There’s Never Been a Safer Time to be a Kid in America: Washington Post


What a fantastic myth-debunking ktsefzbnss
piece in the Washington Post
  by Christopher Ingraham about the FACT that kids are SAFER today than…ever. First of all, there’s the decline in child mortality that we almost take for granted: In 1935 there 450 deaths for every 100,000 kids age 1-4. Today? Less than 30.

Our jaws should drop. But it’s not like we have to look THAT far back to see gains. Among children of all ages, he writes, mortality rates have fallen by nearly half since 1990 and —

Part of that decline is a drop in child homicides. As of 2008, the homicide rate for kids under the age of 14 stood at a near-record low 1.5 cases per 100,000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And the homicide rate for teens ages 14 to 17 plummeted from 12 homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to just 5.1 in 2008, another near-record low.

Long story short: for a kid between the ages of 5 and 14 today, the chances of premature death by any means are roughly 1 in 10,000, or 0.01 percent.

But parents typically aren’t thinking about disease or general morality when they fret over unattended kids — we’re worried about all the terrible things that could theoretically happen to a child out on his own. Chief among them is the threat of abduction, or of the child simply disappearing without a trace.

The FBI has several decades of data on missing persons now, and those numbers show that the number of missing person reports involving minors has been at record low levels in recent years. Overall, the number of these reports have fallen by 40 percent since 1997. This is more impressive when you consider that the overall U.S. population has risen by 30 percent over that same time period, meaning that the actual rate of missing person reports for children has fallen faster than 40 percent.

And of those “missing persons” (both adults and children) he adds, 96% were runaways — .1% were victims of kidnapping.

Of course, people  who are determined to be afraid will still usually default to: “Well, even if the chance is 1 in a [insert absurdly huge, unfathomable number here], it doesn’t matter if it’s YOUR kid.”

To which we must respond: That is a new way of thinking — going to the darkest dark place and dwelling there as if that is proof that you care more than anyone reasonably sanguine.

This “worst-first thinking” — thinking up the worst case scenario first and proceeding as if it’s likely to happen — is not what my mom or yours was required to do before letting her kids go out to play. She didn’t have to replay a list of terrible tragedies, the way Nancy Grace did before interviewing me, as a sort of concerned parent catechism. Worst-firsting has simply become a cultural default, brought on by maddening media and the idea that if anything bad happens to a child, it’s because an adult just wasn’t paying enough attention. (And next week I’ll post an insurance company that put that into writing.)

We must make ourselves aware of this pessimistic reflex or it takes over our lives — and laws. And pretty soon we’re investigating parents who let their kids walk home from the park in a leafy suburb of D.C. – L

Graph created for us by intern extraordinaire Paul Best.

Graph created by intern extraordinaire Paul Best.

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116 Responses to There’s Never Been a Safer Time to be a Kid in America: Washington Post

  1. Wow... April 24, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    The fact is that you will feel terrible if it’s your child. Every so often, seatbelts kill. And you will feel terrible if it is your child. The fact is that seatbelts still SAVE far far far more lives than they cost. So strap your child in.

    And your kid is going to run in trouble at some point, no matter how good of a parent you are. And your child will make mistakes. And your child will hurt themselves at some point. And your child will be uncomfortable at some point. The question is not what you can do to prevent that. Because you can take reasonable measure but there are no guarantees in life. The question is: when do you want your child not to learn to do that.

    It is good for your child to learn to manage their allowance. And since mistakes are a part of learning, that will mean that your kid will blow their allowance at some point. You’ll feel horrible but just remember: Better that they learn that lesson with a £10 allowance than a £1000 paypacket or £100,000,000 inheritance.

    Better that a 8 y/o is cold because she can’t be bothered to take a jacket than to learn that actions have consequences when she’s a teenager having sex for the first time.

    Better that a 6 y/o learn not to take too much of anything via eating too many apples and getting a stomachache than a teen thinks more medicine = better.

  2. Wow... April 24, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Uhh…that should read … “….when do you want your child to learn not to do that…”, not whatever nonsense I put there originally.

  3. Brenna April 24, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    I get frustrated when I call out these statistics to kids, and someone responds that the ONLY reason that children are safer is because we never let them out of our site, so if we started giving them more independence, the crime rates would go right back up. This is usually right after they’ve stated that the crime rates are so much higher, and that’s why we can’t let our kids out of our sight.

  4. Brenna April 24, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Argh, should be when I call out these statistics ABOUT kids…

  5. Anne April 24, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    So, do you think all the inner city who are basically free-range from birth care about these statistics? What do you have to say about that very real (not recreated) free-range parenting. YOu know the one where the parks are falling apart and the ground is littered with syringes and broken glass, where drug deals go down by the basketball courts and bathrooms, where gang members hang out by the swings packing guns? Huh? You know those real parks, not the “recreated” one of Hannah Rosin, who like you calls for a less safer time. What do you say to the six year olds who are walking into inner city projects alone, passing drug-deals and hearing shots outside their window. Why they are free-range, aren’t they? Isn’t that really what this movement is about, letting children be alone and independent?

    So, how about getting really free range and dropping your kids off at one of these many parks that we feature here in NYC and the surrounding boroughs. Let’s see how your “smart” kids will fare when they encounter danger.

  6. Warren April 24, 2015 at 11:26 am #


    You know if you spent half as much time working at reclaiming those parks and areas, as you do whining about how bad it is, they would be great parks for kids.

    Communities across the continent have done just that. They organized themselves, did fund raising, did the work and made old broken down parks new again.

    As for the drug dealers, pistol packers and such………..CALL THE POLICE!!!!!!!! Keep calling them. Take it to the media if they don’t clean up the parks. Or do what we did years ago, move the punks out as a community.

    You can come up with all sorts of excuses for your fear and you unwillingness to accept we raise our kids differently. But when it comes right down to it…………THEY ARE EXCUSES. As a wise man once said, “I don’t accept excuses. I embrace solutions.”

  7. Anne April 24, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Warren, clearly you’ve never been to any of these parks. That said, my question is would you let your kids free range there?

  8. Warren April 24, 2015 at 11:28 am #


    As for our “smart” kids. They would be right there with us doing the work, to make their park their’s.

  9. shdd April 24, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    I was so happy to see a lemonade stand in a non car area of Montgomery County. They were about a block from a metro station. Three kids age 8-11 and no parent in sight. They asked me if I wanted lemonade and talked like kids but not scared of me.

    I will check in on them next week (they won’t be in attendance today).

  10. Warren April 24, 2015 at 11:32 am #


    I would most certainly let them. After we cleaned it up. We don’t sit around crying about it and waiting for someone else to do it.

    We did it for a school playground, that did not have the budget for it. And since all the kids in the communtiy used it and wanted to use it, many local business donated cleaning supplies and building supplies. And for the first little while the Dads would informally patrol the park to make sure the word got out this was for kids.

    Worked out just great.

    So stop whining and get working.

  11. Stephanie April 24, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    A nicely compiled piece of information. All the facts have been supported with real information and for the readers, especially parents – this blog is a sigh of relief to know that their kids are safer than ever.


  12. Anne April 24, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Warren, Clearly you don’t understand inner city poverty. It’s not about you rich free range folk coming in with bags and cleaning up the park, it’s about young “real” free range kids whose parents have either split or are in jail or work too long to watch them. It’s about kids who are in serious gangs, who run drugs. what would you do about them? Would you go and clean them up? Would you call the police because there is a group of thuggy kids sitting on a bench cursing–the nypd would laugh at you and tell you to go f’yourself.

    my point is you wouldn’t let your kid do it, and that’s my point, this free range crap is really for wealthy folks who are lazy parents. Oh, let’s drop my kid off at a ‘safe’ park and go to my swanky cafe and drink my coffee while the helicopter parent watches my kid.

    Second scenario: would you let your kid ride the 2 train deep into the south bronx?

  13. old school April 24, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    @Anne –
    From your postings it seems as if you are very unhappy, and determined to use irrational and unrelated arguments to spread your misguided attitude. The drug deal and gunshot references in your post have nothing to do with free range parenting. Would you feel better if you were with kids as you passed drug deals and heard gunshots together? Why do you assume all inner city life is miserable? Do you ever get out? Why are you so unhappy? It seems as if you have significant control issues and want the world to agree with you on everything. It won’t. Teaching children how to learn, how to cope with new situations, how to be safe and responsible, and how to be appropriately self-reliant is free range. Why do you confuse these concepts with abandonment? You may believe you are trying to help, but your ideas set children up for future failure.

    On the positive side, you could volunteer to help poverty ridden, crime infested areas and facilitate change. Perhaps you could volunteer at an outreach program, or find some other way to channel your angst into something helpful and productive.

  14. Anne April 24, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Hey warren,

    Here’s the reality. As you can see it’s more than a rake and garbage bag:

    it’s called systemic poverty. And it’s real. And here are your real free range, independent kids

  15. Grant Mandsager April 24, 2015 at 11:54 am #


    The point of free-range parenting is to provide independence sufficient to their ability, which requires both knowledge of your kids and the risks in their environment. It is not merely about releasing your kids into the wild and letting them eat what they kill. So, no, in your example I wouldn’t let my 4 year old alone in the park. I wouldn’t let her alone in ANY park yet. I do sit on the bench and let her work problems out on her own, and I let her play in my front yard while I’m in the house with the window open so I can hear her. If she were a different kid, more prone to impulsiveness or distraction, maybe I wouldn’t do that yet until she’s had time to mature.

    I hear the anger and frustration in your post, and agree that inner city poverty, drugs and related violence (and incarceration rates) are a terrible scourge. But free-range parenting is not about rich hipsters flaunting their privilege. Because my kids are outside in my community, so am I. I can’t tell you what I would do if I lived in your neighborhood, but I do know that I engage my neighbors regularly, we have started having more regular dinners and get togethers, and have grown much closer in the time that I’ve lived here.

    Thank you for your passion to deal with the problems your community faces, I hope that it spreads.

  16. Anne April 24, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    hey old school,

    Living in NYC, that’s what we teach our kids from the day they are born–taking the subway safely (see many of us don’t have cars, and riding a subway is our mode of transportation), and you know what we also teach them how to cope and how to be thankful for what they have.

    Further, I bet half of you on this thread, even after you have appropriately “free-ranged” your kids wouldn’t let your kids ride a NYC subway. So what you are saying is that free range is good only if the circumstances do not pose a threat, but the moment the kids steps into “real” life, like riding a 2 train alone, then it’s not free range. If crime is down, at an all time low, then what’s the worry, especially if you’ve properly “trained” your free-range kid to know and avoid danger, to cross the street, to do all the safe things. Then let’s see in action.

  17. peter April 24, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    So, because a handful of the playgrounds in East New York are dangerous, nobody in the United States should be allowed to let their children play outside alone? Sounds reasonable.

  18. Kimberly April 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    The news in my area right now is talking about a 5th grader that avoided a man who tried to pick up the child in his car. The report was full of parents at the school talking about how scary it is and how they tell their kids not to talk to strangers, etc. But the kid made me think. Anti-FR parents cite missing children statistics as the reason why they parent the way they do and as justification for damning FRPs. But, for every kid who DOES go missing through a stereo-typical kidnapping or IS molested by a stereo-typical molester, how many are able to get away?

    We all accept that there are dangerous people out there. People who should be avoided by any means necessary and are responsible for the statistical numbers that are out there. For every news report of a missing child we hear, there are numbers of other news reports about kids who are approached but get away. Those are the numbers we should really be focusing on. The fact that these children are using their wits, their instincts, their guts and are NOT getting into these cars is proof that children are more than capable of handling emergency situations that can arise when they are left to their own devices.

    Militant anti-FRPs who cite the statistics (while I respect their rights to parent the way they want) remind me of jealous boyfriends/girlfriends who say “it’s not that I don’t trust you, I don’t trust X”.

  19. Anne April 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm #


    No, that’s not what I said. I said would you let your appropriately trained free range kids play in these parks? If you have taught them how to avoid danger, then I see no problem of letting them free range in the real world, not in some contrived safe community.

    And by the way, I invite you to ride the subways at 3, when the kids are out of school–they are chock full of obnoxious free ranging middle schoolers, so not sure where the idea that the majority of parents don’t let their kids come home from school is coming from.

  20. Havva April 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    “Well, even if the chance is 1 in a [insert absurdly huge, unfathomable number here], it doesn’t matter if it’s YOUR kid.” ……

    That line of reasoning is why I abandoned the mommy blogs and landed here.

    Sure I had some reason to be afraid. My daughter spent 3 days in the NICU with breathing problems. Several weeks after I brought her home, I heard a strange gurgle and found her completely limp and unresponsive, and had to resuscitate her. My best mom friend found her baby the same way a few months later, and thankfully her baby was also revived.

    Between all that and every article telling moms 1,000 ways ordinary daily life can kill your kid. I spent most of the first year in a constant state of worry. Constantly imagining I had to do a ton of marginally useful stuff, just to keep my baby alive. That ‘stuff’ tended to keep my baby, and thus myself, from resting soundly.

    Beyond physical exhaustion, it is the most emotionally exhausting thing in the world to constantly imagining your baby dying. I eventually realized I wasn’t doing a decent job of living, or teaching my daughter to love life. It was a violation of the promise I had made to myself in the ash cloud of the world trade center: not to let fear get in the way of enjoying life. So I re-committed to that promise for myself and for my daughter.

    More than 3 years later she is healthy, happy, and brave.
    Of course I still take precautions where the risk is high and I reasonably can (e.g. my 4 year old is still in a rear facing car seat, because I could easily get one with a 45lb weight limit). But I don’t spend my time imagining, and trying to put up maximum defenses against rare horrors (e.g. a deadly fork related accident). If somehow we wind up in the one in several million, because we tried to live life fully, we will mourn. But baring the rare horror, we will not mourn, we will live.

  21. Kimberly April 24, 2015 at 12:19 pm #


    I completely agree with your thoughts on the plague of systemic poverty that is in this country and how it effects the neighborhoods where it is most prevalent. However, I’m sorry, but blaming the problems of these neighborhoods entirely on the poverty ignores the secondary issue here which is the community’s unwillingness to take back their neighborhood.

    We hear about (and condemn) fat-shaming, parent shaming, slut-shaming…but we have a whole culture in cities where it’s perfectly acceptable to shame and intimidate those viewed as snitches. When that one person tries to step forward they are threatened and condemned for doing the right thing. How often do the police go out to investigate a crime and they are repeatedly told “I didn’t see anything”?

    Warren is right. If you want to change these parks and communities then the neighborhood needs to stand together and take it back. It’s these neighborhoods that chose to give up their power to the drug dealers and gang bangers. They have the power to take it back.

  22. JKP April 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Anne – “Further, I bet half of you on this thread, even after you have appropriately “free-ranged” your kids wouldn’t let your kids ride a NYC subway.”

    That’s a ridiculous statement to make and just proves that you haven’t done ANY research about free range parenting before slamming it.

    The whole “free range” movement, the book, the blog, everything started because Lenore let her 9 year old take the subway alone (after training him and being confident that he could) and then wrote an article about the experience in the paper. The backlash she received for letting him ride the subway alone started her on this “free range” quest.

  23. Jane King April 24, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Of course, people will also say that the decrease in abductions is a result of them over supervising their kids.

  24. Warren April 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm #


    My first piece of advice, go see a therapist to deal with your anger issues. Then go to school and improve your reading comprehension. Nowhere did I say it was just rakes and garbage bags. We did an actual rebuild, of equipment, surfaces and fencing.

    And don’t get all “you rich folk” on me. We are not rich and we work damn hard for the life we have. Hard work, you should try it sometime, instead of whining about how bad you have it.

    As for the punks that laugh at you. Tell the men in the area to get off their butts, grow some balls and take back the park. I have found it very effective to identify the leader, the one everyone follows and make an example out of him or her. The leader goes, the rest of the sheep follow.

    Just because a neighbourhood is poor/low income, does not mean it has to be unsafe. That is an excuse. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. Stop living in fear, and get people to start taking control.

  25. Anne April 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    JKP–lenore let her 9 year old ride one of the safest subways in NYC for a few stops at peak hours. This is nothing novel.

  26. Anne April 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm #


    you are the one who is angry, not me. I’m merely asking if you would let your kids free range in these neighborhoods. If it’s about independence and knowing how to avoid danger, then what’s the problem? Or is only about avoiding the not so common perv or one in a thousand weirdo with a camera? Real life happens in the city streets and parks everyday, so would you let your well-trained kid ride these lines and go to these places? See, in NYC we ride the train everyday with all sorts of weirdos and think nothing of it, so do our kids. We raise them with awareness not under the guise of some ridiculous movement given a name like everything else.

    And by the way if you read the NYT article that i linked to, telling these “men” or boys to get off their butts isn’t how you get young men away from gangs–that has them laughing at you. you know why I know this, because it’s my line of work

  27. peter April 24, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    First, I am a fifth-generation New Yorker with two small children, so you don’t have to invite me to ride on the trains my grandfather built, thanks all the same. Second, for somebody as clearly New York as you are, you have a very provincial view as to what constitutes “real world” and the rest of the world that 99.99% of humanity lives in is “contrived.” You also don’t appear to hold your fellow citizens or their children in very high regard, but that’s neither here-nor-there. Riding the subway is not the only danger in the world. For us, in the city, it might be a playground or a subway, in the country it could be a poisonous snake or falling through the ice. Avoiding danger requires the same skills: assessing risk, having confidence in your decision, and taking appropriate action. Moreover, these skills are transferable. A child who can assess the risks and act in crossing a frozen pond, with a little practice, could also navigate a dangerous playground and vice-versa. That is the point. The only point. This is not about the realness of systemic poverty. Although, if you really want to go there, I would argue that the people responsible for that are the same people responsible for the overly aggressive police approach to parenting and a CPS that is out-of-control because there is no accountability. So Anne, I get it, you live in New York and New York is dangerous and dirty and full of the obnoxious poor.

  28. Vicky April 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Lenore is right as rain. In my humble opinion, the present and most urgent danger to our children are the liberal ideologies forced down their throats by media, public schools, government agencies, school boards and the rich liberal special interest groups influencing them.
    From the idea that children being taught what and how to think for themselves is unacceptable, to a rampant move by several groups to strip control from parents, the real danger is indoctrination, not a walk alone to the park.

  29. Eric S April 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Sadly, fear overrides any statistics. Unless the statistics mesh with their fears. What’s also sad, is that more people would rather jump on the bandwagon, than view actual statistics.

    So if we can trend the old ways of childhood, I’m pretty sure it will catch on with more people. Then these people will inspire others. Who share with more people. etc… This is how it happened to get from the previous generations’ way of child rearing to what it is now. And if society can manipulate themselves to something negative, they manipulate themselves back to something positive. It’s all a matter of CHOICE. What do we choose to do. What makes US feel better, or what is best for our children?

  30. Wow... April 24, 2015 at 1:03 pm #


    It may very well be unsafe for children to go somewhere in your neighbourhood alone. That’s fine. Just base the decision on likely things, not things like child abduction. Every child is different. But you can teach kids reasonable precautions.

    It’s quite likely that your kid will have some car accident at some point. So you teach them to look both ways and you teach them to remove headphones before crossing the road. And you make sure they’re clipped in. But even small kids can be trained to know about seatbelts, even if they can’t strap it up yet.

    And if your car is a honest-to-goodness deathtrap, you find ways of not using that car.

    And an 8 y/o is capable of crossing roads. If they can’t, there’s probably something about that road. Maybe a drunk driver. That doesn’t mean the 8 y/o isn’t capable but that something has gone wrong. I don’t have all the answers but I do know that the drunk driver (in that example) is the problem that needs to be solved.

    And everything has a label. Everything.

  31. common sense April 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    anne: the cities don’t have a monopoly on poverty, gangs, drug dealers ,pimps, pervs,etc. thay occur all across the country urban rural and suburbs. it cuts across all race and age and national origins. you don’y know or maybe don’t want to know that there is more poverty in rural america than you will find in the cities. the drug epidemic also hits us in the country just as hard as you in the cities. if you don’t like it move or try to make it better. there is a saying that you can’t change the world but you can change a small piece.of it.
    get together with others in your building or block or school and agree to fight for you’re kids instead of accepting the status quo. to me that is the lazy way to just complain it’s too hard and others have it easier because their richer or live in a better place. and don’t tell me i have all the time and money…i work manual labor

    for minimum wage. you want something bad enough you find a way,not blame fate and give up. free range isn’t negletful or lazy or for rich only. it means you work with your kids to prepare them,not just kick them out the door and ignore them. it means you teach you’re kids how to live competently,not just survival of the fittest.

  32. Donna April 24, 2015 at 1:14 pm #


    I really don’t understand your point. Would I allow my child to ride the NYC subway alone? Absolutely not. Why? Because I don’t live in NYC. Taking a 9 year old who has never been to NYC before and sending her out alone with a map and subway token is not free range parenting. That is the point you seem to be missing. Free range is about giving your children the skills and then the freedom to roam in their own environment, not about dumping them out in strange places and expecting them to figure it out. As they age and gain experience, their area gets larger and larger, but we don’t expect them to take on the whole world at 9. The goal is for them to be able to do that by 18 and, in order to get there, they have to start with their own neighborhood well before then.

    The same with your park. Would I allow my child to play there? No, but I may feel differently if that were my local park. The honest answer is that if that is your park and you are not getting out of there in the foreseeable future, your children need to learn how to function in that environment as crappy as it is. Keeping them locked in the house and then letting them loose as a teen without having the skills to function in that harsh environment just gets them dead. If you actually want your children out of the drugs and gangs and into something good, it is a much harder line to walk than most of us here will ever have, but you are not going to be able to keep them out of their own environment forever so you have to figure out a way to walk it.

  33. Denise April 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm #


    First of all, the majority of Americans do not live in New York City. Why should we base our parenting on what goes on there? Yes, it is tragic, but it no more reflects my children’s reality than our 5 year old playing outside in our ungated front yard while I’m inside (Knowing a- that we live in rural Virginia and b- it’s an 1/8th of a mile to the road and she knows not to leave the yard). We are actively planning a garden, it sounds like you would be planning a cementary.

    We won’t have her walk to school because I don’t want her walking 9 miles one way. She can walk to the neighbor’s house however… and play with the kids there.

  34. Naomi April 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    Anne– I think that there’s a distinction between what most of us consider “free-range” parenting and what’s happening in some poor, inner-city neighborhoods that you’re describing, and it’s worth trying to articulate what it is. I think that most “free-rangers” believe in holding some authority over their kids–and handing that authority over to their kids step-by-step and over time so as to facilitate their development into more competent, confident, self-sufficient, moral adults. I also think that they think that society has taken a drastic step away from that, and that we have parents that are holding on to that authority too strongly, and for too long, so that their children grow into scared, incompetent adults, in part because they have irrational fears. That said, what happens with some kids (probably more in some geographic areas than others) is that loving and capable parents or parental figures are not available to appropriately train and transition them into authority over self. Those kids are instead shaped by whatever they come into contact with–it may very well be that they end up following slightly older but also misguided youth. They’re likely to make mistakes that could possibly be avoided had they a loving and available parental figure to discuss the issues that come up in their lives with, and trust and confidence in that adult to take advantage of them. That said, being an absentee parent, or a negligent parent, is not what I think that most people who would consider themselves to be free-rangers are about. They’re thoughtful, and skeptical about media portrails of unrealistic dangers, and they probably have thoughtful conversations about those things with their children. . . .

  35. lollipoplover April 24, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    “Avoiding danger requires the same skills: assessing risk, having confidence in your decision, and taking appropriate action.”

