Should childhood be prisonhood?

posted at 10:41 am on August 28, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

How closely should parents watch their children, and should it be a crime to allow them some independence? This summer, at least two mothers found themselves under arrest after allowing their children to go to the park unattended after adults tipped police to a danger that many of us — myself included — frequently experienced in our own childhoods. Have we become too risk-averse to notice that the risks are almost negligible? Or have we made those risks negligible by demanding that childhood become a soft form of prisonhood in which children never get the opportunity to learn independence?

The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak wrote about this disturbing trend of criminalizing these decisions, and wondered what exactly we are teaching children:

There are scary people out there. It is always a risk to let your children out of your sight. But truthfully, the most dangerous thing you do every day is drive anywhere with a child. About 300 kids are hurt daily in car accidents; an average of three are killed that way every day.

Yet I don’t see police pulling parents over and locking them up whenever they see someone in a car seat. But playing on the monkey bars without Mommy nearby? Book ’em!

“It’s a different world out there today. It’s not like when I was growing up, and we’d all play in an apple orchard and we were safe. Today, you just don’t know who’s out there,” said a lovely, well-meaning grandmother who was keeping an eagle-eye lookout on her grandchildren at a water park this summer while I let my kids do the water slides by themselves.

Yes, it is a different world. It’s a safer world. It just doesn’t feel like it because we know too much.

Dvorak acknowledges that it’s one thing to write that children should have more freedom, under wise supervision, and another thing entirely to actually put the plan into action. However, she did apply that thinking with her own two boys, and concludes that they learned more from that limited independence than even she thought they would:

The boys went to the corner store — a trip they’d walked a thousand times with me — with one of our cellphones and the dog. And I was a wreck the whole 20 minutes that I gave them on the phone stopwatch.

But they were 20 minutes that they talk about nearly every day. And those 495 feet were probably some of the most important steps they took in their short lives.

Heck, I used to do that on my bike all the time — ride to the grocery store. I even carried shopping lists to pick up items for my parents. This wasn’t in the “good old days” of yore, either, but in the early 1970s, when crime was escalating and social unrest was rampant. (Hey, just how old do you think I am, anyway?) It wasn’t in small-town America, either, but in suburban Los Angeles County. As I write in my column for The Fiscal Times, I had no idea my childhood was so … Dickensian. And like Dvorak’s two boys, those experiences taught me plenty, even when it produced some unpleasantness, or perhaps especially so:

The only incident that ever occurred in these horrible episodes of child labor came when I was eight years old; I had been making this run often enough to become a regular at the store. The cashier, who turned out to be the manager, told me I didn’t have enough money for the bill and sent me home to get more – even though I had given him more than enough cash to cover it.

My father put me in the car and drove back to the store to ask the manager to check his cash register, which he refused to do, and called me a liar when I told him what I had given him for the sale. My father blew his top, stormed out, and wrote an angry letter to the company. For months, Dad refused to allow me to go back to that store, although I often went to the Thrifty drugstore in the same corner shopping center. A few months later, that changed when an executive from the chain showed up at our door to bring us the three items I had attempted to purchase, the cash I had given the manager, and a face-to-face apology to me. “That man will not be around to be mean to you,” he assured me.

After that, I was back on the job, with my father’s blessing … and his shopping lists.

For years, I had thought that experience taught me many good lessons about life. I learned that I needed to be very deliberate when handing over cash at a register and know ahead of time the change I was due back, a skill that is all but out of date these days with debit cards. When disputes arose, I had to be honest about what had happened, and not be intimidated into silence just because the other person was older and had more authority than I did.

I learned, maybe for the first time and certainly in the most memorable fashion, that my father would defend me ferociously from anyone else’s nastiness. I knew — especially after that house visit from the executive — that I was as legitimate as any other customer putting cash down on the counter, even if all I was buying was a pound of coffee. (It also taught me that it was far better to be the object of Dad’s protection than his anger while shopping … but that’s a story about irresponsibility best left for another day.)

More than forty years later (but not much more than that, folks), I still recall that incident and the lessons learned from it. Would I have learned those eventually? Maybe, maybe not, and I never would have learned them at all when it counted had my parents refused to let me have a little bit of independence. Knowing what I do now, I am absolutely certain that it made my mother and father at least a little nervous, and they kept a close eye on my comings and goings in order to ensure that I didn’t get myself into serious trouble. Those experiences were valuable, and I wonder what we’re teaching the younger generations by denying them those opportunities now.

Update: Risk-averse, not -adverse. I’ve fixed it above.

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So much for It Takes a Village to raise a child. Now parents go to jail for relying on their friends and neighbors.

meci on August 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM

These are the people who will be running the country in a few decades.

There are many very good reasons to teach kids independence. But the most important of all is that a generation who has never experienced liberty will not be either willing or able to preserve it.

