Kids going out alone.
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Let's compare allowing children freedom to walking. Does it happen overnight? No. How does it happen? You put them on the floor, let them learn to sit up, crawl, cruise, fall a little and then they take a few unsteady steps and before you know it they are running. What you don't do is say, "He can't walk until he's one, so I'm just going to hold him." So you hold him. Then age one you put him down and guess what, he can't even sit up on his own.
It's okay to allow freedom little by little. That's how it should be done. It's not wise to tell a three year old, here ya go honey, here's some change so figure out how to use the public bus system. They aren't ready. Nor is it wise to do the same with a 14 year old that hasn't ever walked the block by himself. He won't know how to handle himself.
I understand that some of you may not feel safe in your neighborhood. I really do. But why not do other little things to give them freedom? Like Laura said way back, drive them to a safe neighborhood park with lots of other kids, and start by walking the perimeter of the park (for exercise) while they play? Then when they are a little older and have shown some responsibility, leave for an hour to pick up groceries. Or even in the grocery store, give them part of your list and let them go get a few things while you get the rest? Or at the mall at age 10-ish, let them go to their favorite stores alone and then meet back up after an hour? "Out alone" doesn't have to mean wondering an unsafe neighborhood at age 6. It's about giving them a teeny bit of freedom at a time so they learn how to be independent and competent.
Jodi - posted on 10/24/2010
The National Crime Information Centre estimates that kidnapping of juveniles (children under age 18) amounts to around 0.0082%. Only around 24% of those are actually kidnapped by strangers. So therefore, your children have a 0.0019 chance of being kidnapped by a stranger. That is a chance of 1.9 in 100,000. Pretty long odds really.
Put it in perspective. Your baby, when you conceived, had a 1 in 1000 chance of having Downs Syndrome. Did that stop you having a child?
The chances that your child will die in a car accident are one in 8,250. Do you still drive? And do you allow your child in a car?
Amie - posted on 10/24/2010
April and Rachel and any others who are parents living in fear, Doesn't that bother you?
I'm a paranoid parent but I also realize I have to let them go at some point.
I've taught my children how to be as safe as possible. In all situations. It's MORE likely that someone we already know will try something, then it has ever been that a stranger will pick them out of the blue.
Every instance I've known about personally, from abduction, missing, assault on a child has stemmed from either 1) a family member, 2) a friend of the family or 3) they were older children and took off on their own.
We can't protect our children from every evil in the world. It's just not possible. We can however, give them all the knowledge we can, show them how to protect themselves and trust in the way we raised them.
I think Jenny (I think it was her!) hit the nail on the head when she mentioned how easy it is to hear about all these cases. 24 hour news networks, national and global.
Take the case Dana posted as a thread. It was the step father who killed the child. Someone already in her life. Statistics have consistently shown it is more likely someone your child already knows that will be the one who will hurts them. So what do you do about that? Keep them supervised with family and friends as well, just in case?
Krista - posted on 10/24/2010
I dont want to be rude but you were wrong when you said that most abductions are from someone you know, which makes it no better.
Actually, Amie wasn't wrong. Statistics show over and over again that stranger abductions make up a small minority of abductions.
Most abductions involve family members (such as a non-custodial parent) or acquaintances.
The "stranger in the van" situation SEEMS very common, mainly because it gets so much media attention when it does actually happen. But those cases really are quite rare.
Jodi - posted on 10/25/2010
"I used to be a lot more paranoid than I am now. I also did not have older children when I was this paranoid. Now that I do, my views are changing because I see that the way I am raising them is working well. They are smart and can handle themselves."
Exactly the same here Amie. i think as our children get older, we see them differently, and we KNOW when our children are capable. The way you feel about this topic when your children are little, or are still babies is not necessarily how you will see it as they grow and start to show their maturity and independence.
I also agree that there has to be a balance between our fears as parents and yet still allowing our children to develop their independence away from us.
This conversation has been closed to further comments
Heidi - posted on 10/27/2010
One of my sons is now 11 and he has been going out alone since he was 9. He is allowed to go to a friends on another street as long as he has another friend with him. He goes to the mall with friends to hang out, goes skating with friends, dances and the movies, but for those 4 things he does one of parents drives them there and one of the parents will be there to pick them up. I want my son to have some time with his friends without a parent always around, but boundaries are in place and if he messes up then those privilages will be taken away. When my son leaves the house to go somewhere he has to call me when he gets there and he has to call if they decide to head somewhere else. Sometimes I feel like I am an overprotective parent, but we as parents have a right to know where are kids are and who they are with. I never let my son go somewhere alone. He has to have a friend with him and he always has to have contact info in his pocket, like his address phone and parents name is case he gets hurt or something. I feel our kids need to grow and explore but with some restrictions. My son sometimes thinks I am to strict, by me always wanting to know where he is, but I do it for my sanity.
Jenn - posted on 10/27/2010
We have Block Parents here too. Actually I was thinking of becoming one seeing as I'm pretty much always home - but all of the kids around here know me as I've babysat them at some point anyway ;) As for those websites where you can check for predators etc. I think they are NOT a good idea. Paranoid people like some Mothers (not mentioning any names) check the website and then think they need to keep their kids locked up to protect them from their horrible neighbour. A sexual offender could have been an 18 year old boy who had sex with his 17 year old girlfriend and her Dad lost it and had him charged. Now for the rest of his life people will see where he lives and think he's a kiddie-diddler.
April - posted on 10/27/2010
they do have the block parent program in the US! at least they did back in the 80's when i was in elementary school. it wasn't in every town though. just the town i went to school in. i wonder if it still exists today.
C. - posted on 10/27/2010
A certain age? Yes, though I don't know what that age is yet b/c everyone I know that has children remotely near my son's age, their children are small (6 or younger). I guess I'll know for sure when it comes to that.
That being said, I don't like the idea of any child 12 or younger going out alone. Not sure about any older than that, but this just bugs me when I hear on the news of parents letting their 9 year old ride the subway by themselves. I mean.. Hello?!?!? That is so young! Sexual predators, murderers, kidnappers.. I imagine it must be like a dream come true when a parent does that.
Josia - posted on 10/26/2010
My son is 6 and he's not allowed to play outside on his own. Not on the front veranda or even in the backyard. There has been the odd child snatched a couple of suburbs away. I don't really know my neighbours all that well. Call me overprotective but i just don't feel comfortable letting my little boy outside unsupervised. Where we used to live i knew all of our neighbours so he'd occaisionally be allowed to ride his bike out the back but now i don't he can't. It doesn't bother him though as he knows the only reason why he can't is so he's safe. He won't be able to go to school by himself until he's in his teens.
Jodi - posted on 10/26/2010
"CORRECT! I am five foot 2...pretty sure I am not capable of fending off a rapist or murderer...never mind a 14 year old...we should just keep them in our basements indefinitely!"
Well, that makes my 13 year old bigger than you already :P So in that case, he is probably safer than you!!!
Preferrably..never. Lol but that wouldn't happen I guess. Maybe 14? ish? Something around that age, and also depends what they are like at that age. I mean if she is still acting like she is 5 then no. But if I think that she is mature enough to handle the "outside world" then yes. But being a paranoid person, there would be plenty of self defense classes, cellphones, alarms and pepper spray before she is leaving. (I am not crazy! D:) Lol.
Because unfortnately, I don't think it is the kids that worry me, it is the weirdos out there..
That sounds like a very good program, Amie. I don't know of one like it, but I will be looking into it, it is much better than what we have now. In the US we can go online and check for sex offenders and violent criminals. The violent criminals do not have to register though, so you have to know their name and address to know if they are in your area.
Our system was developed in a Homeowners Association meeting. The kids know most of the people in houses between their home and the bus stop, so it is not really like running into a stranger's house. There are no sex offenders or violent criminals in our neighborhood, but a more in depth check would be better. The only thing is, I'm not sure how many people would volunteer for it.....Americans are weird about allowing background checks on them. I don't know why.