    Interesting story to share:
    Two days ago, my children went about their normal routine of biking to elementary school. They checked the weather (chance of afternoon rain), assessed conditions, and dressed in waterproof gear. Right before their dismissal, the skies turned dark and gloomy, winds picked up to 40 mph, and hail started falling. My neighbor called me in a panic so I put on the bike rack and drove up to school to pick up the kids on our block. My neighbor called the front office to tell them our plan as the area near the bike racks is a strictly no-car zone. The office was relieved and about to call us anyway so I got the go ahead to pull my truck in and get the bikes and kids. I’d never done this before, but this was a freak pop-up storm and I have a healthy respect for the very real danger of electrical storms.

    When I tried to pull into the bike rack area, I was horrified at the amount of illegally parked cars, creating single lanes for the bikers around the school. I initially thought this was a one time thing because of the storm, but was told by the kids that those cars are always there. You know what the very REAL danger is to kids biking to school? Moms in minivans blocking road access and creating dangerous hazards for young children to navigate because of their need to drive these kids door to door!

    I quickly packed up the bikes (and kids) and drove off not block the bus lane. When I got on the road, I realized there were over 10 kids in my car, some sitting on the floor! They did not have rides but were walkers who assessed on their own that they shouldn’t walk in an electrical storm and trusted me to drive them home. I didn’t have seats for all them but we were within 2 miles and the lack of seatbelt was my primary concern so I drove extra carefully. Of course, when we finally got home after dropping everyone and their bikes off, it was sunny with a rainbow. Go figure.

    My kids asked if I was going to contact the principal to tell him about the cars that block the road. Nope. I will contact the moms I know driving those cars. If we are going to talk about the safety of our children, what puts them in danger and statistics, lets address what really kills kids (cars) and do it directly, to the moms I see at sporting events I will (politely) share my concern of their disregard for school safety rules and how they are putting other children’s safety in danger by driving in no-car zones around schools.
    Not kidnapping!

  36. That_Susan April 24, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    Anne, we live in all different kinds of neighborhoods and so we are each teaching our kids to cope with their own realities. I live in the inner city in a middle-sized neighborhood that doesn’t have New York’s wonderful transportation system, but we did recently have to spend a few months without a car, getting everywhere by walking or riding the bus, and our oldest, who was then 14, did make some bus trips on her own. She has also been going for walks around the neighborhood on her own, or many times with our big Labrador, since she was 11.

    I frankly enjoy using public transportation, but it is so time-consuming here in my city where not a lot of people support it, meaning that there are fewer routes and longer wait times between buses. Which creates a vicious circle in which pretty much the only people who take the bus are the ones in too dire of a situation to be able to afford any kind of a car.

    I’d love to have the opportunity to teach my kids to ride the subway. The nearest one is in Chicago and that’s some distance from here, and we never seem to scrape up enough money to take a vacation or even a weekend trip — but yes, maybe someday we can get to Chicago and learn about subway riding.

    I think teaching independence comes in stages. First our children learn to navigate their most familiar surroundings, while continuously branching out and learning to incorporate knowledge about more and more different environments, until at some point, they’re ready to go to completely unfamiliar places and figure out how everything works on their own. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t just send my 10-year-old on a flight from our Midwestern town to New York City with a subway pass and map, and tell her to go find stuff. And if you’re honest, I doubt that you’d stick one of your kids on a plane to my Midwestern city with a bus pass and map and tell her to go find stuff, either (and I guarantee that our bus stops are generally going to be further apart, and farther from desired destinations, than your subway stops in New York).

  37. That_Susan April 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    P.S. I meant to say that I’m in a middle-sized city in the Midwest — not in a middle-sized neighborhood.

  38. Havva April 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm #


    I’m really surprised to hear you claim that you live in these poor neighborhoods. I’m even more surprised when you said ” telling these “men” or boys to get off their butts isn’t how you get young men away from gangs–that has them laughing at you. you know why I know this, because it’s my line of work”

    You express more contempt for the people in your neighborhood than most of the well to do conservatives that I know. You express more of a belief that your neighbors are hopelessly rotten, and irredeemable, (not even men to you) than some straight up racists that I have known.

    Let me tell you about about the impact of contempt. My middle school treated all the students that way, treated us all as problems to be controlled. Many developed an F-U attitude and became violent. This environment had a horrible way of turning one person against another. Everyone was more afraid of the bad kids than the authorities (not that the authorities did anything but make matters worse). The authorities were heavy handed in controlling us and would say things like “you are all bad, you just haven’t been caught yet.” It became clear that being good would fetch you just as much punishment as being bad… and the bad kids were throwing off restrictions and doing whatever they wanted to do. It was darn appealing to become a rotter. But I resisted, because I wanted out of that mess, I didn’t want to become part of it. So, like a lot of good kids, we kept our heads down, got beat up a lot, and prayed for the day it would end. I got accused of being a gang member simply for having more than 2 friends. And we suffered the contempt of the whole town as our useless administration, that wouldn’t even leave their offices, told the whole town what a rotten, contemptible, lot we were. Stores started putting up signs banning kids from shopping alone. I even got to hear how lousy “all” the kids my age were from the members of the water board. They knew my involvement in defeating a measure that others jurisdictions had adopted, and was causing skyrocketing water prices. They had just seen me sit silently for 2 hrs. But when I politely objected, they did an “all but you” and continued to insist my friends were to the last man and woman, all budding criminals. I got so mad, I told my mom she was never dragging me to those damned water board meetings again, I rejected the town because it rejected me.

    Our opening lecture for high school was from an ex-prison guard turned school administrator. He told us how that school was different. That the school believed every person deserved respect, and they were going to give us all that respect. That they had heard what our middle school said about us, collectively and individually, but they didn’t believe we were like that. Of course they would treat problems very seriously (as in call the police serious). But that unless we proved otherwise, we would be trusted. Yes some kids still did drugs, fought, and had bad attitudes. But these people became fewer and started leaving others out of their problems. After a bit the fear went away completely. The good kids were encouraged to be engaged, and their ideas and contributions were respected. It was a night and day difference. And I learned how much respect, and treating people decently, matters.

    At 19 I, a rich little white girl, landed completely oblivious in a poor, racially homogenous (not white) ‘bad’ neighborhood. I was greeted with contempt, that could have easily been mistaken for aggression. It was clear they expected fear and disdain from me. But I responded with respect and faith in the people around me. I met a lot of good people that day, who were eager to engage with me, know about me, and have me know about their city.

    I don’t know your city…it might be too late for you to be the change. But I don’t believe your neighborhood is hopeless. I think those ‘obnoxious’ middle school kids you speak of could be a real force for good. Not all of them, but enough of them. But you don’t bring that good out of them by treating them as problems. You bring the good out by recognizing their agency. They navigate their city. They help their families. They could be shown the way to help their neighbors. And they can grow to help make the neighborhood a safe place for their little brothers, sisters, cousins, and the kid down the block.

  39. lollipoplover April 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    “If crime is down, at an all time low, then what’s the worry, especially if you’ve properly “trained” your free-range kid to know and avoid danger, to cross the street, to do all the safe things.”

    We *train* animals.
    We *educate* humans.

    Every child comes from a unique skill set of real-life experience and maturity. Would I let my children ride the subway? Since we don’t have one anywhere near where we live, no way. *I* don’t even know subway schedules or stops so I wouldn’t expect my kids to know what to do.

    Can they bike within a 5 mile radius? Absolutely. They know every nook and cranny of our local community and more neighbors that I do. Can the commute to school, swim practice, and friend’s houses without an adult? Absolutely. They know the houses to go to if there is an emergency, and are used for shoveling and pet sitting by our neighbors. I am raisng them to be mature, responsible, and capable.

    This is like Country Mouse, City Mouse!
    Children develop specific skill sets based on their local environment. Frankly, I am not a fan of urban environments and prefer lots of green space so I don’t find your ghetto playground challenge for free range kids (or adults) very appealing.
    I’ll take some nice trails and open fields to kick a ball around and let my doggies run free any day.

  40. Warren April 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Where did you learn to read? The men that have to get off their butts are the Dads. They have to grow some balls and go down and retake the parks for their kids.

    I think the problem is your self esteem. You are so down on yourself and your life that instead of doing something positive about it, you want to blame everyone else for your problems.

    You want the world to swoop in and save your community. Guess what? Ain’t gonna happen. It is your community. Your parks. Your lives. Do something about it, other than whine. Maybe if your community took the first few steps to clean things up, fix the problems then the city might just help.

    You remind me of those people that will call the police to come handle things, but won’t step forward to act as a witness or give statements. If you are not involved, if you are not willing to do the work, not willing to put yourself out there, then you are just another part of the problem.

    Now, to answer your broken record. Should I find myself living in a community such as the ones you describe, yes my kids would be free range. Yes they would have freedom. Why? Because I would do whatever it took to make the area kid friendly. Like my Grandpa always said, “If you ain’t helping, you’re only in the way.”. To which I add “If you ain’t helping, you have no right to complain.”. I don’t owe you a better life, the state doesn’t owe you one, nobody does. You owe it to yourself.

  41. peter April 24, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    As a conservative, I don’t have contempt for the people in the neighborhoods Anne is referring to. Rather, I have contempt for the system and the planners that created and perpetuate those neighborhoods.

  42. Susannah Waldron April 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm #


    We have lived in the inner city in several large metropolitan areas. When my oldest was four, he could tell you what kind of firearm had just been fired out in the neighborhood. We used to eat dinner in the back of the house, on the floor, because it was too dangerous to sit at the table. We have had windows shot out.

    That being said, get over yourself.

    You seem hung up on “poverty is so hopeless, free range is for rich people,” which makes zero sense- neither has anything to do with the other. We were not wealthy, but my kids were taught how to deal with “reality” as you call it. My kids have played in trashy, inner city parks. They have walked to school in an inner city neighborhood that was right next to a major highway. Over and over again, in the neighborhoods I lived in (including myself) people made conscious decisions to improve their lives instead of expecting “the system” to fix it for them. People moved out, got better jobs, came back and did their best to make a difference, including myself. We were poor, we were homeless, we were hungry, and my kids were, and are, being raised free range. So whatever chip is on your shoulder, knock it off and get to work making the neighborhood better.

  43. Mels April 24, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    @Anne I don’t think neighborhoods outside NYC should be automatically labeled contrived just because they’re not dilapidated and gang-infested. I live outside of Houston and these “contrived” neighborhoods surround me. I’ve lived in 3 in fact. My friends live in countless others.

    And to @lollipoplover who says you don’t “train” a child, read a behavioral psychology book. Train is actually better than some of the words found therein, such as conditioning. Besides, being Christian, I can say it since it’s the word given me by the KJV. Train up a child and all that. Not to even mention the TOP universities TRAIN their medical professionals. Job TRAINING happens every day to adults in every career path, white or blue collar. Why can’t a child be “trained”? Because of fluffy white clouds and rainbows? 🙂 Because the smile icon makes it all better.

  44. Wow... April 24, 2015 at 3:58 pm #


    Have you considered appointing some of the rougher kids as “Maintenance chiefs?”

  45. John April 24, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    Quote: “Worst-firsting has simply become a cultural default, brought on by maddening media and the idea that if anything bad happens to a child, it’s because an adult just wasn’t paying enough attention. (And next week I’ll post an insurance company that put that into writing.)”

    And there lies the crux of the problem. The simple mentality that anytime and every time a child is hurt or killed, it has got to be some adult’s fault somewhere, be it a parent, caretaker, teacher, neighbor, neighbor’s neighbor, neighbor’s neighbor’s, neighbor etc., etc. You get my drift. THIS I believe is the reason that schools bubble-wrap children (dodge ball prohibited, tag disallowed, permission slips for Oreo cookie consumption, etc., etc.). This mentality I believe is also the reason why Amtrak has raised the age for unaccompanied children. This mentality I believe is the reason why my niece’s dental office up in Milwaukee will not allow any child under the age of 18 to wait unattended in the waiting room. Because if the kid stubs his tow, some adult near the situation will get the crap sued out of him!!!! Why? Because it was a tender little child who was hurt and we need to protect the most vulnerable among us.

