Why is there a Free-Range Kids movement? Why does Let Grow, the nonprofit promoting childhood independence, even exist?
“Children Walking Alone,” warned an alert I received from the social media site nextdoor just as I sat down to write this piece. “Dear Parents,” it went on. “Please have an adult accompany children ‘taking a walk’ even around the block. Although our neighborhood is one of the best for families, there is always ‘a chance’ a child may be taken– in a heartbeat. Don’t let it be your child (or children)!”
So begins a Q&A with me on the site, Maisonette. The author told me how she herself has been nervously, gradually loosening the reins. Her kids are happier and so is she.
For about 12 years my goal has been to renormalize the idea of kids doing some things on their own. The fight is not against parents. It’s against a miasma of fear that manifests itself as care and concern, but really just fills us with anxiety and dread. At any moment our kids could be taken? That’s a culture exhorting us to Think About The Worst Case Scenario Every Time You Look at Your Beloved Kids.
And in truth, there IS always a chance a child may be taken. There is always a chance that a tree might fall on them, a bear might attack, a meteor might make landfall. Greater than all these is the chance a sedentary child will develop diabetes — cases are now growing at 2% a year — or that a child being driven to school will end up in a crash, the #1 way children die.
If, rather than worrying about terrifying, remote dangers, you’d prefer to teach your child the practical skill of crossing the street safely, here’s our how-to video, at Let Grow.
If you’d prefer to make sure your state’s laws allow parents to give their kids some reasonable independence, here’s a way to work on that locally.
And if you’d prefer to live in a world where “Child seen outside!” is not a cause for alarm, join Let Grow. Our whole goal is to make it weird to hear, “Never let a child walk outside without a parent!” Because it is weird — and unhealthy, and stealing childhood from our kids.
Children seen outside? Great!