Tired of Worrying Someone Will Report You For Letting Your Kid Play Outside or Wait in Car?

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After hearing from so many parents worried that if they let their kids play outside or walk to school they could run afoul of the authorities, I wrote the statement below. Please fiddle with it to your satisfaction, then bring it to your mayor, or next town meeting, or post it on Facebook — or shout it from the rooftops. (If you do that, please take a video.) I believe that the first town that goes Free-Range will reap a ton of publicity, and property values will soar. (Buy now!)

Eventually families will routinely seek out Free-Range cities or towns when buying a home. Who doesn’t long for the freedom to live their life and raise their kids the way they see fit?

WHAT IS A “FREE-RANGE TOWN”? 

Free-Range Kids is the national movement that believes our kids are not in constant danger.  Nationally, the crime rate is back to what it was in 1963, so there’s no reason kids today should not have the same freedom most of us adults had — and loved — when we were young.

Free-Range Cities and Towns are places where an old-fashioned childhood is allowed to flourish again. Free-Range communities encourage kids to walk, ride bikes, and play outside till the street lights come on. Citizens, cops and child protective workers who see or hear of an unsupervised child do not automatically treat the child as endangered, or the parents as negligent. They simply look out for the kids, as helpful neighbors always have.

Being a latchkey kid is not illegal, nor is it illegal to let a child wait in the car while the parent runs a short errand. Everyone comes from a place of helping out, rather than turning each other in: “Hey, kid. You okay? Do your parents know where you are? Do you know how to get home?” Parents are given the benefit of the doubt, as are helpful strangers.

The watchword is this: “Our kids have the right to some unsupervised time, and parents have the right to give it to them without being arrested.”

A town where kids are playing in the parks and visiting their friends is the kind of safe, lively place we all want to live. It’s a place that’s friendlier for all ages. And it’s a place where parents can make rational, loving decisions — or even some mistakes (we all do!) — without fearing retribution from busybodies and authorities.

By declaring itself “Free-Range,” a city, town, or neighborhood automatically becomes more attractive to the people living there and the people considering moving in. Freedom, caring and community are hard to beat! 

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Mayberry could get some stiff competition.

Doubt Knott! Mayberry could face some stiff competition. 

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17 Responses to Tired of Worrying Someone Will Report You For Letting Your Kid Play Outside or Wait in Car?

  1. Warren October 8, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Hmmm, elections coming up. Maybe a Free Range Party with Lenore for President. Donna as her running mate. They would get my votes if I were in the states.

  2. Pjack October 8, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    Someone please let me know if your town is this way

  3. Mark Roulo October 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    “Please fiddle with it to your satisfaction, then bring it to your mayor, or next town meeting, or post it on Facebook — or shout it from the rooftops.”

    I’d suggest understanding your town’s current local politics.

    My child has had fairly free run of the suburb in which we live and has never had a problem. I’d be very reluctant to raise this as an issue, however, because I can easily see things changing for the worse once the local city council was encouraged to “do something.”

    Folks should be careful about making this political if it isn’t yet unless they are fairly confident that they know which direction things will fall. In my town, I’d worry that the current benign neglect would turn into mandated helicoptering.

  4. Wendy Leibowitz October 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    I’d add that reporting parents to the authorities (absent cases of serious abuse or neglect) is the action of a police state. I’d emphasize the reporting to the police is exactly what many previous generations of Americans fought against, when we opposed Communism in the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

  5. lollipoplover October 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    The best way to create a free range neighborhood is to get to know your neighbors.
    You don’t have to be buddies with everyone, but knowing them and respecting each other is half the battle. We have many free range families in our neighborhood and these kids have epic manhunt games and all day bike/skate/chalk/hockey fests on our streets. But we also have several senior citizens and some single guys who our children must respect as their fellow neighbors.

    Last year, my daughter fell off her bike on the way home from school. An elderly neighbor stopped her car and cleaned my daughter up with tissues and sent her on her way. Come winter, my kids are so shoveling their walk ways (we already plow their driveway). Good neighborhoods have to be cultivated and nurtured. Calling the police on one another without attempting to resolve something in a civil manner creates bad neighborly relations.
    Send over batches of cookies and surplus zucchini. Invite everyone to the block party and be a good neighbor yourself so that no one wants to call the police on your kids. Teach your children to be respectful of their neighbors and surroundings (like move out of the street when a car comes) and sounds of children playing outside will again be called “happy noise” vs. SVU theme song.

  6. Michele Minsuj October 8, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    I plan to do this!

  7. Stefanie Weyand October 8, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    This is so great! Thank you!

  8. Wendy W October 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    I agree with Mark. If there have been no incidents, I’d leave well-enough alone. There are plenty of towns that are free-range-friendly. When a situation arises, that would be the time to confront the town council with a group of like-minded friends and make sure the whole town is aware of the draconian tyranny.

  9. Kariane October 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Indeed! I love the idea of a Free Range City. 🙂

  10. Steve S October 8, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    I think this is a great idea. We need to change the norms and standards in regards to reasonable parenting practices.

  11. James Pollock October 8, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    I wonder how many places actually ARE already free-range-friendly, but people are afraid to let their kids out unsupervised because of (paranoid) fear of being turned in for it.

    I mean, yes, the Meitivs got hassled, and created some (needed) pushback, but… how many people heard about it and internalized “I guess that’s the way things are now”, when they aren’t, except in that one town in Maryland?

    Or am I just living in the last pocket of Americans who let their kids out to play outside?

  12. sexhysteria October 9, 2015 at 4:32 am #

    Perfect!

  13. Just a Mom October 9, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    Unfortunately with Trolling on Facebook being many people’s hobby you always have snitches. This social problem have created people who crave power over other people’s lives. As easy as it is to say something negative and nasty on the Internet and be anonymous. Just as easy it is to phone in and snitch on neighbors or strangers. As sad as this is, it is the society we live in. The social service institution is a dream come true for these people. They can phone in and be anonymous. No one will ever check up on them. Parents make mistakes so it is so easy to find something to snitch about and use the word neglect or abuse. Parents are guilty until proven innocent. A case is opened immediately against the family and their life will never be the same. It gives a snitch immense power. From Facebook to real life it is an easy transition to make for someone who craves power and wants to feel superior. Parents have no protection or any group or government agency to protect them.

  14. JEFF in CT October 10, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    HI All- Great comments and discussion. Lenore, nicely written.

    My town is recently pushing for a RIGHT TO FARM status. Its similar to some of the proposed ideas in this article. The group that proposed the legislation is about 8-10 people. They gathered info on where the “farmland” is in our town, what other towns have passed, and some general plans to protect small farms. Some examples specifically brought up were when a farm has existed, and a new family moves next door, without safety language, the newer family can essentailly file complaints against the farm until they give up.

    Thats what a lot of parents have done, given up. I dont believe that the majority of parents want to live in fear of the police or social services harrassing them, or worse, taking away their RIGHT TO PARENT.

    I think this is a good outline of what a group waged on passing this legislation should agree on. Parental rights, police and social worker eduction, legal language, community involvement. Some towns may already have a group of parents who believe these things and have found each other. In most towns it seems, we hide in the shadows afraid to shine the light on us, lest the Police, Social Services and Courts strip us of what we value most, our children.

    It is hard, as Mark pointed out, to take that step. But where Mark stated that bringing this issue up may get opposing legislation passed, I seriously doubt that. Laws are made by those who show up. Dont give up. Find one other parent who supports these ideas. Then meet up with another. This is possible to get through.

  15. Bill Fullerton October 10, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    ” Free Range” parents have, unfortunately, a tendancy towards the same type of faulty risk assesment that “parents of fear” suffer from. Fearfully parents see the significant risks of harm that their children must be protected from even when the risks infact are statistically mininal.

    Essentially, the reason you hear about any type of terrible thing that happens is because it is rare and therefor news worthy.

    To a certain extent the fears of “Free Range” parents that they will be confronted by police or childens serviices are the same type of false elevation of minimal risk. Really how many Free Range parents are actually hauled in front of authorities. (Yes yes in a perfect world it would never happen.)

    Dont become the people railing sgainst the war on christmas.

  16. Heather October 12, 2015 at 12:09 am #

    I live in rural Western Montana. The kids around here are generally treated like reasonable human beings. They do the sorts of things country kids have always done, from helping stack firewood and care for livestock, to riding horses and atv’s and using BB guns

  17. marj October 12, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

    In some states it is illegal to leave kids.in the car for any amount of time. I think it’s ridiculous.