    Until this mindset is somehow dampered, America will be bubble-wrapping their children until our sun becomes a red giant 5 billion years from now and incinerates the earth! You know, sometimes sh.. happens and there is nothing you can do about it, even if something bad happens to a child. You cannot predict a rare event and putting so many precautions in place for an imaginary fear completely messes up our society. You know it’s funny, people who are so afraid that a child’s life might be ruined don’t seem to have any problem if it’s an adult’s life that might be ruined instead.

  46. Abigail April 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    When I reflect on the dangers of growing up on a farm vs most communities (not Anne’s clearly), the farm seems much more dangerous!! Pathogens everywhere! Heavy equipment everywhere! Livestock everywhere!

    I’ve worked in low-income & poverty sticken communities, and I think the scariest part is a lack of definable risks. Who knows if there will be a drug deal at 3pm on that corner today, or a drive-by at noon. Best to avoid it if you aren’t actively looking to fix it at your own risk.

    New York may be the greatest city for many, but it isn’t, despite its population density, a good representation for our entire nation. Dismissing all FR efforts on a single stereotype hurts, the way most stereotypes tend to do.

    Poverty looks very different in rural communities, but it is still systemic poverty. And the risk for those kids is suicide! Community outreach and support tends to be the most constructive appriach. No finger pointing, just collaborative work towards a healthy & safe tomorrow.

  47. Jacques April 24, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    Anne –

    Due to teaching my children to recognize a dangerous situation/trusting their gut- is exactly why they would not play at the parks you described. If I pulled up in my car and asked if they would like to play there? – They would say “no way/it’s dirty/i’d rather go get a cavity filled”. I do understand that there is huge single parent/over population issues, but those things can be fixed as a society. You wanna call people “lazy parents” because they want their children to gain life-skills? How about the lazy parents who would rather sit on their smart phones or get drunk/do drugs/make more children to occupy these parks? You’re actually calling them the true FR parents?! That’s not free-range parenting. That’s called NOT PARENTING.

    “What do you say to the six year olds who are walking into inner city projects alone, passing drug-deals and hearing shots outside their window?” I say “Where the f#$% are your parents and why aren’t they involved in your life and why aren’t they doing anything about it?!?!”

  48. sexhysteria April 25, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    At the same time that crime has decreased there has been an increase in the mass hysteria over child sexuality spread by political opportunists and profiteers in the sex abuse rescue business. We need to confront the irrational fear of sex and the pathetic resistance to accurate, balanced, and comprehensive sex education whether at home or in school.

  49. Katie April 25, 2015 at 7:43 am #

    “In the real world” is a phrase I wish to heaven would decrease in usage by about 80%, and definitely disappear as a synonym for “gritty” or “rough circumstances”. Could someone explain to me why that’s the only thing that’s REAL? Sure, there are contrived locations, designed to shelter from what people don’t want to see. But I find it ridiculous to assert that because people can live comfortably, their lives aren’t “real”.

  50. Labyrinth April 25, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    The point of being free range isn’t that nothing is ever dangerous, so everyone should just do whatever they want. The point is that we should be able to tell the difference between what’s actually dangerous and what isn’t.

    For example, I was raised to believe that it’s not safe to be outside after dark. That’s not a bad rule, if you live in, say, the slums of Johannesburg or in a warzone – and many people do. But I didn’t. I lived (and live) in a very safe area of a very, very safe country with extremely low violent crime. Being attacked just because you’re outside after dark is a “what if?” here, not an actual danger of everyday life. It does happen sometimes, but it’s rare. It’s not something you can count on any time you leave your home.

    Don’t go outside after dark. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t stray from the path. Don’t go anywhere without streetlights. Don’t leave the crowded areas. Don’t get close to cars that slow down and roll down their windows. Don’t take the bus late at night. Don’t go into the woods.

    GREAT advice in a warzone, a disaster area, a gang-controlled slum, a collapsed country without laws, etc.

    But… Why should I follow the warzone rules in an area that isn’t a warzone? Why should the warzone rules apply to a sleepy suburb, a busy city within the usual range of crime levels or any other area in a stable country?

    Following the warzone rules in my peaceful town could save me, I know. Less peaceful, really awful things can happen here too. Wearing a helmet and back brace every day could save me if I slip in the shower, fall down the stairs or get hit by a falling icicle – and yet I don’t, except when I’m actually going to be in a high-risk area or doing a high risk activity.

    People use helmets when they work in construction and when they bike, not when they climb stairs. That’s not because stairs aren’t dangerous They are. People die from falling down stairs. But it happens so rarely, compared to how often we use stairs. Stairs are low-risk.

    Free range isn’t about treating any risk like it’s low-risk. It’s about treating low-risk activities *as low-risk*, instead of treating *any* risk as high-risk. Treating any risk like it’s high-risk, trying to anticipate every possible danger, planning every activity in advance to ensure maximum safety and avoiding anything that could be even slightly risky isn’t a lifestyle or a parenting style, it’s an anxiety disorder. Ironically enough, anxiety disorders actually are dangerous.

    If the risk actually is high, treat it as high! If the warzone rules actually *do* apply to your area for real (seeing a drug addict or playing in a run-down park isn’t dangerous, but getting caught in literal crossfire in a gang war is), feel free to use them – that’s what they’re for.

  51. hineata April 25, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    @Anne – so New York is the standard the rest of us should look to? Wow. Just a tad one-eyed, methinks. Believe it or not, there is a big world out there beyond even the borders of the United States, let alone New York.

    Would I let my teens loose unprepared on the New York subway? Of course not, any more than I would expect you to loose your kids unprepared in the bush.

    New York is just one (rather large) city. I am afraid I give no consideration at all to conditions that may or may not exist in that particular city when making decisions about the freedoms my children should have. Shocking, I know, but there you have it.

  52. Warren April 25, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    People are talking about taking the NYC subway. Let’s just say public transportation for all. Though we do live in a rural area now, we took the time to make sure the kids had a good working knowledge of the city’s public bus operations.

    Growing up in Toronto, with buses, subway and streetcars at my disposal, was fantastic. And knowing that Toronto was the draw it is for people, and my kids being people, I went proactive. Even though our smaller city bus line wasn’t near the size or complexity of Toronto’s, we got our kids competent on its use. My kids then had the basic foundation, and were able to utilize Toronto’s system, without it being a big ordeal. Actually they said it was easier than ours, because routes, maps and such are easier to find and navigate.

    LOL, my MIL freaked when she found out her granddaughters to the GO Train into Toronto, and then the subway to the Royal Ontario Museum. My oldest was 15 and took her 8 yr old sister. They had a ball.

    I cannot speak for other kids, but mine were not scared or anxious about using the subway. They were excited and could hardly wait. To them it is fun, not handling some adult situation.

  53. Jenny Islander April 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    @Vicky: What does liberal ideology have to do with free-range parenting? Isn’t it the people who tell all kinds of nasty stories about liberals and feminazis and whatever who are beating the drum of fear on the 24-hour news?

    Funny thing–when I was in school, “the liberals” were blamed when junior high kids were taught the “dangerous” skills of logic and identifying specious arguments. Strange, polymorphic creatures, those liberals.

  54. Sarah J April 25, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    To Wow: Yep, it’s really all about risk management. Do kids get kidnapped and harmed by strangers? Yes. But if a kid is never allowed outside on his own until s/he’s like, 15 or whatever the acceptable age is, that can cause problems too. The odds of being kidnapped are very low, but the odds of developing problems from never having independence are quite high. My mom wasn’t some super helicopter parent like you hear about on this site where the 10-year old can’t leave his yard or whatever, but she was still pretty controlling over really stupid stuff and it’s done me some damage. Can’t imagine how screwed up I’d be if she was worse, ha ha. A comparison might be car accidents. Lots of people die in car accidents, but people still drive around every day. Are the odds of getting killed worth the privilege of driving to non-necessary locations?

    To me, fearing that your kid will be kidnapped by strangers is like being afraid that they’ll be hit by lightning. Could it happen? Yes. Is there a high chance it will happen? No. Just educate them and teach ’em to be smart. Don’t get into the strangers van, and don’t sit under a tall tree during a storm.

  55. Wow... April 25, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    @Sarah J: Also, terminology.

    The age group that makes up most ‘missing children’ are in fact older teenagers and younger adolescents . 12-17 year olds make up 75% of the caretaker-missing minors. Runaways and benign missing account for around 84% of missing children if you put both causes together. It’s still a very small number but actually the older your child gets, the more likely they are to go “missing.” But that actually makes sense if you think about it: who’s going to go somewhere and not communicate with their caretakers? That’s what happened with quite a few of the study children, if I’m understanding it correctly.

    And police are sometimes contacted not so much to locate the child as to retrieve them. Say non-custodial parent has kid for whatever reason and refuses to give them back either after visits or they just shouldn’t have the kids period. The caretaker likely knows very well where they are but the problem is retrieving the kids.

    Only a small minority of missing children were abducted and most of those were abducted by a family member (9 percent) Around 3 percent were abducted by nonfamily members and among those, only a small number (about 115 children) were victims of “stereotypical kidnappers”. Only about 35-40 (depending on how strict your estimate is) were killed. Of course, that’s the type that the media gives most attention to. No significant gender difference although white children were at significantly lower risk.

    Check this out:

  56. Jim April 25, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    One can also conclude:

    Today’s kids are safer than ever, BECAUSE they do not roam free as much.

    The information you present does not refute the above.

  57. Wow... April 25, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    @Jim: Then please explain why crime rates are dropping across the board.

  58. Warren April 25, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    Jim is right. Since kids are not roaming anymore, that has directly brought done murders, fraud, arson, auto theft, assault, and all other crimes.

    Crime being at such low rates is because parents are not letting their kids out of their sight anymore. Wow why didn’t we think of this sooner. Image all the lives and pain and suffering we could have saved, just by not letting our kids have a childhood. Wow Jim, you should publish a paper on this.

  59. Wow... April 26, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    @Jim: Also, of those children who are hurt or killed (a small number), most are injured by their parents. Statistically, the kids would have been and are safer roaming outside. But if the cause was roaming, what argues against that idea is the fact that crimes against *adults* are dropping too.

  60. Braaainz April 26, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Of course I must pay Devils Advocate here. Perhaps the drop in these stats are due to helicoptering parents, over zealous police departments, kids staying inside playing videogames, etc and free ranging will actually result in increasing these numbers one again.

    Angel’s Advocate: we need to do more studies showing the benefits and safety of free ranging.

  61. Wow... April 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    @Braaainz; ‘Devil’s advocate’ argument is easily dealt with by pointing out that if that were the case, crimes against adults wouldn’t have dropped. But they have. Also, even now, teens have more freedom than younger kids so if it was supervision, crimes against teens would be dropping at a lower rate than against younger children. But no, the crime rate in general is lower than in the 70’s and 80’s.

    Further, kids simply wouldn’t die in car accidents that much or at all when adult supervision is what…3 feet away…if that? But yet they do and fairly frequently.. And while deaths are relatively rare in developed countries, car accidents are one of the most common causes of death for kids. It’s a lot more likely than ‘stranger danger’ abductions.

  62. JulieC April 27, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Rather than just looking at the one side of the equation (crime against kids is down so it must be due to helicopter parenting, yeah right), let’s look at what’s happens to all those helicoptered kids once they get closer to adulthood.

    You’ve got kids who are on anxiety medications, kids who are obese, kids who fall apart once they get to college. Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity, the rise of ‘victimhood’ on college campuses, safe spaces complete with toys every time some sheltered snowflake hears a different opinion and is ‘triggered’.

    That’s what you get when you try to insulate your child from the world! Eventually they get there and they can’t handle it!

  63. Caren M. April 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I can understand that Parent want their children to grow up learning how to be able to handle everyday basic life skills.
    However allowing a 10 Yo & a 6 YO to walk a mile to get home on their own is taking a bad risk.
    There are to many mean sick people out there that could do all kinds of harm to a 16 year old never mind a young child.
    A mile is way too long of a distance for children to be walking on their own. I would watch my kids go just down my block to a friend’s house & would pick them up if they were just around the corner & out of sight.
    Realize that we have had too many girls that were college age disappear & were later found dad after being sexually abused. & this is all across the USA.
    They are only young for a short time & time passes by quickly so Just Keep Your Kids Safe.
    No one needs the heart ache of losing a child..

  64. Beth April 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Caren, you really did not comprehend this article at all, did you?

  65. Donna April 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    I think hinging our argument in terms of crime being down is actually the wrong approach because it does beg the conclusion that crime is down BECAUSE of all the helicoptering.

    It also negates the reality of crime. General crime statistics are completely meaningless in determining how safe it is for children to be out and about. The overwhelming majority of crime occurs between people who know each other. Stranger-on-stranger crime has always been very low. Stranger-on-stranger crime against children has always been exceedingly low (much of stranger crime involves robbery and young kids don’t make good robbery victims due to a general lack of money). The crime statistics are down largely because inner city gang violence is down and that is not pertinent to free range kids unless the kids happen to live in gang areas.

    A better argument would be to look at actual stranger kidnapping statistics over time. My guess is that you would find them fairly stagnant. This is just a crime that is not of high demand and is not a function of supply and demand. Someone who is not inclined to kidnap a child is not going to be filled with an overwhelming desire to do so just by seeing a child walk by and kids are not so unavailable as to make it impossible for someone who wants to kidnap a child to not be able to find one. So while life is not actually getting safer for kids (it was always exceedingly safe), it isn’t any less safe for kids than when we were all roaming either.

  66. Warren April 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    You do realize that a mile is only about a twenty or so minute walk? And saying that it is too dangerous for kids to walk to the park because adult women are being attacked is invalid. Comparing apples to oranges, and it doesn’t work.

  67. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook April 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Anne: I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of a small town in Oklahoma. I was gradually allowed more and more freedom to roam among the ranch houses and at the school playground. Safe place, no problem, right?

    Every summer I visited my grandparents in Far Rockaway, Queens. Beginning when I was 6, Grandma encouraged me to go play at the school playground half a mile away–her kids had often done this, 15-30 years earlier. That playground was rough: lots of damaged equipment, broken glass everywhere, kids yelling and fighting. I saw a knife pulled once and a trash can set on fire once; each time, I left immediately and was unharmed. I didn’t go to the playground much (but at least once per summer) because I was afraid of getting hurt on the broken glass. However, I did go “down to the bay” a few blocks away, from age 10 on without adults and often with my cousins as young as 4, to explore along the water’s edge. We were interested both in the wildlife and in the abandoned cars and elaborate array of garbage dumped along the shore. Never got a serious injury. A few times we met an adult who was acting weird, so we went home.

    Grandma took me on the subway often and talked about how to be safe. I did not take the NYC subway alone as a child or teenager, but at 12 I traveled *to* NYC by plane from Tulsa via O’Hare as an “adult” in charge of my 9-year-old brother, who by the way used public men’s rooms by himself. (A lot of parents these days don’t allow that.)

    The skills I learned from my parents and grandma readily transferred to being on my own in places that were not white middle-class. Furthermore, the only two times I ever was assaulted by a stranger were in the “nice” neighborhood of the town where I grew up.

    My son is 10. I would be reluctant to send him alone to an *unfamiliar* playground or on *unfamiliar* public transit anywhere; I’d prefer that we check it out together first and discuss any unusual risks. Yes, there are some places I would not let him go alone, yet, and some places I would advise him not to go even when he is an adult. But he’s grown up seeing firsthand that the world is not all safe and perfect. He witnessed several arrests when he was 3 and 4, just because we happened to be at nearby bus stops; we still ride public transit together, routinely, and he’ll be ready to ride by himself any day now when he has some reason to do so.

  68. Havva April 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    @Caren M.
    When will you let your children go? And what will you do to prepare them for that freedom? You yourself have pointed out that the risk doesn’t go away with age. I hope you don’t intend to try keeping your children under your control past the age of adulthood? …. I hope.

    I had a friend who’s parents were like that.

    You say: “They are only young for a short time & time passes by quickly so Just Keep Your Kids Safe.
    No one needs the heart ache of losing a child..”
    Well, that short time to you, is an eternity for them. Children chafe at restraint, they have a deep need to do thing for themselves. Eventually they will break free. But will they have any wisdom? My mom rightly pointed out to me, there is only a short time when a mom can physically stop a child, and only a short time where the child will listen. That time is less than most people think. Before that time ends ends, the child needs enough experience to understand why mom gives them warnings, and enough experience to begin protecting themselves.

    You are quite right, “no one needs the heart ache of loosing a child.” But no child needs to live like my friend was forced to live. With no freedom, with just a few things that kept her going. She once broke down in fearful tears when I had an accident on her backyard trampoline. I was in so much pain I couldn’t speak. But she was terrified that her parents would take away the trampoline to ‘keep her safe.’ She told me she wouldn’t be able to stand it if they took that away. She seemed unstably desperate to me. What scared me came into focus when I found out another girl we knew was slitting her wrists because her parents “won’t let me do anything.” I tolerated 2 days of serious untreated pain, to cover for my friend. But I’m glad I did it.

    By the time my friend was an adult her parents couldn’t keep her from getting a job. They worried of course, so they timed her drives home from work (ostensibly to keep her safe). She was so worried about their surveillance that she would talk on, and refill, a secret pay as you go phone while DRIVING, lest she be a minute late and be questioned by her parents. At work she couldn’t have a phone out, and using it at home would defeat the purpose of the secret phone, and her drives to and from work where the only privacy she had. I found out what she had been up to from the passenger seat. She took her eyes and BOTH hands off the steering wheel to re-fill her phone. I had to force her off the highway, and all she could think to worry about was the surveillance. She wouldn’t calm down until I offered to take the blame.

    It wasn’t the first time I had stopped her from doing something dangerous. She had a way of screwing up when her parents weren’t looking. She had an awful hard time telling the necessary warnings from the overwrought warnings. So when she chaffed at the excessive restriction in her life, she tended to throw out everything, the good with the bad. She just lacked her own personal experiences, in the small scale, to warn her away from the grand mistakes she became capable of with age. Though she wasn’t dumb, once she made a mistake, she didn’t repeat it.

    Anyhow all that protection just brought on the heart ache.

    That was the last time I stopped her. She was using that phone to get help in staging her own disappearance. When I heard, I braced for the worst. She was so deeply dependent on others, for anything requiring planning. Her parents picked all her friends, so she had little experience in judging others. All I could think was that she might have trusted some very unsavory person or group. It was a huge relief that she ‘just’ joined the military, in the middle of a war. Eventually someone convinced her to give her parents a brief call (from the middle east) to let them know she was alive. She told them that if they tried to interfere with her life again, they would never hear from her again. So they have to accept one or two irregularly timed phone calls a year.

  69. The Other Mandy April 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    @Havva– wow, your poor friend. But I can relate. My parents weren’t nearly as controlling, but as I got older my curfew kept shrinking, and they tried to micromanage me in college (primarily financially). I rebelled by getting married right out of college– to a control freak.

    So the question is– my ex is rightfully considered emotionally abusive for “helicoptering” me; so why aren’t helicopter parents considered emotionally abusive?

  70. Wow... April 27, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    @ Carren M:

    Even ‘one child hurt or killed’ is too much? That’s kind of an odd metric to base decisions on. In fact, I’d go further and say that it’s actually impossible to make decisions based on that metric.

  71. CrazyCatLady April 28, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    Caren M, in my school district, kids in elementary school are required to walk if they live within one mile of their school. And, that is not one mile by the shortest road, that is 1 mile as the bird flies, which is generally much shorter than the actual roads that are laid out in a grid. I have lived here 5 years, and have not heard of a single kid getting kidnapped.

    So it does seem to follow, that kids can walk a mile (as measured along the road) to a park, and do just fine. Yes, there are some crazy people out there….which is why we tell kids to not get into the cars of strangers, trust their gut feeling if they think things are not right, and, even, allow them to use the Karate escape maneuvers that they learned in the short time they did Karate. (Which my boys took because they needed the movement type of classes.)

  72. Mrs Z April 28, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    Here’s my problem with letting kids go unsupervised too much, too soon: we live in a nation saturated with sex and moral deviancy like never before. How many houses within a block of my house have grown men or teenagers getting worked up over pornography while one of my kids is busy playing behind their house, or along a wooded neighborhood path? There is a whole pornographic industry dedicated to seeking gratification with children (or “barely legal” for those who want to indulge in child molestation fantasies without the stigma of illegality).

    Another problem: moms have deserted neighborhoods. Working moms have their tweens and teens coming home to an empty house, with no meaningful supervision or accountability for their actions. So when those kids are teaching all the younger kids in the neighborhood filthy profanity, showing them porn on their smart phone, offering them drugs or booze, or trying to get at them sexually, their moms are nowhere to be found. Heck, most of the moms are nowhere around, maximizing the odds that such deviant behavior goes unchecked. On top of that, modern morality is in the toilet, and most parents think premarital sex and sexual experimentation is an inevitability.

    So if kids don’t get to ride the subway alone until they are 16, if they can’t get on their bikes Saturday afternoon with the instruction to be home by dinner time, or if certain freedoms we took for granted when we were kids are being curtailed for our own kids, it’s got nothing to do with infant mortality rates being up or down…it’s because too many parents have ceased instilling their kids with basic moral decency, and I DON’T TRUST THOSE KIDS AROUND MY KIDS.

  73. Warren April 28, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Mrs. Z,

    Out of curiousity, ballpark how old are you? Or are you deeply religious?

    Premarital sex? Really is that even an issue these days? Premarital sex has been around since the day people started getting married. It is no more abundant now than it was before. People just don’t lie about it like they used to. Hell I remember hearing about homes for unwed mothers. So it was going on long before now.

    As for your rant about pornography. What effect does it have on kids playing outside, if some guy is getting his jollies online in his own home? There is no connection there.

    And for the record, your kids are not more perfect than others. I sense a lot of bigotry deep in your comment.

  74. JKP April 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Warren – laughing about the “people don’t lie about it like they used to.”

    My grandparents are in their 90’s. My grandma had my dad when she was 13. Of course she married my dad’s father before she showed. And everyone pretended that two 13 year olds just decided to get married because they were ready and then happened to get pregnant on their wedding night which was of course the first time they ever had sex.

    That marriage obviously didn’t last. But she remarried, and her and my grandpa were together 50+ years. But they would never tell anyone their wedding date and never celebrated their wedding anniversary. Why? Because they didn’t want anyone to do the math and figure out that their firstborn wasn’t quite 9 months after their wedding date, which meant that – GASP – they had premarital sex. Even years later, they kept up the lie even though of course everyone could guess why the wedding date was such a secret. Their 50th anniversary was the first time they ever publicly celebrated their anniversary.

  75. Mrs Z April 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Warren: “Premarital sex? Really is that even an issue these days?”

    My response: Obviously, you are one of those parents who views premarital sex as an inevitability. And no, it has not always been that way in America. It has not always been acceptable for teenagers to have sex. Rationalizations such as yours are why kids are having sex at younger ages, and with many partners.
    Warren: “As for your rant about pornography. What effect does it have on kids playing outside, if some guy is getting his jollies online in his own home?”

    My response: If you don’t understand why the explosion of child pornography and “barely legal” porn poses a risk to children, then you are one of the people who pose a risk to children.
    Warren: “And for the record, your kids are not more perfect than others. I sense a lot of bigotry deep in your comment.”

