Utah Legislature passes free range parenting bill

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ASPartOfMe
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28 Feb 2018, 1:32 pm

Free-range kids: Finally, one state lets kids grow up without helicopter parents

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If Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs a bill that recently passed both houses of the Utah legislature unanimously, parents in his state will not have to worry about getting arrested for letting their kids play outside or walk to school.

Which, of course, no parents should have to worry about in any state. But they do ... in part because of me.

Utah's so-called Free-Range Kids Law is named for the movement I began 10 years ago, when I let my 9-year-old ride the subway alone. I wrote a column about it in the New York Sun (R.I.P.) and two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC, Fox News and NPR being asked why I'd let my son do something on his own in the big, wide, child-snatching world.

I launched the Free-Range Kids blog that weekend to explain that I love safety, I just don't think our kids need a security detail every time they leave home. That's when I started hearing from other parents who felt the same way, had allowed their kids go outside on their own — and ended up being investigated by the cops or child protective services.

Outraged by these stories, I publicized them: South Carolina mom Debra Harrell thrown in jail for letting her 9-year-old play at the park while she worked at McDonald's; the Meitivs of Maryland investigated twice for letting their 10 and 6-year-olds walk home from the playground; Maria Hasankolli handcuffed for oversleeping while her 8-year-old stepson missed the bus and walked himself to school. There were many more. But all my sharing unintentionally ignited a new fear in parents: "Free-Range" your kids and you could get arrested.

Clearly, the laws needed to be clarified. Giving our kids an old-fashioned childhood is not negligence. It should never be considered that. I

The Arkansas legislature was the first state to vote on this bill a year ago. It sailed through the Senate but hit a wall in the House, stymied by the all-too-familiar fear: What if a child gets kidnapped? The specter of this rarest of crimes (people are more likely to be hit by lightning than be kidnapped) was enough to trigger the backlash.

Ironically, crime-wise, kids today are safer than when their parents were growing up and zooming around (helmet-free) on bikes. The crime rate today is back to what it was in about 1967. And it's not down because we "helicopter" kids — crime against adults is down too and we don't helicopter them. It just doesn't feel as safe today, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and all the other likely suspects: A litigious culture. Safety-obsessed society. An industry that has given us little teddy bear monitors you can clip on your kid that start beeping if they stray from your side.

The danger in seeing only danger is that our kids are not getting the kind of independence they need to thrive. Growing up hyper-supervised may even explain why young people get to college and feel threatened by free speech. Up to that point there was always an adult on hand to make sure they felt comfortable and safe. It's possible young people got so used to being overprotected that they began to demand it.


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CockneyRebel
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01 Mar 2018, 4:48 pm

It's about time. I hope this spreads throughout North America.


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Sweetleaf
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01 Mar 2018, 5:15 pm

I would agree that it is excessive for a parent to get in legal trouble if their child walks home for a playground or is unattended for any amount of time. That is pretty stupid so I would support challenging any laws that make such a thing a crime. However It kind of seems the author of this article is using this issue for the agenda of right wing rhetoric. When I was growing up sure, some kids had over-protective parents but it wasn't the kind of epidemic the author here tries to make it out to be. Also I think 'college students are afraid of free speech' is really simplifying things a lot.



AspieUtah
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01 Mar 2018, 5:21 pm

Free-range in Utah can be iffy. We have crowded urban cities surrounding by miles and miles of sagebrush, mountains, rivers, ghost towns, caves, abandoned mines, and state and national parks where, if you don't watch your step, you might experience a quick trip to the bottom of a rocky canyon ... or lost. This isn't even mentioning the country critters that abound.

The sheer size of Utah confuses a lot of people. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first Sherlock Holmes novel, it involved descriptions of people and places in the state. When he described in one chapter that his characters decided to evade others by running to the "nearby" Oquirrh Mountains, he learned a hard lesson about open-space distances. During a visit to Salt Lake City many years later, Doyle admitted that he hadn't researched the distance of the mountains from the city. In fact, it would take about eight hours to walk/run to hide within their canyons.

So yes, despite my allusion to my hometown, I believe parents should be the best parents they can be without many expectations from the government. The alternative would be Orwellian.


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ASPartOfMe
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01 Mar 2018, 7:23 pm

While I agree with her that overprotective and coddling parenting is one reason for the lesser acceptence of free expression it is not the only one. The convenience of invasive technology and the dropping of teaching civics are probably the most important ones.

Comparing how my nieces and nephews and thier peers were brought up compared to how me and my peers were brought up it does seem I was brought up on a different planet.

There are a lot of things from the 60’s and 70’s I am glad are long gone but overall I think kids have it worse today.


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kraftiekortie
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03 Mar 2018, 8:13 am

I used to travel the subways alone from the time I was 8.

I spent the whole day from like 9 AM to sunset outside playing (weekends).

No cell phones. I wasn’t monitored.

I feel parents should be able to keep track of kids—but in an unobtrusive manner. Kids should be able to use their cell phones in an emergency.

I believe in the “free range” idea.