This is how it all started…

Hi all!  The Deputy here.  Lenore is away for a few days and I am filling in for her.

On mamapedia, the editors asked their readers to vote on this very, very dear to our free-range hearts issue:  Would you let your 4th grader ride public transportation without an adult?  Lenore is smiling right now…

148 readers voted.  Here’s the data:

98:  Hell, no!      27:  It depends…      22:  YES!

I bet this is an excellent snapshot of our country as a whole re the Free-Range Kid issue.  Only 22 felt this way:  “I have no interest in raising my children to be fearful and afraid.  If we don’t give them the opportunity to be successful then they will never develop their own self confidence which is what they need most to keep safe all through their lives.” versus the 98 who felt this way:  “No way!  I’d be too afraid of them getting lost or in some kind of trouble. Too many weirdos out there and 4th grade is not that old, IMO. Not worth the risk of heartache you would feel forever if they didn’t make it home.”

Free-Rangers, we must continue to fight the good fight!  We are battling self-centeredness masquerading as “good parenting.”  Parenting is hard and can hurt–a lot.  But children simply can’t grow up if we don’t let them.

50 Responses

  1. The thing is, those parents who said “no, my kid would get lost” might be right if they have not been free-range parents all along.

    I think the key thing to communicate is the process of getting the child to that point by 4th grade (or whenever). What baby steps did such parents take at age 2, 4, 6, and 8 that taught the kids the skills they will use to keep themselves from becoming hopelessly lost when they are 9?

    Also, given that nowadays most parents work and they can’t delegate survival skills to schools/daycares, ot takes some creativity to work “free range” time into our kids’ days. Maybe it would be helpful to have a whole post for working parents to share their creative solutions in this regard.

  2. I’d be in the “it depends” category. But I live right outside of heavy gang areas and since the recession started their has been an upshoot in overt violent crime. In the last month two people were killed, one in their car and one in front of a grocery store. I know many people who have been violently mugged or been caught in the middle of a drive by shooting.

    So, yeah. The bus that stops at my corner I would not be comfortable with most kids riding unaccompanied. Not as much because I think they would be a victim of crime, but moreso because I think there is a reasonably good chance they would witness crime or could get stranded in a neighborhood where people are afraid to leave their homes. There are many other areas in the city and suburbs I’d be comfortable with. But this bus, right now, I don’t think so.

  3. I think that most of those who said “It depends” would be Free Range parents. That’s what I would have chose, and I have a 4th grader. She has not had many opportunities to use public transportation, even with an adult, so I’m sure she would not be comfortable riding by herself yet. My goal is to have her start taking the city bus to school once she starts middle school.

  4. I agree with the previous commenters – you have 49 parents who did not say NO. Still a 2-to-1 margin of over-protective parents, though, so keep spreading the word!

  5. I have a 4th grader right now. She’s 9 1/2 and very small for her age. I have this theory if I let her off on her own someone would be calling the cops because a 5yo is wandering around on her own. Although she is taller then the average 5yo she is no where near the normal height for a 9yo (she about the size of a 7yo).
    She’s also never ridden public transportation so I doubt she would even ask to do it. If she had experience (as in we’ve been riding regularly for years) I’d probably let her. I’d be more worried about her being trampled on the bus then anything, lol (I remember what it was like when I was a kid) or the driver not stopping for her and missing her stop.
    And despite my free-ranging my kids have the worst sense of direction ever. We regularly walk to the local market and almost every time they take a wrong turn on the way home. It’s 2 1/2 blocks away! They should know the way by now but they just never pay attention to their surroundings. Sigh.
    I’m still trying to figure out how to get through to them to pay attention so they can find their way if they get lost.
    I’ve been wandering around this neighborhood since we moved here when I was 12. At that point I was riding my bike 2 miles to the mall for the day or taking the bus with my friends and younger brother. By 16 I was taking the L downtown for the day and just wandering around…by myself with no cell phone (GASP! the horror!). I would hope I can get through to my kids by then so they can have the same freedoms, lol. We’re working on it.

  6. See I would say NO because Public Transportation is rare where I live and pretty much only goes downtown not around neighborhoods. Now walk or ride a bike would more likely get a Yes.

  7. Why is “it depends” not a free range answer? I thought Free Range was all about considering safety and the abilities of your kids and the circumstances, rather than assuming danger or assuming no problems. “YES” and “it depends” may very well be the same answer in many cases — it’s just that the “Yeses” are more certain of their kids’ abilities and/or the safety of their local situation.

  8. From first grade to second, I was required to get on a public bus and ride it to my babysitter’s house until my mother came home from work. Man, I hated all of my babysitters. Complete fascists the lot of them.

  9. Yes, they are bad mothers, we are good mothers. No one can possibly have their own story or think differently and not be over protective and self centered. It is hard not to judge when you feel judged, but there must be a way to accomplish the goals of the free range movement without such a divisive approach. I also am not sure mothers’ self-centeredness is to blame. I am interested in hearing what parents who consider themselves free rangers see as the most appealing, important, urgent goals of the movement. Is it just a community of like minded people? Do you want to see something different happen in the media, politics, the mom you see wiping her kids’ hands with hand sanitizer? Just trying to understand.

  10. I’m still trying to figure out how to get through to them to pay attention so they can find their way if they get lost.

    In fairness, sometimes “just pay attention” isn’t the answer.

    I have an abysmal sense of direction. Worse, I have what I term spacial agnosia – places that ought to look familiar often don’t.

    This varies. Sometimes they look familiar, but only if approached from certain angles or at the right time of day/year. Other times they don’t look familiar, but I know they ought to, so I can still reason out where I am and where I need to go… like if I were dropped in Paris and could see the Eiffel Tower behind some buildings, I could get there by going “Wow, that’s the Eiffel Tower!” And other times the place looks totally unfamiliar. For the past several years, every time the trains don’t run I end up getting off at City Hall. And every time, no matter what I do, even if I second-guess and try to avoid this, I end up taking at least one wrong turn before I head in the right direction. Ugh. Sometimes I even take wrong turns when trying to fix the old wrong turns.

    My family, when I was a child, used to joke that I’d get lost if they just “turned me around”. It’s no joke, it’s literally true. Once I got lost across the street from my own home. I exited a car on the wrong side of the street from where I normally got out, and didn’t recognize my own home. At one point I must have turned all around and stared right at it, but I didn’t see it until the driver, concerned, took me by the hand and led me up the steps. Halfway up, it clicked where I was.

    Hopefully your kids aren’t as bad off as I am🙂

    It’s interesting to note that this never kept me from exploring or being allowed to explore as a kid, nor does it keep me from getting around now. I just stop and ask for directions a lot. I follow the directions until I’m a little lost again, then ask somebody else, and sooner or later I get turned around to where I need to be once more. (Also, living in NYC, I take the pragmatic approach that wherever I am, I’m ultimately on an island (unless I go to the Bronx, I guess). If I walk far enough, I’m bound to hit ocean sooner or later, and then I can just follow the shoreline until I hit someplace I recognize.)

    Paying more attention doesn’t do me much good. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t. There are some things I pick up without any effort at all (I was startled the day I realized I could recite an impressive list of Catholic saints by their symbols and what they handle. Given that I’m not Catholic, I can’t imagine how I learned this!), but this…. I’ve yet to find a way to improve my ability to recognize places. I just… work around it.

  11. Along with the “maybes” likely being free range, there’s a chance that several (though not many) of the “no ways” are also free range in all other aspects. Not everyone lives in an area where public transportation is safe even for adults. Study abroad students in Israel are advised to travel in pairs and avoid public transportation if possible due to kidnappings and terrorist attacks, things that are very real dangers in certain areas of the country. I wouldn’t allow a nine year old on public transportation in those circumstances because I wouldn’t go on it myself.

    Now, a nine year old in DC? Depends on the kid, how often they used public transportation with an adult, and where they’re going. Probably not down to Chinatown because it’s busy and easy for even an adult to end up in a less savoury part of the city, but certainly over to the zoo or most of the Smithsonian museums.

  12. It is true that the results of this poll could be seriously skewed by those of us who live in areas where public transportation is non-existent, or barely existent and used only by those of extremely limited means. So, if my wife has herself not taken public transportation in years, why would she answer that yes, she would send one of our kids on it?

    In our case, a better litmus test might be “would you let your 12-year-old fly alone, without Unaccompanied Minor status or guidance, on an intercontinental connecting flight? Been there, done that – no problem, kid felt empowered. But then, he has been doing that – flying around the world – since he was an infant. A ride on a public bus in Detroit might seriously freak him out, since it would be a completely unfarmiliar experience to him.

    One other thought: it would be interesting to take the same poll in other countries; we have known many families in Europe where very young children take public buses and trams to school every day, and no one bats an eye.

  13. I’ve got friends who are amazed and floored that I let my second and third grade sons ride their bikes to the park 10 minutes away across two busy streets. So free ranging is definitely not the norm around here. But things are hopeful – at least my friends said “Good for you!” rather than “I’m calling CPS!”

  14. I have to confess to being in the “it depends” category as well. In our family, 4th grade seems to be a transitional year. I could see my oldest being able to do things at that age that my second child would not be quite ready to do. And I think my third child might be able to do things earlier that even the oldest did. It just depends. Also, we live in a small town in a very rural area. Public transportation at 4th grade, highly doubtful. Walking to and from school or the library, going to the store, going on the bike trail, no problem.

  15. I’m free-range but I’d answer “no” to that question. There is no public transportation where I live. Okay, there are buses but I’ve never actually stepped foot on one. In 4th grade, my daughter’s only experience with public transportation will be an occasional ride when we visit another city. Now if we lived in NYC, San Fran, DC or some other area where public transportation was regularly used, my answer would be “yes.”

    So it’s a bogus question to determine the free-rangeness of americans. The vast majority of the country has no regular interaction with public transportation and better answer “no” to that question or they are agreeing to send their 10 year old out alone to do something that he has little experience doing. That’s not free-range; that’s irresponsible.

  16. It seems crazy for anyone who hasn’t already taught their child how to ride public trans to say anything BUT “it depends” or “hell no.”

    People who are not familiar with cities are understandably cautious about taking public trans through neighborhoods with which they are not familiar. “Hell no” makes a ton of sense if it means subjecting your young child to an environment you haven’t checked out first.

    My kids grew up in a rural area, where public trans wasn’t an option. We took it a few times on trips to cities, but really, they just didn’t have the familiarity to be let loose on it.

    But when our eldest went away to college in the city 3 hours away where my husband and I met, it was time to learn. So we took a trip, him and me, in which we went through the entire drill – car to the train, train to the city, subway from the city to the suburb where is college was located. We ended up also setting up a relationship with a cab company for those times when the train arrived in the city late at night — just not a good time for that particular subway ride.

    We could do this because I knew these ropes. Other kids had to learn it from each other, like I did when I was in college.

  17. Is it just me, or have the couple people here who said they’d answer “no” actually have “maybe” for an answer, given their explanations?

    A couple people have said they’d say “no,” because they don’t have public transportation, but at the same time, they said they’d say yes if they lived in an area that did have public transportation. Well, of course you’re not going to randomly stick your kid on a bus in a different city and wish him the best of luck (because that’s what it would amount to if your area didn’t have public transportation), but the fact is, you would allow them if given the opportunity to have properly trained them.

    Personally, I’d say “maybe,” because my city’s public transportation is sketchy. Not only is there not a light rail system (only buses), but the buses themselves are unreliable (there were a number of times where I’ve been waiting for a bus that ultimately never showed, and I had to wait for the next one, I’m just glad it never happened with the last bus home), and several run through bad neighborhoods that even I, as an adult, don’t feel comfortable going through. There are, however, other routes that I’d have no issue with my child using.

    I had also moved from areas where I didn’t get to use public transportation, except on rare occasions when I was with my aunt, who lived in the city (and she knew what routes went where). As a result, my first few experiences with the bus system in the city I moved to were rocky, at best. Because I didn’t have access to a large map that showed all the routes (only had the little maps for the individual routes), I didn’t realize that the routes made a formation kind of like wagon wheel spokes, where they all met within a block at a certain point downtown. As a result, the first time I rode the bus, I got off at the wrong stop, several miles from where I should have gotten off. I had also used the wrong stop on my way back, because I didn’t know the bus changed it’s name depending on whether it was going into town or out of it, which caused a minor delay that day (thankfully, the route I had was fairly straightforward as both destinations were on the ends of the routes, had it been where I would occasionally catch the bus a few years later, I could have ended up in a completely different part of town on a completely different route, which could have cost me several hours, and may have even stranded me downtown, since the bus that went into the suburb I lived in stopped running at some stupidly early hour like 7pm).

  18. @ Ingrid – I see the movement as a revolt to the idea that if you don’t watch over, monitor, interact with, schedule your child every single second of every single day that you are a bad parent who WILL have your child kidnapped or at least taken away by child services. I want to raise a confident, independent adult not a tea cup college student that can’t do her own laundry and calls me to solve every problem for her. I want to see something different in the media that fuels the fear that kids are being snatched every second of every day and puts free rangers forth as the crazy ones. I want to see neighbors, teachers, police, prosecutors, child services, etc. come to realize that letting your kids play outside, stay home alone before college and walk to school alone is not irresponsible parenting that should be investigated. I want other parents to lighten up so free-range kids have friends to go on adventures with. I want other kids to enjoy childhood and not live in the pressure cooker waiting to explode that often accompanies helicopter parenting because that stress and explosion will impact my child.

    And I do think there is always a bit of considering someone who doesn’t agree with your stance on parenting a bad, or least uninformed, parent. I believe wholeheartedly that free-range is the best way to raise a responsible independent adult. By deduction, that means that I think that helicopter parenting is the wrong choice to raise independent adults (or I’d be a helicopter parent). I don’t think helicopter parents are bad people who are out to destroy their children and society. i simply think they are making bad parenting choices and stressing out themselves and their kids.

    And I do think selfishness plays a part. Free-range parenting is much more difficult, albeit maybe less time consuming, than helicopter parenting. My child is my heart walking around outside my body. To allow her to venture out on her own and to try something and fail without jumping in is difficult. Hovering over her, catching her every time she falls, doing her homework for her, taking it to school when she forgets it, doing everything for her instead of teaching her to do it herself would be much easier. Even those parents who “have their own story” are being selfish in a way. They are withholding experiences and freedoms from their child based on something that happened to them. Again, taking the easy way. Putting aside your own insecurities and fears to do what is best for your child is more difficult.

    Again, I don’t think helicopter parents are bad people. I think they are caring parents who are trying to do what they believe is best for their children. I just think they greatly miss the mark. I think they are listening to a media that implies that predators are lurking in every bush waiting to steal their kids. I think many are too invested in their kids and want their kids to live the perfect little life that the parents plan (and both groups will ultimately be very disappointed). I also think that they are convincing an entire generation – the generation that will eventually have to support me – that they are far less capable than they are and are infant-sizing all of childhood. And I don’t think they enjoy parenting and their kids all that much because helicopter parenting is stressful and exhausting.

  19. @ Dragonwolf – I wouldn’t view my “no” answer as a “maybe.” The question is would I let MY 4th grader ride public transportation without an adult. My answer is that there’s no way in hell that I’d put my current child (not some mythical child I might one day have who lives in NYC) on public transportation alone at 10 because she will have no experience with it. I would only answer “maybe” if there were some reasonable circumstances under which I would let my current kid take public transportation alone in 4th grade. I don’t consider quitting my job, selling my house and moving to another state reasonable circumstances since I have no desire whatsoever to actually do it.

  20. Fuck off you loser breeder assholes ,your kids suck. http://www.bratfree.com

  21. Wow, let’s please delete that last comment. How extremely offensive and judgemental of that person!

  22. Kristen, she knows it’s judgmental and offensive. Just ignore it – replying to trolls only encourages them.

  23. My fourth grader routinely rides public transportation to the library and community pool. We have never had any problems.

  24. I’m not so discouraged by the lack of yes votes but by the amount of hell no! votes. If the majority were in the “it depends” I could deal but “hell no”? Why do parents these days have so litlle confidence in their children?

  25. ““No way! I’d be too afraid of them getting lost or in some kind of trouble. Too many weirdos out there and 4th grade is not that old, IMO. Not worth the risk of heartache you would feel forever if they didn’t make it home.””

    How pathetic. Watches too much TV. Still thinks there were WMD in Iraq. Forever clueless.

  26. My oldest is only 4 years old, and looking ahead I’d have to put myself in the “it depends” category. We currently live in an area with NO public transportation, so he has no experience with it. If this is still the case when he’s in 4th grade, I wouldn’t let him do it in a strange city, only equipped with instructions on where to get on and off, with no experience. If we’ve moved to a city before then, I’d let him do it- if he’d had experience with it while accompanied and HE felt confident enough to do it. Not every kid is eager to make the great leap into public transportation, and I would have been terrified at the thought when I was 10- we never took the bus normally.

    I agree with pentamom- a “maybe” isn’t anti-free-range; it likely indicates a parent who wants to know his/her child’s limits and abilities and work with them. I don’t think shoving a frightened, unwilling kid on a bus is more free-range than saying “no” outright.

