Free-Range Kids

Poll: Most Americans Want to Criminalize Pre-Teens Playing Unsupervised

"I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children's abilities more than we North Americans do today."


Girl on swing
Capture Queen / Flickr

Correction: A previous version of this piece published results about 9- and 12-year-olds that reflected a subset of the poll's total sample. These numbers have been corrected and now reflect the total sample.

A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.

What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).

Those are the results of a Reason/Rupe poll confirming that we have not only lost all confidence in our kids and our communities—we have lost all touch with reality.

"I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children's abilities more than we North Americans do today," says Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, a book that advocates for more unsupervised play, not less.

In his book, Gray writes about a group of 13 kids who played several hours a day for four months without supervision, though they were observed by an anthropologist. "They organized activities, settled disputes, avoided danger, dealt with injuries, distributed goods… without adult intervention," he writes.

The kids ranged in age from 3 to 5.

Of course, those kids were allowed to play in the South Pacific, not South Carolina, where Debra Harrell was thrown in jail for having the audacity to believe her 9-year-old would be fine by herself at a popular playground teeming with activity. In another era, it not only would have been normal for a child to say, "Goodbye, mom!" and go off to spend a summer's day there, it would have been odd to consider that child "unsupervised." After all, she was surrounded by other kids, parents, and park personnel. Apparently now only a private security detail is considered safe enough.

Harrell's real crime was that she refused to indulge in inflated fears of abduction and insist her daughter never leave her side. While there are obviously many neighborhoods wrecked by crime where it makes more sense to keep kids close, the country at large is enjoying its lowest crime level in decades.

Too bad most people reject this reality. The Reason/Rupe Poll asked "Do kids today face more threats to their physical safety?" and a majority—62 percent—said yes. Perhaps that's because the majority of respondents also said they don't think the media or political leaders are overhyping the threats to our kids.

But they are. "One culprit is the 24 hour news cycle," said Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, when I asked him why so few kids are outside these days. Turn on cable TV, "and all you have to do is watch how they take a handful of terrible crimes against children and repeat that same handful over and over," he said. "And then they repeat the trial over and over, and so we're conditioned to live in a state of fear."


Rationally understanding that we are living in very safe times is not enough to break the fear, he added.

So what is?

Experience. Through his Children and Nature Network, Louv urges families to gather in groups and go on hikes or even to that park down the street that Americans seem so afraid of. Once kids are outside with a bunch of other kids, they start to play. It just happens. Meanwhile, their parents stop imagining predators behind every bush because they are face to face with reality instead of Criminal Minds. They start to relax. It just happens.

Over time, they can gradually regain the confidence to let their kids go whoop and holler and have as much fun as they themselves did, back in the day.

Richard Florida, the urbanist and author of The Rise of the Creative Class, is one of the many parents today who recalls walking to school solo in first grade. He was in charge of walking his kindergarten brother the next year. The age that the Reason/Rupe respondents think kids should start walking to school without an adult is 12.

That's the seventh grade.

Florida has intensely fond memories of riding his bike "everywhere" by the time he was 10. Me too. You too, I'm guessing. Why would we deny that joy to our own kids? Especially when we're raising them in relatively safer times?

"Let your kids play in the park, for God's sake," Florida pleads. "We'll all be better for it."

Why should South Pacific toddlers have all the fun?

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  1. I rode my bike to school by myself in Kindergarten. 5 years old.

    My dad told me to walk, because he didn’t want my bike to get stolen. But he left for work before me and got home after me. So, bike it was.

    1. And now you’re reading the website of a libertarian magazine. If you would have been properly supervised, you’d be on Huffpost like a good statist.

      1. Infantilize them young, and they’ll be fearful, dependent ninnies for life.

        When you see cultural insanity enforced by the state, you can be confident that it benefits the power of the state.

        Zero tolerance for “gun shaped” pop tarts? Insane? No. It’s part of a program to delegitimize gun ownership by private citizens.

        Cultural marxism marches on.

        1. Now they’re suspending kids for writing about shooting dinosaurs.

          1. Dinosaurs are endangered! I haven’t seen one in years.

            1. Haven’t you heard? Dinosaurs were made extinct by humans hunting them with automatic assault rifles.

          2. Dinosaurs are endangered! I haven’t seen one in years.

  2. The media beats it into everyone’s head that there is a child molester behind every tree ready to pounce on your little snookums. After 20-30 years of this bullshit most people have bought the narrative.

    The only thing this does is make it much harder to parent and makes it more difficult for kids to just go out and play and learn some critical social kids.

    1. Even so, growing up in the 80s I was taught to resist all the evil strangers with candy, but the assumption was still that I would be out on my own encountering these weirdos. Seems like these days kids are taught that if they aren’t with their parents they should immediately panic.

      1. I never could figure out why they warned us against accepting candy from child molesters. They had the best stuff!

      2. The sad thing is most child abductions or molestation are done by someone the child knows, not strangers. So teaching kids to be scared of strangers isn’t effective. It’s just creating this culture of you can’t get out of Mommy or Daddy’s sight for a second.

    2. I came here to say exactly this so now I am raising my leg in hearty approval of this sentiment.

      TL;dr – F you, Sensationalist Media! You’ve ruined America and, possibly, the Human Race.

    3. It’s one of the things that makes me wonder if T. Jefferson overlooked the danger of gov’t with newspapers. I often honestly think we’d be freer if we had a democratic society in which mass media were either impossible, outlawed, or strictly & secretly censored.