Missy on August 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Ed, it’s risk-averse.

notropis on August 28, 2014 at 10:49 AM

My mom would make me memorize the last 3 numbers of the serial numbers on $20 bill she would give me to go to the store, in an attempt to prevent a similar story.

Flange on August 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

I remember going to the supermarket to pick up a carton of smokes for my mother — it was about a six block walk. They sold ‘em to me and I’d bring them back. I was 8 at the time. If a woman had her 8-year old son do that now, she’d have CNN cameras in her breakfast nook and would probably end up in prison.

Mr. D on August 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM

We use to run up to the neighborhood store for our folks also but we tended to go in groups. We would buy candy from deposit money from drink bottles. One time a man asked us where a street was and he was exposing himself. Freaked us out and the police were called, life went on but there is safety in numbers.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 10:54 AM

I’m aware that the one case of a parent getting arrested was that she left her 9-year-old at the park while she went to work at McDonalds. I didn’t think that was the most responsible way to handle that situation, but I also didn’t believe she’d committed a crime.

Bitter Clinger on August 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

It’s teaching these kids to be afraid of everything and dependent on authority.

Guess who benefits from that?

formwiz on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Grandpappy Bishop used to send me out for his smokes and firewater with a good kick and a “You better hurry, you little scumbag, or it’s the horsewhip again!”

Those were good times. I miss that old man.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

I seem to recall a South Park episode about this very topic. Season 6, Episode 11: “Child Abduction is Not Funny”. The kids have to wear a bulky tracking device because the parents are paranoid they’re going to be abducted.

Nethicus on August 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

This reminds me of something that C.S. Lewis wrote:

I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. This meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and nor impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.” The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated , that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.

It is this liberty within limits that allows the child to earn and then cherish his freedom, and thereby learning how to use is properly. The art of parenting is the careful balancing of that liberty with the structure of discipline.

David Marcoe on August 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

From your previous posts, Ed, I believe I’m just about the same age as you are. I also remember treasuring my independence – I grew up in Phoenix, where it was always sunny, and I remember at age 12 or 13 getting on my bike at about 8 on a Saturday morning, heading off to run around with my friends, and not showing back up at home until about 6 or so that night. Maybe that means my parents were horribly lax, but they seemed fine with it and I most certainly was.

I was also already getting up at 4 am on weekdays to go deliver a morning paper route, so I got used to handling things on my own from a pretty early age, something that has always served me well. I see all these kids staying in their parents house until they’re 30 and I think, Huh? I moved out at age 18 years, 2 months, and stayed out. And I figured out how to make that work on my own.

Tom Servo on August 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Bitter Clinger on August 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM

What I find really interesting is that it happened in Florida, where the cut off age for child care assistance for the working poor is nine years of age! I hope some lawyer points that out at trail.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM

I believe all this started with the kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh. That incident was so well publicized and then made into a movie, it struck fear into the hearts of parents everywhere.

This morning on Fox News, two women were talking about childhood obesity. One of them said it started rapidly increasing in the early eighties, lo and behold when the Adam Walsh murder occurred.

If you lock your children up in the house, don’t be surprised when they become fat with no sense of independence.

I’ve read interviews with convicted child molesters who wonder why we don’t hunt them down like dogs. Perhaps we should start.

Occams Stubble on August 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Grandpappy Bishop used to send me out for his smokes and firewater with a good kick and a “You better hurry, you little scumbag, or it’s the horsewhip again!”

Those were good times. I miss that old man.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Have you ever read any Patrick F. McManus? The only author to make my head from laughing for hours. I think you’d really relate to his stories from his life.

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

*head hurt

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

In my childhood summers (1960s) I was out the door with my buds and GONE until lunch or supper time. Without particularly saying where I was going. Somehow I survived.

I wonder if it really is more dangerous nowadays. I’d like to see some reliable statistics.

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Ed, I grew up in Dallas, and I’m probably the same age as you (I was ten in 1970), and during the summer, I was gone on my bike all day, and all my friends lived five miles away. I never worried about being abducted, and I even threw a newspaper route, that required me to be out on Sunday mornings before 4:00am, five miles away from my house (this was the old Dallas Times Herald, that was an afternoon paper except on Sundays, when it was a morning edition).

