How old should a child be to go out alone?

Morag - posted on 05/15/2009 ( 14 moms have responded )

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My daughter is 9 (10 in August) and she has expressed a wish to start walking to school. Slowly over the past few months we have been training her to learn the way to school, safe places to cross the road etc and she's been doing really well. School is around 3 blocks up and 10 blocks along. Its not far but its far enough for me to be worried... so as a baby step introduction we said she could walk to her wing chun classes (4 blocks up, 3 blocks along). If she could prove she could walk there safely we would allow her to walk to school at the start of next year.

My husband starts a new job next week and his working hours mean that my daughter might be late to wing chun some days, so we thought it was a good time to give it a try. My daughter was very excited at the idea of getting her own set of keys and that we trusted her enough to go to walk on her own and it was only there during the day and with lots of people around. We live in Spain in a smallish town and many children her age walk around alone, plus people here love to stick their ore in if they think something is up, and to see an adult trying to grab a screaming child, some busy body would stick her nose in!.

However, my parents have put a boycott on this. They are saying my daughter is too young (I was 14 before they let me out on my own and only if they knew everything and they still took me there and picked me up) Also they are saying we are neglectful parents and are threatening to report us to Social Services and are looking to get custody (I just want to add my mum is nuts and my dad is terminally ill, so there is no way they would get custody).

I've also found out from my daughter that my parents will be going behind my back and will be taking my daughter to wing chun anyway regardless of what we decide. My mother told her not to tell me this as I wouldn't let her see her anymore. Which kind of put me in a cleft stick because by that I shouldn't let my mother see the girls again, but if I do that I only prove her right and upset my daughter.

What I really am looking for is some advice on what other parents feel is a decent age for a child to go out on their own? My parents would have kept me chained up in the house until I got married off if they could have so I don't really have a clear view of what is too young? Are my parents right is 9/10 too young?

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Morag - posted on 05/19/2009

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Wing chun is a Martial art, the same one that Bruce Lee studied :)

Most children here around 8 go out alone, and I have seen children as young as 2 go out with their older siblings and not much older than 12. The culture here is late. Children rarely go to bed before 10pm, people normally are eating dinner at that time, and several of my daughters friends already walk to school.

At the end of the day my daughter has only expressed a wish to walk alone because other kids her age do it. We live in what was a small fishing village but is now a small town, although a lot of people know us as we have lived here for years... but due to my mothers influence she has now intimately describe rape and sodemy to my daughter and told her thats what would happen to her if she was on her own. so now I have a daughter who now is too terrified to walk out the door without me holding her hand.

Thanks for the advice everyone. But for now she won't be going anywhere alone :(

Jodi - posted on 06/01/2014

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And clearly your parents don't monitor your internet access. Sounds to me like you have far too much freedom little girl.

Marcia - posted on 05/20/2009

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9/10 is way tooooo young for sure!! Look at it this way, here in Michigan, a child is not allowed to be at home alone until age 12, they can't drive until 16, and are and adult at 18..so I would say, 13/14 would be a great age to say it's ok, and even at that point, the child would need to be VERY responsible, and have a cell phone, (for emergency) and give you the exact route they would be taking and with whom... :) peace

Devon - posted on 05/20/2009

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i would walk to elementrary school with my sister and two cousins who also went there at the same time plus we lived one block away. actually i always had someone to walk with all the way up through high school. today, i personally won't allow my two daughters who are both 6 years old right now to walk by themselves until they start middle school. i just worry to much and how alot of people are these days that something might happen if i let them walk by themselves when they are 10 or so. but if you feel like she has listened to your advice and knows what to do then i would say let her but i would let her walk with someone else or a bunch of other kids that are from your community that walk to school. good luck

Lynsey - posted on 05/15/2009

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I wasn't allowed out when i was a child either when i was 13 my parents still walked me to school right up to the school gate which was VERY embarrassing. But and this is only an opion hun the question you need to ask yourself is this would you let your 9/10 be in the house by themselves i doubt it? Do you trust the GENERAL public with your childs welfare (no would be the honest answer) but that is just my opinion. If anything happened to your child you wouldn't forgive yourself would you? Its just not worth it. To me i would wait until a little bit older maybe go through sfety rules if a stranger approaches them, but when grown women are being kidnapped and murdered in this day and age how can a 9/10yr fight a big burly man off, or what if a nice kind woman came up to them and then took them it just not worth it but thats just my opinion.But it is just one of those hard questions which im sure alot of people will have views on.

