This is a gem from the pubyac archives about people hating on teens, and one librarian’s response (posted with her permission):
Uh, how does your library handle loitering adults? It might be handy to have a definition of ‘loitering’:
loiter v. to linger or hang around in a public place or business where one has no particular or legal purpose. In many states, cities, and towns there are statutes or ordinances against loitering by which the police can arrest someone who refuses to “move along.” There is a question as to whether such laws are constitutional. However, there is often another criminal statute or ordinance which can be applied specifically to control aggressive begging, soliciting prostitution, drug dealing, blocking entries to stores, public drunkenness, or being a public nuisance.
intr.v. loi?tered, loi?ter?ing, loi?ters
1. To stand idly about; linger aimlessly.
2. To proceed slowly or with many stops: loitered all the way home.
3. To delay or dawdle: loiter over a task.
Going by the above definition, most children ‘loiter’ while leaving someplace they don’t wanna leave. Are the teens loitering? Really? Or just hanging out with nothing to do?
socialize with your friends, whether it is of your choosing or not; most of the time the term is used to refer to a type of fun.
*spend time in a certain location or with certain people; “She hangs out at the corner cafe”
*(slang) To spend time doing nothing in particular
If they are ‘hanging out’, they need to follow the behavior policy (don’t block entrances/exits, keep feet off furniture, keep voices reasonably soft, etc) which should be the same for Everyone regardless of age.
If they are truly loitering (panhandling, trying to steal, dealing, soliciting, etc) then call the police. Teens like to socialize. And talk. And learn how to communicate in a public area. This is Not Loitering! This is Hanging Out. As long as they know the rules (you may want a simplified version on a quarter sheet to hand out) and know they are expected to follow them, they should be good to go.