    Not saying that those who answered “yes” would do that, of course. I’m just saying that the “it depends” parents might not have kids that old, and don’t know if their kids would be ready and willing.

  27. Absolutely not. I insist that every bus or train my child rides is operated by a grownup.

    ;->

  28. This just goes to show how important the wording of a poll question is. This one would get an F in Research Methodology 101. It’s like asking “do you plan to get pregnant in the next year” to a group that was half men. It doesn’t address a specific scenario, it addresses a random group of unrelated scenarios.

    Something like “if you lived in a place where public transportation was widely available and used, and your fourth-grader had been riding public transportation with you, would you let him/her ride it alone?” would be a bit of an improvement, but only a bit. That’s because it invoves something that’s a concrete choice for an unknown proportion of the sample (e.g. people in Lenore’s situation) and an abstract choice for another unknown proportion (e.g people who live in rural areas). In technical terms, your sample is inhomogeneous for the variable in question.

    These results are therefore going to be meaningless; not only is the question bad, but the sampling frame is undefined. As such, Suzii’s answer is the correct one. Speaking of “snappy answers to stupid questions” (I’m sure I’m not the only one who fondly remembers that MAD Magazine feature), several residents of the DC area reported the other day that they were contacted in a phone poll by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), with the question being “should marriage between only a man and a woman be legal?” Given NOM’s history, I’m pretty sure that the peculiar grammar was an intentional attempt to confuse respondents into giving the answer NOM wanted, but if they polled me my answer would be “No. A marriage without an aardvark is no marriage at all.”

    One correspondent of mine had attended a state school for the blind as a teenager and reported that visitors to the school frequently checked their brains at the door. She fielded questions like “how do you put on makeup?” (“I use a Braille mirror”) and “how do you know when you’ve fallen asleep?” (“the headmistress comes in and tells me”).

  29. I agree with ebohlman. Actually, I don’t have a problem with the way the question was worded, depending on what question they were asking. For example, if they were just asking how many parents would be willing to let their children use PT, then it’s perfectly designed. But to use the result to judge the “free-rangeness” of the parents, you’d have to word the question differently.

    For example, a good measure of the free-rangeness of public opinion would be to simply change the question to “should parents allow their fourth-graders to use public transportation?” In that case, people answering “Hell, no” would definitely be protective, and people answering “YES!” would be definitely free-range, and people answering “it depends” would also be free-range, but possibly understanding the question in a different way. Anyone answering “hell no” would be assuming that PT is dangerous or unwise at all times for all children, which is an (over)-protective attitude.

  30. I let my DD go by herself on public transportation when she was 6. She rode the bus to and from school by herself (not a school bus, a regular one). I would walk her to the busstop, mainly because she’d probably get distracted by something and miss her bus if she was on her own, and I usually met her at the busstop when she came home as I was getting home at the same time. She did this for a whole year, and nothing bad happened to her, the worst thing was that the bus didn’t stop to let her on once, but she just walked back to the after-school club and asked them to call me and let me know she was getting the next bus home.

    This year I’ve driven her to school as I start work really early, and the time I leave does not correspond with the bus timetable, but I’m guessing after the holidays she’ll start to walk or cycle to school. She’ll be 8 then, and it’s 3 km away.

    When she was little I didn’t drive, so she had been on a lot of buses in her life. I came with her the first day to show her when to press the stop button, but after that she was on her own.

  31. It depends. I also have no interest in fearmongering and lots of interest in raising independent, confident kids. My oldest was in 5th grade when he rode the bus and the metro (subway) alone. He wasn’t confident enough in 4th grade to do it even though his sense of direction and knowledge of his surroundings is excellent. His younger brother would happily ride the bus alone now, in 2nd grade. So it depends on the kid.

  32. It just makes me think of how often I saw young children riding buses and the Tube alone when I was in London- going to school, it just wasn’t an issue for them.

  33. I’d have to agree with the “It depends” people. Because public transportation systems in this country vary widely. In NYC, sure, but here in Durham, NC, no way. Buses are infrequent, stops are far from places you need to get. There’s no train or subway.

  34. I’m totally “Free Range”, but I would be in the “no” category simply because my kids have never ridden a bus before and the last time they were on the Metro (DC subway), they were toddlers. Out here in the suburbs, they’d have to walk several miles just to get to the closest bus stop and nearly 5 miles to the nearest Metro station. This poll isn’t a good representation of “Free Range” vs “Helicopter Parent”.

