And Media Fear-mongering About Kids


Free-Range Kids is the book, blog and movement dedicated to giving kids back the fun and freedom of childhood — the kind of childhood that makes kids sunny and self-reliant. We fight the pop culture tape-loop that says children are in constant danger and incapable of doing much more than sitting in the back of the minivan, eating Pop-Tarts and being driven the three blocks to school.

How wacky was 2010 when it came to insisting our kids are in peril, pedophiles are everywhere and the only good parent is a helicopter parent? Check out our Golden Helicopters:

But It’s Still Less Creepy than “J. Edgar Barbie”: With Christmas gearing up, the FBI warned that “Video Barbie” could be used by child pornographers — even though, so far, it has never, ever seen this happen. This didn’t stop the news media from showing how Barbie could easily be used to videotape from the corner of a girl’s bedroom or even under her skirt:; Daily Show:

How About a Creepy Mom Locator? Verizon unveiled a “Family Locator” app in an ad that showed a mom using it to track her teen daughter and two friends at the mall. Because so many groups of three teens get kidnapped together from crowded public spaces:

Next Week The Today Show Explains Why You Should Never Cross in Front of a Black Cat: The Today Show warned viewers that no one under 13 should trick or treat without an adult, because, “people put on masks and…do bad things.” Meanwhile, an actual study of sex crime statistics found, “zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.” Somehow, that didn’t get mentioned on the show.

What Exciting New Career Beckons If You Live Alone with Your Cats and Talk to Your Toothbrush? Just how fragile are today’s kids? Schools have started hiring “friendship coaches” to discourage students from having best friends, because when they do, someone could feel left out. (Like…a Friendship Coach?)

And the Buns Give You Cancer: Dr. Gary Smith of the American Academy of Pediatrics urged that hotdogs be “re-designed” because, of the 20,000,000,000 hotdogs eaten annually, about 10 kids choke on them. That’s one death per 200 million franks. Smoothies! Get yer hotdog smoothies!

This Goes Double When Playing the “Flute” A new video from the musicians union in Britain instructs music teachers, “Don’t touch pupil’s fingers’ when giving lessons,” because anytime any adult touches a kid it’s practically molesting, right? What a great way to think of ALL child/adult interactions.

And Once You Find a Grenade in a Cul de Sac You Take it Home and Have a Tea Party: After a forgotten stuffed animal was spotted on a quiet Orlando street, the nearby school went into lockdown. The bomb squad was summoned. The bomb guys blew up the stuffed animal, which turned out to be…a stuffed animal. But as one resident explained, “Once you see that it’s a stuffed animal, your mind starts racing with all kinds of…crazy stuff.”

You ARE Allowed to Bring a Pencil: A school in suburban Colorado encouraged children to participate in the annual science fair — so long as their projects did not include organisms (living or dead), plants in soil, chemicals, microbial cultures, fungi, molds, bacteria, parasites, or flammable substances, all of which were banned.

You Are NOT Allowed to Bring a Pencil: A sixth grade teacher at North Brookfield (Massachusetts) Elementary School banned students from bringing pencils to class or “face disciplinary action for having materials to build weapons.”

And If We Find Him Making His Own Lunch, M’am, You’re Looking at Hard Time: Cops threatened a mom who let her 8-year-old son play outside:

Hi Snookums, How Was Your Day? (As If I Didn’t Know): Japanese inventors unveiled a GPS device children wear over their shirts that also takes photos and monitors their heart rate. That way, if their heart rate goes up, parents can take a photo of whatever is scaring their kids:



But She Could Have Been Abducted! A Northern California 3-year-old saved her collapsed daddy by walking to the fire station to get help:

Why Can’t He Sit in the Back of an SUV and Sulk Like a Normal Kid? After initially saying no, a school board reluctantly reversed itself and allowed a boy to ride his bike to school:

The Nerve! Two Canadian fifth graders gathered 250 names on their petition to be allowed to play with balls during recess:

Now Even Lumberjacks are Okay: British Airways ended its “All men are perverts” policy of moving any male seated next to an unaccompanied minor. (Okay, after it was sued for sex discrimination.):

The Rosa Parks of Roses: Volunteer flower arranging ladies at Gloucester Catherdral in England (average age: 70) were told to undergo background checks to confirm they weren’t convicted child molesters. The chief volunteer refused, calling it insulting. Others followed her lead.

When it’s Not Strep Throat, Viral Is Good: A fed-up Texas mom (who is also a cancer researcher) blazed onto the parenting scene with viral “Mom-Petitor” cartoons ridiculing parental perfection:

Annoy Me Again and I’ll Make You Renovate the Library: After a mom got chewed out by local police for letting her 10-year-old walk to soccer, she became an activist and got her small Mississippi town to put in new sidewalks and bike paths:

How Could Kenneth Branagh Ever Leave This Woman? Emma Thompson (a.k.a. Nanny McPhee) told the world that kids need to take risks and even get a little bruised to end up resilient and happy:

Not the “Predator Picnic” The Media Promised It Would Be? Children made new friends and played without being dragged off and killed, during first annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day” — despite rampant fear-mongering in the press: (And follow-up comments:

Somehow We Missed This on Nancy Grace: A massive federal study found all child abuse down by a stunning 26% from 1993-2006, and child sex abuse down even more—38%!

MEDIA: To discuss any of these items or Free-Range Kids in general, please contact Lenore at:


  1. kris December 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi Lenore,
    I wonder if you have seen the series that ran last week in the Chicago Tribune. The series was about child abduction by strangers and how we can prevent it. According to the Trib (on the front page in bold letters with the first article) “There is an attempted abduction in Chicago Every Other Day”

    Every other day? Why do we not grow up knowing about this? If this were true, wouldn’t there be many more amber alerts? Wouldn’t we have some kind of crazy lock down on the city of Chicago?

    What are your thoughts on these articles?

  2. pebblekeeper December 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    What a fun, yet bizarre, recap of the year! I’ve had alot of giggles, jaw drops, and blank stares at my screen this year reading your blog – but mostly smiles – I’ve also been equipped with courage – not only for how I raise my boys – but to gently question the fear statements from other families. Really? What really would happen if you bought chunky peanut butter instead of smooth. Do alot of people choke on that? I’ve learned to step up, and gently question some of the “statements of doom”. Thank you!

  3. WendyPinNJ December 20, 2010 at 10:12 pm #


  4. Catherine December 20, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    This is great!

  5. Matt L. December 20, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Kris – I saw that article and what you might miss is that they break out the statistics in a way to show that the number of anonymous kidnappings is low. They also have some relatively free-range tips for child protection. On balance it wasn’t as extreme as it could be. I am a member of Roscoe Village Neighbors and even in our protected corner of the city we frequently get e-mails about attempts to abduct children. I also hear from a lot of orgs on the N. Shore burbs. What you might miss from the Chi Trib article is that there is so much area that they cover, NOrthern Burbs to Harvey City to Geneva. That is a huge area with millions of people so an (just 1) attempt per day isn’t so huge really.

  6. Matt L. December 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    Also, Amber alerts are only issues once a child is abducted. So the success rate of these abductions is also low.

  7. Larry Harrison December 20, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    What an outstanding post from an outstanding parenting advocate.

    I can honestly say that, after 13 years on the Internet, I don’t typically experience finding a new site which I get excited about, I’m in a routine by now–I even still use Yahoo! vs Google (except for having a GMail) because it’s what I’ve always used for searches. I even say “Yahoo it” to people not “Google it.” But last July I found this site & it has been easily my favorite new site for at least the past 4 years or so. I have found a home for posters who actually advocate common sense relaxation & freedom from paralyzing fear in parenting. It is just wonderful.

    So, while I have no top 10 of my own to offer (maybe later?), I will say that my award for #1 new website of the year for me–far & away, this one. No, not Facebook, or Twitter or even one of the photography websites (my hobby)–but THIS one.

    In fact, for the award of “new person I’ve come to know who has given spark to my life & been the source of much enthusiasm for the journey of the topics of life”–I nominate the one & only Lenore Skenazy. I personally don’t need her to know that parenting need not be an enterprise of fear, that we can just relax most of the time, I already held these views–but it’s sure nice to see someone of her position to be a tireless voice for this.

    In fact if I had my choice of “person I’d most like to meet,” she may well be #1 on that list too. Not the president, not my favorite singer, movie star or photographer, or civil-rights advocate–but her. I’d shake her hand, greet her with so much enthusiasm I’d probably end up scaring her (ha ha) and just tell her how much she means to me & my own struggles to parent without fear and busybodying from the others who want all of us to helicopter.

    So, with all apologies to Time Magazine, for man OR woman of the year, since I didn’t know about her before (in 2008), I nominate Lenore Skenazy.

    Blackberry Bold 9000

  8. Steph December 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    That friendship coach thing really annoys me. A lot.

    I only had a couple of best friends in middle school, and I didn’t get along with most of the other kids. I was dorky and bookish and interested in learning. They were interested in drinking and dating and all things not academic. And when one of my friends decided to defect to the “popular” group, hurt though I was, I understood and I got over it. And I eventually found a large group of equally dorky and bookish friends in high school and college, many of whom I am still close to. And I can guarantee I am a better, happier, more successful person for sticking with just a couple of best friends when I was younger. So screw you, friendship coaches. 😛

  9. pentamom December 20, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    “Every other day? Why do we not grow up knowing about this? If this were true, wouldn’t there be many more amber alerts? Wouldn’t we have some kind of crazy lock down on the city of Chicago? ”

    Because “attempted abductions” can include such things as pulling the car over and creepily asking the kid to get in. That’s a real situation, and a bad one, but you don’t issue an Amber Alert because some guy stopped his car and talked to a kid, and the kid ran away.

  10. LauraL December 21, 2010 at 12:10 am #


    (PS: The link to the Emma Thompson story is wrong, it leads to the previous story.)

  11. Marie December 21, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    That bit about not touching kids during music lessons is nuts. I guess all touch is bad touch in some places. Scary.

  12. SKL December 21, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    I love this post. I especially love your #1 “good” item. Can’t stop thinking about that smart little girl, or stop grinding my teeth when I think of the people who insisted she did the WRONG thing. I almost think that incident could be the basis for a mini-course in safety training. In the “what went right” context.

  13. Steve December 21, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Free Rangers,

    Lenore’s Award listing is an ideal post to send your Helicopter friends, school principals and teachers. Check your kid’s school website for email addresses of the principal, teachers, superintendent and board members. Send them all the link to this post. It just might change some irrational viewpoints.

    For new visitors, here are two of Lenore’s videos. ( But if you want the most complete explanation for The Free Range Movement, get a copy of her book, Free Range Kids. )

  14. Uly December 21, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    According to the Trib (on the front page in bold letters with the first article) “There is an attempted abduction in Chicago Every Other Day”

    Wait – are all those attempted abductions in Chicago by strangers?

  15. Heidi December 21, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    My daughter works at a preschool, there is a child there who is regularly sent a “hotdog puree sandwich” by her mother (looks and smells like vomit)

  16. SKL December 21, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Well, considering that they banned drop-side cribs for fewer deaths than that, I hope the hotdog companies have figured out Plan B.

  17. tommynomad December 21, 2010 at 2:16 am #


    Linked placed in local parenting forum.

  18. Matt December 21, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    The Make Your Own Lunch link goes to a login page for Word Press. FYI.

  19. delurking December 21, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    An aside:

    You use URL-shortening services for most of your links. This makes reading your posts and deciding on what to follow up much more difficult. If we could see the actual URL, it would make it much easier. If you don’t want that many characters in the actual post, you can just make it a normal hyperlink and then we can see the URL in our browsers just by hovering over the link.


  20. pentamom December 21, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    delurking — I’m curious — what does the full URL tell you that Lenore’s capsule of the article does not? The only thing I can think of is what site it is located on, but that by itself does not add much information concerning whether something is worth reading or not.

  21. oncefallendotcom December 21, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    “Golden Helicopter” I love it. All you need to do now is a little You Tube video like I did with my awards show and get a toy helicopter and spraypaint it gold LOL

  22. Pugs December 21, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    delurking, I agree. I never follow link shorted links. You never know where you are going and there are some places I refuse to go. Also, you don’t know what the link shorting companies are doing with the information gathered.

    No matter how much I trust the blogger, I don’t follow blind links like these.

  23. Mike December 21, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I think your math on the hot dog choking is incorrect. Based on your numbers, I’d go with one in 2 BILLION hotdogs. Still, the incidence of choking on toys is far lower than that, yet expansive (and expensive for the small companies) laws were passed all in the name of protecting our vulnerable youth.

  24. Ruth December 21, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    Thanks for this great review post! I’ve been wanting to pass along your blog to many others, and this is the perfect post to warm them up to!

  25. Frume Sarah December 21, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    All I can say is how relieved I am that I didn’t make the first half of the list. Didn’t make the second half either, but that is completely OK.

    These examples would be humourous — if only they weren’t REAL.

    Oy to the voy!

  26. RobC December 21, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    “That bit about not touching kids during music lessons is nuts.”

    I’ve taught guitar to a couple of kids. Sometimes you *have to* physically move their fingers to where they need to be.

  27. Edward December 21, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    Love the idea about forwarding the two lists to every school, law enforcement and news media outlet you can think of.

  28. lonedattyof3 December 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Yeeeehaw! I’m sneaking out tonight after lights out to buy hot dogs so I can drop one into the family’s smoothie in the morning. Inquiring minds what to know–should I cook it first?

  29. Laura V. December 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    lonedattyof3 — prepackaged hotdogs are almost always precooked. blend away!

  30. NJMom December 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    This is great Lenore! Brava for sure…!!!

  31. pentamom December 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    lonedatty — just blend the bun right in, too.

  32. Dave December 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for reminding us of the wins along with the losses. It is always good to keep things in perspective. The wins encourage you to keep in the fight. Good work. Keep it up.

  33. Meggles December 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    “Golden Helicopter Awards”? This is great! I think you should make this an annual thing, Lenore.

    Re: music teachers being told not to touch kids’ fingers—this is crazy. I’m a piano teacher, and at various points during lessons (especially with complete beginners), I need to re-position kids’ fingers. I would not be an effective teacher without being able to do so.

  34. delurking December 22, 2010 at 12:02 am #

    pentamom, I think that what site it is on tells me a lot about whether or not an article is worth reading. For one obvious example, I would know if it is a previous post on this site or not, and if it is on what date it was posted, which would help me figure out if I’ve already read it or not. It is worth knowing if it comes from a large print newspaper or a small blog, or something in between. If it refers to a news site, I would know what country it is from.

  35. Katy-Anne December 22, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    You forgot my mother in law. She should get first place for the golden helicopter for sure. I mean, after all, she won’t take her younger boys (9 and 13) into any women’s clothing store, and she won’t even walk past the women’s underwear/lingerie in Walmart or Target, but will walk the long way, because she doesn’t want her boys to see the ladies underwear and “get thoughts in their heads” or “start asking questions”. She also won’t let me give my little sister in law (11) an Avon fragrance called Soft and Sensual because the boys might see the name of it and ask questions. Surely that deserves a golden helicopter? LOL. She wants me to shield my boys from that too, but my three year old has already seen bras of mine go through the laundry. He puts them on his head and calls them hats. LOL.

  36. pentamom December 22, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    Okay, fair enough, delurking. I was thinking of simply not wanting to read something because you disliked the site it was on, which would be rather prejudicial especially if Lenore’s description otherwise appealed to your desire to read it, but I see now that would not be the only reason knowing the site would be useful.

  37. pentamom December 22, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    The music teacher thing isn’t just ridiculously impractical, it’s downright socially destructive. Imagine the social and sexual mentality of a world in which someone touching someone else’s fingers in the process of teaching them a manual skill was automatically regarded as unsavory or worse. That’s creepier than anything that happens in 99.999% of interactions between music teachers and students.

  38. Uly December 22, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    Katy-Anne, surely her boys know that women and girls… wear… clothing, right?

  39. Dragonwolf December 22, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    delurking – I’m pretty sure the links are shortened because she pulled them off her Twitter feed (or with the same tool she uses for it), which also means that chances are, they’re not going to link back to her blog.

    Also, if you want, she uses for her URL shortening. If you’re worried about what they do when you follow links shortened by them, things like their ToS will likely be enlightening.

    And if you’re that worried about being tracked, you might want to look into the methods of blocking Google tracking, because that’s far more likely to get more information about you than a URL shortening service.

  40. sue December 22, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    When I read most of those Golden Helicopters, it confirmed that truth really is stranger than fiction. I live in a country where free range is the norm and get a good laugh from many of those stories that you publicize on your site. People in the country where I live (Germany) can’t believe the whole culture of fear in the States. Kids here have the same type of childhood that I had in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Even my 11-year-old son thinks that there are a lot of crazy people in the States. For example, he can’t believe that parents in the States get turned in to CPS for letting their kids walk or ride the bus or train to school without a parent. He and most of his classmates walk, ride their bikes, or take the bus or train to school on their own.

    I discovered the FRK site about 6 months ago and it quickly became one of my favorites. Keep up your good work, Lenore.

  41. delurking December 22, 2010 at 3:29 am #


    I’m not worried about any of the things you listed. I want to see the URLs for the readability reasons I described in my two posts, not tracking reasons.

    It isn’t like URL-shortening is the norm in the blogosphere.

  42. beth December 22, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    The Daily Show clip about Video Barbie cracked me up!

  43. SKL December 22, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    LOL about the ladies’ lingerie. Not sure I like the idea of Soft and Sensual for tweens, myself, though.

  44. Katy-Anne December 22, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    SKL, do you know what the soft and sensual fragrance is? It smells real nice and I know she’d love it. But oh well.

  45. Naomi December 22, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Yikes! To think that teachers could get that rediculous! I’m glad I’m homeschooling mine! Have you checked out They have a lot of great updates on parenting rights and new laws.

  46. timkenwest December 22, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    super-congrats on getting this printed in the NYT!

    awesome comments, too, but someone needs to go over there an post a reply in response to this one:

    “I have a lot of sympathy for the Free-Range Kids point, but the decreasing rates of abuse do suggest that some of this hyper-vigilance works. I would be interested to hear other theories about why the rate has decreased. Without data, I would guess it’s because of awareness, encouragement for survivors of abuse to come forward and social support for those stories. It seems like a complicated issue, and I can’t wholly side with either FRK or Helicopters.”

  47. Paula December 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Actually all this paranoia about child abuse and strangers is scaring me. Not because I have children but because I don’t. I am single and childess and this is becoming more and more unacceptable in any area that there are children. I mean we have been banned from parks near children in New York and Miami where next will we be banned from g rated movies? I like disney cartoons, will places like disney be expected to turn away us dangerous childfree people for the sake of children? I have been to wdw several times because its one of the few places that makes solo travellers as welcome as families and I am worried that this will not be true for long as parents seem to be convinced that we childless ones are always on the prowl for their little darlings.

  48. Silver Fang December 24, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    What a movement you have started, Mrs. Skenazy! If I ever did have kids, they would definitely be free range.

  49. Nicole December 24, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Friendship coaches? Fer realz? It sounds like a spin off from those hard core “therapeutic and emotional growth” schools where they break up kids who are forming “exclusive relationships”. Which is BS.

    Oh, and I’ve almost always only had one *best* friend. Even in preschool. And, no, I’m not broken. Far from it.

  50. WILFRED October 14, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    testando API twitter

  51. RUDY October 16, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    This is my first comment here! Really nice blog, thanks!


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