507: Unsupervised

Do you or would you let a kid run around your neighborhood unsupervised? At what age do you think that would be “OK”?


Full episode script

On May 8, the state of Utah will become the first in the nation to have a quote-unquote free range parenting law on the books. It’s a law that specifically protects parents who choose to allow their children to engage in independent activities unsupervised, as long as the children are not being neglected. Specifically, a concerned passer-by reporting unsupervised children to child welfare would not, in and of itself, warrant an investigation.

Quoting from Desert News:

While [this] bill had unanimous support in the Utah Legislature, it might have run into opposition in states where parents have run afoul of local child welfare agencies because they let their kids engage in such activities as walking or playing unsupervised. In Maryland, for example, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were mired in a child welfare investigations after letting their children, 10 and 6, walk a mile home from a park and another adult called police. Texas author Kari Anne Roy endured a monthlong probe for letting her son, 6, play on a bench 150 feet away but visible from her porch, sparking complaints from a neighbor.

Not all states have laws specifically laying out the age at which a child can be left alone at home or in a car, but many do. Those ages rage between 6 and 12 years.

Quoting further from the Deseret News article:

And the point that people worry that just being alone makes children vulnerable was driven home further when a similar bill hit a wall in Arkansas a year ago. The bill sailed through the Arkansas Senate, but died after someone in a House committee hearing said it takes just 37 seconds to steal a child. While no documentation was offered to back that assertion, the bill died.

The social fear of the worst-case scenario is strong — and when you have experienced something bad or had family experience bad things, you’re more likely to expect that bad things will happen again. This catastrophic thinking can fly in the face of the statistics that crime – especially stranger-crime against children — has gone down consistently for decades. But it’s still very different when the children are yours or your family.  

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.