 4, 2007

it is a matter of degree, but i would say it's totally reasonable to say no to this, and maybe pretty lenient to say yes. so it's up to you what kind of parent you want to be, but i think if she's had a chaotic life, a little structure wouldn't be a bad thing, even if it bugs her at first.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:29 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

From reading your first question, I get the impression that you really want her to have a good friend or friends. And that's understandable. But right now, she needs you way more. You seem to be doing all the right things, so probably you are naturally good parents/caregivers. Listen to your instinct! And read Hold on to Your Kids.
posted by davar at 4:41 PM on October 4, 2007

I wouldn't. I don't think they will have sex, but I'm guessing they are "dating" in the way 6th graders date and aren't telling you. And I see some heavy petting coming your niece's way if there is a sleep over. Big group of kids is a different situation (assuming you constantly check on them) but one on one at that age? No.
posted by whoaali at 4:49 PM on October 4, 2007

I would say no and have a refresher conversation about sex and the consequences. The age gap between an 11 and a 12 year old, especially if they're not even in the same classes at school is gigantic, and to me it reeks of having an alternative motive aside from friendship.

A big flag for me here was that she's had sleepovers with boys before. I sound horribly cynical, especially for someone with no children of my own, but she's by no means too young to be experimenting. I started when I was 7, and kids are a lot more knowledgeable and advanced compared to us lot in the early 90s. It could be a pattern here that's yet to be spotted.

At the very least give yourself some time to observe their interactions and work out what's going on there before you let him sleep over.

"Any advice on how to break it to her without her feeling like "the rules" have changed on her?"

The thing about this is that the rules have changed. She's heading into puberty and has probably already educated herself about sex in some way. She needs to know that the rules are going to start changing, and start changing fast. The best thing you could possibly do is prepare her for the rollercoaster that's coming.

"Secondary question, what's a fair limit to place on how often he comes over to play and how long he stays, assuming homework isn't an issue?"

I think you should probably be asking his parents about how long he should be staying over at your place, and what time his curfew is. Send/take him home an hour before he's supposed to be in bed.
posted by saturnine at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2007

Not a Parent, and definately not YOUR parent. Etc.

For all you (OP) or anyone here knows, the boy could be gay and they'd stay up all night dishing about American Idol SuperHunks or whatever.

What I'd be more concerned about is that you say she met him yesterday and is asking about a sleep-over so soon. Do you know the kid, or the kid's parents? Hell, she doesn't even really know him that well. I'd think that's just plain too soon, regardless of him being one year older. It'd be too soon if he was younger as well. Or a girl.

About all the talk of sex and her virtue being besmirched... Unfortunately if they're dead set on it, refusing to let him sleep over won't stop it from happening.

Secondary question, what's a fair limit to place on how often he comes over to play and how long he stays, assuming homework isn't an issue?

I'm not totally sure how to answer that. Thinking of it in terms of percentages of her awake&not-in-school time might help.
posted by CKmtl at 4:54 PM on October 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

middle school administrator who says "too old"
posted by tamitang at 5:07 PM on October 4, 2007

A 12 year old girl and a middle school boy? Oh, heavens no. By that age, they know about it, even if they're not doing it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:15 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another vote for too old, I had friends who lost their virginity at 12. I would be suspicious of his motives too, 7th graders are suddenly the little kids in school all over again. Most of them crave social approval more than anything and hanging out with a kid in elementary school is social suicide. Unless...he's trying to get something else from her.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:25 PM on October 4, 2007

I'm male, but I've had the good fortune to be good friends with members of the fairer sex since I was a toddler. One of my childhood friends was a near-sister to me, and some of my best friends in high school were female.

I've had co-ed sleepovers and been fine with it, but it's always either been in the context of 1) sister-friend who I'd grown up with or 2) high school best friends in a group. Never one-on-one with a girl during middle school, and especially not if we'd just met. The "yesterday" bit is the part that bothers me here.

