BEWARE of dogs, more so when the dark growls and howls rabidly about responsibility. This, admit it, is hardly a bed of roses. Even if we may have blanket authority over the young, our certainties still appear frail, ganged up by our anxieties, despite our desperate attempts at maturity.

In Arkansas, for instance, a mother was convicted of misdemeanor and harassment of her teenage son after she quarreled with him. Shooing him away and locking him out of the house overnight, she reportedly “hijacked” his Facebook page by changing his password and posting this fang-shiny status: “The only mistake I ever made was having a kid."

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Some grownups, in fact, blame it on the kids as their eyelids cast a long shadow of sleeplessness. Consider the nightmare of criminality, for instance. It seems sweet dreams about happy endings of dangers do not come to pass without, well, picking on the young’s vulnerability.

Beyond the monsters looming out of grandma’s fairy tale, there’s no risk more real than dereliction of duty. After all, criminals were children once upon a time. What went wrong along the way can only mirror the miserable fact of communal failure: the home, the school and all the way up. Its tangle of whys and wherefores, of course, cannot be easily summed up as the Facebook status of society at large.

But it’s unfair for the young to bear the brunt of authority’s helplessness, argued Andy Herm. He was 17 when he made news with his 2002 lawsuit against the city of Denver's authority for imposing curfew.

With the backing of his classmates who donated money and aided by his father, a lawyer, Herm protested the violation of the Fourth Amendment and its protections against unreasonable search and seizure. It also suppressed the youth’s freedom, he said. All of his claims, however, were rendered moot as Colorado forbade the young to go to court. He had to obey his city’s curfew law.

"We don't have a country where people take very seriously the idea that young people deserve a lot of freedom," explained New York University School of Law professor and children’s rights advocate Martin Guggenheim. For the sake of teenagers, at least 500 US cities have curfews prohibiting those under 18 from the streets after 11 p.m. during the week and after midnight on weekends. There are daytime curfews, too, in about 100 American cities to stop the children from going truant during school hours.

Even as the effectiveness, if not the constitutionality, of curfews remain the bone of contention, it makes more sense in spotlighting a problem than looking at it as a solution.

In Minneapolis, for example, community response goes beyond punitive measures against youths at risk. Complementing the curfews with a comprehensive safety net for families and neighborhoods, Minneapolis connects the young to counseling, social, and recreational programs as communication gets fine-tuned among parents, schools, the police and other concerned agencies.

As Cebu’s leaders see the fruition of curfews as a conquest of juvenile delinquency and other more serious crimes, they can do better than bark at the wrong tree. In the doggone mist, they might only run the risk of unleashing their inner somnambulists.

(geemyko@gmail.com)