Poll: 82% think it should be illegal to let your nine-year-old play at the park unsupervised

posted at 7:41 pm on August 19, 2014 by Allahpundit

Laudable work here by Reason to collect and publish data showing how unpopular its own sympathies on this issue are. I wish more Internet pubs of every ideological stripe were as forthcoming.

The most recent example of a mom being arrested for child neglect for letting her kids play alone in the park happened just last week in Florida. The kids in that case ranged in age from six to eight; mom claims she was at a food bank at the time and couldn’t get back as quickly as she’d like. Oh well. Apparently Americans, especially Republicans, want government to play nanny here:

As the nation debates whether such parenting choices are acceptable or neglectful, the latest Reason-Rupe national telephone poll finds 82 percent of Americans believe the law should require children 9-years-old and younger to be supervised while playing in public parks. Just 17 percent of Americans think 9-year-olds should be able to play unsupervised at the park…

Democrats and Republicans tend to agree the law should require 6-year-olds and 9-year-olds be supervised at public parks, but Republicans (73%) are 15 points more likely than Democrats (58%) to also want the law to apply to 12 year-olds as well. Strong Republicans diverge from independent-leaning Republicans on this issue. Independent-leaning Republicans are actually as likely as Democrats (4 in 10) to say 12 year olds should be allowed to play in public parks unsupervised, compared to 26 percent of strong Republicans.

Americans who think government should promote traditional values are also more likely to say the law should require supervision of 12 year olds at public parks—69 to 55 percent of those who say government should not promote traditional values.

Americans are more relaxed about letting 12-year-olds play alone unsupervised in the park, but only a bit more. Sixty-three percent support making that illegal. It’s not just Republicans and social conservatives who favor requiring parental supervision either. Black voters, lower-income voters, and voters with less education are also more likely to support laws against unsupervised playing. My hunch is that that’s a function of environment: If you live in a poorer neighborhood, chances are that crime rates are higher and therefore you have more to fear in leaving your kid by himself outside. But Reason says I’m wrong. Apparently, lower-income and less-educated voters aren’t more likely than better-off and better-educated voters to say that unsupervised children are at risk. (However, lower-income and less-educated voters are less likely to believe that the media sensationalizes threats to kids.) Maybe their feelings on this are partly a function of their feelings about government generally. If you receive some form of government assistance, go figure that you trust government enough to give it more of a role in making sure kids aren’t being neglected by mom and dead in public spaces. Although, in that case, how to explain the support for legal restrictions here among otherwise anti-government Republicans?

Slate had an interesting piece a few weeks ago about “the shortening leash” of childhood, replete with a nifty interactive graph tracking changing attitudes about what age kids should be allowed to walk home from school. Their conclusion:

The most noticeable shift in the Slate survey happens between cohorts born in the 1980s and the 1990s, which is consistent with other national surveys. This is because, during the Reagan era, a panic about the dangers of childhood began to take hold. Citizen advocates lamented the perils of playgrounds, and lawsuits forced cities to get rid of what was deemed dangerous equipment. As Paula Fass chronicles in Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America, a few high-profile abduction cases set off a fear of child snatchers lurking on every corner. Ronald Reagan declared National Missing Children’s Day, and milk cartons began featuring missing children’s faces, making every breakfast an opportunity to fear the worst for your children.

Needless to say, the specific fears are overblown. A child is no more likely to be abducted by a stranger today than he was in the 1970s, according to David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. Abductions have increased, but that’s almost entirely due to estranged spouses or parents kidnapping their own children. What has changed over the last 40 years is our sense of community. Mothers work, neighbors talk less, and the divorce rate began to creep upward in the 1970s and has remained at around 45 percent.

The less you feel you can trust your community to collectively supervise your kid when he’s out and about, the more inclined you might be to turn to government to fill part of the vacuum. There are a lot of implications for public policy in that phenomenon, and needless to say, they’re not limited to children.

Actually, this isn’t even the splashiest Reason poll published today. This one, exploring partisan and racial differences on the ol’ “should kids get a trophy for winning at sports or merely for participating?” question, is a sociology/economics seminar in the making.


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Really? Twelve year olds. When I was twelve I made a boatload of money as a baby sitter.

Illinidiva on August 19, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Maybe you should narrow your stance somewhat.

BobMbx on August 19, 2014 at 8:20 PM

I was seated. Not that my stance, wide or narrow, would have mattered. Mind you, the guy used a knife to flip up the latch. He left without the knife, running fast.

unclesmrgol on August 19, 2014 at 9:16 PM

perfesser – no problem :)

Katja on August 19, 2014 at 9:17 PM

Holy Cow how did we ever get to this point?