  35. Baby steps is a good way. The goal could be playing in the backyard alone at age four, the front yard at age six and riding their bicycle alone in the neighborhood at age eight. Then when they’re ten or so, they can take the bus alone.

  36. This one bothers me … how is it that this one thing is somehow “proof” that a parent is free-range or not? I thought it was supposed to be about philosophically encouraging our kids to be independent, to know how to take care of themselves, so that they would develop the wonderful qualities of self-confidence and self-reliance. How is whether or not one’s fourth grader (and hello, there is a RANGE of fourth graders out there, some of whom could handle public transportation quite well if they’re familiar with it, and some of whom couldn’t) rides a bus or train alone some kind of verification of whether one subscribes to and practices this philosophy?

  37. I am one of those scary people who ride the bus. Nice to meet you. Now will you give it a try? And please, take your children with you so when they are old enough, they will have this means of transportation.

    Lenore, could we get some statistics on crimes committed on public transportation?

  38. My almost 16yo has been riding transit since day one (well, technically DAY FOUR) with me, and for half her life by herself.

    My daughter was commuting to a different city by transit to go to school from the 4th grade, and by May of that year was doing it alone door to door (previously I would ride part way with her).

    She was very annoyed on the weekend because her 16yo friend’s parents wouldn’t let them take the bus together, and instead insisted they walked where they wanted to go – a 15 minute ride became a 45 minute walk – because they “don’t like buses” (insert eye roll here).

    IMO all kids should be taught how to safely ride a bus (sit near the front, talk to the driver if possible, etc), but most kids in our community don’t learn how until they are in University and figure out for themselves that the parking at the U is about 10 times as much as a bus pass!

  39. For me a lot would depend on the destination: at school, soccer practice, piano lessons, etc. there is someone on the other end expecting the kid, so you’d know right away if something had gone awry. The mall, the movies, the museum, the huge major league sports venue, not so much.

  40. I’ve only read a couple of posts on this site and I’m intrigued. I intend to read more and the book is on my list of things to check out at the library. Even before I heard of the “free-range” concept, I would say that I’ve always been mostly-free-range.

    That being said, I’m disturbed by the overly-judgmental tone of this post and some of the comments. Based on one horribly worded question and less than 150 responses, you’re going to draw the conclusion that the “no” answering parents are self-centered? Interesting. Has anyone considered that a 4th grader could have the maturity level of an 8th grader or a 1st grader, depending on a million different factors?

    If you’re trying to really gain momentum with the free-range movement, you’ll need to choose your words more carefully. A helicopter parent will never change his/her ways if he/she feel judged or scorned or told that he/she is “self-centered”. On the other hand, if he/she hears a reasonable, compassionate explanation on the subject, they might be more likely to take the small steps necessary to stop the hovering.

    Instead of declaring that you have to “continue to fight the good fight,” how about making a helpful suggestion? Just for fun, this weekend, take your kids on a public-transportation-only trip (if you live in an area where that’s possible). Take the bus to and from the movies. Take the train to the museum. Before the trip, pull out a map and show the child how to plot out the trip. Let your kid be “in charge” of handling the money, talking to the attendants, putting the token (or whatever) in the slot, reading the maps, etc.

    That would have been a lot more helpful than declaring, in a backhanded way, that we “no” parents are somehow “bad” parents.

  41. This seems like a question that should be answered on a case by case basis.

    My oldest is a space cadet, and as a fifth grader–assuming he was an experienced public transportation rider (which I assume is the assumption of the question)–I’d be afraid to let him because he’d space out and get lost. Not necessarily because of some outside forces.

    My middle is super-conscientious and quite the rule follower and very observant and catches on quickly. He’s in third grade now and–again, assuming he was an experienced public transportation rider–there’s a good chance I’d let him do it NOW, and not wait until 4th grade.

  42. Oh man, some of those comments on that site literally make me want to cry. Ignorance is the most contagious disease known to man.

  43. Regardless of whether you’d answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it’s always a good idea to introduce your children to the world of mass transit. One never knows when a car will be out of commission, or the weather will interfere, or (even) if you just want to leave the car at home. I enjoy taking my 6 y.o. daughter to NYC sans car, and expect for her to be able to navigate trains/buses with friends into/around the city once she reaches her teens.

    My family was a bit overprotective of my using mass transit (I was punished for riding a city bus with a friend in 5th grade, rather than take the school bus to her house one day after school!), which is probably why I embraced being able to use mass transit on my own once I reached my teens.