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Amanda - posted on 06/12/2014

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9 or 10 is way too young to let a child walk anywhere by themselves. Our frontal lobes aren't even fully developed until we are 18! That is twice as old as your daughter is now so I think it is too young.
She may know the safe ways to get places but there are other things that can be unsafe that she may not be aware of.
Granted, your parents are being too pushy and overbearing on the issue, they have every right to give you advice but none to overstep their boundaries like that.
I believe for now maybe you could walk with her to these places, to show, yes, you can walk here, but not by yourself.
I believe the appropriate age for a child to be able to walk anywhere alone would be 16-17. Before then I think they should be with an adult or with a group of friends at the very least.

Claire - posted on 03/23/2014

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I think its way too young. However mature your child seems, she has not got the maturity to deal with a calculating predator. Up to you if you want to take the risk, not wise though. Best Wishes

Maria - posted on 05/22/2009

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There is no age on when you will be safe outside. I don't think anyone is really "safe" anymore. Bad things happen to adults too. I know that sounds bad, but it is true in todays times. We are all taking a risk when we go out alone and sometimes with people. Home invasions are very popular now a days and it's sad to think we can't even be safe in our own homes. Children are being hurt by adults and other children at school and even church. I wish we could watch our kids all the time but that's not possible so we have to teach our kids how to be safe and protect themselves. We have to have a little bit of faith and keep them out of as many bad situations as we can. I am 25 years old but I am only 5 feet tall, I weigh 120 and look like I'm 16.... I still get freaked out walking alone sometimes. If she feels safe and you have confidence in her you know if it's the right time or not. You sound like a very good and concerned parent, so don't worry about your mom so much, just keep doing what you're doing!

Andrea - posted on 05/21/2009

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this is just a suggestion if you decide to let your child walk alone. I have some friends (we are in canada) that have a 7 year old son that has to walk to and from school on his own. they don't live far from the school but for safety sake they got him one of those children cell phones. they can't make calls on them they have 4 buttons that you preset numbers into. for example you would put the childs home number, mom and dads cell numbers and 911. that way if they are ever approached by a stranger they can call 911 or if they are unsure of something, they can call mom or dad to ask for advice.

Anne-Marie - posted on 05/19/2009

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I agree it depends on the neighbourhood and also if her friends are allowed as then they can all walk together. I couldnt let my child walk as its too far but people who live closer to the school let their 9/10 year olds walk in a group together

Jakki - posted on 05/15/2009

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Hi Morag, I think there's a huge difference between the norms in different countries and how people assess danger. I live in Australia, and I think people here have become incredibly cautious in the past 20-30 years about this issue, which annoys me a bit. When I was a kid everybody rode or walked to school by themselves or with other kids, but now not many kids under 10 would go anywhere without supervision. This is not because there's more danger now - just more fear! But once they go to high school (at about 12), it's totally normal for kids to catch buses and trains, walk or cycle by themselves.



Anyway, we live about 150 m from our school and I've been letting my 8 year old go to school by herself when she goes to music practice before school. I feel very comfortable doing that. It's not far, we know a lot of the neighbours and the risk is tiny. I guess it really depends on your neighbourhood.



I recently had some cousins from Switzerland staying, and they expressed amazement that I was going to pick up my 6&8 year olds after school - they said that in Switzerland all the kids would go home on their own!



A big factor in your decision should probably be when are the Spanish kids going out alone - and follow their lead...



PS What's wing chun?

Cathy - posted on 05/15/2009

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I would say the best answer is to have your child walk with a friend, if possible. And go over all possible scenarios with her (strangers, traffic, etc) The youngest age, in my opinion, for walking alone (daylight hours of course) is 12 or 13. But a group of 2 or 3 kids walking together should be fine.

Amy - posted on 05/15/2009

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This one is tough. My oldest is only six, so I'm not at that point. But I remember walking to my elementary school with 2-3 friends by 2nd grade (about 5 blocks). There were two crossing guards along the way. My gut reaction is to say it has to do with your child's maturity, your type of neighborhood and of course your instinctual comfort level with it. I worry some times that there is a danger in being over-protective and not letting our children grow and mature. There are so many benefits for kids who learn how to think for themselves. But of course, we'll see how I feel in a few years when my daughter is asking the same thing...

Angie - posted on 05/15/2009

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I would be comfortable if my child could walk with another child from you neighborhood but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with letting my 11 year old walk alone.

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