    My response: I love my kids. I have a responsibility to teach them right from wrong, and to protect them from unsavory influences. I’m sure if your kids are sexually active, foul-mouthed, porn-saturated, and minimally supervised, there are many children with whom they can socialize other than mine. I reject your value system. You call that bigotry? I call that discernment.

  76. Warren April 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Mrs. Z,

    Okay, let’s revist premarital sex. There has never been a time that it did not exist. So to deny that it can or will happen is very dangerous. To hide your head in the sand and think because someone like you beats the concept of premarital sex being evil, into her kids heads is going to stop them from doing it is laughable. Like any other aspect of life, you educate, prepare, and give them the tools to handle themselves. Then you allow them to make their way in life, trusting that you have done your best.

    Before the days of unwed mothers being treated like trash and sent off for their own good. Which is the era of hiding and lying about premarital sex. Before that time, teenagers were getting married and starting their own families. So when in your vast knowledge of teenage sexuality was there a time when teenagers were not having and enjoying sex…….

    As for child porn, yes it creates victims. But it has absolutely no connection, no relevance to kids playing outside, at the park or walking around on their own. You never did, because you cannot, prove that someone viewing porn in their home is a risk to the kids playing in the area.

    And please Mrs. Z, do not worry about my kids. They are grown, and awesome. I assume my 24 yr old is sexually active. My 16 yr. old daughter, maybe a 5% chance she is. My 16 yr old son, I know is not. And I have no problems with any of them. You see I have never raised a child. They were all born children. I raise independant, capable adults that live in reality. At no time have we ever hid our heads in the sand and denied what they will face as they get older.

    So, Mrs. Z, you can take all your self-righteous rants, go back to sheltering your kids, and enjoy then when they are 40 and still having mommy cut their meat. Meanwhile, me and mine will enjoy what the world has to offer.

  77. April 28, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

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  78. Wow... April 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    @Mrs Z: We can argue all day about premarital sex. And thinking of it as no big deal =/= thinking it is inevitable. Because for the most part, consequences simply aren’t as severe until they’re older. Did you know that most ‘missing children’ are in the 12-17 group and most of those are runaways/thrown-aways?

    At some point, an individual will learn not to be stupid the hard way. And within reasonable parameters, the younger the better. Better that a 8/yo learn that actions have consequences because they can’t be bothered to take a jacket and so they’re cold than they learn that actions have consequences when they’re a teen having sex for the first time. Cod example but you get the idea.

    Ultimately though, the question is: when are you going to let your minors do x? Notice: WHEN, not ARE.

    I’ll tell you a story about when I was a teenager. I had my reasons but one day, I really really really didn’t want to go to school. I was in upper school at the time and taking GCSEs (New O-level equivalent for those of you who are older) so I would have been somewhere around 15-16. Mum talked to me and pointed out why I should go. I did agree and go.

    Here’s the thing though: The only reason that worked was because I *chose* to co-operate. The fact is that at the time of that story, I wouldn’t have been a legal adult for about another two-three years but had I chosen not to co-operate, my mum wouldn’t have been able to do ANYTHING about it because I was stronger than her at that age.

    At some point, your teenagers will be able to do what they want, regardless of whether you agree or not. And no, I’m not talking about legal adults. I’m talking about when they’re stronger than you and that day will come before they are legal adults. Surely it’s better to teach them to do things safely first before that day comes?

  79. Donna April 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    Apparently as a latch-key kid, I really missed the boat. I was totally unaware that I was supposed to be teaching all the younger kids in the neighborhood “filthy profanity” (as opposed to clean profanity?), showing them pornography, giving them drugs and alcohol and having sex with them. And to think that I just went home and did my homework and chores instead of raiding the liquor cabinet and hosting a pornography-filled child orgy like I was apparently supposed to.

    And my grandmother and I have shared many laughs over the notion that teens in her generation were not having sex outside of marriage.

  80. Warren April 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Mrs. Z,

    Sorry, but I just have to. I do not see premarital sex as inevitable. I see premarital sex as recomended. A marriages sex life can make or break a marriage. Just as I recomend a couple live together before getting married, they best sleep together as well.

    Like my bride said, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, and that is a 5 to 10 yr commitment. Why would you commit yourself to a lifetime with someone, without taking them for a test drive.”.

    And unless you plan on marrying your kids off the moment they turn 19, premarital sex and teenagers going at it like bunnies is not the same thing.

  81. Emily Morris April 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Mrs. Z, I’m all for teaching kids the moral code the family subscribes to. I think any good parent ought to be teaching their deeply held values to their children.

    But that’s part of being free-range: bothering to teach the kids.

  82. Wow... April 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    @Mrs Z:

    Yeah. I don’t exactly see premarital sex as commended. I don’t exactly see premarital sex as condemned either. It’s just…if people are going to have sex safely, they’ll do so with or without a legal piece of paper and/or ring. If they’re going to have risky sex or cheat on their partner…the fact that they have a piece of paper beforehand won’t change that.

    And frankly, it’s none of my business whether people are married or not before they have sex. It only becomes my business when they’re ridiculously loud about it. And at that point, you (general you) ask them to keep it down but you (again, general you) don’t need to get specific about it. Just like it’s none of my business that people might play music that I just don’t like but if it gets stupidly loud, then yeah,ask them politely to turn it down by all means but there’s no need to go on a rant about it being noise and not music.

    Notice ‘not inevitable’. Just not a big deal.

  83. Emily Morris April 28, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    “”To me, fearing that your kid will be kidnapped by strangers is like being afraid that they’ll be hit by lightning. Could it happen? Yes. Is there a high chance it will happen? No. Just educate them and teach ’em to be smart. Don’t get into the strangers van, and don’t sit under a tall tree during a storm.””

    The lightning thing makes me think of a few years’ back when I was working for the Boy Scouts. At another council’s camp, a kid was struck by lightning. Later, a mother in my office she was never going to let her kids go to Scout Camp because they might be struck by lightning.

    Really, lady?

  84. bsolar April 28, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

    Mrs Z: “we live in a nation saturated with sex and moral deviancy like never before.”

    It also happens to be saturated with *safety* like never before, as per article and official statistics.

    Wait a minute. Since sex/moral deviancy increased and safety actually increased too, maybe further increasing sex/moral deviancy might contribute to increase the country’s safety even more.

    Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but isn’t it worth a try? Think of the children.

  85. Rachel @ Wife, Then Mama April 29, 2015 at 1:28 am #

    @Mrs. Z:

    Pornography is actually the reason that I will not be as free range as I wish I could be. I have seen kids at the park sitting around looking at their phones. Probably at something innocent, but it worries me of the possibilities. In the past I would not have been as worried because finding a friend’s dad’s Playboy magazine is nothing like the rape/torture/child porn that is so, so easy to access in the age of smartphones and tablets.

    If there were no internet, I would be much, much more comfortable letting my kids roam around (when they are older, right now they are toddlers and since I don’t have a fence they can’t even free-range in our yard!). But while I am not afraid of kidnappers, I am afraid of the serious damage that can be done to kids brains while watching porn (my husband has talked to guys he works with about this) and I need to do all I can to protect them.

    It makes me sad, but unless I am close I don’t know how to keep them safe from that stuff.

  86. Warren April 29, 2015 at 2:25 am #

    Well at least your fear is a first. I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone worried about their kids being around all those kids looking at kiddie torture rape porn on their phones and tablets, in the park.

    It took me almost five minutes to stop laughing.

    This is really getting out of hand.

    Rachel, Mrs. Z, Diana and like commentors,

    Why did you ever have children? I mean it seems like you worry all the time, you are afraid of the world, and are probably going to suffer from any number of stress related illnesses. I raised three, and aside from the occassional minor moments of stress, life as a parent was a joy. It was fun, fullfilling, and something I wouldn’t trade for anything. How do you live worrying and stressing over all these things, from premarital sex, to pornography, to predators all the way up to an asteroid causing an extinction level event. Personally, I couldn’t live that way. It would send me around the bend.

    You know if you are doing something that is causing you that much stress……………you either shouldn’t be doing it, or you are doing it wrong.

  87. hineata April 29, 2015 at 4:56 am #

    @Warren – find myself agreeing with you often these days. Yes, parenting is usually pretty much a joy. Even Miss Too Cool for Words is a joy most of the time, and it’s actually just cool seeing them grow into who they’re meant to be. Which won’t happen if we can’t loosen the reins somewhat.

    @Mrs W. – I too am not a fan of pre-marital sex. But keeping a tight rein on kids is not the way to stop it happening. My parents, who by the way were not religious, similarly considered sex outside of marriage to be foolish, but didn’t force their views on us. They simply explained the issues around sex, including the legal ramifications of underage sex, and we made the decisions about it ourselves. We are a close family who communicated a lot, so two out of three of us chose to follow their thinking. Communication is the only way to go. I hope my teens follow our thinking, in our case for faith-based reasons as well, but in the end it will be up to them. Over-protecting them by keeping them away from outside influences just won’t work.

  88. Beth April 29, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Maybe I am in first place for Most Naive, but I find it VERY hard to believe that kids young enough to be at a park or playground are looking at rape/torture/child porn on their phones.

  89. stix April 29, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    @ Anne – wow, you sure spend a lot of time carping about nothing. Yes, there’s poverty and injustice in the world….so what? It’s always been there and always will be. Life is short so enjoy what you’re blessed to have and let you kids enjoy it too, instead of being a huge hemorrhoid on the a– of life.

  90. Rachel April 29, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    I am glad I amused you! That isn’t sarcasm, but I am genuinely glad if it made you giggle. I do not take this as seriously as some people. I am also glad I found a new worry, these others were getting old, lol. Plus as absurd as it might sound, my fear is much more likely to happen than kidnappers and random tsunamis.

    I am a fan of Free Range Kids, because I am a fan of freedom. Freedom for parents to raise their kids how they see fit, and freedom for kids to grow up at a reasonable rate.

    Also, I am not much afraid of my grade school kids looking at porn at the park as I am of my young teenagers looking at it at a friends house or public space. But I cannot reasonably allow my 8 year old the freedom to do things and then take those freedoms away when they are 13. That would be completely unfair, and obnoxious to both of us. Freedoms should never be taken away except as punishment or for extenuating circumstances (actual tsunamis and such).

    I have never been a teenage boy, but my husband was, and he had friends in computer class at SCHOOL that were looking at porn DURING class. If kids are brazen enough to look at porn in a supervised class, they most certainly wouldn’t be opposed to looking at it in the park or in their rooms. I have never intentionally looked up pornography but have seen some on accident while searching for innocent things like “Christmas baby” and even seen it in the ads on completely non pornographic sites. I know what you are going to say already: if they are going to look at it at school anyways, why worry so much? Well for completely non-porn related reasons I am planning to homeschool. What about when other kids come over? Well, I am already planning on confiscating phones, tablets and the like when my kids friends come over (not for porn, but because I want them to interact with each other, plus my kids won’t have such things so it would just end with them being bored while their friend uses theirs) and if they do not like it they can leave. We have a landline they can use 🙂 Well VOIP, but it has a cord and everything!

    I am quite religious and feel pornography is wrong. However, the access to such material would not disturb me to the point of changing my parenting style if it were not for what horrifying stuff is out there and the ease of which it can be found. No sneaking into the adult section at the video store, no watching scrambled channels, or finding a way around the locks your parents have on the TV. Just type it in in the privacy of your room with little to no chance of being caught. I watched a documentary on it, and it completely freaks me out what violent stuff people get off to. It is not just sex and nudity, and I am not sure I can risk my kids psychological/sexual health not to mention future relationship satisfaction.

    I am well aware I cannot protect them forever, but I am having a hard time determining where/when my responsibility for their moral well being ends.

    That being said, with my toddlers I am already more free range than most people I know. I let them play by themselves at the park (while I watch), which really bothers some people, like the lady that told the 3 year old I was fostering not to jump off of something, then I told him it was okay, she didn’t know he could do it. Or my MIL who tries to pick them up every time they fall down (to me that is helicoptering). When I get a fence I fully intend to send my little ones out to play mostly unsupervised (I will check through the window of course).