I am of the belief that this (and most polls) are absolute bunk. There are way to many variables that need to be considered for it/them to be valid.

Bee, My children could be and were trusted with many more responsibilities than just being (insert scary quotes here) “unsupervised” in a city park at age 9.

My folks gave me my first shotgun for my 10th birthday, Mosberg 12 ga. I had been borrowing my Grandpops prior to then.

Liberty is being given away by these nanny state loving leftist, screw that.

D-fusit on August 19, 2014 at 9:19 PM

That’s sad. Life is full of risks. I don’t mean that to be trite, but there’s no way to avoid the risks outside of bubble-wrapping kids and having them sit on the couch all day.

whatcat on August 19, 2014 at 8:14 PM

Things aren’t any more dangerous now than they were back then. What has changed is the perception of danger.

Statistically, stranger abductions are very rare. Ironically, kids are more likely to be molested by a relative, neighbor, babysitter or teacher – the very people we’re supposed to have supervise our kids.

myiq2xu on August 19, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Americans are more relaxed about letting 12-year-olds play alone unsupervised in the park, but only a bit more. Sixty-three percent support making that illegal.

What the —-.

Seriously. What the —-ing —-.

Are my fellow Americans serious? Or is this just a kind of “get off my lawn” thing, a visceral reaction to 12 year old mischief?

A well-adjusted, right-minded person supports the legality of letting a 9-year-old play on the principle of rationality over emotion and minding one’s own business.

A 12-year-old is an actual —-ing adult. They can defend themselves adequately from an adult, they can flee from an adult, they can purchase things from adults without drawing any adult attention, and if they commit a crime they will be charged as an adult.

I wish Reason would push it farther just to see at what age America thinks is old enough. What would be the response if they said 14? 15? How high does it have to go to for the idiot busybody broadcast-network watching opinion to fall to a mere plurality?

The only comfort I can take is that this particular poll probably isn’t a “decline of America” kind of thing. A poll 100 years ago probably would have gotten the same result, no matter that age 4 was considered old enough to play unsupervised.

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 9:26 PM

As the nation debates whether such parenting choices are acceptable or neglectful, the latest Reason-Rupe national telephone poll finds 82 percent of Americans believe the law should require children 9-years-old and younger to be supervised while playing in public parks. Just 17 percent of Americans think 9-year-olds should be able to play unsupervised at the park…

What percentage of Americans believe parents should decide whether a given child is to be supervised in a given situation?

Lolo on August 19, 2014 at 9:30 PM

What percentage of Americans believe parents should decide whether a given child is to be supervised in a given situation?

Lolo on August 19, 2014 at 9:30 PM

More to the point, what percentage of parents whose households have more dependents than adults? How about households with the same number? Households earning less than 2x poverty where both adults work?

The rest of us can —- off.

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 9:33 PM

D-fusit on August 19, 2014 at 9:19 PM

This truly is a learning experience for me. So you have kids my kids’ ages? (10 and 7) and when if/when your little girl was 9, you were working full time and let her go by herself during your workshift behind a walmart in the woods to play by herself with no one dedicated to keeping an eye on her for multiple days? Just so I’m clear.

When you work, what does your little 9 year old daughter do to occupy herself? That’s what I’m asking.

Bee on August 19, 2014 at 9:35 PM

More to the point, what percentage of parents whose households have more dependents than adults? How about households with the same number? Households earning less than 2x poverty where both adults work?

The rest of us can —- off.

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 9:33 PM

I’m sure none of those question were asked or even contemplated. They went straight for an assumed answer lying in not whether the State should intrude, or how much the State should intrude, but what kind of State intrusion is best.

Lolo on August 19, 2014 at 9:39 PM

myiq2xu on August 19, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Ditto that.

whatcat on August 19, 2014 at 9:40 PM

A lot of us need to remember that our childhood bears little resemblance to today’s. When I was a kid the neighborhood existed of two parent families with stay at home moms. Those moms would be in the park and in their yards and they knew who you were and if you weren’t doing what you were suppose to be doing or if they saw anything out of place, they would raise hell.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 8:08 PM

I grew up in the 80′s and 90′s in NYC. That’s not a thing of the past. It was much scarier there then than it is now. It’s overprotective and fearful people that create results such as these.

njrob on August 19, 2014 at 9:45 PM

Perfesser on August 19, 2014 at 9:07 PM

Well done somehow shoe-horning Saul Alinsky into this discussion. I so completely fit the mold of subversive socialist. Makes total sense.

