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Kids need freedom, too (persuasion.community)
394 points by jseliger on June 16, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 371 comments

It's great to allow your kids to take risks, and we do this with our own as much as we can (they're 1 and 3, so "within reason" is still doing some heavy lifting. I pick ticks off of them now and then and patch up their share of bruises).

But fundamentally, what I want most is to be somewhere my kids can ride bikes or walk alone to school, to friends, to the shop, etc. from the age of 7 or so. As best I can tell that pretty much means the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan (more for transit than cycling).

Children can't drive, which means unless you're lucky enough to live very close to your friends, and ideally on the same side of the street, your home is effectively your prison in the US and Canada.

And yes, I suppose you _can_ let your kid ride a bike to school alone in the US at 7, but you would be risking arrest, and death. It's often forgotten that drivers are, by far, the leading killers of children. Far more than people with guns. I was an avid cyclist in the US for the first 30 years of my life and I still have a bruised rib and too many memories of very, very close calls with death.

NotJustBikes, who moved from Canadian suburbia to the Netherlands, explores this in more depth at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul_xzyCDT98

In NYC, over a million kids of all ages walk, skateboard, bike, kick-scooter, or take the bus and subway to school every day. Little kids as young as 10 take the subway alone to/from school. Well, really they travel in packs, but still. Even in the dangerous Big Apple, the number of serious accidents or criminal incidents while going to/from school is just a handful a year.

When I was young and growing up in the burbs, many kids walked or rode bikes to school. The roads were much more dangerous back then. Crime was much MUCH worse. No one batted an eye. I don't really understand some people's extreme risk aversion today.

> I don't really understand some people's extreme risk aversion today.

Evolution has wired us to be constantly looking for risk. If we don't find danger, we'll invent it.

As we remove the riskiest risks, the bar on what we're willing to spend and sacrifice to address the next level of risks goes higher and higher.

Then there's the press which lives by sensationalizing every bad thing that happens, leading us to grossly exaggerate risk levels in our society.

> Then there's the press which lives by sensationalizing every bad thing that happens, leading us to grossly exaggerate risk levels in our society.

Humans are really bad at assessing risk. