Poll: most Americans want to make it a crime for children to play without supervision



I thought the term “helicopter parent” was a pejorative, not the correct description for the behavior of the majority.


Lock everyone up just to be on the safe side… and to provide corporate America with the workforce they desire… by everyone, I, of course mean, everyone below a certain income bracket.


Please let this be satire or this study somehow be deeply flawed.


I wonder if this is more due to “stranger danger” or if it’s people who are annoyed that rugrats are ruining their park experience? Unsupervised kids can be little shitheads to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it should be a crime to not hover over them until they’re teenagers.

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I read this earlier, and found a link to an article by a woman who was threatened with prosecution for leaving her child unattended for five minutes (in a car, with adequate ventilation). It included this interesting quote from Lenore Skenazy:

There’s some risk no matter what you do. So why is one choice illegal and one is OK? Could it be because the one choice inconveniences you, makes your life a little harder, makes parenting a little harder, gives you a little less time or energy than you would have otherwise had?

The comments thread, much like that poll, suggests that many people have internalized standards for parental supervision of children that seem to me insane, and impossible to maintain. People wonder how it is that there’s so little resistance to worsening social conditions. If a majority of adults are afraid of the consequences of leaving a child alone for even a few minutes, how can they find the time and energy to fight for their own rights and for their future?


While I don’t think there needs to be a law enacted, I do think it’s probably not a good idea to allow children nine and under to play at a park unsupervised. I’m not afraid of them being snatched by strangers or anything, but I know from experience that kids can get into trouble, and need a parent’s help. For example, my youngest has a tendency to become stuck in playground equipment. So, while criminalizing this is overreach, I don’t think the underlying idea is horribly wrong.

We have to help them find the time. There is so much in our society that distracts us from working on this ultimately single most important piece of, I would argue, human existence.

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What makes this hard to fight against is the fact that somewhere some kid is going to die because he wasn’t supervised. The phrase “if this prevents even a single death, it will be worth it” will come up, and you’ll be forced to argue the value of millions of parent-hours of time versus the life of a child. Not to mention training a generation of kids to be independent and learning how to discover things on their own.


One aspect of running around without supervision as children – as experienced by preceding generations – is that the group of children would be mixed ages, so if trouble was encountered, there would be at least one or two slightly more experienced people to deal with the problem and at least one or two additional children able to run for help.

Also, there would usually be adults (cleaning the house, grandparents, etc.) close at hand.

There are a lot of factors which go into childhood being very different these days.


Sure, special needs are different.

But a baseline kids at nine is in grade 3 or 4 and should be perfectly capable to manage a short trip to school on their own, like 2 or 3 km by bike or public transport.

Grade 1 may need some supervision on their way to school, but the nearby park should pose no problem.

If there are problems, other adults can help, too. And usually do.


[quote] …despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that."

Well, sure.
But look at how well they turned out. :stuck_out_tongue:


It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not follow the hovering trend to some extent because of, essentially, peer pressure. One of my biggest source of stress and frustration as a parent is the social expectations attached to parenting. Once you have a kid, you enter this sphere where you have to interact and contend with a barrage of opinions and judgement.
If I allow my four year old to play by herself around our yard, my nagging concern is not that she will get snatched or gruesomely injured, it’s that the neighbourhood will declare me neglectful.

I know parents who had CPS called on them because their house was messy. It wasn’t squalid or full of garbage; it was messy from having 5 children in it. Nothing came out of it, fortunately, but if child protective services showed up at my door because someone had reported my laundry pile, I would be extremely disturbed. It’s like having a child gives the whole world carte blanche to tell you how to run your entire life.


And that’s the hard part, that the discussion is framed as being for the benefit of the child, but my observations and experiences with helicopter parenting is that it is not really about the child, its about the parent “feeling” safer in the best of cases and about trying to appear to play out a twisted idea of what a “good” parent is in the worst cases.
The child is just the vehicle for the parent getting what they want, a feeling of security or a feeling of superiority, but that’s not what they argue.

So you can’t win the argument because one side is not honest. (Sure some people might be honest about it, but its usually people without children in my experience).

Maybe its about time to re frame the argument in a different manner. Maybe it would be best to argue for the emotional harm that may come to children who are not allowed to learn self sufficiency in a healthy manner.

I don’t know the answer, there are surely better arguments, but you’re right, fighting under the current conditions is pretty much hopeless.


Playing unsupervised is not going to be something that every child is prepared to do at the same age. In fact, there are some adults I’m not sure are ready to do that. It’s a judgment call on the part of the parent when their child is ready for that level of responsibility for themselves. Part of the job of parenting is to be responsible for making that call.

In my opinion, neither saying “Parents, you must allow your child to play unsupervised” nor saying “Parents, you cannot allow your child to play unsupervised” are the right answer.


Although most of the men I know are actively afraid to interact with children who they don’t know because they are perceived as dangerous when they do so.

This is the big problem. Being a parent is an experience of being constantly judged by everyone. What’s worse is that our society does so little to actually help parents. The choice of 9-years-old for this law is presumably a reference to the woman who was arrested for letting her child play in a park when she went to work. That woman was making a choice between paying rent/buying food on one hand and hovering over her child on the other. That’s the kind of life-and-death decision that parents have always had to make, and a parent shouldn’t be punished for making it. Instead, maybe we should realign our fabulously rich society so that we don’t have people choosing between those two things.

The fact that we aren’t doing that shows that as a society we don’t give a shit about kids. What we care about is oppressing poor people.

@PrestonSturges made this point really well while discussing a kid being arrested for an English assignment:

The gun issue is just one example. There are tons of people out there making the lives of children worse in the name of looking after kids.


Oh, snap. :slight_smile:

By the age of 8 I had to walk or ride a bike to school in a community with no buses for a distance of over a mile. Not that I wouldn’t have preferred to take a bus (I would’ve during winter months), but the expectation that a kid at that age would be responsible enough to make the journey was a normal expectation.

Am having a hard time recalling when, exactly, children began to be infantilized in the US. As a parent, I kinda hate it. I should be the final arbiter of what my son is allowed to do, not the fucking curtain twitchers down the block.


What would the world be like if Johnny Knoxville had helicopter parents?

That said, I think it is amusing to hear the parents (usually grandparents) gasp when I let my 415 month olds run around the playground, like my toddler is going to die if he falls off a 2 foot tall block surrounded by mulch or goes down a slide without someone holding him.

*15 month olds. Dunno where that 4 came from, but I’m going to leave it there because its funny.


Most people don’t refer to 34-year-olds as 415 month olds, but to each their own.