Back in 2007, I stumbled across an article published on The Daily Mail: How children lost the right to roam in four generations. This small article told how a great grandfather was able to wander out 6 miles to go fishing, while his great grandson isn't allowed to leave the yard. What happened?
Skenazy, the author of Free Range Kids, originally wrote in her newspaper column about how she let her 9 year old son ride the subway home by himself. With a subway map, a roll of quarters to call home, and a $20 bill in pocket, Izzy made it home fine within the hour. It took no time for her to earn the label "America's Worst Mom".
People continue to repeat the litany of "it's different/dangerous now". It's easy to fall into line when the news media is constantly giving us things to be scared of. If it's not child abduction, it's toxic chemicals in cleaners, or even dangerous toys. Even worse, there are tons of television shows, like the popular Law & Order or CSI, that keep it in the forefront of our mind. Sometimes it's difficult to separate the reality from what's imagined.
Did you know there have been no cases, none, of poisoned, laced, or otherwise tampered candy during Halloween? Most crimes against children are committed by acquaintances, and even more often family members! Turns out "stranger danger" isn't what parents should be worried about. What other myths are we repeating that cause harm to our children without even realizing it?
In places like Japan and Germany, children as young as 3 are allowed to walk unattended to the corner bakery or to the park, where they can play with other children. In many European countries, it's considered healthy to leave a baby unattended outside a store to get fresh air, while the parents go in to get lunch or do some shopping.
Skenazy doesn't suggest children should be allowed to run rampant through the streets. She's asking for some consideration. If the bus stop or school isn't far away, perhaps children could be allowed to walk there themselves. Or maybe they should be permitted to walk down the street to pick up a loaf of bread for the family.
The way the media frames it, you wouldn't believe it, but crimes against children are lower than they were in 1976. It's, in fact, safer now than it was. Maybe, just maybe, parents should consider affording their children the same opportunity for exploration that they were as kids.
Lenore Skenazy's website: freerangekids.com
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