Ward Cleaver on August 28, 2014 at 11:06 AM

When I was a child in a small town, I went everywhere, either alone or with a couple friends, and my mother had no idea where I was until I came home, usually after dark. I wasn’t doing anything illegal or dangerous, just playing. That was a long time ago. Now, I would not let my kids even think of doing that. One of my daughter’s friends barely escaped being taken by some stranger while she was standing at the end of her own driveway, waiting for the school bus. She ran screaming and a neighbor came out to help her. Only then did this creep stop chasing her and run back to his car. He was never apprehended. Just a few years ago, in another small town near us, an eleven-year-old girl was walking home from her friend’s house to her home less than a mile away and she disappeared. She has never been found. I could go on and on, but everyone knows what I’m saying. These are not the days of our childhoods. Things have changed, although I don’t know why. Letting your children play alone at a city park for hours with no one watching out for them IS criminal, or at the least extremely stupid. We should all know better by now.

blackgriffin on August 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Grandpappy Bishop used to send me out for his smokes and firewater with a good kick and a “You better hurry, you little scumbag, or it’s the horsewhip again!”

Those were good times. I miss that old man.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Well then, you shouldn’t have shot him.

Dolce Far Niente on August 28, 2014 at 11:09 AM

In my childhood summers (1960s) I was out the door with my buds and GONE until lunch or supper time. Without particularly saying where I was going. Somehow I survived.

I wonder if it really is more dangerous nowadays. I’d like to see some reliable statistics.

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

I think there’s probably many more perverts out there now, but when I was a kid we wouldn’t think of even getting near a stranger. I was probably eight or nine before I went very far away from our block (I didn’t have a bike of my own until I was nine).

Ward Cleaver on August 28, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Occams Stubble on August 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM

My first memory of a child abduction was the boy in New York who disappear walking the block to his school. They never did find him. I think he was the first kid on a mild carton.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Have your kid sit in the navigator’s seat of your suburban assault vehicle, toss him a Thomas Guide, and start the engine. Good times!

Christien on August 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

and wondered what exactly we are teaching children:

This misses both the point, and the left’s agenda (please this is not isolated BS but part of a long planned encroachment of freedom, family and God.

The war is on independence and parenting and the family are the targets of this little game (i.e. weapon)
it merely reinforces the concept that your kids belong somehow to the almighty state and no longer to the Almighty God, shared with their parents and protected through the sacramental moral commitment called marriage.

They are now in the process of cleaning out the last vestiges of authority that is held by any other than themselves and we have eagerly enabled the self-destruction.

Don L on August 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

The only stat I never see is the one about incarceration rates for sex offenders in the past versus today. Seems like you read more about them today, and they’re out with the dumb ineffective ankle monitors. So that’s different. Also different, the “bad areas” of a city have grown while the good ones have shrunk so there is possibly more danger.

PattyJ on August 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Grandpappy Bishop used to send me out for his smokes and firewater with a good kick and a “You better hurry, you little scumbag, or it’s the horsewhip again!”

Those were good times. I miss that old man.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 10:57 AM

My grandfather did the same thing and he would share.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

I would bet there are no more “perverts” now than when I was “unsupervised” as a child.

The only thing different, is the traffic…that’s all, just the traffic.

I spent, and my friends, most of our days unsupervised, roaming the streets playing ball, going to the park without parents…the change is the news, the drama in the news. It’s relentless.

right2bright on August 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM

My kids just had to let me know when they changed locations. If I needed to find them, I wanted to know where to look. We were lucky, my kids grew up in the neighborhood I grew up in and there were plenty of family and old friends to let me know what was going on. That said, I remember with my first that I was a bit ridiculous on when I allowed him to cross the street without me.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM

In my childhood summers (1960s) I was out the door with my buds and GONE until lunch or supper time. Without particularly saying where I was going. Somehow I survived.

I wonder if it really is more dangerous nowadays. I’d like to see some reliable statistics.

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Yep. My parents had a bell, they would open the front door and ring the bell and that was the signal to come home. I’d show up covered in dust and scrapes and brambles, smelling vaguely of woodsmoke, and they wouldn’t even blink, just shove me off to the bath.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 11:16 AM

What I find really interesting is that it happened in Florida, where the cut off age for child care assistance for the working poor is nine years of age! I hope some lawyer points that out at trail.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:01 AM

That is interesting.

Bitter Clinger on August 28, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Are there really more child abductions than 40-50 years ago?

Or is it just hyper media exposure giving us that impression?

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Yep. My parents had a bell, they would open the front door and ring the bell and that was the signal to come home. I’d show up covered in dust and scrapes and brambles, smelling vaguely of woodsmoke, and they wouldn’t even blink, just shove me off to the bath.

Bishop on August 28, 2014 at 11:16 AM

You guys had a bath! Damn! My folks would just hose off me and my siblings and tell us to go back to the tent……

VegasRick on August 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

These are not the days of our childhoods. Things have changed, although I don’t know why. Letting your children play alone at a city park for hours with no one watching out for them IS criminal, or at the least extremely stupid. We should all know better by now.

blackgriffin on August 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

No, they are the same days…just the reporting is incessant…

Missing children have been part of every culture from the beginning of time.

Perverts from the beginning of time, and it’s the same % I imagine from the beginning of time…we just didn’t have highway signs telling us of abduction, 24/7 news “Alert!!”…and it wears down our mind, and makes us afraid.