Amie - posted on 10/26/2010
Is there a block parent program in your area? Or do you know what it is? I'm not sure but I don't think it's strictly a Canadian program.
The people with the signs go through a background check at the police station and then get a sign to put in their window if they pass. Whenever they're home the sign goes in the window, so any child who needs help knows which house is a safe house.
I'm not saying your neighborhood is doing it wrong but for kids, they may not run into a strangers house just because the door is open. They may have been taught not to do such things.
I am an overly paranoid parent, as many of you know, I spent the better part of my childhood homeless and people took all that was important to me, so now I do go a little overboard in protecting it, BUT I know that about myself and I am very careful not to let my own fears get in the way of my son's development. I bought a home in the safest town in upstate SC and I lock my doors and set my alarm at night, but other than those things, I do try to give my boy small amounts freedom as I feel he is ready for them so that he doesn't go crazy when I'm forced to let him go at 16 when he gets a car.
Like many, I am more worried about traffic than someone taking my son (6 yrs). The speed limit here is 25mph, but a lot of the new teen drivers are speeding around, and my son is just too distracted to keep a vigilant eye for speeding teens at this time.
We also have a lake in our neighborhood and had a 9 yr old drown a few years back. If I can trust him not to go in the lake and to watch for cars, I will probably start letting him walk within the gates around age 8, maybe 7, we'll see. He has friends, we have a park, a pool, tennis, and volley ball within the gates, so I see no reason for him to need to venture out of the gates until he is older. The pool has a life guard, but I actually don't think they are allowed to be in the pool area without an adult until they are 12....
Our school is close enough to walk to, and I would consider letting him walk to school around age 8 except that the road is narrow and curvy with no sidewalks. It is just not safe--I don't even walk on that road. I don't know why they don't put sidewalks.
Two years ago, a man in a silver sedan was trying to abduct children walking home from their bus stops in several of the surrounding neighborhoods. Our's is gated, so we didn't see him, but our neighborhood has asked that if you are home at bus time, open the front door so that if a child is in trouble they can run to a safe home.
Jodi - posted on 10/26/2010
"as someone pointed out, there are way too many variables for anyone to be right or wrong here."
Actually, I have to disagree. I think there was someone who said they will never let their children out. Regardless of the variables, that's just wrong. Just imagine not ever letting your kids out on their own and then suddenly, they are adults......that's not going to work. I will 100% disagree with that and will say that it is 100% wrong.
LaCi - posted on 10/26/2010
I think it depends on the maturity of the kid.
I don't think I'll have a problem with my son walking to school as soon as he knows the way, if he goes to the local grade school. it's only 6 blocks, crossing guards are all over the place. the middle school is practically across the street from that. the High school is next door (though I'd prefer he went to a different school, it is actually kind of convenient). As long as he isn't cutting class, I'll probably trust him to walk there when he decides he wants to. Until then I'll walk with him though.
I don't plan on living here forever, so all that will probably change. but for now I'd say...7 sounds like a good age. If I sent him to catholic school he could just walk across the street
There are 3 playgrounds in our neighborhood, one at each grade school, one at the middle school. The catholic grade school has the coolest, and it's across the street. Since it's a school neighborhood, it's almost entirely kids. So I'm sure he'll have friends very close by, no big deal. As long as he isn't trying to cross the major roads I'm alright with him going out on is own at a pretty young age.
Jenn - posted on 10/26/2010
To those of you who wouldn't let your kid out alone until they are 12, what if they said they wanted a paper route at 10? Would you "let" them get one? I know I came home from school at 10 and announced that I would be delivering the Lakeshore Shopper (it's a once a week free paper with all the flyers in it).
@Amie - the rural children bit was just an example. If you're giving your kids shooting lessons and all the safety and maintenance that goes along with it then I'd lump you in with the first group ie the ones NOT accidently shooting themselves or their little friends.
Amie - posted on 10/25/2010
"Are they the ones who are taught about guns, learn respect for guns and know how to maintain them (like rural children whose parents farm/hunt)? "
Hey! We own guns, our children have been taught safety and even begin/will begin shooting lessons at 9 years. We live in the city too. =P
A - posted on 10/25/2010
Too many variables for there to be a definite right or wrong...
My son is 18 months old and I've let him play in our backyard alone for short periods of time. Its fenced, in a very safe neighborhood (we live right across the street from the police station) and the windows in my kitchen overlook the backyard and I can see him while I do some dishes. He's never been out longer than 10 minutes by himself or without me checking on him. There's nothing dangerous in the yard and now that its fall I can hear his little footsteps too on the leaves even if I'm looking down at a dish I'm washing or whatever. But to walk alone to school or play out of the yard? Probably not until at least middle school age. It would depend on the maturity of the child, where he wanted to go, who he was with, etc. I'd probably put in place certain rules like, if going to a friends house, you have to call when you get there, or give them a watch with a timer and say to call me every 30 mins, etc. I've seem some kids alone sometimes and I did NOT think it was okay. For example when I worked at the movie theatre, it was 1am after the late movie, we were CLOSED- completely, but we couldn't leave because someone left their 3 kids there. THe oldest couldn't have been more than 10, and the youngest probably 3. Its like...what the heck were you thinking!!??
The fact is, all this 'stranger danger' stuff is actually doing more harm than good. I've seen studies where children have been asked what a 'bad stranger' looks like and they honestly think its a man wearing dark clothes, a mask and a hat lurking behind corners (aka the Hamburgler). They have no grasp of the idea that most 'bad people' will actually look just like their Daddy (not saying that their Dad is a pedophile, more that the pedophiles look innocent to a child). And the sad fact is, most 'bad people' are people that the family knows and most parents tell their children that they MUST do what an adult tells them. They must do what they're told. They are the child and they are the adults and adults are always right. And that's when the trouble can begin.
Your child will never truly be safe. Ever. You could wrap them up in cotton wool, not let them out of the house and the house could still burn down or natural disaster could happen or a car could come crashing through the wall. Hell, they could choke on the cotton wool.
A child who is given a little bit of freedom and is taught the rules is a lot safer in my opinion than a child who is sheltered, has no idea about anything and manages to get away from mummy at the mall. Those are the children that go missing. The ones who have no sense because they've never been given the opportunity to develop some.
It's like guns. Who are the kids who shoot themselves? Are they the ones who are taught about guns, learn respect for guns and know how to maintain them (like rural children whose parents farm/hunt)? Or are they the ones who are told never to touch them but there is one in the house? It's almost always the latter.
Amie - posted on 10/25/2010
"but is that chance really worth not allowing your child to grow and learn to function without you?"
Laura's right. We are here to prepare our children. In increments is how most people will do it. I don't agree with locking them up until they are teens, this does not prepare them for anything. I also don't agree with letting it start too young, ours have had free reign of our crescent since they were 3-4 years old, depending on which child I'm talking about. They know their boundaries because we taught them. They know when to run for us and scream their heads off because we taught them.
Our oldest does walk around the block but only with our dog. I live in a city, it's not insanely large but it's large enough. My in laws don't agree with me but they are also free range parents. By the time my husband was 7-8 he was riding the bus alone. =/ Not for me.
There is a balance to be found between the ages of toddler to pre teen though. Those are the most important years, imo. Then is when you should be teaching them how to be safe and what to watch for. Not scaring the crap out of them and not locking them up. It's just how I view it.
I used to be a lot more paranoid than I am now. I also did not have older children when I was this paranoid. Now that I do, my views are changing because I see that the way I am raising them is working well. They are smart and can handle themselves.
As for family, friends and neighbors. I've never been that paranoid as to keep them away from any of them. All of these people also know me well though, if they step out of line with any of my children someone will lose their head. I'm not kidding, you can tell my child what they are doing wrong, you can correct their behavior BUT you lay a hand on my child and you better hide when you see me coming.