I'd break it to her in the context that, while you may be ok with sleepovers later, you feel like it's not a second-day-of-knowing-you sort of situation.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:29 PM on October 4, 2007

I'm close (in a "cool aunt" way) to a gaggle of 12-14 year olds. I'll say that they're not necessarily "going out" and it's not necessarily weird for them to be friends. Particularly if he's a bit socially awkward, or if they're both geeky, and/or they have a lot in common that transcends the social gap, like, for instance, a rabid obsession with a particular video game or author.

Sleepover is still a no, though.
posted by desuetude at 5:55 PM on October 4, 2007

Too old. You don't sound comfortable with it, go with your gut. And while you are at it, be very sure of who she is sleeping over with at other houses. Make sure that the parents are home during the sleep over, and that there is no available alcohol, guns or drugs in the house. My parents said no sleepovers after my step-sister (then 13 and in 7th grade) went to a sleep over when parents were not home, truth or dare involved a blow job on big brother, and all smoked pot. I also have heard too many stories of almost rape by older brothers or their friends at sleep overs. Better to come home early.

Chances are, your niece hasn't even asked the boy if he wants to do a sleep over, it is something that she is used to, and he may not think he should do it because he just wants to be friends with the new kid on the block.

Set your rules now - your rules will always be compared to what her mother let her do, but in the long run (when she has kids of her own!) she will realize that you were setting rules for her own good, not to just make here appear dorky to friends. And don't fall for that trap that "everyone else's parents say yes" as chances are, they don't. Trust your gut.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 6:22 PM on October 4, 2007

Not that I'm recanting my general attitude, but I missed the "yesterday" bit. I wouldn't do this at first acquaintance either. And I'd want to meet or talk to the boy's parents first too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:39 PM on October 4, 2007

Whatever you decide, don't make a big deal out of it. When I Was that age, my female friend from down the street seemed like a natural candidate for an all-night bought of Castlevania, and my parents allowed her to stay over, but made such a big production out of the sleeping arrangements and implications that I was totally humiliated. There was absolutely no chance of anything between us, and I felt their overattention just underscored that fact.

I agree with CwgrlUp. Let him stay over wickedly late, then take him home. It's the next best thing to a sleepover, and you don't have to touch the embarrassing sexual issues that may not be on anyone's mind at all anyways.
posted by hermitosis at 6:47 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Say no, then use this perfect opportunity to segue into the talk.
posted by Reggie Digest at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2007

I remember being that tween age and being really, really curious about boys and sexuality. I remember there was a lot of experimentation amongst my friends at that age...a lot of "truth or dare" type games, and flashing of "bits" with a few kids actually claiming to have had sex, although one of my friends at that time lost her virginity at age 12, with a teenage boy who tried to use a balloon as a condom. There was also a girl in my 6th grade class who announced it was her goal to have sex with every boy in our grade. I am not sure if she succeeded, but yikes.

I think that most 'tweens haven't really learned at that age what is appropriate behavior and how to assert their right to say "no" to unwanted advances. Kids can easily be manipulated by other kids.

If you haven't already, I'd start an honest and open dialog with your niece about sex, her body and her rights.
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:54 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I lost my virginity around then.

No. Really. Just no.

And the difference between hanging out all day Saturday, riding bikes and playing video games and movies and then him going home at an hour before your bedtime and a sleepover seems purely parental supervision issue.
posted by Gucky at 7:17 PM on October 4, 2007

Oh dear lord, as the mother of a 13-year-old I am having kittens (and not the LOL kind) reading about everyone's "adventures" in this thread.

No sleepover. No. And doors open anytime he's there during the day too.

(Leaving to take all our doors off hinges, thinking about just taking child everywhere with me.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:10 PM on October 4, 2007

No. Too old. There's no need for him to sleep over, even in separate rooms. I used to have buddies sleep over as a kid and it was so fun. But my parents rightly would have never allowed a girl to sleep over at that age, probably not even earlier, nor would any girl's parents have allowed me to sleep over. It would have been seen as unquestionably inappropriate by all the parents and kind of scandalously wild by the kids, especially if it was just the two of us.

If that had happened to me at that age, I'd have definitely tried to get frisky. I mean, that's really all I'd be thinking about. It would be this amazing holy-shit-I-can't-believe-this-is-happening kind of mega event, like Christmas x 10. Even without really knowing what to do, I'd have been trying to do anything and everything I could or had heard of. I'd be dreaming about being able to brag to my friends. Captain Hormone, scoring the kind of peer points that would make me a legend.

If we did do anything, however small, and I did tell all my friends about it, everyone in my grade and the one above and the one below would wind up knowing about it, and she would be branded a slut (or would have in my city in the 80s anyway).

It's hard for us to remember the mindset at that age, but it's the time when the hormones first start to wake and take over. Add that to curiosity, peer pressure, and the desire to be one's own independent person free of anyone else's rules and you've got a recipe for clandestine experimentation. Experimentation doesn't have to be a bad thing, and it will definitely happen at some point, but I don't think you should provide a potential environment for it at this young age.

No sleepover. Maybe suggest a fun, girls-only sleepover as an alternative? They could call boys on the phone and ask who likes whom and all that fun stuff.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:43 PM on October 4, 2007

Its the speed that's the issue. She met him yesterday. She wants him to sleep over tonight. Indicates she is having some feelings there.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 PM on October 4, 2007

When I was in seventh grade, I fantasized about this situation. Something to consider.
posted by bingo at 9:09 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wonder if she may not be totally serious in her request for a coed sleepover. She might be testing you in a way. Eleven is a really weird age though...right in between being a child and a young woman. She might be innocently yearning for the days of younger childhood, when such an arrangement was acceptable.

There's no reason to think that the parent(s) of the boy she just met would be down with a coed sleepover arrangement!
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:48 PM on October 4, 2007

She's emotionally vulnerable. If you're going to tell her no, find a way for her to cement that friendship. She's going through a lot of tough changes. Find a 'win' way to say no.
posted by filmgeek at 9:48 PM on October 4, 2007

I used to spend the night with girls all the time in pre-high-school days...and after. We were buddies, and sex was the last thing on my mind. Of course, I'm gay. So I got to try make-up and stuff. It was cool. If people can relate to each other just on a buddy level (and they're interested in hanging out like this so soon), i'd say support it. Just supervise and everybody hang out together--no closed doors and such. It shouldn't take too long to get some idea of the kind of vibes between them to figure whether something is likely to happen or not.

As an adult I still love platonic sleepovers (my favorite bands even sleep over when they come to town). Would have been a shame to have missed out on that when I was a kid (and would have been creepy then to have my parents or hers view it as sexual).
posted by troybob at 9:52 PM on October 4, 2007

I don't know about y'all but at 12 I was way too terrified of boys I liked to want them to come and sleep over. It would only be boys I was comfortable around (ie platonic friends) that I'd have asked.

It is good to not have black-and-white ideas about what is appropriate in this situation. There are a lot of people having vapours here about the very notion of these kids sleeping in the same house, but instilling that kind of panic & fear of sexuality in your kids is exactly what makes them do wild things at an early age -- it's forbidden and therefore "adult".

Moreover if you have an open relationship with this little girl and think of her as a person who can (gasp!) think and feel and reason you can talk about the subject. Every kid is different, every friend they make is different, and acting like the sexuality sheriff or telling kids they can not be trusted does not promote a pre-teen girl's healthy ideas about love and sex... at all.
posted by loiseau at 10:19 PM on October 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

CKmtl brings up the point I would have: When I was that age, all my friends were girls, and it was the saddest thing for me that I could never sleep over when they had parties or weekend movie nights or whatever. And there was no danger of my ever doing anything sexual with any of them because, duh, I'm gay.