I’ll ask again: conservative moms and dads of little girls (in particular), what do you do with your child while you are working and they are out of school over the summer and why?

Put your money where your mouth is. If you are staying at home, or are paying for sitters/daycares and defending this as sound parenting, YOU DO IT. I dare you do. Drop your little girl off at a public park for a work shift with NO OTHER PARENT on call, no one there to just keep an eye out. My hunch is that everyone is either recalling older times, or would never in a million years do this with their own child and is pure bluster. Out of all these advocates, no one can say “Hell yeah, I drop off my nine year old daughter at a park every day while I work and it’s AWESOME!” Again, I call bullsh1t.

Bee on August 19, 2014 at 9:49 PM

I dare you do to.

Bee on August 19, 2014 at 9:49 PM

fixed. YEESH.

Bee on August 19, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Things happen. Kids died years ago from various diseases or by ” a whirlwind in the barnyard” as I heard a child’s death described. We cannot stop children from dying-except for the idiots that forget their children in hot cars (let’s just shoot them.) We cannot stop adults from dying-why all this hand wringing over bad things that happen?

2L8 on August 19, 2014 at 9:53 PM

I might add that while I probably would not let a nine year old play at the park unsupervised, I would find it impossible to hold a parent who did, criminally liable. Bad things can happen anywhere and I think most parents do the best they can with what they have.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Those moms would be in the park and in their yards and they knew who you were and if you weren’t doing what you were suppose to be doing or if they saw anything out of place, they would raise hell.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 8:08 PM

There was statistically far more likely to be something “out of place” going on when you grew up than today.

“Hell yeah, I drop off my nine year old daughter at a park every day while I work and it’s AWESOME!” Again, I call bullsh1t.

Bee on August 19, 2014 at 9:49 PM

Saying it’s not ideal is different from saying the mother should be jailed and consequently fired from her job, which she was using to provide for her child, who should then be placed in protective custody. Because that’s what happens in the real world when the Block Captain snitches on you; you lose your job unless it involves C++.

Ideally the mother would be at home. That’s obviously not an option unless we want her on welfare. Which is basically what the Nanny position boils down to: single mothers should be on welfare because we just know it’s wrong for kids to be playing in the manner that they always did until 15 years ago in neighborhoods that are several times safer now than they used to be.

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Poll: 82% think it should be illegal to let your nine-year-old play at the park unsupervised

82% are wrong? That’s a little disturbing.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Sure, people think it’s a good idea to have supervision at the park, but that doesn’t really speak to what they think the enforcement mechanism should be.

I think the numbers might be vastly differ if the question that was asked was, “Should a parent be arrested the first time his/her 9 year old child is found playing at a park unsupervised?” or “Should a child be removed from a parent’s care and placed in foster care the first time the child is found to be playing at a park unsupervised?”

willamettevalley on August 19, 2014 at 10:05 PM

Note that the exact question asked was:

In your opinion, should parents be allowed to let their children play at public parks unsupervised? Or should the law require they be supervised at public parks?

willamettevalley on August 19, 2014 at 10:10 PM

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

While I agree with you about getting the government involved in these parenting decisions, I am interested in why you think there were bigger problems when I grew up than now?

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:16 PM

willamettevalley on August 19, 2014 at 10:05 PM

If you have a park with police officers looking for unsupervised children, doesn’t it immediately make the park supervised?

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:18 PM

The girl in this story had been sitting at McDonald’s while her mother worked with a laptop, playing games to occupy herself.

Until the laptop was stolen.

She begged to go play in the park. She had a cell phone in case of emergency.

Not only was it okay to let her go to the park, it would have been near criminal to make her sit and do nothing at a McDonald’s.

This mother was not irresponsible, regardless of whether you would have felt differently. She took a reasonable view of her daughter’s capabilities, and gave her freedom.

As your children grow older, you should give them more freedom and less supervision. Playing in a park with a cell phone in case of emergency is not unreasonable. Especially if you know she will have some friends there.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM

because we just know it’s wrong for kids to be playing in the manner that they always did until 15 years ago in neighborhoods that are several times safer now than they used to be.

HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Exactly! Great way to phrase, HitNRun!!

Do 82% of Americans really believe parents allowing their children to play in a park unsupervised should be arrested? Color me skeptical.

willamettevalley on August 19, 2014 at 10:10 PM

Thanks for bringing the exact question back into focus. The question is about whether it should be legal at all. There’s no reference to age or any other criteria. “Children” seems quite broad. “Supervised” doesn’t mean the parents have to do it, but who decides qualifications for this? Should we have TSA supervising the children? Or employees of the schools….the same people that have create safe learning environments…oh…wait.

By the way, what “park” is not “public?”

Perfesser on August 19, 2014 at 10:23 PM

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM

That’s why it can’t be criminalized, there are so many variables to each situation.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM

That’s why it can’t be criminalized, there are so many variables to each situation.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM

And that, in a nutshell, is why children have parents. There needs to be an adult deciding what risk is and is not acceptable, and at what age.

But every parent has the responsibility to consider, “Am I smothering my child’s ability to grow and develop self-control?”

BTW, taking a child away from a parent that the state feels is “risky” and then putting that child in foster care where the risks are much higher is insane.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:36 PM

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:36 PM

I don’t know if you saw my first comment but I live in Florida and know that the state stops subsidizing after school care for children of the working poor when they turn nine, stating that they are old enough to be at home alone. Charging this mother seems more than a tad hypocritical to me. I worked at an alternative public middle school and trust me, it’s hard to get all excited about parents being in charge either but I remind myself that they were the exception not the rule.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:42 PM

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:36 PM

I don’t know if you saw my first comment but I live in Florida and know that the state stops subsidizing after school care for children of the working poor when they turn nine, stating that they are old enough to be at home alone. Charging this mother seems more than a tad hypocritical to me. I worked at an alternative public middle school and trust me, it’s hard to get all excited about parents being in charge either but I remind myself that they were the exception not the rule.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 10:42 PM

I know. The best argument against letting parents make these decisions is … meeting some of the parents.

Still beats the alternative.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Still beats the alternative.

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Yep, government isn’t the answer.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2014 at 11:08 PM

Saying it’s not ideal is different from saying the mother should be jailed
HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Which Ive consistently said was wrong.

Bee on August 20, 2014 at 12:37 AM

There Goes the Neighborhood on August 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM

So the mother had enough insight to keep her there with laptop but once that wasn’t an alternative, she didn’t think playdough, art supplies, crayons and paper? No, the next alternative to her sitting there IN WALMART McD’s (yes with all the sketchy Walmart patrons)was to drop her off behind a wooded area because the 9 year old asked her to.

Neat.

Your inconsistency is embarrassing, conservative parents.

Bee on August 20, 2014 at 12:43 AM

The world is f’ed.

I grew up from the age of 6 on up running around the neighborhood, down to the park, out to the corner store….everywhere with myself and at times with same-age friends. When I was 8 I started taking my 5-yr old brother with me.

I did my chores in the morning, then was gone. I came home for lunch (sometimes) and dinner.

My Mom had no idea what I did all day, but as long as I didn’t get brought home by the police or a neighbor she didn’t ask questions.

This is how we lose the independent spirit of America. By taking away independence from kids. Which is exactly what Lefties want.

goflyers on August 20, 2014 at 1:36 AM

82% agree with Killary that it does take a village. These polls sometimes ask such broad questions instead of having people think about their answers and applying some form of parental logic. Some 9 year olds don’t have the sense God gave a goat and some can cook lunch for the siblings and drive a tractor all day. Parents know their own kids or should better than the law givers/imposers.

Kissmygrits on August 20, 2014 at 8:19 AM

I asked my ex-teacher sister-in-law what she thought about a 9 year old in the park. Her response: Not smart, but does not rise to the level of lawbreaking. She herself would have been fired if she’d left a room full of 9 year olds alone even for a minute or two, but nobody would have arrested her. If she was on the jury for the accused woman, she would vote to acquit.

unclesmrgol on August 20, 2014 at 9:18 AM

What you guys don’t realize is that you’re behind the curve on post-modern infantalization culture. Used to be when you were 18, you were an adult. Now the feds consider you a legal dependent up until 26, effectively a 50% increase.

That means 12 is the new 8. 9 is the new 6. Why do you let your six-year-old play unsupervised?!?!?

Parents, watch your kids. The other 82% of you, go watch your own kids and leave mine alone.

The Schaef on August 20, 2014 at 9:30 AM

So let me get this straight: our kids should start getting taught about sex and fetishes when they’re 6, and should be expected to be sexually active when they’re 10, but they can;t go tot the park alone?

Only liberals… maybe the poll had an over-representation of liberals.

Free Indeed on August 20, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Saying it’s not ideal is different from saying the mother should be jailed
HitNRun on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Which Ive consistently said was wrong.

Bee on August 20, 2014 at 12:37 AM

Soooo…what? You’re still very inconsistent as to what YOU think should happen. Public shamming as a punishment?