What statistics do you have showing a larger increase in child abduction…of course the problem is, the stats…like the “increase” in harassment of girls, where pulling hair is sexual harassment now.

right2bright on August 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM

What statistics do you have showing a larger increase in child abduction…of course the problem is, the stats…like the “increase” in harassment of girls, where pulling hair is sexual harassment now.

right2bright on August 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM

When the PC police have told you that most everything your child does, or is done to your child, or you may do or say… is a crime, it gets to the point that you want to hid them and yourself into a closet.

And that’s the power they have and want more of. 24/7 telling you want you can and can’t do.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:24 AM

a generation who has never experienced liberty will not be either willing or able to preserve it.

Missy on August 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Thread winner. Hands down.

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 11:29 AM

When I was four years old in the early 60s, my mom would give me a dime and I’d take my little brother around the block to the ice house to buy candy. The only warning we received was not to cross the major street because there was a sketchy bar there. This was in the middle of San Antonio. I never had any problems until I was 18 and went off to college, and had some bad experiences that turned me into a life-long women’s gun rights activist.

Did I let my pre-schooler son run around like I did? No. By that time no one was letting little kids out on their own. I do see older kids, mostly boys about 9 years and up, exploring our neighborhood on their own, and I think that’s great.

juliesa on August 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

More than anything this summer, these stories have been the ones where I looked up and made me wonder if I were the last sane person left in the country.

K. Hobbit on August 28, 2014 at 11:32 AM

It is this liberty within limits that allows the child to earn and then cherish his freedom, and thereby learning how to use is properly.

The university our son attended didn’t allow freshmen to have cars.

We liked that rule so much we extended it to his sophomore year as well.

It took a while, but he’s forgiven us.

WhirledPeas on August 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

I would bet there are no more “perverts” now than when I was “unsupervised” as a child.

right2bright on August 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM

There might not be any more than before, but more of them feel free to act on it – because our society has said it’s not really your fault, who are we to judge you, and after all you just gotta fly your freak flag.

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

You guys had a bath! Damn! My folks would just hose off me and my siblings and tell us to go back to the tent……

VegasRick on August 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM

You had a TENT?!

My parents wouldn’t even hose us off, we’d just get dirty again wriggling under the house to sleep. Wimps.

Tard on August 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 11:33 AM

I agree with that and I think it is only going to get worse. We have gone from “If it feels good, do it” to it being a right to show some child their right to sexual pleasure.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

It is even worse now. I used to ride my bike all over the neighborhood when I was seven/ eight years old and this was the late eighties and early nineties.

Illinidiva on August 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

You had a TENT?!

My parents wouldn’t even hose us off, we’d just get dirty again wriggling under the house to sleep. Wimps.

Tard on August 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

My toys were a rock and a stick and if I misbehaved my dad would take away the stick…………….

VegasRick on August 28, 2014 at 11:37 AM

When I was growing up, we were allowed the freedom to play in our immediate neighborhood without having to tell Mama and Daddy where we were going to be every minute of the day. If we went outside our immediate neighborhood, then we had to give them phone numbers, call them when we got there, call them when we left…basic safety precautions.

My kids were allowed to do the same.

But for my grandchildren, it’s a different world. For whatever their reasons, my children are far more protective and place much stricter limitations on their children than they had faced as a child. To the point of being excessive sometimes.

Whether I like it or not, I do have to respect that as being their choice in how they raise their kids.

lineholder on August 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM

I wonder how many of these helicopter parents that won’t let kids out of their sight outside leave them to wander the internet and cable tv unattended?

tj4osu on August 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Are there really more child abductions than 40-50 years ago?

Or is it just hyper media exposure giving us that impression?

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Child abductions are up but about 98% of them are committed by the non-custodial parent. Only a couple hundred kids per year (out of millions) are abducted by strangers. However, nobody wants to be the parent of one of those, present company included.

Occams Stubble on August 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

A ROCK AND A STICK?!?!

Holy crap, you guys were rich.

Tard on August 28, 2014 at 11:40 AM

But for my grandchildren, it’s a different world. For whatever their reasons, my children are far more protective and place much stricter limitations on their children than they had faced as a child. To the point of being excessive sometimes.

Whether I like it or not, I do have to respect that as being their choice in how they raise their kids.

lineholder on August 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Maybe not directly in regards to your grandchildren and children, but I find that my two step-daughters where brought up on an unhealthy diet of internet and DVD’s.

They don’t know how to properly socialize, or look out for themselves. They had a sheltered virtual world, where friends were someone they text and typed with, and things like parties, and dating and other social activities were few and far between.

And there mother is now very protective of them, and they both are in their 20′s.

A generation from now, this is a the only world that children and young adults will know. And that’s when the control will be complete.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

I don’t know…different children act differently under different circumstances. The constant watching and nurturing will instill some with self-confidence and self-worth. Others will chafe under strict supervision and do whatever they can to resist authority. And some will be self-confident rebels.

The prisonhood premise also seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom on older/younger siblings. You would assume mothers would be more cautious with their first born because, lacking parenting experience, they’d be more hesitant to let their child run free. Yet it is the first born that traditionally displays more leadership skills.

I realize there’s a lot more to say about sibling order. But the point is, How much of a difference does it make whether your kid is helicoptered or not, and is the effect at all predictable?

bobs1196 on August 28, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Occams Stubble on August 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

I hadn’t thought about that. How said that kids are being over protected from their own parents.

Cindy Munford on August 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM

A ROCK AND A STICK?!?!

Holy crap, you guys were rich.

Tard on August 28, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Well, I did have a paper cup with some dirt in it so…….yea, I guess I was one of the lucky ones……….

VegasRick on August 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Like so many others here – I grew up in the late 60s/early 70s. Rode my bike everywhere with one or 2 of my friends; we even crossed an extremely busy 4-lane road that was notorious for accidents and deaths. The only reason I didn’t walk to school was because of that road. Stayed out from morning until either I was called to dinner or the street lights came on. Ventured further away from the core neighborhood with each passing year; when I got a watch and was told “be home by 5:00pm for dinner” I knew I was growing up.

Helicopter parents are the WORST thing to happen to kids on the last 20 years. To the point where a beloved teacher in our town was killed by one, right in front of school, this past March. Instead of letting her child ride the school bus, that her taxes pay for, a mother insisted on driving her child to school every day. Special drop off lanes created, naturally. And this mother got confused one morning, realized she was in the wrong lane and just – backed up. Even has the fancy SUV with the back-up camera inside the car – she never looked at it (but that could be because she was nearly drunk, at nearly 3x the legal limit). She hit the teacher, throwing the poor woman 10 feet, landing on her head. The teacher lingered for 2 weeks before the family took her off life support. This teacher died – killed by a drunk driver who had no business being at the school except that she couldn’t allow her “precious child” to get on a bus and take care of himself.

KrisinNE on August 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

I wonder how many of these helicopter parents that won’t let kids out of their sight outside leave them to wander the internet and cable tv unattended?

tj4osu on August 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM

^^^^^
This!

There is far more damage from kids unsupervised social media interactions than there ever was from unsupervised outdoor play.

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

I grew up in a small town of about 6,000 25 miles outside of Louisville KY. In the summer on most days, my mother would drop the three of us off at the public swimming pool. This started when I was age 7, my brother was 6 and my sister was 5. We were each given enough money to buy a morning snack, lunch and an afternoon snack. Mom would drop us off about 8am and we would have to wait for the pool to open at 8:30 and mom would pick us up about 5:30 to 6pm. Some days I wouldn’t go to the pool, I stay home or more often ride my bike to a friends house. It was no telling where we would go from there, we might ride our bikes (no helmets or pads) anywhere in town or sometimes out of town into the country to play in creeks.
Restrictions, were don’t get cars with strangers and be home for dinner. When I was 9, I started playing Little League Baseball, and I rode my bike to all practices and games. When I was 14, I got a work permit and spent most of my summer working so I could purchase a Honda Trail 70, a Mossberg 12ga pump shotgun and a Remington semi-auto 22LR. At age 16, in 1973 I had a year round part time job and did extra jobs in the summer. I purchased on my own a 1970 Mercury Montego with a Cleveland 351 and even paid my own insurance. By that time I was rarely ever home except to eat and sleep. I was more independent than most, but have always enjoyed it. Both may parents worked, together they ran the local Newspaper and they often worked 12 hour or more days. I never did get into much trouble, but I always been very good at not getting caught.

Wallythedog on August 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM

we stopped locking mental patients away, started coddling prisoners and lawbreakers and really pressed upon people that they need to depend on others for protection.
this is the end result, decaying society.

dmacleo on August 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM

There is far more damage from kids unsupervised social media interactions than there ever was from unsupervised outdoor play.

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

I agree. But even those obvious dangers aside, I am seeing children and young adults who can’t function in a face-to-face social situation because they have spent too many hours in virtual space.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM

We have lost our flippen’ minds. Let kids roam the range.

NotCoach on August 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

I am seeing children and young adults who can’t function in a face-to-face social situation because they have spent too many hours in virtual space.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM

What part of that isn’t damage? Duh!

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 12:02 PM

right2bright on August 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM

No, I disagree. Something HAS changed and things ARE more dangerous. I don’t just pay very, very close attention to my kids and their friends and their friends’ parents, I want my daughter and son to be able to defend themselves when I or my husband can’t be there. My kids have been taking martial arts for the last three years. Their computers and tablets, really, all their electronics, have software installed called “Net Nanny.” We have Netflix, which shows what anyone has been watching and it can’t be deleted. We have had “the talk” and I was thorough on the garbage calling itself human running around the world these days. We plan to take them to the gun range for lessons soon,, now that they’re teens. We have a sex offender, a child rapist, living less than a block from us. We have several more just a few minutes’ drive away and we live in a tiny town of about 2000. We have HUNDREDS in our county and that’s just counting the ones who’ve been caught. We have homeless meth heads living under a bridge a quarter mile from our home. We have more living 3/4 miles away up the road from us. My neighbor’s house has been broken into three times by meth heads looking for something to sell and we live in a quiet, rural neighborhood just outside city limits. Whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not, this world is a lot more dangerous now. As I said in my earlier post, I don’t know why, but I don’t need a bunch of statistics to know it. I can see it for myself right outside my home, I can read the local news rags and I can watch the news. Leaving a child alone at a park is criminally negligent these days. Anyone who says differently, I believe, is either not being honest or not paying attention.

blackgriffin on August 28, 2014 at 12:03 PM

What part of that isn’t damage? Duh!

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 12:02 PM

I’m agreeing with you and added a coda. Are you now arguing for the sake of arguing?

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 12:03 PM

We have lost our flippen’ minds. Let kids roam the range.

NotCoach on August 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Yep. Makes for better more well prepared individuals in my opinion.

Bmore on August 28, 2014 at 12:08 PM

You will raise robotic, narcissistic, uncoordinated, perverted, histrionic, little sociopath liberal kids….or else.

Afterseven on August 28, 2014 at 12:12 PM

I’m agreeing with you and added a coda. Are you now arguing for the sake of arguing?

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Not at all. The amount of damage from online predators is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage of social media.

It’s far worse than most here realize.

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM

My grandfather did the same thing and he would share.

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Same here. Didn’t care much for those Chesterfields he smoked, but the beer was good.

CurtZHP on August 28, 2014 at 12:19 PM

If a woman had her 8-year old son do that now, she’d have CNN cameras in her breakfast nook and would probably end up in prison.

Mr. D on August 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM

It’s a shame, huh?
The question is how did this happen? Was it our generation, the very one that grew up with some independence that made independence a crime?

freedomfirst on August 28, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Not at all. The amount of damage from online predators is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage of social media.

It’s far worse than most here realize.

UnstChem on August 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Gotcha now. Wow… we totally agree. That makes me uncomfortable. Want to go back to the feminist thread and argue more :)

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

I was a kid in the 90s and my sister and I would ride our bikes all over the place, both when we lived in a medium sized town and when we lived in a medium sized city. My mom knew where we were going and when we were expected back. Neither of us were allowed to go anywhere alone, but a group of kids was fine.

The thing with the criminalization of letting your kid play unsupervised is that we’ve traded “shouldn’t” for “can’t under the force of law”. I might disagree with the decision to let your 9 year old play in a public park all day. I might not make the same decision. But I find it chilling that it is ILLEGAL and making a rational non-negligent choice to do so results in ARREST AND TAKING YOUR KIDS AWAY. I believe in my state it is illegal to allow my 7 year old to wait in the car while I run into a gas station to pay (in one of those stories the age you’re allowed to leave your child unattended is 12). That is a judgment call I should be able to make based on the errand and maturity of my child. Many 7 year olds can be trusted alone in a car for 5 minutes. Some 13 year olds can’t.

But the point is we have taken away the ability to judge and make our own parenting choices and instead have made it ILLEGAL to do these things.

If you want to helicopter parent then go ahead. But I am being FORCED to under threat of taking my kids away. My problem isn’t the cultural shift, but the legal shift.

MC88 on August 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Walter L. Newton on August 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Maybe. Maybe not. Generations usually rebel against points that were too strict in their upbringing, and I think there’s a chance this could alter the tide somewhat. We’ll have to wait and see.

lineholder on August 28, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Dean Corll- at least 28 underage victims
John Gacy- at least 33 underage victims

Both cases were in early-mid 1970′s. Heard about anything on that scale lately?

I will only believe it’s getting worse if I see some validated statistics.

Bat Chain Puller on August 28, 2014 at 12:35 PM

“This wasn’t in the “good old days” of yore, either, but in the early 1970s, when crime was escalating and social unrest was rampant.”

In Minnesota, Ed? Grew up/lived in south Mpls from the 60s to early 80s. While there was crime, of course, it wasn’t a terribly dangerous place to live. There were then (as there are now) places you don’t stroll around in if you’re white and not packing, but every metro area has had those spots for a long time.

whatcat on August 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

We were literally free range.

