“I’ll check in in a few hours.”
“I’ll be home by dark.”
“I’ll ride my bike there and back.”
These were common things my friends and I would say to our parents when we were younger. It was common for me to be playing in the neighborhood with no adult supervision when I was as young as seven. You read that right, seven! My mom will say she was watching me but based on the rules I broke, I know she wasn’t. And neither were my friends’ parents. I didn’t have neglectful parents and my friends’ parents weren’t being neglectful either. Things were different growing up in the late eighties/early nineties. I often wonder if I was part of the last generation of kids who played without an ever watchful eye. My little sister is six years my junior and I know she had a very different experience and was watched much more closely. As a parent of three myself, I cannot imagine letting my children play around the neighborhood the way I did. But I’m not entirely sure why.
Statiscally, we know that strangers are much less likely to kidnap children than a friend or family member (http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts). I know this and yet I don’t let my ten year old bike around the block by herself. I’ve been conditioned to fear her being kidnapped even though that is very unlikely. In fact, according to the article BECOMING SAFETY AWARE Parent’s Guide to Child Safety , children are one hundred times more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a kidnapping (http://www.keepyourchildsafe.org/child-safety-book/child-awareness.html). I read many statistics like this and yet it does not change my decision to limit my children’s freedoms.
I have a few reasons for this:
1. There is always that small chance they will be kidnapped and that horrifies me!
2. The judgement of others (let’s face it, Children’s Division will be called if my younger two are found somewhere by themselves regardless of their maturity level).
3. I would guess most of us don’t know our neighbors the same way we did when I was younger (for a variety of reasons but let’s face it, we are not as neighborly).
4. Not as many adults are around to hear or see if a child is in distress (in the majority of homes, all the adults are working).
5. Kids are not as mature (most likely, though, because we don’t give them as much independence).
I know this makes things harder on parents and teaches the kids in a different way. Check out my next blog on how I think parents are affected.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.