Thursday, January 31, 2019

Free Range Parenting

by Jacyn Dawes

Kids today can find information about any subject at the touch of a button.  In some ways, this is freedom that previous generations could only dream of.  Due to the upswing in how much kids are using technology, people have begun to question whether that amount is healthy both mentally and physically for them.  But how much freedom do kids today actually have to put down their mobile devices and go out and play?

Lenore Skenazy, proudly labelled ‘America’s Worst Mom,’ has been asking this question since 2008 when she wrote a column called “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.”  She received a lot of backlash from different new sources saying this was irresponsible for a parent to do.  The trend in helicopter parenting has only grown since the early 2000s.  This is largely due to the perception that crime is running rampant in the United States.

In fact, the Pew Research Center completed a study in 2016 showing that 57% of registered voters believed that crime had increased since 2008.  The FBI and BJS showed that the percentages in violent and property crimes have declined by double-digit percentages in that timeframe and have decreased by over 50% since the 1990s.  This raises the question: if crime has been decreasing consistently over the last few decades, why are parents more worried than ever?

Media has played an important role in the fear mongering.  Skenazy can attest to this.  After the story about her son riding the subway alone hit the news stand, it wasn’t long before Law and Order: Special Victims Unit put out an episode where two parents let their son ride the subway… alone.  He made it to school, but he didn’t make it home.

At first, one might think that this doesn’t necessarily mean it came from the worst-case scenario of Skenazy’s story.  But then she will show you the picture of the young actor who played the boy in the episode compared to the photo of her own son, and they are nearly identical.  While crime rates may have taken a dive, media has only increased stories of crime in the news and fictional portrayals as well.

It is no surprise that parents have become more protective over the years.  Skenazy puts this situation best when she states, “We have begun kidnapping our own kids.”  Not only have we become overprotective with our own children, but we are intruding more on what other parents decide is safe for their own kids.

Danielle Meitiv and her husband were charged three years ago with child neglect for letting their two kids walk home from a park without parental supervision.  This is just one of many examples for the necessity in Free-Range Parenting laws.  Utah was the first state to pass this law.  It defines what constitutes as child neglect, giving the parents back some of their rights over how to parent their own kids.  In turn, this will hopefully give more kids freedom to get off their phone and go out and play.

References:
De la Cruz, D. (2018, Mar 29). Utah Passes ‘Free-Range’ Parenting Law. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/well/family/utah-passes-free-range-parenting-law.html
Gramlich, J. (2019, Jan 3). 5 Facts about Crime in the US. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/03/5-facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/
Skenazy, L. (2018, Sept 23). The Case for Free Range Parenting.

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