I was 10 and my sister was 11. We went horse back riding with the girl that lived across the street into the mountains above Laramie. Were about 3 hours out when our friend fell off her horse and broke her arm. My sister rode back for help while my I stayed with our friend.
About five minutes after my sister left, she reappeared with a four drive vehicle behind her. It was our next door neighbor, just out for a drive.

Life in a small town.

MichaelGabriel on August 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

A lot of people talk about how they used to walk to the store for candy or to pick things up for their parents. I grew up in the 80′s and I used to do the same thing. Back then we lived in communities that were closer to town, along with all of the other nuclear families who were just like us. Now we’re living way outside of town in a safe little suburb. The closest store is 6 miles away. Too far to walk and not safe for riding a bicycle.

We had to move far out into the suburbs to feel safe. When our two oldest were still babies we moved out of our “in town” neighborhood because it was going downhill fast. Graffiti and general vandalism were on the rise. More shady people could be seen around the neighborhood and the areas outside the neighborhood. It just wasn’t the same as the in town neighborhoods I grew up in. We can give our kids the same degree of freedom to run around the vicinity of the house now, but there’s just not as much to do. So, yeah, from my observation things are different than they were back in my youth.

GAbred on August 28, 2014 at 12:45 PM

except that she couldn’t allow her “precious child” to get on a bus and take care of himself.

KrisinNE on August 28, 2014 at 11:48 AM

We have horrific traffic on school mornings where I live because of all the folks who drive their children a mile to school (then drive right back home, still in their pajamas).

The thing with the criminalization of letting your kid play unsupervised is that we’ve traded “shouldn’t” for “can’t under the force of law”..

MC88 on August 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Well said!

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 12:50 PM

FWIW: This guy was stalking the area immediately surrounding my neighborhood when I was 10 years old. Despite the publicity of the case and the scare, parents still let their kids run around and play. We were just told, “Don’t talk to strangers and if a car slows down close to you RUN!” Maybe we Gen X parents are irrationally protective. I don’t really know why.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Joubert_(criminal)

GAbred on August 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM

In Minnesota, Ed?

whatcat on August 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Did you read the post? He grew up in LA.

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM

“It’s a different world out there today. It’s not like when I was growing up, and we’d all play in an apple orchard and we were safe. Today, you just don’t know who’s out there,”

That’s why it’s your job to teach your children:
a) Not everyone is their friend
b) All adults are not safe
c) Don’t go with a stranger (even when they say you sent them)
d) Don’t accept anything (candy, toys) from a stranger
e) Don’t talk to strangers
f) If someone persists, tell a policeman or other trusted adult
g) If someone tries to take you – yell, kick, punch, bite as strong as you can for as long as you can – hopefully someone will respond

It happened to me as I was walking to the movie theater. Some guy wanted me to go with him and he would “take pictures” of me wearing cowboy gear. What did I do? Told him no. Flagged down a policeman and pointed him out. Last I saw, the policeman had him by the scruff of his neck.

Mitoch55 on August 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

It’s called “responsibility” and “accountability” – traits we learned from our parents.

My grandparents actually sent me to the grocery store for them (it was three blocks away – my parents had to drive about two miles for a grocery(. I had to cross a four-lane street with additional lanes for parking on each side. There were no “walk/don’t walk” signals. I’m alive, a long time later.

AND, at age six, I was riding my bike along dirt paths in a park with lakes, a creek and waterfalls. Though today, no – it’s no longer as safe. I spent hours riding dirt paths, by myself. It was my way to escape. I did so many things by myself – never got in trouble or hurt.

We’ve raised parents not only to spoil children but to prevent them from trying things, experimenting. I let my GKs walk on stone/brick walls in our development. They LOVE it. And, it helps their balance and establishes real self-confidence and awareness. One of the moms won’t let them. They say, “Grandma lets us.” Mom still doesn’t, but with me, they do. (OK, with the youngest I’m right below them should they fall) but you know, they learn how to push themselves. Wow!

I could go on but I really feel sorry for kids today – so many are so protected – just kills initiative.

MN J on August 28, 2014 at 1:47 PM

As a parent of 3 kids this is something I can tell you parents do struggle with constantly, worrying about our kids getting enough independent experiences in life in ways deemed safe enough for society today. I don’t really have the answers but I can tell you that we know, we want our kids to have more experiences like we did growing up, but were are not sure how. A few thoughts..

Many of the commenters here seem to think we are mostly worried about adult abductors. Me, not so much, I’m more worried about bad influences from kids around their own age, sexually, law breaking, violence, etc. A resultnof the social fabric being broken is that you hardly ever trust your kids are playing with kids that come from famikies that share your values, etc. We were afforded a lot of freedom but I know we did take advantage of that and by 12 was playing truth or dare and French kissing which is pretty innocent but I was lucky, do you think we’d give our kids the same freedom nowadays?