Or are you just enjoying the feeling of patting yourself on the back for being a better parent than all the “conservative parents” who are cool letting their kids grow up.

nextgen_repub on August 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Really? Twelve year olds. When I was twelve I made a boatload of money as a baby sitter.

Illinidiva on August 19, 2014 at 9:14 PM

At 13 I was making extra spending cash as the “floor guard” at a Roller Rink. I’d walk home through the park after close (after 11 at night on weekends).

My neighbor across the street at 12 did lawnmowing; and for big jobs would ride his dad’s riding lawnmower to the job (he had to pay gas for those, but it was well worth it).

I have no idea what’s wrong with parent/skids nowadays. In the summer, when I was 12 I was out of the house “unsupervised” from 10 – 5 pretty much every day.

Yes, I told my parents where i was going; but “bike riding the dirt road by the railroad tracks” is about a 20 mile stretch of deserted (and barely usable by anything but a bike/motorcycle) road.

As for the park a block from my house? Unsupervised play there was common. I don’t see any need to arrest my parents, but I guess others disagree.

gekkobear on August 20, 2014 at 12:30 PM

82% think it should be illegal to let your nine-year-old play at the park unsupervised

What did you expect from a nation of pussies? The government knows what the real populace of this country is like which is why it has been so easy to turn it into a repressive police state where official abuse and thuggery go unpunished.

earlgrey on August 20, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Many of you must not have children, or have not been involved in the raising of your own. It is not being a ‘pussy’ to protect a child. In today’s world, children should never be unsupervised. Bad things happen with such great frequency that it is inviting disaster to take the cavalier attitude that they will be ok.

Predators watch for such parents. They know the kids who are without a protector at the movies, the mall, the playground. That is their job, to harm your kids.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler, she attended a nursery school where one of the teachers had a child abducted. Her twelve year old daughter rode her bike to the neighborhood mall and was never seen again. They found her bike outside the mall, but to this day over 20 years later, there has been no sign or clue as to what happened to this young girl. This was before the proliferation of social media, instant messaging and other predator friendly tools.There are stories like this every day. Who wants to be that parent??

It is obvious in today’s society that many parents don’t parent. To protect our society and our culture, we must intervene somehow. Look at Ferguson. It is falling apart everywhere. Heads in the sand is no longer an effective strategy.

eaglesdontflock on August 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Laudable work here by Reason to collect and publish data showing how unpopular its own sympathies on this issue are. I wish more Internet pubs of every ideological stripe were as forthcoming.

Really AP? Maybe you could show us you actually learned something from by using your real name.

earlgrey on August 20, 2014 at 4:00 PM

eaglesdontflock on August 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM

I raised two children. Sure, children sometimes have bad things happen to them, but the numbers are still very small. You have been sold on media generated fear mongering that has little basis in reality.

We don’t need more protection by government thugs, just more personal responsibility and an uncorrupt legal system that actually prosecutes and punishes real criminals.

earlgrey on August 20, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Confirmed: 82% of Americans are total morons.

So now Obama can request that Congress pass the “No Child Without a Nanny” legislation to create a new government department that will ensure that every child has someone hovering over him/her every moment of every day, paid for by the government for any family with income at less than 800% of the poverty level. After all, there is overwhelming public support for this.

Base income tax rates will have to be raised to 93.7%, but ‘it is for the children’!

s1im on August 20, 2014 at 7:56 PM

I trace much of this hysteria to the crack epidemic. It was a time when the local news media loved to lead with kids getting shot through the wall while sleeping. How many times did that actually happen? Probably not many. But how many times did we hear about it?

The news coverage made everyone feel that that kind of violence was a constant threat and ubiquitous. It never was. The vast majority of neighborhoods remained Mayberry-like, safe for kids, teens and adults. It was only in the high-crime neighborhoods that the dangers were increased–and even there, the perception of risk was likely out of proportion to reality, especially the perception of outsiders.

Once that kind of mindset took hold, the media preyed upon it with countless episodes of Law and Order, with if-it-bleeds-t-leads reporting on local news, etc., constantly running on the theme of children-in-danger.

The statistics tell a very different story. Most parents are afraid that some stranger will kidnap and kill their kids. That’s what is prompting so much of this paranoia. But the numbers will tell you. In 2007, only 150 kids were abducted by strangers, and only 50 of them were killed. This is a country with tens of millions of kids. The statistics are clear:

You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than having your child killed by a stranger.

HakerA on August 21, 2014 at 2:36 PM

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