    Also realize there are many kids today who have no clue about navigating via foot, never mind via alternate transportation! A good case in point: my DH’s stepmom (age 57) who has had little, if any, experience with mass transit — she recalls a train ride to NYC (from suburban NJ, no less) in her teens as being a very stress inducing moment.

    I realize advocating mass transit use only applies to those who live in an area with sufficient transportation options, or are able to reach these transit options easily (not feasible if you are in the boonies and the train station is but a 40 min. car ride away). While our intrastate bus lines are less than desireable (I live in NJ), all interstate modes of transit work wonderfully! Although I now drive most of the time, I became a very seasoned expert at all modes of transit (bus, subway, train) and am able to assist others if they need it.

  44. I remember one time when I was about 13 I guess, and I wanted to go to the other side of town to a hobby shop with a friend of mine and we knew our parents would give us grief so we both said we were going to the other ones house and we rode our bikes to the store where we knew the bus would come and we got to the hobby store and back. It took most of the day but it was so fun! We had a bus change we had to make and everything. Now had we been allowed to go we might have been a little safer with maybe a 20 cents on us to make a call but we still were just fine and home in time for dinner. Just for a frame of reference, this was about 1988 I think.

  45. Could someone clarify why we have a poll that amounts to almost 150 percent? Is that a typo? I don’t get the number structure of this poll.

  46. I have a 9-year-old although she’s in 3rd grade right now. She doesn’t ride the bus alone at the moment but she’s a very tiny 9-year-old and I worry she’ll get lost in the shuffle, especially in the after school hour when the bus is filled with LARGE teenagers. She rides with her 11-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister.

    I don’t really worry that she’ll be kidnapped. I’m more concerned that because she’s so small she would be at risk of getting run over which is less obscure. Her head is pretty much below eye level for a lot of drivers at this point.

    Since they started taking the bus we’ve reviewed an array of possible things that could go wrong and what to do in each case including if she gets separated from the big kids.

    My impression is that there’s a lot of kids traveling to school by themselves in New York, especially because many kids have to go a LONG way to school (say an hour commute each way) from middle school on (so that’s starting at about 11) and lots of people don’t have cars and don’t have the hours to devote to escorting their kids half-way across the city. Necessity may be the mother of free-ranging in this town. I wonder if there are statistics on this for the city.

  47. I would have chosen “It Depends”–I grew up using the metro in DC and have done so by myself since I was like 12. (it was a long trip with a few changes and a long walk to my moms house) and I wouldn’t have a problem with my son (who is in the 4th grade/10yrs old) using it.

    Though, having said that, I would not be comfortable with him doing it at night for a few more years, LOL–especially in the metro/bus/cab junctions in DC! We don’t have public transportation where we live now, though, but I encourage him to walk to and from school every day and make him walk to friends houses if they live in the neighborhood. It’s not much, but I’m trying…

  48. Donna — My point is, the people here who have responded “no” have done so almost entirely not because they think mass transit is dangerous, but because they don’t currently live in a city that has public transportation, and as such, their kids don’t have the experience necessary to navigate a public transit system by themselves. It’s a judgment call based on the abilities of one’s child, not on the perceived dangers of the public transit system or the system’s city.

    The major flaw with the poll, as others have pointed out, is that it’s not very concrete. There are a number of variables that the voters assume, and will inevitably assume different things. For example, you assume (and my guess, the others here who have voted “no” assumed as well) that the question refers to your child in the current conditions. On the other hand, I and some of the others assume the unspoken/unwritten “if you lived in an area with public transportation available…” Just these two assumptions result in vastly different answers from the same people.

  49. What is free range kids.

  50. I think it’s very pretentious and judgmental to say that only the parents who are free-rangers are good parents and those who aren’t are not only bad parents but also self-centered. Parenting is a hard enough job all its own and I think instead of bashing others for the way they parent their kids we should all be supportive, no matter which way it’s done. You obviously don’t agree with the helicopter parenting, but how would you feel if they told you that you were a bad parent and didn’t care about your child’s safety bc of the things you let them do on their own. I am not into helicopter parenting, nor am I a free-range parent…I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle. Point is…ease up. Don’t be so judgmental. Most folks are doing the best they know how to raise happy, healthy kids who one day will contribute to this world. There is no one way to raise a child. To each their own.

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