This goes hand in hand with the decrease of discipline like spanking. When your kids are not afraid of consequences you tend to have to watch them constantly.

That and the point often made we don’t live in communities made up of stay at home moms that all know each other where someone you know is usually within distance of seeing your kid wherever they are.

I’m just saying that we know this and its harder but we are trying to give them experiences they need to become competent adults. But it is something I think and worry about a lot.

There are upsides too, good parents are way more involved in their kids lives which can be positive. I had a lot of issues because my dad really hardly knew me at all although I grew up in a picture perfect home. My husband is a much better dad.

rose-of-sharon on August 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM

When I was a preteen, the fifties (yah I know I’m old live with it) We or I would go out to play in the morning, whatever house we were at at lunch the Mom would feed us, and We or I would not get home till dinner time. Don’t know if Mom worried, didn’t seem to, but that was what happened every summer day when we lived just outside of Boston and when we moved, I was 7, to Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles. Good Times.

“Penn and Teller” had a show, still available on demand I think, called “Bullshit!” one of the episodes was called “Stranger Danger” (8/7/08 S6E8) the name of the Series says it all.

1791 on August 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM

We’ve been scared by all the crime and cop TV shows. They make you think there’s a psycopath behind every tree. I’m more worried about bears and mt lions because I know they could be behind any tree.

Kissmygrits on August 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

How closely should parents watch their children, and should it be a crime to allow them some independence?
========================================

I can remember, being in grades four,five,.jumping
on my banana seated, hi-handle barred Sears Spyder 1
bike,

and taking off early in the morning, on weekends or
summer school break and meeting up with school buddies,
and heading gawd only knows where, and returning in the
early evening,

and caught hell from my parents for being gone for the
day, which was a weekend ritual, unless my parents had
something planned!

Never thought of danger, but, was always aware of my
surroundings!!

However now, as a grandfather, I keep a keen eye on my
grandsons, as I did with my own kids, as they grew up!!!

canopfor on August 28, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Violent crime is at historic lows. Murders, rapes, abductions, etc. are all way way down since the 1970s and 1980s. All the evidence says that things have never been safer for the average kid.

As others have said, it is the relentless news cycle that drives fear. A child gets abducted 10 states away. That type of tragic event has happened probably since the dawn of time. Now, networks will blast it with 24/7 news coverage for several days running until everyone is convinced that a wave of abductions is about to start in their own neighborhood.

AngusMc on August 28, 2014 at 2:26 PM

I really believe that we hear about ALL the abductions, killings, etc., instead of just our own town or state. I don’t think there are any MORE per capita, but it’s the 24/7 media that allows us to hear about so many.

Growing up in the late 60′s/early 70′s, during the Summer, we were out all day – no one thought anything of it.

Instead of most kids being taught to be aware of their surroundings, knowing how to protect themselves and what to do in an abduction, etc., they are being made afraid to go outside and be children. Turned into paranoid freaks who need someone to take care of them their entire life.

Julia??

Pajama Boy??

Just one more step in the downfall of America…

HilliardPatriot on August 28, 2014 at 2:27 PM

While I get the fears of the parents raising their kids now, there are still things you can do to give them independence, even if you sex offenders living right down the street like we do. Have them ride the bus. After all, they are supervised, and they have to learn to deal with the bullies and the hierarchies of kids that ride. Get a house with some acres in the back, and let them roam that space, unsupervised. Still send them to the store, but with a friend or two. Send them to the park, but have them bring your big old dog. It can still be done.

Kristamatic on August 28, 2014 at 4:16 PM

In Minnesota, Ed?

whatcat on August 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Did you read the post? He grew up in LA.

GWB on August 28, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Doh! I completely glazed over that with my presumption that Ed was raised, if not born, a Minnesotan.
Well, then that explains a few things, heh.

Thanx for the heads up.

whatcat on August 28, 2014 at 4:21 PM

“Parent” is a verb.

It doesn’t mean substitute, replace, abdicate, or abandon, but it is a verb.

EdmundBurke247 on August 28, 2014 at 5:06 PM

I’m glad I’m on my way out.

vnvet on August 28, 2014 at 5:21 PM

I don’t know where that photo came from, but who pitches a tent on a rock pile?

disa on August 28, 2014 at 5:53 PM

we stopped locking mental patients away, started coddling prisoners and lawbreakers and really pressed upon people that they need to depend on others for protection.
this is the end result, decaying society.

dmacleo on August 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Locking up mental patients and prisoners cost a lot of money.

Just saying.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 28, 2014 at 11:24 PM

Locking up mental patients and prisoners cost a lot of money.

Just saying.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 28, 2014 at 11:24 PM

Neither of them are halfway around the world like a bunch of other supposed immediate threats to our existence.

Just saying.

LawfulGood on August 29, 2014 at 9:51 AM