It seems that there have been a proliferation of stories lately about about busy-bodies calling the cops on unsupervised children. These are school-age kids whose parents are letting them play out in the open without a caregiver in arms reach.
There's a mom who was arrested after letting her 7-year-old walk to the park. Another was arrested for leaving her kids in a park while she waited in line at the food bank. Hitting close to home is this story about our old elementary school in California, where a kid the same age as our oldest is hassled by police while walking home. And perhaps most well-know, the mom who left her kid at a busy playground while she worked a shift at McDonalds and was arrested. (Sign a petition urging that the charges be dropped here.)
This concerns me greatly for three reasons: one, it furthers the trend towards postponing independence later and later; kids won't be able to control themselves or make any kind of decision for themselves without being able to perform basic tasks on their own.
Second, it's putting the focus on "stranger danger," when in fact kids are much, much more likely to be abused or kidnapped by people they know. (Here's some advice on talking with kids about a legitimate danger.)
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's allowing the most nervous and nannyish among us to decide how the rest of us should parent. Soon people will be calling the cops if they see a pregnant lady with a diet coke. It will be illegal to put your kid in a front-facing carseat before they're four.
Interestingly, the pro-lockdown people and those on the side of free-range kids don't fall neatly into red/blue camps. So that's refreshing. But then there's this frightening poll that shows that more than two thirds of American think parents who let kids 9 and under play in a park unsupervised should be arrested, and almost half think that should apply for kids under 12.
According to the Polly Klass Foundation, fewer than 1% of child abductions are committed by strangers. And crime has been going down consistently for 30-40 years. It seems people believe the world is somehow less safe than when they were kids and wandered around unsupervised for hours at a time. Much of what I've read and heard blames this on the "24-hour news cycle" and over emphasis on the kinds of crimes those in favor of child lockdown hope to protect kids from. If that's the case, this may be the most depressing legacy of CNN, local TV "news" broadcasting and the demand for insta-news.