      However, I also wonder whether the result of this poll is skewed by people’s expect’n of the “right” answer, such that they’ll be thought better of by the poll taker or even themselves for a few seconds if they give that answer even if they don’t believe it. That is, I think people might’ve lied a lot on this poll, and would oppose such laws if allowed to vote on them via secret ballot?and that they think their own children should be allowed out of their sight under much more liberal conditions than they think of everyone else’s children.

    4. This probably started with the kidnapping and murder of John Walsh’s son. Walsh went on a personal crusade to make sure that everyone sees everyone as a suspect and the media and statist politicians played along. After all, what better way to train people to spy and snitch on one another than to tell them they are doing so “for the children”.

      1. Or it might have been articles like this:…..ted_States

  3. A whopping 83 percent of Americans are fucking insane.

    1. About the same percentage of people in Chicago want to increase the minimum wage in Chicago. So you are right.

      1. And yet, in Chicago kids walk to school by themselves in 2nd grade, play unsupervised at the park, and you can have as many chickens in your backyard as you want, you can even get a CCW permit now or renovate your bathroom without a permit (if you’re discreet). But you can’t get plastic bags at Target, or get zoning approval for a gas station or Wal-Mart….So it is a weird place.

      2. More money for the working poor? Fucking insane!

        1. Remember how much better off the working poor became the last time minimum wage was hiked? Or the time before? Or the time before that?

          How many more times do liberals have to be proven wrong before they stop their insane ideology?

  4. A Global Force for Good- from the Playground to the Planet. [rolls fucking eyes]

  5. Wow – I rode my bike or walked to school when I was in 1st grade.

    And the countless hours that I wasn’t home – especially during the summer – when I ran around with the neighborhood kids and threw rocks and crabapples at each other. Or in the blizzard of ’77/’78 when I skied over to my best friend’s house – which was over a mile away.

    1. Ditto. But we were informed the other day on the thread that “no one cares what you did growing up in Mayberry.”

      LH, I want you to know that I am interested in what you did growing up in Mayberry.

      We shared riding bikes and/or walking to school (unaccompanied by an adult) starting in 1st grade (my mom did drive me to kindergarten).

      You get your first gun at age 8 or before? My dad gave me one for Christmas when I was 7 or 8.


      /Mayberry, MI

      1. It wasn’t just “Mayberry” where kids had this experience – it was in every small town and big city in America.

      2. Grew up in NYC – we all would leave the house at 8AM in the summer and not come back home till dinner.

        The nation has been pussified beyond recognition

        1. Same here… in the 80’s & 90’s when crime was higher.

    2. I walked to school in 1st grade. The shortcut was through this big field in Killeen, TX. There were scorpions, rattlesnakes, and a mean old lady who would threaten us with a shotgun. We stomped the scorpions. Killed the rattlesnakes and sold them to my neighbor. And ran like hell from that old lady. I moved to Indiana in August 1977. Never saw snow until the blizzard of 77. My god that winter sucked.

      1. Totally. Everyone should have a horrifying childhood.

        1. Most kids today do. Too many lawyers and government bureaucrats to support and drug company profits at stake today to allow kids any freedom.

    3. 1st grade I walked to school and every day until I was allowed to start riding my bike at age 10. By age 11 I was riding my bike to an arcade over two miles away. I rode it to go to the movies at the local mall. By 13 I had a paper route and was up at 5:00 am weekdays to receive papers by myself, in the dark, and deliver them across multiple neighborhoods and apartment complexes.

      I can’t imagine what sort of stump of a human being I’d be without those freedoms. I afforded my children almost as much freedom. When they have children they’ll be considered criminals for even considering the idea unsupervised childhood activities.

      1. By 13 I had a paper route and was up at 5:00 am weekdays to receive papers by myself, in the dark, and deliver them across multiple neighborhoods and apartment complexes.

        I did this when I was 8. I didn’t start with many papers but got myself up every day and took the responsibility. My older brother was making all of the money and I just had to get in on it.

        1. It was a good thing and I have great memories. I’d have felt like I was harming my children to deny them self reliant activities. To deny other people’s children self reliant activities would make me a monster. I just don’t understand the other side of the argument. Safety something?

          1. “I’d have felt like I was harming my children to deny them self reliant activities”

            And you would have been.

            The new regime of wrapping children in bubble wrap until they’re 27 is child abuse.

        2. Similar story but weekdays it was an afternoon paper – and then after just the first month or so my older sister dropped out and I had it all to myself until we moved. Met lots of awesome people on my paper route. Made many friends in the 60+ set. It’s a shame that Americans don’t let their kids be human beings any more.

        3. Similar story but weekdays it was an afternoon paper – and then after just the first month or so my older sister dropped out and I had it all to myself until we moved. Met lots of awesome people on my paper route. Made many friends in the 60+ set. It’s a shame that Americans don’t let their kids be human beings any more.

      2. So, your parents were not only neglectful, they did nothing while you were forced into child labor!


    4. And now you’re reading the website of a libertarian magazine. If you would have been properly supervised, you’d be on Huffpost like a good statist.

      1. you used that one already. its a pretty good line though.

        1. I was going top use it every time but I figured a spam fllter would get me eventually

    5. For me it was often the ambiguous “Don’t go too far. Dinner’s at 6.” And sometimes we went too far and got caught (bringing a salamander home from the creek was a pretty dumb thing to do), but more often not.

      The garages on the other side of the alley were close enough together that you could go a whole block, with one exception, jumping from garage to garage.

      There was a major street to cross going to school from the 2nd grade on. You crossed (usually) with the light.

      I’m going to play with *fill in the blank* or go to the ice rink or the drug store was more than enough.

      I had a cap gun and a pocket knife and a magnifying glass. I made my own bows and arrows to play cowboys and indians and didn’t mind playing the indian … and I didn’t always lose either.

      All of this in a suburb of Cleveland.

    6. During the summers when I was a kid (~age 5-12) in the 80s, my mom would practically lock us out of the house and tell us not to come back until it got dark. My 2 sisters and I would play with all of the other kids in our neighborhood who were also outside (maybe 10 of us all together). We all knew which houses and yards we could play in, and we knew how far we could go on our bikes. We just knew that the older kids were supposed to keep an eye on the younger ones, and we were pretty good at policing ourselves, because none of us wanted to get into trouble. Whenever there was the occasional scraped knees, we’d take the injured party to the closest of our homes for someone’s mom or dad to patch them up, and then we’d continue on with our playing. We also knew that the second that someone’s mom called them in, it was time for the rest of us to head home, and that’s exactly what we did.

      Of course, there was always a parent keeping an eye on us, even if we didn’t realize it at the time. But I think we all appreciated having the freedom to have fun without parents hovering around.

  6. I wonder what, if really any, effect this helicopter parenting is going to have. It all seems so insane and that it would totally mess kids up, but in general they actually seem to be relatively fine. My guess is that it’s extremely stupid but it doesn’t mess the kids up too much.

    1. It reenforces the notion that freedom means asking permission and following orders.

      1. ^Exactly. This was essentially my argument against school uniforms. It reinforces the notion that someone you don’t know can take ownership of your appearance, governing details which should be personal choice.

        1. If your parents send you to a school that requires uniforms, then that’s what they approve of. Sorry to tell you – kids don’t have that freedom.

          1. That doesn’t address whether or not agreeing to such restrictions on children indoctrinates them into ownership by the State of their persons.

            1. Which was my point entirely.

            2. Kids will take any restriction and say it’s “unfair!” You might as well say making them do chores is a form of indoctrination.

              1. I believe you are still missing the poin of the OP and haven’t addressed the question above. Some things are acts and behavior children are coerced by parents and their agents to do in adjusting children to society. Other acts of coercion are intended or have the effect of indoctrinating children into ownership by the State. Forcing children to Pledge Allegiance comes to mind, teaching children about all the ‘good things’ done by the State: like The Great Society and dropping bombs on people they don’t know. This is indoctrination. Is forcing children to wear uniforms (that look like police or military costumes)a form of indoctrination to the State and an attempt to raise good little Brown Shirts?

                Personally, I don’t like the symbolism, especially as it relates to a requirement to attend a public school.

        2. “In order to enhance your individuality to conformity, I’m instituting a dress code based on your own requests that I imagine you would have requested had I asked for your requests.”

        3. It reinforces the notion that someone you don’t know can take ownership of your appearance, governing details which should be personal choice.

          Considering that someone you don’t know is taking the financial responsibility for you education, uniforms seem appropriate to me.

          The collectivization of “education” isn’t collectivization as long as there is some pretend “individualism” in how they dress?

          Since I oppose public schools in principle I favor every nasty thing which they inflict on those who participate. Public schools most certainly suck for those forced to pay for them, no reason they shouldn’t suck for those who gain the benefit.

          1. Considering someone recently died in jail over unpaid truancy fines, maybe you want to revisit the notion that attendees benefit from public schools.

        4. Personally, 8 years in a uniform was not that bad. It is somewhat equalizing. The biggest thing was choosing your backpack, lunchbox, coat, and shoes (and then was where “equal” was tossed out the window, but you kind of got over it and …who keeps looking at shoes all day, 5 days a week?! -and I love shoes, let’s get that straight).
          We were allowed to be us (within reason) and not a label. You still knew who had a closet full of expensive clothes and who did not, but it wasn’t an in-your-face thing every single day.

      2. Came to write the same thing as sarc.

      3. the illuminatis in on it too. and the freemasons! its a conspiriacy!!!

    2. I bet this generation of kids will prove to be fucked up in more subtle ways – more risk-averse, for example.

      1. Well. it might keep us out of unwarranted military adventurism, but won’t help much if America is really attacked.

    3. Sadly, not true. I teach college students, and I can assure you that they are an increasingly anxiety-ridden, dependent, need-hand-holding batch. The number of “disability” notifications I receive each semester for student anxiety disorder has skyrocketed over the past few years (both males and females). I can’t believe this is unconnected to the precious cocoons in which their childhoods have been wrapped.

      1. A friend of mine was an adjunct at a couple of colleges and complained to me about the same things. She loved when parents would call her to try and negotiate better grades for their little precious snowflakes, because she go to tell them she couldn’t discuss grades with them as that is private information between her and the adult student, regardless of who is paying tuition.

      2. “student anxiety disorder” = scheduled math test.

      3. If I remember correctly, this style of parenting really seemed to take off around 2000. Children born then are just entering their teens now, so in another nine or ten years, we’ll see how the experiment has played out when their turn at independence comes. Will they be able to negotiate college and work on their own, or will they need Mommy to hold their hand and fill out their application for them?

        1. Bubble wrapped children have been the majority of the incoming students at every private college since at least 2000.

          At all of the better colleges and universities, the psychology staff now out number the somatic staff at heath services.

      4. ^This. There is another dimension to the college cost crisis (aside from the infinite number of diversicrats) and that is the number of “disability” administrators.

        In all my years of undergraduate teaching, there was exactly one student who I thought deserved special dispensation because she was legally blind and required tests to be printed in 72 point type. But other than that, she was a stellar student.

      5. It’s a scam though. I’ve seen a fellow university student work themselves into a panic so they could get a dispensation, instead of doing some last minute cramming.

    4. I wonder what, if really any, effect this helicopter parenting is going to have.

      I think it has some good effects and some bad effects. I don’t think it is a coincidence that over the past two decades, as “latchkey” kids became more socially unacceptable, we also saw significant decreases in childhood delinquency including drug use, school violence, truancy and the like. Kids who are chronically left on their own are more likely to make bad decisions that become bad habits.

      Note- this should in no way be construed as endorsement of laws targeting parents who leave their kids alone. Like pretty much everything, what is good or even great in moderation can have bad side effects when overdone. And parents should be respected enough to decide what works for their family.

      Since everyone else has been giving anecdotes: I was left to my own devices in the morning and evening from pretty much 2nd grade until I went off to college. I never got into serious trouble, but I also never developed good study skills and fell in with a bad crowd for several years causing my grades to suffer. Many of my friends who had a mom or older sibling at home didn’t have those same troubles. Nor did several kids who were in the same position as me. What this tells me is that chronic alone time isn’t a death sentence, but it is a factor of risk. And parents should be allowed to determine how much risk they want to take.

    5. From someone who works on a college campus, they definitely don’t turn out fine. They cannot handle pressure, failure, or stress. And there are finally some studies to back it up.…..-you-think…..111803.htm

      1. But how will it end? I mean the practice itsef; how does society de-helicopter parent itself? These people will soon be having children of their own, and can you imagine them deciding to just relax and let the kids play? They already are so anxious about everything in their own lives, how can they possibly not be even more hovering idiots than their parents were?
        Do kids even walk to school anymore? All I see is are lines of cars outside every school, dropping off or picking up little snowflakes who would, undoubtedly be abducted the second they were out of eye-site. (“Like anyone would even WANT to molest your obese snot-nosed whiner”, I want to tell them)

      2. Holy crap did you read the comments section on that first article, apparently the wussification of America is all because we havent raised the minimum wage enough. Too. Much. Stupid.

  7. As I said on the other link for this, do these people really want parents to be arrested, lose their jobs, lose their kids to CPS, and be thrown in jail? Do they realize that will happen?

    The demographics and crosstabs are pretty crazy, too.

    1. The current prison population of nonviolent offenders proves that this 83% of brain-dead turds don’t give a single shit about what happens to people when harsh laws invade community reality.

    2. You know perfectly well that only Randroid Teathuglicans still believe in the myth of unintended consequences.

    3. Yes. Just like there are so many that want a person arrested for other “victimless crimes”. Once you buy into the town square, a village to raise a child, a debt to society (insert government), and other such non-sense it is within the same belief system to arrest parents for the ‘good’ of the child. The actual consequences to family and children be damned.

      Drug war comes to mind.

      1. Thomas Sowell states it very plainly. If there is no victim there can be no crime.

        1. That’s why it’s necessary for the State to create victims. For example, whores are victims because they must all be drug-addicted mentally disturbed low IQ retards that can’t possibly make their own choices.

          It’s a neat little game, this whole paternalistic “speaking for the weak” thing.

          1. I thought whores were criminals because the State prefers violence to sex. Morals or something like that…

          2. Not everyone is endowed with the same capacity to defer gratification. That’s why many make bad choices.

            1. So let’s give them guns and tanks and let them rule other people.

            2. No, no, everyone’s a rational actor. Otherwise free market capitalism is ridiculous.

    4. People don’t think about that when answering these polls. Supporting legislation is how they get validation of their opinion. They are asked ‘Would you support legislation that would prohibit a 9-year old from playing in a park unsupervised?’, they think to themselves I wouldn’t allow my 9-year old to play in a park unsupervised so I would support such legislation. No thought is ever given to the enforcement end of the legislation, only that their opinion is validated. But if you emphasized enforcement and it’s resultant consequences over legislation by asking ‘Would you support the arrest and jailing of parents who allow a 9-year old to play in a park unsupervised, and the placement of the child into foster care?’ you would get a much different answer. But that the people answering these polls and supporting legislation don’t consider these consequences.

      1. The lawmakers who propose such legislation are seen as having the safety of children as their top priority, and it plays to the frightened helicopter parents who would support such legislation. Everyone knows what would be said of anyone who would argue against the necessity of such legislation. Of course the supporters of the legislation would have no fear of enforcement of the law against themselves because if ever they were found to violate it, their good standing in the community and the fact that this was not a regular occurrence would warrant discretion of enforcement. But should you be on a low rung of the socio-economic ladder, no discretion you be extended and you can be sure that the upper-middle class soccer moms would be looking down their noses at the savage underclass that doesn’t even know how to take care of their kids.

      2. They are asked ‘Would you support legislation …

        And the correct answer is always NO. The rest of the verbiage in the question is unnecessary.

    5. As I said on the other link for this, do these people really want parents to be arrested, lose their jobs, lose their kids to CPS, and be thrown in jail?

      Yes. Yes, they do. Because parents like that are bad people who deserve to be punished and to lose their children. (The children are probably bad too, since they come of bad stock, so they deserve to be punished by losing their parents and being placed in foster care.)

    6. It’s an opinion poll. Don’t put too much stock into it.

    7. Perhaps it ends with the next great collapse of civilization. When the abundance and soft living ends, then kids become labor, not jewelry. The only problem is that I really don’t want another Dark Ages, I kind of like tech and cool toys. Maybe if we ever colonize another planet; pioneers tend to not live if they are too soft.

  8. I guy I worked with some years back said that when he was a 9 year old living in Miami, he and a friend took the bus downtown by themselves to watch “The Absent Minded Professor”. This would have been 1961. His mom didn’t know where he was, and he was killed by a child molester.

    No, that’s not right. Actually, his mom was cool with it, apparently. His point in telling me the story was to say how much safer it was back then, but I think there is strong evidence that times are safer these days. If a child goes missing, we have Amber alerts and such, and it’s usually broadcast over local media, and sometimes national media.

    1. But an Amber Alert is issued if the child is missing for 15 seconds.

      This Amber Alert shit is part of the panic. The other day one was issued and everyone in the office started complaining about the uselessness of it.

      1. And 99.9% of the time, it’s not some “stranger-danger” bullshit, but the non-custodial parent. So everyone knows who the kid is with, most of the time where they are going, and what the “abductor”‘s phone number is. But, instead of just waiting for the guy to come to his senses, or calling the cops in his home town, the lazy pigs create a huge fuss and ask motorists to do their job for them.

    2. That happened to me as well! I went out to play by myself and I was killed. The guy came up and told all the kids who were unsupervised to get in his car and we all did. So tragic.

      They never did find my body.

  9. You can only be as free as the average IQ of your populace allows. That number has been plummeting steadily for decades and shows no signs of slowing its descent.

    Time to bail on the good-ole USA. Find a relatively free nesting spot overseas somewhere, perhaps in a town where you can pay the right people to leave you alone, and just wait this one out.

    It’s going to get MUCH WORSE before it has any chance of getting better.

    1. Yeah, this country is utterly fucked.

    2. where? a thrid worls kleptocracy or a higly regualted old world socialist state? th US is so much closer to your ideal that you want to admit but yu dont want to work to change it. better just to dream theat you can run away to some fantasyland than deal with changing the world as it is.

      1. Speaking as someone who grew up in an “old world socialist state”:

        What he said! You have it unbelievably great here in comparison.

        That said, just as I’m waking up to how great the freedom here is, it saddens me to see this country slowly turning into what I managed to escape.

      2. Singapore/Hong Kong. Not perfect, but less likely to murder me on a whim.

        1. Where smoking weed is almost treated like murder and problems are solved by a butt-whooping using a bamboo stick? No fuckin’ way.

          1. butt whoopin with a bamboo stick is way more humane than getting raped and stabbed and made to eat out ass in prison.

            I’ll take the bamboo cane instead any day. Way more humane

      3. Maybe I have to put up one of my comments again about how much better things are in the USA than when I was born 60 yrs. ago. Back then where I was you couldn’t choose your phone, gas, or electric company; hitchhike, own gold ingots, or possess porn legally; or legally practice homosexuality. You were liable to be drafted. Airline fares weren’t subject to competition. There were sales taxes on foods, drugs, and even small clothing items.

        Home schooling may not have been technically illegal, but hardly anybody but a few very rich people would test that. Stores of various kinds were legally required to close 1 day a week, which was usually Sun. You couldn’t get a divorce without legal cause of certain specific types.

        Every time I do this, I make up a mostly different list, because I keep forgetting many of the big & small changes for the better that’ve come in public policy.

        1. I was born 59 years ago, and several of the things you consider “changes for the better” I see as “changes for the worse.” With the exception of the civil rights movement and advances in technology and medicine, I think nearly all the changes in my lifetime have been for the worse. In fact, I’d go further and say that most of the changes (with the exceptions above) since the 19th century have been for the worse.

      4. I think maybe part of it is what Deatfbirsecia was saying above, the average IQ of these countries hasn’t dropped like it has in the United States lately so in practice there’s much of less of this stupidity. We never had to worry about the police monitoring us and blowing us away for a perceived insult, and kids are much freer to play and be on their own there than in the US. This irritating neighbor-on-neighbor snooping, with parents calling the cops if a kid plays alone in the park, simply doesn’t happen there, it’s a more live and let live attitude.

        There’s none of this “war on drugs” insanity like in the US. It’s not just the Dutch in general who are fine with private pot smoking and mostly doing what you want so long as you do no harm to others– Europe-wide, they’ve avoided the trap of criminalizing drugs and step in only when there’s clear evidence of harm to others, or it a person comes for help.

        Plus they actually have real privacy protections in those countries, and far, far lower rates of imprisonment– in the US you can get sent to jail for any stupid thing, even well to do citizens are imprisoned for example if they get divorced and don’t sufficiently bankrupt themselves with alimony payments. Not so in other places.

        I get the sense that there’s an unfortunate confusion of terminology here, with the word “socialist” tossed about too loosely to group together customs and practices that are very different.

      5. To elaborate on that point a bit — the Nordics, Dutch and Germans may have more “socialist” practices in some ways but their governments aren’t nearly as intrusive in the extreme over the top punitive way the US has become, and that’s a fundamental difference.

        It’s a shame because I know a lot of libertarians who’ve moved to these places and are much happier there than they’d be in the US (including many gun-owners, it varies from place to place but much of Europe is actually very gun-friendly). And a lot of other libertarians and free-thinkers would be happier there too but shut themselves out due to confusion about the way these terms are used. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect, and in many ways I personally prefer South America or parts of Asia. But IMHO given the massive growth in state power, the punitive and intrusive nature of US society and the unchecked power of the police and prison systems in the US, most libertarians would be much happier in most of Europe than in the US. (At least outside of Britain these days, which has more closed-circuit cameras all over the place than the rest of Europe combined.)

        1. I think Canada is more chill than the USA too.

          I show my wife – a school teacher – each time Reason posts some school suspending or arresting students for the stupidest of things. While she concedes stupid shit happens up here too, nothing on the level we see in the USA. Here, schools don’t call the cops unless very, very, very serious.

        2. I can see that. My impression is that they have greater wealth redistribution, but less of the hyper regulatory state.

