Let’s talk: should kids be free-range? 62



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There once was a time when kids played in the street, coming home only because the streetlights came on and you knew you’d be in strife. But these days most parents know exactly where their kids are and what they’re up to, a shift that has given birth to the phrase “helicopter parenting”.

Is it too much? Are parents denying our grandkids the chance to grow, explore and learn boundaries on their own turf?

Richard Loov, author of Last Child in the Woods, thinks so. A few years ago he coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” and wrote about the physical, emotional and developmental benefits of spending time – unsupervised – in a wild environment.

Try telling that to the parents of the five and six-year-old boys who disappeared into the scrub near Townsville over the weekend. Fortunately they were found safe and sound, but their experience doesn’t do much for the free-range parenting movement. Which is a thing, by the way.

Free-range parenting, like any philosophy, comes in various degrees. On the one hand, it might mean letting a five-year-old boy explore the bush at the end of the road with his mate, on the other, it means letting them roam free from infancy.

That’s the attitude taken by a US couple, whose 10 children have been taken into custody while their parents are charged for neglect.

The family of 12 was living in tents and huts alongside their animals, and with no running water or septic system, according to authorities. On the website they set up seeking support, the couple has written, “Joe and Nicole Naugler live on a homestead in rural Kentucky. They live a very simple life. They garden and raise animals. They are industrious people trying to teach their children how to live right. They have ten children who are homeschooled on the homestead. They contribute to the success of the family crops and livestock, all while learning about the amazing beauty of life”.

So where is the middle of the road? Should your grandkids be given more freedom or watched like hawks? Do you think the world is a more dangerous place, or is it all a bit of a beat up? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I do think kids are too restricted now with far less opportunity to roam and experience things for themselves. When is too young to do things alone. I was taken aback that a store overseas called security as an unaccompanied 11 year old was shopping for himself and the furore over a parent letting an eight and ten year old travel on public transport alone. However the suburb I grew up in is a changed place, the vacant block with creek and tracks through wild fennel where I played about 3 blocks from home is gone under houses and with a neat park replacing our “jungle”. Although traffic in the suburban roads has changed little and with traffic calming measures is probably safer than in my childhood, on the major roads it has vastly increased. We need to stop sanitising everything, leave it wild, let the kids play in the creek, it is all become too neat and ‘safe’.

  2. There needs to be some freedom. Playing outside in the fresh air &I using up their energy running around. It does feel it was safer then but was it? We have the missing Beaumont children &I the 2 who were taken from Adelaide oval, I am sure there were others. A nice balance is what is required.

    3 REPLY
    • Remember the Beaumonts well. It terrified all the parents in Adelaide, it was the loss of innonence in society. The children were 9, 7 and 5? And they had been catching the bus to the beach for years.

    • No never solved. It resurfaces every now & then, although there are suspicions it could be the same male who is in gaol for other murders.

  3. I think it depends on the child as well, mine were allowed to play out but still had rules to follow, like how far away they could go, if they went into someones house they were expected to tell me first, be in by certain times, as previous comments have said a balance is needed.

  4. I think there should be some freedom but also some sense as to the age of the kids. A mother was arrested in America as she let her child go to the park on its own, can’t remember the age, but she was there watching them to see what they did. Her intentions were great as she wanted to teach them how to be careful. I do think 5 & 6 is too young to wander on their own though.
    As there is still threats out there, not sure what the answer is as to how to allow them freedom but keep them safe as well. No-one would forgive themselves if something happened.
    Maybe as Bonnie said if they wanted to change houses to tell their parents first. However nowadays kids want their privacy but not mature enough to understand some of the dangers they can put themselves into as they trust people too much. Not an easy solution even if you recognise they need more freedom.

  5. Let’s be real here! The life I grew up in while wandering the neighbourhood has long gone! It is no longer a safe environment,sadly. Even knowing where your children are sometimes isn’t enough. Children disappear without a trace, sometimes very close to their home, one young boy couple of months ago playing in the yard of his grandmothers home! I know Children went missing years ago too, but it seems there are more predators about today. I feel it is a fact of life in today’s world.

    3 REPLY
    • I don’t think there are more about it is just there is more publicity. After all many of the abuse cases now coming to light are from the time we were children or raising our own. I don’t think the world is unsafer, the number of cases may have increased but so has our overall population. The style of reporting now is also much more sensationalist, social media reinforces the message about the missing child. Statistically a child is probably in most danger while travelling in the family car.

    • Could be Barbara! But if I was rearing children today, I would do it differently. There is one danger our kids didn’t have, and that was mobile phones, and Computers! We have to add cyber danger too unfortunately!

  6. Freedom has been taken away from kids, even teens aren’t safe anymore . The good old days are gone ,sadly

  7. More! Young children need to learn and grow, enjoying life. Wrapping them in bubble wrap(used to be cotton wool) does not help them develop. They need to skin their knees and do all the stuff we did growing up. So long as they know about the dangers that can come along, they should be ok. Responsible parenting does not mean keeping them locked up all the time.

  8. Yes a lot of parents are so careful with their kids today the kids can’t be kids. They need to be able to run n play without a reward for everything they need to know you don’t always win. You try to make them grow up to quick you buy them far to many toys n gadgets make um go out side not spend ours on their iPads playing games. Set boundaries they will appreciate it when they r grown up. Put up with the tantrums when you have to say no it is for their own good. Get them into sport. No only to win but to have fun n use up some energy. Enjoy your kids make time for ur kids they shouldn’t have an activity to go to every day they need to spend time with you they would rather that than a huge big flash house the latest car and gadgets

    2 REPLY

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