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The world is safer than you think

March 6, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
The best way to raise kids who are scared of their own shadow and afraid to take any initiative is to convince them that there is a bogeyman around every corner.

That's the way far too many youngsters are being raised these days, judging from posts at the blog ( One recent posting by the frustrated father of a 6-year-old girl described how his independent child was detained by police because she was walking alone,without supervision, a few blocks away to her local store. The girl knows her name, her parents' names and her phone number. She knows her small neighborhood and the town is safe.

Her parents have been letting her map out short expeditions by herself around the neighborhood, first with supervision and then without. The father knew where she was going and called the store to see whether she had arrived safely. It was then that the store manager informed him that his daughter was with the police.

A few months before that, little "Emily" was detained by police for crossing the street by herself. The father is expecting a visit from Child Protective Services. He writes that his community has no laws regarding the minimum age a child can be unsupervised and points out that in earlier generations it was common for 6-year-olds to play outside unsupervised.

Now it apparently warrants a call to CPS.

I don't know that I'd have been comfortable letting a 6-year-old walk to the store by herself, but I don't know that it qualifies as child neglect either. Believe it or not, child abuse and crime rates have declined dramatically in the past couple of decades. Little Emily is probably safer alone in her neighborhood than she would have been in the 1970s or 1980s.

The reason why we see kidnappers around every corner is probably our 24/7 media, which exhaustively covers every tragic event involving small children, particularly middle class white girls like Emily. The chances of a kid being kidnapped or harmed by a stranger are actually minuscule.

Free Range Kids had an earlier blog post about the responses of schools to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Some of the safety measures sound like they have been taken by hysterics and are not likely to be effective in the unlikely event that another such tragedy strikes. One school no longer permits parents to come into the building to pick up their children after school. Instead, teachers at the school must take the children out to their parents' cars, one by one, and check them out by hand.

Another school requires that parents have an escort in the school at all times. Several schools have implemented increased security, ironically exactly like the above average security system that was breached at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a school or the world perfectly safe. All that can be done is to prepare children to live in it, not to terrify them. I would encourage parents to take a look at


Article Comments



Mar-18-13 11:19 AM

B&R... I had a good childhood full of work and play and that is what I hope for all kids. I say guilt because people have let so many of the most important things in their lives become the responsibility of someone else.


Mar-17-13 1:40 PM


Exactly!! So why the "I think maybe all this fear in people is just their own guilt for not being there to raise their own babies."? There are countless variables and factors. Maybe you have some guilt?


Mar-16-13 9:07 AM

B&R... There are hundreds of potential factors, both physical and emotional, which can influence the mother-child bonding process.


Mar-15-13 8:45 AM

@EarlyBird I know what maternal instincts or as you put it "The maternal bond (or motherly bond)" is. The question was not what it is, but who's more maternal? Is a working mom less maternal than a stay at home mom? Is a stay at home mom who home schools more maternal than a stay at home mom who sends her kids to public school? You say women feel guilt for not being there to raise their babies. I think the mother who spent 24 hours a day with their child worries about their childs safety, probably more so than a mother who doesn't...IMHO


Mar-13-13 9:34 AM

Hi BornandRaised, "The maternal bond (or motherly bond) is typically the relationship between a mother and her child.

While it typically occurs due to pregnancy and childbirth, it may also occur between a woman and an unrelated child, such as in adoption. There are hundreds of potential factors, both physical and emotional, which can influence the mother-child bonding process.

Many new mothers do not always experience the "instantly-in-mother-love" emotions. Bonding is a gradually unfolding experience that can take hours, days, weeks, or even months to develop." I agree with you my opinions are usually over reaching and not politically correct ever.


Mar-13-13 8:02 AM


So in your opinion, a stay at home mom has more/better maternal instincts than a working mom? Does a stay at home mom who sends her kids to a public school have less maternal instincts than a stay at home mom who homeschools? What about the stay at home mom who believes in co-sleeping with her children till, let's say in their teens? Is she more "maternal" than the mom who has kids who slept by themselves since infancy? I think your opinion is a bit over-reaching to say the least.


Mar-12-13 8:51 AM

@Bornandraised, the time frame is from when maternity leave ends to graduation. From what I see most Moms are back to work in two months or less, maternal instinct has dwindled to nearly nothing it seems.


Mar-11-13 9:24 PM


Huh? Please connect the dots for me. What would be the baseline "being there to raise their own babies." time?


Mar-11-13 10:00 AM

I think maybe all this fear in people is just their own guilt for not being there to raise their own babies.


Mar-10-13 8:04 PM

This is my worst fear!(CNN) -- More than 30 years ago, 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished from a Manhattan street on his way to a school bus stop. His parents never saw him again. I, as a parent, realize that there are no 100% guarantees in life. I can't keep my kids 100% safe 100% of the time. I also refuse to lock them in their room or the basement and play video games because it's "safe". But to live with the guilt of sending your child out to never be seen again. Too much to bear!!


Mar-08-13 11:54 AM

-- Continued -- Her child got lost and had to ask for directions, but the mother trusted that most of the adults on the subway were more likely than not decent people who would help her child and not hurt him. They did help, her son got home safely and he was, in her phrase, "ecstatic with independence." When she wrote about it, a number of people called her "the worst mother in the world." I think that kind of response is silly and she sounds like quite a good mother.

The point of this is to take relatively safe, calculated risks to prepare a kid to assume more independence. These parents prepared their children first, knew where they were and what they would be doing and how long it should take them to reach their destination. Following your kid in the car while she walks to school for the first time is probably a good example of that approach.


Mar-08-13 11:50 AM

There has always been crime and dangerous people lurking about, in every age. Our age is not any more dangerous -- in fact it is less so -- than when I grew up or when my mother was growing up. In fact it is less dangerous when you look at crime and child abuse reporting nationwide. Both have declined quite dramatically since the 1980s. People THINK it is worse because of alarmist TV news coverage and a steady diet of violent TV shows.

Would I let a 6-year-old walk anywhere unsupervised? Probably not, but that's a personal judgment call. This father seemingly prepared his daughter well beforehand and also called to check on whether she'd arrived safely at her destination. He didn't simply turn her loose. Another mother on this Free Range Kids site turned her 9-year-old son loose with a map, some money, her phone number and let him ride the New York City subway alone to get home. She knew the route the kid was taking, the usual passengers (mainly business commuters).


Mar-08-13 9:16 AM

I let my daughter walk to school, which was 7 blocks away, at the end of second grade. I allowed her to do this "by herself". What she didn't know was that I followed a half a block behind every day and met her half way without her knowledge at the end of the day for the rest of that year. She felt independance and I had piece of mind. By third grade, she had someone to walk with. I definitely think 6 years old is too young to walk anywhere by yourself and in this day and age, no matter what small town you live in, it really isn't safe, Andrea. There are predators and many stories of children going missing in supposedly safe small towns all across the country. Is CPS warranted? I don't think so. Should this parent re-think his strategy? Absolutely.


Mar-08-13 7:21 AM

Guilt is the breeding ground of suspicion.


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