    3. There will be no “hiding in the Shire”, Frodo. It will reach everyplace save Antarctica.

      1. So, move to Forochel and become a Lossoth?

        1. Yeah, but if you fall in the water you die…

      2. Antarctica is really nice this time of year. There will be nacreous clouds visible around Ross Island, and even without the clouds the skies will likely be gorgeous shades of dark blues, pink, purple, or orange. It’s just lovely, and you never have to deal with that awful hot and humid weather.

  10. And then people will wonder why those same kids grow up to be adults who cannot take responsibility for their own lives. But then, a whopping 78.9% of Americans think there should be a law that orders you kids to get off of my lawn.

    1. “And then people will wonder why those same kids grow up to be adults who cannot take responsibility for their own lives. ”

      Mission Accomplished!

  11. On the other hand, it means crusty, old-timers will be able to continue to rob this generation blind for a long, long time coming.

  12. Over under on the first arrest of someone who leaves their frozen embryos unattended in a cryonic storage lab?

    I can see the cop telling some poor woman “It isn’t someone else’s job to watch your frozen kids. Don’t you know it is possible for a storage cell to get up to -110 degrees if the freezer malfunctions?”

    1. On another but similar note many states have no age-specific laws on when a child can be left home alone or alone watching siblings. I guess they just assume a house is safer than a playground.

      1. Where I live the magical number is 12. And even then there are restrictions on what times of day and for how long they may legally be left alone.

      2. I just learned that the state of Illinois has legislated 14 years of age to be the magical age where they can be left home alone. No idea of the penalty for infraction.

        1. Illinois has always been screwy – but this takes the cake. Traditional societies generally considered adulthood to begin around age 12 – and in Illinois, an adult is not allowed to be alone at home until two years after that?

          Heck, I earned my Eagle Scout award when I was 12.

      3. Here’s a list for those interested:

        1. Had to do a bit more research on my own since the link for my state on that page is a dud.

          Turns out there is no magical age in my state. It’s up to the arbitrary whim of the CPS agent.

        2. A link full of SF’d links.

        3. Texas: “None.” Woo hoo!

          I honestly figured we had already committed a felony or two.

  13. And once again we see that the problem with America is Americans themselves.

  14. A reasonable solution might be erecting chain-link fences around all public parks and stationing an armed guard at the gate to check IDs and screen for suspicious types. Create useful public jobs while protecting our most valuable resource–our children–from dangerous sexual predators.


    1. Plus Newt’s orphanages (whether an orphan or not) to raise everyone from cradle to death panel time.

    2. To make it interesting we should then make ‘our’ children battle each other to the death, with the survivor winning lifetime wealth and security provided by the State.

      Together our ideas can lead to a true progressive utopia.


    3. Playground Security Administration. Teach those whelps while their minds are still pliable to bow before The Authoriteh.

      You got yer FEELZ, yer JERBZ and yer CHILDRENZ!

      It’s a hat trick of being all watched over by machines of loving grace.

  15. Hell, at age 13 I was babysitting other people’s kids (I babysat A LOT. It’s probably why I don’t have kids of my own. Being around kids was de-glamorized for me early and often)

    1. A similar thing happened to me. I’ve been living with a family in a foreign country not paying rent because I play with their four-year-old and speak with him in English. Precisely because of this experience I’ve resolved not to have kids and can’t wait to move out and get my own place. Luckily my fiance is also on board with the childfree idea.

      1. Hey…didn’t you play the hulk?

        1. Not as well as Lou.

  16. I’ve got a 12 year old sister, and the idea that she should be supervised at all times is absolutely fucking insane. And even if kids being left unsupervised by parents was causing serious problems for kids, how does taking their parents away from them solve that problem at all?

  17. Once again I remember being about 9 or 10 (circa 1996) and visiting my cousins with my younger brother and my aunt sending the 4 of us on bikes to accompany my cousin to his eye doc apt.

    I was a bit surprised that we were sent as such, especially because the neighborhood in which they lived was a bit rough(er) than what I was used to but it turned out to be a really fun adventure and required us all to be responsible and look out for each other and there were no problems.

    Today it seems my aunt would have been considered derelict in her duties to watch us and I find that to be really sad.

  18. First of all, no one has a right to tell you how you should raise your kids.Second, if you are a parent, letting your child play freely is a direct reflection of how you raised your child. If you teach them what danger is and how to handle it, they will learn how to deal with life in general.It also allows the child to use the values you have already instilled in him/her. What better way to test how you’ve raised your child than to let him/her act on their own ?

    1. All well and good until the busybody next door calls the cops and you get arrested and your free-range kids placed in foster care.

      1. But if you’ve trained the kids well, they run away from foster care and go spring you out of jail. Right?

    2. “If you teach them what danger is and how to handle it”

      In theory, sure. But children are smaller, weaker and less wise than adults. There’s a lot they are not capable of handling.

      “What better way to test how you’ve raised your child than to let him/her act on their own ?”

      They are not acting on their own for the most part. They are out their in an environment with other people. Do parents trust these others not to harm their children? Obviously not. I think that’s what’s behind these stories here of parents who set their children to play unsupervised back in the old days. Had you asked these parents, I bet they would have trusted their neighbours to look out somehow for the safety of the neighbourhood kids. That trust is now gone, seemingly. The state is stepping in to fill the vaccuum.

  19. We’ve failed as a nation. We are loony tunes, gaga, insane in the brain. Meanwhile, in Japan, preschoolers make routine forays to the store, alone, to pick up a little something for okaasan (mom) and kindergartners walk to school in a group, unsupervised.

  20. the country at large is enjoying its lowest crime level in decades.

    Yet the police tell mothers it isn’t safe to let their kids play unsupervised.

    It’s like the police are flat-out admitting their own statistics are bald-faced lies.

    1. “the country at large is enjoying its lowest crime level in decades.”

      The problem isn’t the level of crime, but the high levels of fear. And the police are just as fearful of the blacks, the poor, the deviant and the foreign as everyone else. That’s where all the heavy weaponry and armor comes out of, fear.

      1. “The problem isn’t the level of crime, but the high levels of fear.”

        Bingo. This country is afraid of everything. Our media and political classes just perpetuate the fear for their own financial gain and because a cowed population is a controlled population.

        1. “Our media and political classes just perpetuate the fear”

          I’m not sure about that. I think the elite are afraid of exactly the same things, and then some, as the rest of us. There’s more to this than some cynical ploy. Can’t really put my finger on it though.

    2. “Yet the police tell mothers it isn’t safe to let their kids play unsupervised.”

      At least the police are warning mothers that they might shoot their children. Be thankful for that.

  21. Hafuckingha! America sucks…

  22. A whopping 83 percent of Americans think that 9-year-olds should not be allowed to play at the park unsupervised. In fact, they would like to see a law prohibiting it.

    America lost. When’s the next match?

  23. Whatever your parenting style, it’s insane that we would want to put parents in jail for giving their kids more independence then we would be comfortable with. There is no clear endangerment that comes from kids playing or being unsupervised in a park. It being a gray area seems parents would be best equipped to determine whether their kids can handle the responsibility. I am shocked most parents wouldn’t want to keep that prerogative. I am a protective mom, I do my best to fight my instinct and not overprotect. I wouldn’t want to put someone that is more hands-off than me in jail though.

  24. Are children of a certain age the only ones vulnerable when left “unattended?” According to many ordinances and laws, a child under a certain age left at home, in a vehicle or in any public place “unattended” is a violation subjecting the parent to criminal charges whether or not the child was harmed or actually at risk of harm. Our position is that the risk assessment is the responsibility and right only of the parents. What about the older child, the one who can be left unattended without violating the law, but who is either mentally or physically MORE vulnerable and at risk than the younger child? What about the adult, who due to age, mental or physical condition, is MORE vulnerable and at risk than a child? The compelling state interest necessary to permit infringement of our freedom under the Constitution must include some rational relationship to actual harm or risk of harm. Instead of only having laws that protect children under a certain age, our laws only should make it a crime for “any person responsible for the care and safety or another person to leave or place such person, regardless of age, in circumstances in which that person, due to age, mental or physical impairment or limitations, or otherwise, is in imminent risk of actual risk of serious harm.” The National Association of Parents exists to protect the right of parents to decide how to raise their own children, except when causing actual harm as the Constitution provides.

  25. I was on my own to get to school and get back home by third grade.

    Meanwhile, my niece was looked over by her mom (who refused to work) and she had anxiety being left alone at 16/17 years old.

    I weep for the future.

  26. Damn glad I don’t and won’t ever had kids, I couldn’t bear to see them grow up under these conditions.

    Maybe there are still pockets of sanity in some of the less populated areas?

  27. I recently pierced my baby girls ears, which is traditional in Mexico, where I am originally from. Four years ago I decided to circumcise my baby boy since my husband is American and that is traditional here.I had no problem coming across comments online portraying both ear piercing and circumcision as straight-up child abuse! So a majority of parents characterizing leaving your child in a park as child neglect is just another instance of how insane, radical, out-of-touch, people are getting.Let me emphasize, the part that is crazy is NOT that certain parents might not feel comfortable doing any of these, the crazy part is that we characterize those parental decisions as CHILD ABUSE/NEGLECT which justify coercive action, police intervention. Practices/Traditions that we’ve been doing for ages and that there is NO clear evidence that harm kids, hence it’s not a reason for police to get involved and treat parents as criminals. The fact that we can’t distinguish between clear cases of child abuse/neglect and normal practices is worrisome. Our willingness to use force/coercion against each other is also frightening. I think part of the problem is that there is a disconnect between the coercion behind laws.We’ve grown accustomed to non-chalantly thinking about making this or that illegal, the coercion behind laws is too abstract for most people, if we saw it more closely we might be more hesitant to use it.

    1. The gap between “I don’t agree with how you raise your children” and “I think you should go to jail because of how you raise your children” is big enough for a nation to fall collapse into.

  28. My mother, god rest her soul, had six children under the age of 10 and was a stay at home mom. It is well known family lore that she would kick us out of the house shortly after breakfast on non-school days and then lock the door. Exceptions were made for bad weather and illness. We could reenter the house to use the bathroom, but not too many times. We returned for lunch, only to be kicked out again afterwards, and then came in for the night at the end of the day for supper. Going out after supper was allowed but the door wasn’t locked and you could return anytime.

    No one ever got lost, abducted, accosted, raped, etc, etc. This was begun in the late 60’s. A parent doing this today would be jailed and the kids turned over to social services.

  29. They should criminalize driving to your local supermarket next as that is the most likely time you’ll get into an accident and hurt somebody.

  30. PLEASE CORRECT MATH ERROR! I read the poll and because it was a progressive questioning thing (ie, if they said 9 year olds didn’t require supervision, they didn’t ask them about 12 year olds), it ends up being 42% of people think 12 year olds need supervision. Really, still outrageous, but I like the math to be correct.

    1. IOW, 9YO don’t need supervision – 12 YO don’t. This is a good catch.

  31. “Most Americans..”

    Are complete ass holes.

    If you are considering joining the military, don’t waste your time. This country is not worth defending anymore.

    Let ISIS come and take it over.

  32. So sad. It seems manageable that you could let your kid go unsupervised if society simply criticized your parenting, but to criminalize it when there is no good evidence suggesting you are putting your child in danger or harming their mental health is really irresponsible. The article doesn’t address it too much, but all the evidence I’ve seen suggests the opposite.

    “Rationally understanding that we are living in very safe times is not enough to break the fear”

    I think is probably right, and I think letting people experience reality for themselves may be the best way to fix this. Besides, of course, destroying the MSM.

  33. All part of the general wussification of America…

  34. I am 60 years old. I walked to school by myself from first-8th grades, then to the bus stop for high school. I rode my bike by myself all over my neighborhood, and was told by my parents what streets were the boundaries of my territory. I roller skated up and down the sidewalks for 3 blocks of my street when I was 7. I was sent to the store on my bike to buy bread for my mother. By myself. My kids also played in our yard without me hovering, altho I did look out the window occasionally. The front and back. They also walked and rode their bikes to school, and went to the park to play without me. The world is SCREWED UP. How can kids grow to be functioning adults if they are constantly hovered over? They can’t. Instead, they will think they are dumb and incompetent. My father, who is now 86, played all over his small town with his buddies just like Opie in the Andy Griffith Show. That’s what life should be like.

    1. ” How can kids grow to be functioning adults if they are constantly hovered over? They can’t. ”

      Which is the point. Keep the population infantalized, positively yearning to be controlled.

  35. The results are so crazily over the top I’m not sure I really buy them. If there were a truly that criminalized parents leaving their kids unattended, then parenting would become simply impossible in a practical sense. Even for the 0.01% of semi-paranoid helicopter parents who can afford maids and have relatives close by to look after their kids, there are always going to be cases of the kids going off and doing their own things, which they should be doing a lot more of. I’m thinking maybe the poll respondents told pollsters what they thought made them sound like stereotypical “good parents” these days– that they can somehow be super-productive workers on the job and yet miraculously have an eye on their kids every second, even though not one person actually does. Rather than giving a more sensible answer they know to be true.

  36. You’re not reading that correctly. It’s not that most people are concerned about the safety of the kids, most people just want other people’s kids off their lawn, and that includes public parks

  37. Peter Gray said “I doubt there has ever been a human culture, anywhere, anytime, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today,” but I am not sure he took the British into account – and the Australians may not be far behind.

  38. Poll: Most Americans Want to Criminalize Pre-Teens Playing Unsupervised are helicopter parenting assholes


    1. Exactly right. Kids with parents (plural) already know how to behave, or they find out fast.

  39. Guess my mother would have been in jail for life. She let me take the New York City subway to my grandmother’s when I was 9. Guess no one pushed me onto the tracks, lured me away with candy or otherwise maimed or molested me. That was almost 60 years ago.

  40. Not to sound racist, but the work of Robert Putnam could probably tell you something about the causes of declining social trust.

  41. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail


  42. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail


    1. Keep your spam to yourself.

  43. Kind of a meaningless poll when there are three questions (#40,41, 42) that are exactly the same but the results are not. (Read for yourself.)

    Also, according to the poll, the majority of respondents were over age 34, retired, and live in the South which would obviously make a big difference in the answers to a poll’s questions. I’d say ask these questions to a majority of 18-34 year olds living in the Northeast or West and the answers would be almost the exact opposite.

  44. Maybe part of this overprotectiveness is due to women who murder one or more of their children through abortion before they decide there is one they want at an older age than any other time in our history.

    1. WTF are you babbling about?

  45. An unintended (?) consequence will be that these kids will grow up with no concept of liberty. They will start off locked to a 50 yard radius of their mother (not father; even if he’s around, fathers are suspect). They enter school and have no rights to speech or privacy, and even the slightest deviation is punished. Then they move one to college, with it’s speech codes and denial of due process, followed by entering a society where that which is not permitted is forbidden and they are monitored by an unapologetic virtual panopticon.

    This is a generation that will be completely unable to function without someone telling them what to do.

    Who knew that all you had to do to get the utterly subdued and pliant society that the power-mad mandarins of the command society wanted was repeat “safety, children, safety, children” long enough?

  46. The way to a successful totalitarianism is twofold. First, adults have to be programmed to reject moral and ethical standards so that liberty is merely license. This has been accomplished. Secondly, train the children to reflect the adult notion that children are not worthy of life unless they are planned (wanted). And then teach them that their lives depend upon a benevolent state bureaucracy which has the right and authority to manage every aspect of their life to ensure their safety. (Gotta keep those wanted kids alive to keep the funds coming into the state bureaucracy for its survival.)

    1. And let me guess, your moral standards include treating gays like second class citizens and keeping the War On Drugs chugging along.

      We cannot have true liberty unless responsible adults can have access to what you consider “licentious” things without fear of legal repercussion.

  47. This is not a recent phenomenon. I personally blame the Boomers for starting this trend. Them and their “OMG, what the hell did I do in my youth, we MUST protect our kids from it all!!!”. I noticed this back in the early ’80s when I was in high school and saw the “Baby on Board” stickers starting to show up on Volvos and BMWs. It’s only gotten worse.

    You are *permanently* hobbling your kids by cocooning them. My parents were there to pick me up and band-aid my skinned knees but they at least allowed me to go out and have the experiences in the first place that only occasionally required a band-aid or trip to the doctor.

    I love being outdoors and exercising and exploring and I think part of that has to do with my Mom kicking us outside to go ride our bikes or otherwise run around the neighborhood unsupervised all day during summer vacation. This was not abuse or neglect, this was just growing up in the 1970s.

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  49. thanks

    thanks a lot , it’s a great article

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