Parenting and the freedom allowed children has changed over generations. Just a few decades ago, it was common for children to run and bike freely throughout their neighborhoods, go to parks to meet friends, and visit local stores.
What is Free Range Parenting?
Free Range Parenting is a term used to describe a parenting style of allowing children to be in public places and alone unsupervised. For example, allowing your child to play in a park or walk home from school alone is considered free range parenting. It is the opposite of helicopter parenting. It encourages children to “function independently“.
Utah Passes Law Protecting Free Range Parenting
Many states have laws or unwritten regulations declaring at what age children can be unsupervised. Most states recognized 12 years of age as the cut off for unsupervised children under child abuse and endangerment statutes. For example in Delaware, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families will investigate reports of children under 12 years of age left alone. Only three states have laws regarding minimum ages for unsupervised children.
- Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.” Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d)
- Maryland Family Law §5-801 states that it is a CRIME to leave a child younger than 8 years old unattended, locked or confined to a home, car, building or other enclosure without proper supervision.
- Oregon law 163.545 Child neglect in the second degree.
(1) A person having custody or control of a child under 10 years of age commits the crime of child neglect in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, the person leaves the child unattended in or at any place for such period of time as maybe likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child
All of the above laws are based on child endangerment. Due to an excess of reports of unsupervised children, Utah has passed a law legalizing free range parenting. The New York Times explains:
“The fact that we need legislation for what was once considered common sense parenting a generation ago and is considered normal in every other country in the world is what surprises me,” said Danielle Meitiv, the Silver Spring, Md., mother who made national headlines three years ago after she and her husband were charged with child neglect for letting their two children, ages 6 and 10, walk home from a park by themselves. “I’m glad Utah has put these protections in place after what I discovered when I tried to parent the way I was parented.”
State Senator Lincoln Fillmore, who introduced the Utah bill in January, said he was motivated by situations like Ms. Meitiv’s. The bill specifies what constitutes child neglect in the state, and what does not. Under the law, neglect does not include “permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities” such as going to and from school by walking, running or bicycling, going to nearby stores or recreational facilities and playing outside.1)https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/well/family/utah-passes-free-range-parenting-law.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_hh_20180331&nl=well&nl_art=13&nlid=48748113emc%3Dedit_hh_20180331&ref=headline&te=1
At what age a child is ready to be alone varies based on the individual child. Personal responsibility and maturity are deciding factors. Utah authorities believe the new law, which goes into effect in May, will free up resources for actual child neglect cases. Other states plan to follow Utah’s lead by passing similar legislation.
What’s Your Opinon on Free Range Parenting?
Do you think we need laws to establish what age a child should be left home alone?
Do you think we need laws to protect free range parenting?
At what age were you allowed to be home alone?
At what aged will you or did you allow your own children to stay alone?
Image: Pexels / Pixabay
References [ + ]