Here’s my take on the issue, published in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. Some of it will sound a little familiar to Free-Range Kids regulars, but it bears repeating:
Most of the world’s kids walk to school by themselves starting in 1st grade. But here? Are you kidding? While the majority of us parents walked to school, today only 10 percent to 15 percent of kids do. How come?
The usual reason parents give is, “Times have changed,” and that’s true. Surprisingly, they have changed for the better.
Nationally, according to U.S. Department of Justice figures, we are back to the crime rate of 1970. In the ’70s and ’80s, the crime rate rose.
It peaked around 1993 and has been going down ever since, dramatically. So if you played outside any time in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids are actually safer than you were.
How come it feels just the opposite? When our parents were raising us, they were watching “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” The biggest crime was big hair. Today’s parents are watching “Law & Order” and “CSI,” shows overflowing with predators, rapists and maggots. TV has gotten so gross and so graphic, “I don’t think there’s a single episode of ‘Law & Order’ that could even have been shown before 1981,” says TV historian Robert Thompson.
Those scary shows — coupled with cable stations running off to Aruba or Portugal every time a white girl disappears — make us feel as if kids are being abducted 24/7. But the truth is: If, for some strange reason, you actually WANTED your child to be abducted by a stranger, do you know how long you would have to keep her outside, unattended, for this to be statistically likely to happen?
Now guess again.
Oh, forget it. The answer is 750,000 years, according to Warwick Cairns, author of “How To Live Dangerously.”
So what age can your kids start walking to school? Same age that you did. And that goes for waiting at the bus stop and taking public transit too.
The rest of the piece deals with what age kids can make lunch, learn to cross the street, and play outside.
Here in New York City, school doesn’t start for another three weeks, but it is zooming toward us faster than a science fair project deadline. Let’s try to make this a year that our kids learn to do something new on their own.
Including, maybe, the science fair project! — Lenore
Filed under: Infantilizing young folk, Uncategorized, Walk to School / Stay Home Alone / Wait in Car | Tagged: abduction, crossing the street, crosswalks, CSI, play outside, school, science fair, walking |