Free-Range Kids

Overprotective Government, Overweight Kids?

Here in America, helicopter government is also making parents afraid to send their kids outside to play.


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recent study in the science journal PLOS One found that overprotected kids face a 13 percent greater chance of being obese than other kids, possibly because they aren't allowed to do things like play outside and walk to school:

[T]he evidence suggests that the physical activity of children has declined over time as rates of child overweight and obesity have increased. At the same time, there has been a shift in perceptions of safety for children, even though children arguably face the same or fewer risks today than in previous decades. Parents have become more risk averse and protective over time, and as a result children have enjoyed fewer opportunities for active free play and independent mobility.

The study, which was conducted in Australia, blames helicopter parents. Here in America, helicopter government is also making parents afraid to send their kids outside to play. While examples like Debra Harrell—the mom jailed for letting her 9-year-old play in the park—are rare, in my piece at the Weekly Wonk, I discuss a couple of other cases:

A man in suburban Pittsburgh dropped off his kids, age 6 and 9, at the park while he ran some errands. This sight was so unusual – children playing on their own – that a passerby called 911. The police came and charged the dad with two counts of child endangerment. This happened recently in D.C., too. …[And] One mom got a visit from Child Protective Services because her children were playing in the rain! It has become a radical act to let kids play beyond the living room.

If our cops, courts, and lawmakers absorb helicopter parents' wrongheaded belief that a child outside is a child in danger (even though crime is at a 50-year low), any parent who wants her kids to get some exercise and independence must worry about the possibility that she could be deemed negligent.


That doesn't mean parents shouldn't let their kids go forth and frolic. It means the government should make it abundantly clear that parents who believe their children are fine outside, unsupervised—the way we were as kids—will not face harassment or charges.

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  1. Apparently it *is* dangerous to leave your kids outside!

  2. Fat kids are overprotected, or overprotected kids become fact?

    Fucking correlation and causation – how do they WORK?

  3. I had a conversation with a public health type not too long ago. She’s a mother herself, but she acted surprised when I told her that in certain places, a parent can get into trouble for allowing a child to walk to school unmonitored.

    1. Isn’t any kid carrying a cellphone being monitored?

      1. What you did there – I saw it

    2. shit, they can’t even wait for the fucking bus alone or even with other kids. Mommy or daddy have them sit in the SUV til it comes. Just drive the damn kid to school if you’re going to be that overprotective.

      1. The fucking people in our private-road sub sit at the private-road corner by my house, in their SUV’s, with their kids, till the bus comes.

        Tha FUCK? Pussies…

  4. the government should make it abundantly clear that parents who believe their children are fine outside, unsupervised?the way we were as kids?will not face harassment or charges.

    Surely you’re joking, Lenore.

    1. This would be the same government that believes adults should be constantly supervised.

      Not holding my breath.

  5. Good lord, I can’t take this….

    We were literally NEVER “supervised” outside when I was growing up. NEVER. Adults were inside, being old. Kids were outside, having fun.

    The closest we might get was my best friend’s dad coming out to shoot hoops with us for 5 minutes before he went back inside to be old some more.

    My own kids – youngest 19 now – pretty much had the same deal. I know I never “supervised” them. They were in someone’s yard, or whatever – we knew their general vicinity.

    They all lived.


    Fuck these helicopter fucks and the gummint nannies.

    1. How old are you? I got a lot of exercise as a child, but I was almost never unsupervised.

      I think their was a shift that occurred with the Adam Walsh murder in 1981. Children born after 1981 have had to deal with constant parental oversight, which takes the fun out of physical activity.

      1. Howe and Strauss covered this in their book Generations — this does cycle, and Gen Xers were generally on the low ebb of protective parents (most aborted, latch key kids, lots of movies plots involving horrible/demonic children, etc.).

        The 80s started the upswing as Boomers were the primary parents, and their tendency towards overweening self-regard and social control started to manifest more widely.

        1. I think it’s the difference between early Boomer parents and the latter Boomer parents.

          Gen-Xers raised by early Boomer parents witnessed their parents scraping by. Money was tight and the only entertainment was outside the house.

          Millenials like me were born to the same Boomer parents. Only this time, money was not much of an issue. Parents had more time to spend at home, and home video game consoles replaced the arcade experience.

          1. I don’t think money had anything to do with it. I was born to “early Boomer parents” and frankly, the overprotective helicopter shit just hadn’t started yet when I was a kid. It just started to get rolling when I was a teen, but by then I had already had the totally unsupervised experience. Plus when it started it was weak and had to build over time.

            1. Which brings me back to my theory that the Adam Walsh murder was the tipping point that convinced parents to monitor their children at all times.

              1. H&S would argue that it’s cultural accumulation — “build over time” as Epi said. Kids are murdered all the time, and probably way moreso in the past, but that one at the right time creates a tipping point. Baby Jessica (kid in the well) in 1987 was another.

                1. I forgot about Baby Jessica.

              2. One murder is not going to cause this. Shit, even the Atlanta child murders, which scared the shit out of everyone even if you were no where near Atlanta, had almost no effect as soon as they stopped and the guy was caught.

                The whole nannyism shit and helicopter parenting thing took time. It was an offshoot of the growing belief that if you just fed your kids the right shit or protected them from [insert who the fuck knows what here] that they’d grow up to be healthy geniuses.

                This stuff didn’t come from a few isolated things. It’s been a cultural trend. A really, really stupid one.

                1. I was born in ’83, and we were hardly ever supervised in the summers unless we had an appointment for something that day.

                2. The key to it is a combination of fear of the CPS and simultaneous guilt about criticizing them.

                  It’s the same reason that the “What about the CHILDREN?” line has become a joke. Everyone recognizes that protecting children is like the ultimate trump card. You can’t say anything about it. All someone has to do is invoke children and it shuts down debate.

                  So people shit their pants in fear that the government will come take their kids, but they won’t say anything to criticize them, because if you do, well, you’re a heartless monster.

                  This allows the nanny-statists to get the upper hand, EVERY TIME.

                  1. And as a result, the child-safety laws always get ratcheted up. The people advocating for stricter control take the moral high ground, and the people who aren’t, well, they’re afraid to look like they don’t care about the children.

                    That’s basically the dynamic that has driven this all from the 80s onward.

      2. “I’m not old! I’m thirty seven!”

        /Holy Grail

        I was born in 1962.

        1. My brother, who is 10 years older than me, was allowed to bike across town when he was 10 years old.

          When I was about the same age, our parents had by then moved to a more affluent neighborhood. The only way to get to town was to bike down the highway, which was forbidden for me.

      3. I was born in 1986, and spent a fair amount of time running around in the desert with a BB gun and no adult in sight from about age 9 onwards.

    2. We played outside constantly when I was a kid. There were almost never any adults hovering over us.

      But I’m sure we were always under someone’s eye. The mothers in our neighborhood were married to husbands with jobs, and didn’t work. So they were home. They just didn’t feel the need to stand over us while we played.

      1. But just do something wrong, and Mom knew about it before you got home.

  6. Parenting fads swing back and forth all the time, naturally. There was an overprotectiveness trend, and now some pushback. It’s almost self-regulating. But government has completely wrecked up the ability of parenting communities to learn from and regulate themselves. The overprotectiveness era got coded into the law, and a class of bureaucrats emerged to enforce it. And now common sense can not seem to be restored.

  7. A nation of hand wringing imbeciles.

    1. A nation governed by hand wringing imbeciles.

  8. I’m still waiting for follow up on the Josh Gravens article. The fact that Josh Gravens does not appear on the Texas sex offender registry and there are older articles saying he was removed two years ago lead me to believe that either Ms. Skenazy was duped or she’s a liar.

    Reason really should do their due diligence on this. Publishing false accounts leads to bad juju.

    1. You mean he wasn’t actually arrested?


        Last November Gravens showed the judge who sentenced him a Texas Observer article from last year that detailed his story. The judge removed him from the list. Though off the registry, Gravens still has two felony convictions for failure to register on his record ? both, he claims, the result of not being properly told about the reporting requirements.

        That doesn’t line up with Lenore’s article which stated he attempted to register a couple of weeks ago. And he does not show on the registry.

        1. I’m with you in wanting clarifications, but the gravens article has been revised.. there is still a bit of stink about it… as elwinransom says, he likes to some due diligence in articles he shares around.. I’m kind of in the same boat, but I had caught a whiff.

  9. Let kids play unsupervised and you get in trouble. Yet in England, there was a story within the past year about parents getting in trouble for letting their kid get too fat.

    Catch 22!

    Saw a headline today to the effect that a California couple was in trouble for letting their lawn go brown, yet they were following the conservation mandate that’s a result of the drought.

    Isn’t it ironic?

    1. And……………now I see that same story about the lawn is already here on Hand R. It’s been a long day.

  10. This happened recently in D.C., too.

    The mother’s story referred to “county recommendations” as to how old your kids can be to do various things on their own, so I assume it wasn’t in D.C. itself but in one of the suburbs. I wonder whether it was in Fairfax County, where I live, because I frequently find myself fantasizing about putting their entire CPS staff, as well as Commonwealth’s Attorney Morrogh, on a ferry and sinking it in the middle of the Chesapeake. And I haven’t even had any personal run-ins with them. If I had, I’d probably move beyond fantasizing.

  11. The people who call the cops on other parents for letting their children play unattended are the ones who should be arrested.

    Isn’t it illegal to call the police for frivolous reasons? If it’s illegal to call 9-11 as a prank or to SWAT people, it should be illegal to call CPS because you’re a FUCKING BITCH.

    1. ^THIS^ 1000X


    2. The accused has a 6A right to know who’s accusing them. Get the TV station to exercise it on their behalf, and then interview the bitch who called 911.

  12. Fear your government? Yes, absolutely. Fear your neighbors? Even more so.

    1. Fear your government augmented by your busybody neighbors.

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