    I want my kids to be independent, resourceful, and responsible. I just want to accomplish that while keeping them innocent as long as possible. My kids are young, and I have time to really think about everything before having to decide.

    Also, even if I never let my kids set foot off my property alone, I support the freedom for other people to do so. God gave you your kids, and unless you are ACTUALLY neglecting or abusing them (or doing drugs and refusing to stop) you have the right to raise them as you see fit, regardless of what other people think.

    Neglect like leaving your preschooler home alone for days on end with drugs all over the house, not like leaving them in the car while you run and get some milk. And abuse where you actually damage the child, not a spanking or slap.

  91. Donna April 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm #


    I think it is very sad that so many people have so little confidence in themselves to instill and their children to learn morality.

    By the time your children are even close to an age where porn of any sort, let alone child rape porn, is of interest, you will have either instilled the morality that this is wrong or not. What is your plan really? Will your children never be allowed to go to their friend’s homes? The library? Interact with kids other children outside your own home? Computers are everywhere and no amount of vigilance is going to keep someone away from things s/he wants to see. The only thing that will keep him/her away is for him/her to have no desire to see it. And the more you make technology a cross to die on, the more they will want to play with it.

    I will say that my child would not be playing at your house nor would the children of any of the parents I know. It is perfectly acceptable for you to ask her not to play with her cellphone, ipad or computer at your house, but you need to keep your hands off my kid’s property. The only person who can confiscate these items is ME, not you. Insisting that other people’s children give you their personal property before they can enter your house is way over the line into unacceptable behavior. Mostly I’m appalled that someone would even think to do this, but I also know my child well enough to know that she would just forget she gave it to you and I would then have to go round it up on my own and no playdate is worth all that effort. Thanks, but no thanks. My kid can make friends who have parents who aren’t crazy.

  92. Rachel April 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I’m not sure calling me crazy was particularly necessary. Its not like I’m going to lock the phones up anyways, they would just be sitting on the counter. I’m not confiscating it as punishment, just asking them to follow a rule of our house, no unsupervised internet access for people under 18. Just like I expect visiting kids not to jump on my furniture or swear at me, avg I. And if they forgot the phone, I would be more than happy to bring it to you, since its my weird rule that caused the problem in the first place.

    I’m not sure how to be confident I’ve instilled values and morals in my children until I see how they “turn out” as adults. You can bet I will do everything in my power to teach them right from wrong, but kids and especially teens do stupid things. I did stupid things as a teenager that I wouldn’t have done if I had been better supervised. I still turned out okay, but I made mistakes I hope my children won’t make. If my kids make it to marriage without having had sex, done drugs our been arrested, then I will know I did a good job instilling values. Yes, I’m anti pre marital sex. I understand the “test drive” idea, but it also goes the other way: which car would you rather buy: one that is brand new, or one that has had previous owners, who may or may not have treated it well?

    To get my kids as far down this path as I can before they are responsible for themselves, I might have to be a little protective.

    I will still consider myself free range. My kids will be allowed to stay home alone, walk to the store, be outside by themselves, and be on their own in places like the library, even if I am on premises to be able to exercise supervision if it becomes necessary. They will go trick or treating by themselves and I won’t even go through the candy. They will not be allowed unrestricted internet access, a cell phone with a camera, or privacy with other people.

  93. anonymous mom April 29, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    @Rachel, to a large extent I sympathize. There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, both stuff that I wouldn’t want my kids to see and stuff that I wouldn’t want them to see that would also get them into very serious legal trouble. The average boy, from what I’ve read, first sees internet porn by age 11.

    I have a friend whose ten-year-old son was doing web searches for “naked 10 year old girl” on their computer Yeah. That is NOT a search you want taking place in your house. (My own almost-11-year-old recently said something to Siri, while we were riding in the car and he was playing with my phone, that Siri misinterpreted as “boobs,” and she offered to do a search for “boobs” for him. He said to me, “What does Siri think I am? A baby?” Because he apparently still thinks that boobs are only of interest to babies. So I’m not super-concerned about him looking at inappropriate things intentionally, but the time will come and it can happen accidentally).

    But my policy with other people’s devices at this point is just to not give out our wifi password, as his friends with devices don’t yet have data plans. If and when they do, my son knows our rules and that he is expected to abide by them even when friends are over: no internet use outside of public areas (no surfing the internet in your room), no web searches unless you clear with me what you are searching for, no using cameras without asking first, show and tell me if you do come across anything inappropriate so we can talk about it. There are many reasons, including legal ones, why I would not want another child in my home accessing pornography while they were visiting, and I do expect that guests will abide by our internet rules, but I don’t take devices.

  94. Warren April 29, 2015 at 2:56 pm #


    Nope, Donna was spot on when she called you crazy. Nobody but nobody takes personal property from others, You do not have that right, you do not have that authority. No unsupervised internet under 18?

    Rachel, sorry no sympathy, just advice. Get some help. Paranoia will eat you alive, and only gets worse.

    Donna is right. You educate, empower and give your kids to the tools to handle life. Then you need to have the confidence to know you’ve done your best to prepare them. And then you have to trust them to make the right call. Sure they will make mistakes, they are after all only human.

    You say you did stupid things as a teen? So freaking what, we all did. And no amount of supervision can prevent a teen from being stupid. It is in their nature. They have to fall, they have to make mistakes, they have to be stupid. If they don’t they never learn. It is that old saying, “Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Teach a man to fish and he’ll never go hungry.”

    All of these proactive precautions are only stop gaps to make you feel better. They do nothing to prepare your kids for the future.

  95. bsolar April 29, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    @Rachel: “I did stupid things as a teenager that I wouldn’t have done if I had been better supervised. I still turned out okay, but I made mistakes I hope my children won’t make.”

    How much you owe to the mistakes you made? Without making these mistakes, would you be the person you are now? Wisdom doesn’t come with age alone, it comes from personal experience. Said that, these are difficult decisions and it’s your responsibility to make them.

    My only suggestion is: make sure you don’t decide guided by fear.

  96. Rachel April 29, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    I just think that calling someone crazy is like calling them ugly, or stupid. Name calling that does nothing but put the average person on defense and make it incredibly unlikely they will see your point of view. I am on the minority side in a lot of online arguments, so I have thick skin by now 🙂

    I can TOTALLY see where you guys are coming from. I look at people supporting constant supervision to avoid kidnappers the same way, like paranoid weirdos. Turns out I am just like them, but for different reasons! So my kids may or may not turn out incapable of functioning in society. But like other paranoid people, the risk of what could happen looms to large for me to risk it for the inevitable benefits from NOT avoiding the risk. Perhaps I will pay for this in the future, either from 30 year old “kids” who can’t function on their own so they still live with me, or 18 year old kids that leave as soon as they can and avoid me when they can, or maybe they will turn out decent in spite of my flaws. Only time will tell, and unfortunately we only get one chance to raise adults (I agree with you, we don’t raise children, we raise adults, they are perfectly capable of being children!), and if you do it wrong you have to live with the consequences. I will still continue to read and participate in the free range kids website, because in spite of my apparent inability to personally follow the “plan” I am 100% behind the idea of of the parental right to raise your kids the way you think is best for them.

    Even if I wasn’t porn paranoid, I would still have the kids that came to PLAY with my kids leave their devices on the counter. I don’t see the big deal. Its like if you didn’t allow your kids to play with toy guns, and someone brought a toy gun to your house. You would say “in our house we don’t play with guns, so you will need to leave that in your bag (if they brought one) or leave it with me.” I also would not spring it on them, but discuss it with their parents first, because that is the respectful thing to do. I think you all think I am going to wrestle the phones away from them and lock them in a safe or something…

    I LOVE the comment by anonymous mom’s son about Siri thinking he is a baby, super funny 🙂

  97. Donna April 29, 2015 at 3:46 pm #


    It is absolutely unacceptable for you to ask ANY guest in your house to remove their personal property from their purses and backpacks and place it your possession. Thinking that is remotely acceptable is crazy. Sorry I had to call this one as I saw it. You are very welcome to tell my child your rules, ask her not to violate them and call me/send her home if she does where we would have a long talk about the need to follow other people’s rules while in their home even if not the same rules we have at home. But you are absolutely not allowed to confiscate her property for no reason.

    I also do not want my child to view porn in my home. I, however, expect and trust her to follow my rules. I give her the benefit of the doubt that she will do so until she proves me wrong (which she rarely has so far). If she breaks that trust, then she will suffer consequences, but I don’t believe in treating people as convicted felons before they commit a crime. I don’t think constantly treating children as criminals-in-waiting is remotely conducive to raising people who are capable of making good decisions even when nobody is looking. By the time these things really become an issue, your child is just a hair’s breath away from being out on their own. If you’ve never trusted them to make a good decision with you in another room, how the heck can you expect them to do so when you are in another state? If you never allow them the chance to make small good decisions in the face of potential bad, how do you expect them to make the major decisions of adulthood? If you never allow them to prove that they can handle some tough decisions while you still have control, how do you expect them to be able to handle those tough decisions when you have lost all control and it is all on them?

    I can guarantee you with 100% certainty that no matter how much you supervise your children, they absolutely WILL do stupid things. Some will be the same stupid things you did that you warned them against, some will be stupid things that you have envisioned, but the vast majority will come completely out of the blue.

  98. Warren April 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm #


    Like those other homes, where there are over the top rules, such as toy guns, and such, you home will become one that the kids really would rather not go to. And what are you going to do about your child going to other people’s homes? You going to oversee the whole time, or are you going to want the other people to abide by your rules?

    I have only ever had one parent with the “I don’t want my child to, I don’t want my child to………..”. They were politely told that there child best not come over.

    I have had a parent ask if there were guns in the house. They were told it is none of their business.

    I have had a parent want me to keep the dogs outside the entire time their snowflake was here. They got told the dogs live here, your kid is only visiting…………hmmmmm dogs win.

    In the end, their kids put enough pressure on them, that they had no choice but to let them come over, and just live with the fact that Mom cannot control everything and everyone. And trust me, the more control you try to have, the more control you will lose.

  99. Donna April 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    “I would still have the kids that came to PLAY with my kids leave their devices on the counter. I don’t see the big deal. Its like if you didn’t allow your kids to play with toy guns, and someone brought a toy gun to your house. You would say “in our house we don’t play with guns, so you will need to leave that in your bag (if they brought one) or leave it with me.”

    The big deal is that it is my child’s device, not yours. She gets to decide where she is going to store it, not you. She has to follow MY rules as to where it is to be kept when not using it, not yours — and my rule will be in her purse (once she has one) or her backpack, not your counter because I am not dealing with collecting devices that she leaves behind places.

    The big deal is that I don’t treat my child as a criminal before she has done anything wrong and I don’t allow other people to do so. If you ask her not to use her cellphone in your house, I expect her not to use her cellphone. You don’t get to take away her opportunity to prove to you, me and herself that she can make the right decision without cause. If she broke the rule, I would agree that, for some period of time afterwards, she would need to give up the cellphone if she wants to play at your house, but I’m not going to take something away from her – both her personal property and the opportunity to show that she can be respectful of other people and make good decisions – without a basis.

  100. JulieC April 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    Rachel – I appreciate your desire to protect your children from pornography, but I have to say that you may, in the coming decade or so, come to realize that it is nearly impossible to protect them from every possible thing you would rather they not experience. As kids grow older, they start to have their own preferences and their own desires for autonomy. And you can unwittingly create the desire to experience something by drawing such a firm line and assuming that just because a cell phone is there, it will be used to access porn.

    I knew a woman who had a thing about Barbie dolls and absolutely would not allow her daughter to have one. Made a big stink with party invitations (NO BARBIES!) etc. Of course, once the girl was able to have playdates at other homes, that’s the first thing she went for.

    I assume you want your children to one day go to college. You won’t be able to control that environment at all. You have to allow them enough opportunity as they grow up to make mistakes. That way, when you finally do send them off to college they won’t go hog wild, so to speak.

    About a month before we sent my oldest off to college we took a family vacation to Mexico, where the drinking age is 18. My son said, “can I drink there? I’m 18 after all.” We decided to allow him to do that because I’d rather he experience that in our presence and learn how to drink responsibly and what the effects of alcohol are. [And no, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his first time drinking, either!] We don’t allow him to have parties at our house, he’s not allowed to drink at home except at a family gathering, say, and only if he isn’t driving anywhere. I think that has made his transition to college easier. He’s not binge drinking as many of his peers are (or so he says). Is he legally allowed to drink? No, but the reality is that alcohol is widely available on most college campuses.

    Rachel – don’t be the mom who deludes herself into thinking she can control everything her kids do. It’s not possible and it often backfires.

  101. Emily April 29, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Another thing about smartphones and tablets–sometimes kids use them to interact with one another, by taking selfies together (a latter-day version of the mall photo booths of my youth), and even making short films with the video camera function. YouTube is full of these. I’ve seen homemade Claymations, Lego stop-motion films, live-action films, and all kinds of tutorials on everything from Rainbow Loom techniques to gymnastics tricks. So, I wouldn’t say “no devices, at all, ever,” but just “no ignoring the friends you’re supposed to be visiting with.” It’s possible to ignore someone with a smartphone, a tablet, a TV show, a book/magazine/newspaper, a toy, or nothing at all, so why pick on electronic devices specifically?

  102. Rachel April 29, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    @Donna – I would expect that would be something you would discuss with me when I explain the rules of our house regarding tech, and something I would be completely okay with if you suggested they just leave it in their bag, as you trust them to follow the rules. Or just have them leave it at home, then they can’t leave it anywhere anyways. I don’t want your kid’s stuff, I just want to protect my kids from what I feel is a threat to their moral well-being.

    @Warren – I don’t really care if kids like to come over to my house, and I don’t plan to allow my children to play at other people’s houses either, without me there, unless that person shares my views on things I deem important. I remember being a kid, or rather a teenager and being allowed to watch things I knew I wasn’t supposed to, or being allowed to have alcohol at other people’s houses, which my parents would NOT have approved of, so unless I trust the other parents completely, I will not leave my kids with them. I agree that trying to micromanage what goes on in someone else’s home is totally out of line, like asking about guns, demanding dogs be locked up, etc. I would never expect people to change their rules or lifestyle for my children, just like I don’t intend to change my rules or lifestyle for other people’s children.

    I realize I am possibly over the top, and I would LOVE if there was something like the crime stats on Free Range Kids that could put my mind at ease. If you can find reassuring statistics for pornography viewing, teenage drinking and drug use, and teenage sex (not pregnancy or STDs, sex), I would sincerely LOVE to see them.

  103. Rachel April 29, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    @Emily – Electronics in particular because my husband and I don’t plan to let our children use them, so it wouldn’t really be fair to have their friends using them while they can’t. If their friend is ignoring them while reading a book, they can pick up a book. Plus electronics can be used to access inappropriate things, whereas books are pretty much what they are, which is the main reason that our kids will not have them in the first place.

    @JulieC – I don’t care if my kids go to college. I would actually prefer they learn a trade that doesn’t involve incurring large amounts of debt and partying for 4 years. In my ideal world I manage to raise my kids like the Duggar’s, who have so far been 3/3 at their kids being great people when they leave the house. I don’t doubt that they will have at least one or two children that is not as good at following their families example, because they have 19 kids, and statistically they can’t all be such good kids, but so far they are doing really well.

  104. bsolar April 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    @Donna, trust is exactly the issue. Rachel implemented this rule because she doesn’t trust her guests. She explained this pretty explicitly: she doesn’t trust her guests to use these devices responsibly and wants to protect her children from that “bad influence”. If the premise is that I don’t trust you, I obviously won’t give you the chance in the first place, I have already decided that you are not trustworthy. It’s the whole premise of the rule she made.

    That’s the reason I think Rachel’s decision stems from fear causing her to take irrational choices. Why do you allow people you don’t trust into your home as guests? Either they are trustworthy or they are not: if they are trustworthy enough to be guest at your home and to play with your children, they definitely are trustworthy enough to keep their smartphones. If they are not trustworthy enough to remain in possession of their smartphones they definitely have no place as guests in your home nor as playmates of your children.

  105. Warren April 29, 2015 at 5:45 pm #


    Since I am the one in here to be really blunt, pretty much all the time, I am going to say it. Mom you need help. All your comments are really frightening.

    Not allowing your kids to go to other homes if they don’t match your values? From what I have seen you are going to make your child a social outcast. The homes you are looking for are far and few between if they exist at all.

    If you are already bringing up porn viewing, drugs, drinking, sex and such, when your child is this young……… are in for a very long and stress filled life.

    Two daughters, one son. Not once did I worry about any of this. I was confident in the way I brought them up, the tools they were given. Then you trust them to do the right thing. That is all the control you ever will have.

    Like I have always said. I didn’t raise kids. They were already kids when they were born. I raised capable, confident adults.

  106. Warren April 29, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Oh and Rachel don’t kid yourself. The parents of the other kids will figure out what you are up to. And when you insist on being there all the time, you will probably be told to stop coming over. And just how are you going to evaluate these families? Ask a bunch of questions? That right there will get you turned away immediately, with pretty much every parent I know.

    You really need to get ahead of this, for your kid’s sake.

  107. Donna April 29, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    Rachel, I would certainly talk to you about your rules if my child is in elementary school (when devices are largely irrelevant), but I have no desire to be involved in those types of conversations once my child is in middle school (when devices begin to be an issue) or high school. Letting my daughter choose her friends and manage those relationships largely independently is all part of her growing up and slowly becoming her own person. I will intervene if some red flags start appearing or if asked by her, but mostly it is up to her.

    But I don’t think it would ever be an issue as I have no desire to meet a single Duggar, let alone be one so I doubt my family would pass muster.

  108. Wow... April 29, 2015 at 6:52 pm #


    Alternatively, another way of looking at it is you have around 5 years to discuss why you don’t think looking at it is a good idea.

    For an 8/yo that may be as simple as telling them to search for “baby chickens”, rather than “chicks.” Although Google has changed its image search precisely to avoid that problem. There’s always safe search too. Or kid-friendly search engines.

    Though even without that, the extent of the naughtiness I got into was spending a bit more time on reproductive biology study (GCSES) than was strictly necessary. And my parents talked to me about it ahead of time (in a matter-of-fact way) so other than some giggling about the word ‘boobs’ and such, not an awful lot happened. Because my parents didn’t bother with the overwrought warnings, I figured that if they felt it was important enough to warn me, as opposed to talking about it, I sure as hell better listen.

    Making things “forbidden fruit” tends to make people want things MORE, not LESS. That isn’t a disparaging statement against your kids so much as it is just a comment on human psychology.

  109. Beth April 29, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    Rachel, I don’t know how old your kids are, but when they get to the point of doing research and writing papers for school your no unsupervised internet access for those under 18 might be pretty hard to enforce.

    Are you going to sit beside them while they do the research and type their paper? What if you have multiple kids all doing work that requires the internet at once – are you going to float back and forth between them and monitor the websites each of them are going to?

    What if you have a child that’s really interested in, I don’t know, baseball. Are you going to sit beside him while he checks the scores each day, reads about teams and players, learns the finer points of the game? I’m sorry, but how boring for you to have to sit there and do nothing while he pursues his interest…and how terrible for him, knowing that you expect him to pop over to a porn site the minute your back is turned.

    I appreciate that want to have this rule, but I think you’ll find that it’s not even remotely workable.

  110. Julie C April 29, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    Rachel – You seem to have a ton of preconceived notions about the big wide world and overconfidence in your ability to shield your children from things you don’t like. I have news for you: it seems easy enough now, but once your kids are teenagers you will be singing a different tune. You can’t simply “teach” morality and then stand over your children all the time making sure they never make a bad choice or hear or see something inappropriate. Kids learn by making mistakes, by being given the room to make choices, by being trusted to make decisions. They may even make a bad decision or two (or three!) – that’s how they learn what works, what doesn’t, how to treat people, how to say no, how to stand up to challenges.

    If you are home-schooling and strictly controlling who your children are allowed to be with, they may never meet someone who has different views or another way of doing things. So be it. Eventually you’ll have to let them out of the cage you’ve so painstakingly built.

    As for college, I think it’s funny that your only view of education is that you must have to take out loans to go to school (or, you know, save for college or trade school or be really smart and get a scholarship) and that life at all schools is a four year party. I’d ask my son to weigh in but he’s busy writing papers (one in French) and doing research for his political theory class and his Honors Symposium on classical Greek literature. Hopefully you won’t have a kid who wants to go to college to study physics, or chemistry, or be a doctor, or a law professor. Because it doesn’t sound like you have prepared for that at all. That’s the problem with the top-down approach you are advocating: it doesn’t leave much room for the child to have a say in anything.

  111. Wow... April 29, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    @Beth, @Rachel:

    Plus…you know….the teen might well be stronger than his/her parent before his 18th birthday and well….I think the teen will know that it can’t be enforced so if they haven’t had the experience of making small cock-ups before…what happens then?

  112. Wow... April 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    @Rachel: Think about it this way: My parents didn’t want me to have causal sex but they also realized that teens do dumb things. So they talked to me about it. It wasn’t that they wanted me to have casual sex but well…if I was going to, she’d rather I know how to buy and use condoms for hypothetical boyfriend and such than just go at it completely ‘nude’, so to speak.

    Neither of them actually wanted me to have causal sex at all – it was just that if I was going to, I was going to and they felt it was better I knew how to have ‘safe sex’ than be completely clueless. Not brilliant…the lesser of two evils, is all.

    It turned out to be irrelevant for other reasons though. 🙂

  113. Papilio May 1, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    @Warren: “Sorry, but I just have to. I do not see premarital sex as inevitable. I see premarital sex as recomended. A marriages sex life can make or break a marriage. Just as I recomend a couple live together before getting married, they best sleep together as well.

    Like my bride said, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, and that is a 5 to 10 yr commitment. Why would you commit yourself to a lifetime with someone, without taking them for a test drive.”.

    And unless you plan on marrying your kids off the moment they turn 19, premarital sex and teenagers going at it like bunnies is not the same thing.”

    Agreed 100%! It’s just too big a decision, emotionally, financially, everything-ally.

  114. Wow... May 1, 2015 at 2:49 pm #


    Bluntly and crudely but succinctly, the internet with all its glory and shame is now a part of everyday life. You’d best teach your kids how to handle that while you still have some control – and you don’t have control for that long. Use filters as training wheels by all means but at some point….the best filter is the one behind their ears.

    And books might be what they are but…I mean….there is stuff in the library.

    Just for fun, who can tell what this is talking about without looking it up: [This invention] will mean the impending death of literacy because no-one will need to write letters any more. [This invention] will allow criminal gangs to conspire and plan crimes WITHOUT HAVING TO MEET IN PERSON, FROM THE PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN HOMES. [This invention] promotes lust because it allows a girl to hear a voice of her suitor from her pillow – it also leads to [invention] sex.

  115. Havva May 1, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    Sounds like the telephone. I’ve also heard a version for the telegraph.

  116. Wow... May 1, 2015 at 3:39 pm #


    Yup! It is indeed the telephone.

    The telegraph? Pfft…. there’s some railing against writing of all things, from Socrates. We know that Socrates was against writing because …. wait for it…. Plato wrote down everything Socrates told him, including the ‘writing is evil’ bit. Which is a funny mental image, isn’t it?

    Socrates: Blah blah blah Evils of writing blah blah blah deprives the idea of a mind to live in blah blah blah
    Plato: *furiously scribbling* Can you repeat that last bit slower, please?

    Or how about this one for size, guys?

    The private secure communication [invention] offers will lead to the collapse of morality in women as they could get into “clandestine correspondence with unprincipled men” and turn into whores.