Friday, December 18, 2015

At What Age Can Kids Go Out Alone?

Via Kevin Drum, a fascinating table from Pew's latest survey of American parents. If this is right, American parents really don't want their kids to spend much time alone. Ten years old to spend time in the front yard alone? Fourteen to spend time in a park? Argh.


Katya said...


John said...

I also have to think they don't really mean it.

pootrsox said...

When I was 7 years old, I walked *by myself* on the sidewalks of several busy streets from Marvine Street to the Logan Branch of the Philadelphia Library. I crossed one somewhat busy intersection. The total distance is half a mile.

I returned books, took out books, convinced the librarians that I was able to read the books they thought were more appropriate to 10+ year olds, etc.

When I was 9 or 10 years old, and we lived in the suburbs, I frequently went alone or with peers a bit over a mile down quiet roads and up the hill behind Patton Road to explore the Stotesbury estate, Whitemarsh Hall. While we couldn't get into the building (It was owned at the time by PennSalt, who used it as a research facility) we could and did explore the grounds. The next "generations" of kids, in the '60's and 70's, did get to explore the building after it was abandoned and allowed to descend into ruin. (Torn down in 1980-- one of the most elaborate and beautiful mansions in the US, easily the equal or superior to anything built in Newport RI-- a heartbreaking waste of fine architecture and landscaping /sigh)

We also, when the township was installing sanitary sewers around the same time, played with the stuff they used to insulate the seals between pipes-- some sort of sisal fiber, I think-- which was easily set alight in the smudge pots used to mark the edges of the excavation so drivers didn't wind up driving into the ditches. Again-- no adult supervision. We went out in the morning and didn't return till dusk. My parents actually whistled to tell me to come home.

Of course, this was the '50's.

But in the '80's, my daughter, and the other youngsters in the little suburban subdivision where we lived, went out in the morning and came in for lunch and dinner. We expected to know whose house they were hanging around at, but that was it.

I am constantly boggled by the "how dare you!" reactions to urban parents allowing their kids to explore the city. Why shouldn't a 10 or 11 year old ride public transportation on his/her own? I did-- an hour each way, via bus and subway-- to have dental work done at the Temple University Dental School. I really don't think the subway is any more dangerous in 2015 than it was in 1955.

Parents need to stop smothering their kids. Kids will never learn problem-solving skills if they are never faced w/ any real life problems. (And nowadays they usually have a cell phone to call for help; we didn't.)

Thomas said...

When I was 11, I took my 8-year-old brother on Chicago's El train from the south side to Wrigley Field. Full approval from parents.

Now I feel like I should be in that Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch.