Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Range Parenting or Child Neglect?

You no doubt have heard about the couple in Maryland who let their children, 10 and 6 years old, walk a mile home alone and had CPS and the police called on them.  Well on Monday the state weighed in on their case.  They are charged with "unsubstantiated child neglect".  They don't appear to be receiving any kind of sentence for this charge but it is something that stays on file with them at CPS. 

Am I the only one who thinks that this is bullshit?  I'm not what you would consider a "free-range parent by any means, but in my opinion a 10 year old is perfectly capable of walking home alone.  He is even more capable of walking home in the company of another kid. When I was a kid, I walked home from school with other kids my age starting at around 8. In fact up until I was 8, I walked home with my slightly older school mates who were about 10 or 11.  And the thing is that kids aren't in any more danger now than they were when I was a kid.  In fact there are studies that show that things like random kidnapping are down since the early 80's when I made the 8 block trek home unsupervised. 

What the hell is wrong with us nowadays where we think that the world is such a dangerous place that it is considered child neglect to let a 10 year old walk home with his little sibling?  If 10 is too young, then what is the proper age?  12?  15?  18?  By the time I was 10, I was free to ride my bike with my little friends all over the neighborhood unsupervised and wasn't allowed to come home until dinner time.  My parents had no idea where I was for most of the day and they never worried that they were being neglectful because at 10 I was mature enough to know to look both ways when crossing the streets and not to get into a van with a guy offering me candy.

I think that this is just ridiculous.  I refuse to be one of those parents who is paranoid every time that my kid walks out the front door that she is going to be in danger of being kidnapped or run down by a crazy driver.  My kid is allowed to go outside to play alone.  She has a little friend down the street and when she walks down to her house I don't feel the need to watch her.  She will get there just fine.  And when they ride their bikes on the street I don't worry that a car is going to come and snatch her up because that would be crazy.  She would never get fresh air if I worried like that.  But with this attitude prevalent among parents and apparently officials, it's no wonder kids don't play outside anymore. Our kids need more sunshine and exercise, not leashes and helicopter parenting. 

If you want to read the article that got me going, it is here at slate.com.

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