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Kids @ Cons [Jan. 27th, 2010|04:29 pm]
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[mood |quixoticquixotic]

Way back in '91, (or was it '92?) I ran a convention and very deliberately insisted on a panel about being a parent and staying active in fandom. It had two two fan mums on it. Back at that point, I think I knew three people with kids that were still active fans.

There were quite a few more who had basically dropped out for various reasons - time/money constraints, had moved on to other interests, lost interest in fandom in the face of the new little person who needed them, just felt they couldn't do both, etc.

That was why I wanted this panel, because there were people dropping out simply because they didn't think they could do both, be a parent and an active fan. I wanted people to be able to hear from some parents who were still going to cons and clubs, and to be able to pick up some tips, so they could do the same if they wanted to.

What amazed me was the sheer lack of attendance. Especially by women who were talking about having children themselves. Because, to me, it wasn't a subject that was just about keeping yourself in fandom, it was about how to maintain the aspects of your life that you wanted to hang on to in the face of the world altering addition of another person in your life.

I thought this way a decade and a half before I even had kids, because I knew that many people will end up looking after a child at some point. And it'd be a shame to lose them simply because they didn't think they could do the stuff that they enjoyed, and still care for their kid. No-one wins in that scenario.

There are people who say that kids shouldn't be allowed at cons, and I can honestly see their point. Kids can be disruptive, excitable, loud, and annoying. They can run around, bump into people, and wave things about with no regard for the people nearby who might be hit. They can be a huge imposition to those around them who genuinely shouldn't have to put up with it. People have paid to enjoy the convention, they shouldn't have that enjoyment lessened by some out of control child.

Of course there are more than a few adult fans the above paragraph applies to as well. I can think of instances where I have seen supposedly mature adults doing all these things. In some cases at con after con after con.

Shall we stop them coming to cons too? 'Cause I'm sure I can easily list a few names that I'd rather not attend cons any more. People who always fucking yell stuff out from the audience whether it's warranted or not, especially the ones who think they're funny. Who drink too much and then proceed to be completely obnoxious fucking tools for the rest of the night. Panelists that never seem to prepare, or who always seem to talk over the top of their fellow panelists. Con-runners that never try to do a good job, but always aim for average, and con-runners that will step on whomever they please because running cons is not about community but power.

These people seriously lessen my con experience. They lessen it substantially more than any child ever has. (Except perhaps my own, but he basically kept us trapped in our room most of the time, and was pretty delightful to everyone else, so I'm prepared to put up with him - for now!)

But, you know, at the end of the day, if a child is acting up in any way, the first person who is aware of it is usually the parent. In fact, they will often be cringing. They will usually try to sort the situation out in fairly short order, and if they can't, they will take the child and leave. And as annoyed as you may be by the two minutes of a kid annoying you, how about a bit of thought for the poor parent who has to leave the item they wanted to see and continue dealing with the unruly child.

Oh there are some selfish parents. People who will just let their kid do what it wants, won't keep an eye on it, or worse, will expect other people to do so without being asked. But you know, it's not hard to go up to them and ask them to do something about their disruptive child. And if you don't want to be the bad guy, it's usually not hard to find a committee member who can do it for you.

I have Chaired four conventions and been on several committees, but I've never had a situation where I had to ask a parent to take their child and leave. I have, however, had occasion to chastise and threaten with expulsion a couple of adults, and I've had to ask one professional author to leave a con for breaking convention rules that he was well aware of beforehand.

Maybe kids don't belong at cons, but I prefer their behaviour to some of the adults who attend, because at least the children have a legitimate excuse to behave immaturely.

[User Picture]From: cassiphone
2010-01-28 08:54 am (UTC)
... don't all cons have security officers/teams?

I kind of thought this was standard.

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[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-01-28 10:16 am (UTC)
Not at Swancon to my knowledge.

Which may well be why this is the great drama it has become.

Can any of the concom confirm/deny the presence of a security team for the control and possible ejection of any of the wide range of offenders mentioned here and elsewhere (from babies to centarians) at this or any previous Swancon?
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[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-01-28 10:19 am (UTC)
centenarians even.
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[User Picture]From: tikiwanderer
2010-01-28 10:32 am (UTC)
I've seen people with "security" badges at Swancons sometime in the distant past, haven't paid much attention in the last few years to see if security's been allocated as a separate role or if it's just been put under the "these people are committee members, they'll deal with your problems" banner.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:29 pm (UTC)
I can't speak for Perth, but over many years we learned over East that it was usually better to get committee to look after security/problems.

See my comment above RE: a threatened strip search by a security team at a con.
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[User Picture]From: indefensiblepos
2010-02-03 09:03 am (UTC)
Is the security team you refer to hired professionals or just a group of conners assigned the role? After all various experiments like Stanford and Milgram show what can happen if you give someone control who has no idea how to handle it.

If they were supposed professionals, I hope they were fired promptly. (Assuming they weren't given an appallingly bad mandate in the first place from the committee.)

If not well then...

Rather than concom being security or even getting another member of the con to do it, actually hiring a professional security guard may be worth considering. Whilst this costs money in an overall cost analysis it wouldnt be significant and just having the uniform strolling the hallways/communal areas would provide a visual sense of security.

Should there be a more hands on need for security the person would be appropriately trained and completely impartial. (No con member letting their friends get away with something they step on others for)

Futhermore, the liability of having to forcibly remove someone in a worst case scenario would be transferred away from the concom. Which works not only in the case of the person being ejected complaining, but also in the case where if someone was assaulted then concom (for any number of reasons) doesnt do anything the victim could accuse the con of not providing a reasonably safe environment.

Also let me finish by saying I think it sucks immensely that such considerations are even thought of by me or anyone else. Unfortunately people suck even more, which is why do.
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[User Picture]From: prk
2010-01-30 04:46 am (UTC)
None of the concoms I've been on have had an official security team or hired professional security.

However there are several members of the local fan community who work in the security industry.

All of the concoms I've been on have involved asking them for advice, and/or calling one of them if a situation has arisen (eg 2005 had someone wander in off the street causing trouble, who needed to be evicted).

The concoms usually have contingencies in place, and/or have discussed in advance how possible situations would be handled. This has resulted in the few issues that have occurred being dealt with quickly and quietly.

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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-31 02:37 am (UTC)
And quickly and quietly is the ideal. Con Security sometimes does not manage this, because they aren't also running the con. They see their mandate as stopping problems in a quick manner. Con committees see their mandate as running the con as effectively as possible with as little disruption to the members as can managed.

I have seen some great Con Security, but it is far and away in the minority.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:25 pm (UTC)
Most cons basically have the committee keeping their eyes open. The quick version is that having security teams can cause more problems than they solve, if people get a bit gung-ho. This was a lesson learned over many years.
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