If you think the boy might be gay--and I know this takes some serious powers of perception in some cases--I'd give it some thought.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:34 PM on October 4, 2007

When I was that age I was really mad at the way my parents treated male friend of mine - he was a year older than me but we were really close friends in a totally non-sexual way. They, after much sulking, allowed him to sleep over (he only lived across the street anyway) but when he arrived they said he had to sleep in another room - which was fine with him, it had my computer in it ;) (we had planned to sleep in the same bed, just like when my girl friends stayed over.

Do you really want to teach her that you don't trust her and that its inconcievable for a male and female to have a purely platonic relationship?
Go for a compromise, let him stay over at your house, then you can watch them together and find out whether their friendship is just a friendship.

For all you know she could be gay. They both could. Even if they're not, they could be totally not interested in each other in that way.
posted by missmagenta at 12:09 AM on October 5, 2007

Ay yi yi. Y'know, fvox13 has a point. Kids will learn about sex whatever you do one way or the other. And when I was about that age I once slept thoroughly innocently in two zipped-together sleeping bags with a sister-like family friend. But we'd known each other for years -- and on the flip side there were other opportunities that were, uh, had.

Also, hermitosis has an excellent point about parental drama queenery. Hell, there was a time when I was in college and we had a road trip opportunity and I begged my mom to make an extra large batch of spaghetti and figured we'd all hang out playing games on the C64 or watching movies. Instead, when I got there, there was a formal dinner set in the dining room with the heirloom china and, well, it wasn't such a fun road trip for any of us at that point.

So, concisely, no.

Not now. She and this boy are too new.

Not now. You don't know his family or his history. Kids at that age can be convicted offenders (generally because of what was done to them at an earlier age, but that doesn't mean you want him in the house). I'm not saying jump to conclusions, but there's a risk here, especially raised by the oh-so-quick close friendship.

Not now. You and your niece are too new. There's a lot of stuff to work out between you, leave alone the complicated boys issue.

Not now, because of what I read in the other thread. She's paranoid about kidnapping? Well, that sounds like a major PTSD indicator or something and even if you don't have an abuse diagnosis (or don't want to mention it here) it's red flag enough to say she shouldn't be in this kind of sketchy situation.

In my hometown the kids are growing up earlier, I would say, in terms of being exposed to overt sexual interaction at an earlier age. I feel I live in a fairly isolated and not very urban city, but I've seen street propositions (say, 16-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl) that disturb me a little.

And yes, I know that sort of thing was going on when I was a kid, too, just not so much.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

So, how old is too old for a boy-girl sleepover?

Even a well-mannered boy needs to insert his penis into things.

If he stays over (and I'm not saying you should allow that to happen), keep a close watch on every animate or inanimate thing in the house that might offer him a mountable hole. At bedtime, put him in a separate room that he cannot leave without causing you to leap from bed with a wild look in your eye. In the morning, be careful what you touch as you go about cleaning up after him.
posted by pracowity at 3:31 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

I had sleepovers with male friends all through high school. What's the big deal? I hate rain on everyone's heteronormative parade, but who's to say either one of these children wants to do anything sexual with the other?

If you're that concerned that "experimenting" will take place or get out of hand, just put them in separate bedrooms as suggested above. From reading these responses you'd think that two middle school kids having a sleepover is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
posted by sneakin at 5:15 AM on October 5, 2007

I have a 12 year old girl. I asked her this question at breakfast, and she looked at me like I was crazy. The overall idea was that at this age, reputation is king and it's way too easy to be labeled a "slut". Unless the two kids in question are life-long neighbors or friends of long-standing, it's not likely that other kids will look at this any other way. In other words, unless it's a "norm" in your community for kids of new acquaintance and mixed-gender to have sleep-overs at this age, it's going to be seen as weird. Does that matter? When you're twelve , hell yes.

Both of my girls have had friends of the boy persuasion at this age. If they want (ed) one boy to visit, I'd first clear it with the boy's parents, and then provide casually supervised activities (DVD-watching, video game playing, etc) in your home. Everyone goes home by 11 pm, or what's comfortable for boy's parents.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:18 AM on October 5, 2007

pracowity cracked me up.

Agree with the folks who say that, while co-ed sleepovers might be OK in some circumstances, it is not OK with someone you have just met. This gives you the perfect excuse to give to your niece -- "Well, Niece, we can talk about having him sleep over at some point, but I think both you and your aunt and I [that's a weird grammatic construction, but you know what I mean] need to get to know him a little better first.

I'll also agree with folks that say that if you don't want your niece experimenting with this boy, then sleepovers are not the only thing you have to watch out for. In high school, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I had some sexy fun times in my family's basement den while my parents were upstairs watching TV.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

too old. i have a 12 year old daughter who has as many male friends as female and has done the co ed sleepover as a younger child. Even she wouldn't think this is a good idea.

there is nothing wrong with them hanging out, but both you and your neice barely know the kid. take some time to get to know him before they hang out alone at all.
posted by domino at 7:59 AM on October 5, 2007

They would also tease her about having a boyfriend (she shuddered at the thought).

Cute. At least now she's on board with your reasoning.

I'm interested to see if this changes anyone's mind: ... Apparently the boy was going door-to-door in the neighborhood, looking for kids his own age.

That in and of itself doesn't smell predatory or anything like that to me. I can think of lots of innocent reasons why a kid would do that. Recently moved to the neighbourhood, or attends school in another neighbourhood (therefore his school friends are a bit too far away to hang out with regularly), or his main friend(s) recently moved away from the neighbourhood.
posted by CKmtl at 9:47 AM on October 5, 2007

it was the immediacy in which she attached herself to a stranger
This is exactly what Hold on to your Kids is about. Seriously. And your instincts are right that it is a concern, especially seeing her history.
posted by davar at 12:36 PM on October 5, 2007

I was somewhat surprised about the lack of dissenting opinions in this thread. Here in Germany, co-ed sleepovers between kids (in the same age range) would not be considered a problem, no matter how old the kids are (at least not in the upper middle class, liberal families I know).
I mean, if they're too young to be interested, it's ok anyway; if they're old enough, they will "experiment" no matter what. And I guess they'd rather do that in a protected environment than in a public toilet, a garden shed or god knows where.
Of course, both (!) the boy and the girl should know what's going on, and should be assertive about their boundaries - but that is also true apart from a sleepover situation. Sexual harrassment (or getting pregnant) can happen everywhere, not only in the bedroom.
Also, I guess the "problem" of early sexual encounters wouldn't be limited to boy/girl sleepovers. There are, after all, boys who like boys, and girls who like girls. So, wouldn't girly nights and boy scout camps have to be forbidden until all participants have reached the age of consent?
I guess it's a cultural thing; in Germany/Europe, children's sexuality is generally not seen as a fundamental threat to normal development, but as a normal part of growing up.
(But of course, even in Germany it would seem somewhat strange to let a kid sleep over who you or your niece don't really know. I think this is the real problem, not the "co-ed sleepover" as such. Which means I understand your particular decision, but not the general principle of sleepover apartheit...)
posted by The Toad at 5:04 AM on October 7, 2007

Interesting the note in terms of the Germany reference, The Toad. The only coed sleepover I have ever had on my own with another boy was in grade 4, and this happened in Germany (I was there from grades 3-5). It was cute. There was the talking about Sailor Moon, there was the sleeping in the same bed, and there was the flattering idea of "aww, he likes me".

Even so, I noticed that the girl gossip circles were talking about how he sleeps over with girls a lot, and he's so weird, and he kisses girls (shudder!!). Even though the boy was, iirc, very sweet and totally innocent. I mean, I was the social recluse then - for me to have noticed that kind of talk says something about how widespread it was.
posted by Phire at 8:48 PM on October 7, 2007

Depends on the kids and their relationship. But 12 sounds too old, especially for someone she met recently.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2007

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