Jane - posted on 10/25/2010
I live in a small community about 20 miles north of a large city. The smallest lot in my area is 1/2 of an acre so due to that, kids really don't go anywhere without being driven. The elementary school down the road is 1 mile away and that's the closest of all the schools and the newest so for my olddest, now 20 (youngest 17), that school didn't exist when she was young. I THINK it was around 13 when I let my son ride his bike down to that school with his friends. For my daughter, I drove her everywhere but it was about 13 that I would take her to the mall to meet her friends (or drive the whole bunch of them).
The one thing with my kids though is there wasn't a whole lot of time to do things like that. They were so heavily involved in band/orchestra/cheerleading (20 year old) or band/football (17 year old) that I didn't have to think about it too much.
I will say this, however, my 17 year old is still required to call me when he gets to where he's going (he drives now) and check in with me depending on what he's doing, where he's going, etc.
My 20 year old is in college out of state and even SHE still checks in with me pretty regularly about when she's leaving campus to go somewhere. It's just something they're used to because obviously at 20, she's not required to do that anymore...it's just something I've made them do that now, it's habit :)
Well, yes, as most kids are harmed by someone they know, and the majority of the neighbors I know are either family members or long time friends of the family, then I guess I'm doomed. Getting up to lock the door and shut the windows. Not going outside today. Sorry Eliza. !
Rachelle - posted on 10/25/2010
If I was wrong about it being rare then Im wrong but I just still know it happenes. Even if it happenes once in every ten years, I couldnt take that chance of it being my daughter. Also I live in NYC where you do tend to hear ALOT more about these things. I just think under the age of 12 is not old enough to be off away from the house without parents, just my oppinion
April - posted on 10/25/2010
@Amie T-- I don't live in fear. As someone else mentioned, it is my job to protect my child. I am not talking about my 17 year old...I'm talking about children 12 and under. I also want to point out that safety is often times an illusion. You pointed out that most abductions are done by people who are not strangers to the child. So, i have a problem with those that are saying, "Everyone knows my child and talks to him as he passes by". How do you know you can REALLY trust your neighbors. They may seem nice, but that could just be a way to get you to trust them.
* A good example. I left my son with a sitter, who happens to be my next door neighbor. She's always been friendly to me, giving me free things from her sewing business. I dropped him off only for a half hour so I could clean the house. When I came back to get him, I saw her through the window hitting my son. Again...she was super nice, gave me free stuff, always brought food over to my house. Just because the people you know are friendly doesn't mean you can trust them.
Jenn - posted on 10/25/2010
I have a simple solution so you can stop worrying about all those scary stories you see on the news - stop watching it! Seriously. If stuff like that gets you so worried that someone is going to snatch your child, when in reality it is very rare, then don't watch. I appreciate that you want to keep your child safe, as I would hope we all do with our own children, but you have to allow them some freedoms in life, otherwise they'll be lost little puppies when they finally get a chance to be out on their own.
Oh so sad. The last few here that I mentioned were very sad. One little girl, 2 years old I think, missing for 4 days or so was found in a storm water drain. Then a 4 year old boy found 3-4 days later in a river. I actually remember the name of the little girl who was actually kidnapped and murdered by a stranger in 1986, that's how rare it is.
Yup, everything I've ever heard or read is along the same lines as what Krista and Amie have said. It's usually relatives or good family friends. Kidnappings by strangers are very rare. I can't even remember the last one we had here. We've had a couple of attempted kidnappings but the only actual kidnapping that I can remember hearing about was in the mid 1980s. The last kid that went missing who was found murdered was killed by the stepfather and the latest few missing kids were accidental drownings.
Like Laura said, I'd be more worried about car crashes than kidnappers. Oh and water safety.
My girls have been playing outside 'unattended' since they were 2. At 2-4 they had a tiny, fenced in porch as their 'yard'. 4-6 was a 10 acre farm... no neighbors anywhere. I don't have a problem w/ them playing on the property here (low income housing apartments) where I can't see, but there are too many trouble making kids around and I don't want them getting lumped into that group by the management.... So they're now (almost 9) only allowed to play outside right by our apartment. Their 2.5 year old brother plays down their w/ them sometimes.
They don't walk anywhere unattended and I have no clue when/if it will happen. They go to school out of district, so that will always be out. None of their friends are w/in walking distance. We are w/in 'walking distance' (probably 15-20 minutes) of one park, but they have to cross the busy street at least 2 times to get there and most people don't stop for pedestrians around here....
Rachelle - posted on 10/24/2010
Just to respon to Amie T. I do not live in fear at all. I am very relaxed with my daughter and she is VERY independant, which I love, but there is just common sense, I feel. I dont want to be rude but you were wrong when you said that most abductions are from someone you know, which makes it no better. Everyday I see on the news and hear from others that there are complete stranger picking up children in vans and child predetors out getting children right from outside their homes. Its very common and happenes every minute in this country. Im not talking about my 16 yr old, I am directing children under the age of 12 and then after who knows. Its not living in fear, its just making sure that nothing and noone harms my child. That became my full time job and Responsability as soon as I became a mother. Cause if something was to ever happen, it would only be my fault cause I wasnt watching my child.
Lindsay - posted on 10/24/2010
I personally think that this issue is probably one of the hardest about being a parent. I know, for me, it tough. On one hand, I want to make sure that my kids are free from anything bad happening to them ever. On the other hand, I want my kids to be confident and competent to thrive in the "big bad world". I will not let my fears overpower letting my kids experience things for themself. Kids have to be able to learn to make decisions for themselves and they have to be able to make their own mistakes sometimes. Now I'm not saying once a kid starts walking, just let them out on their own. But, keeping a kid in your constant sight until they are teenagers isn't doing them any favors.
My kids are currently 5 and 4. We live in a rural area on 5+ acres of land. They play outside on their own on a daily basis. They know the rules on how far they are allowed to go and I peek my head out often. If at any time, they aren't in the deemed safe areas, they are made to come inside immediately. They do pretty well with it because they'd much rather be outside playing than cooped up in the house. They can't walk anywhere beyond our yard because there's no where to go. In the next couple of years, though, if things go according to our plan with new jobs we will be moving to another area of our county. We will likely be in a subdivision and I won't have much issue with the kids being around the nieghborhood once we've gotten to know the people around us. I'd much rather losen that string inch by inch as I see my kids maturing than to hold on to them tight until the day I have to let them go for good.
Rachelle - posted on 10/24/2010
Im not a crazy strict mother but I know for a fact that my children will not be going out of my yard anywhere on their own until at least 12 and then I will re evaluate. I watch every single day on the news everywhere, in good neighborhoods and bad, children getting taken and picked up right outside their houses. Any mother who says they are sitting watching out the window every second is lying and all it takes is one second. I would rather be considered overbearing then have to ever experience loosing my child. I think so many of us, myself included sometimes, always thinks nothing will happen to them, but thats just not realistic.
Tara - posted on 10/24/2010
My kids are fairly free ranged. We live in a teeny tiny little village. My kids are 14, 10, 8, 5 and almost 1. So the oldest and youngest don't count.
The 10 year old is allowed to bike wherever she chooses in our village and the outskirts to her friends house. She may go to the skating rink, the library, the store, the post office, the senior center etc. alone or with a friend.
My 8 year old has physical boundaries. The river on 2 sides, the main road (with a limit of 50 km/hr but busier) and the parking lot for the curing club/arena/library etc. as long as she is on her bike. She is only allowed to walk the 4 blocks around our house and to the library.
Everyone on the way knows her and she knows everyone.
My youngest is allowed to ride her bike up and down our dead end street. It has a cemetery on one side and houses on the other. But she has to go down, come back and say hi before she can can go again!
I was a latchkey kid, it taught me a number of valuable skills, I'm home all the time with my kids but I still give them their independence in other ways. We talk about safety and we talk about the rules and why we have them etc.
It's important for kids to be given the skills they need to be independent. King Tut ruled a nation at the age of 9. And throughout history there have been young heroes and heroines, children are capable we just need to recognize that and give them the opportunity to develop skills and confidence.
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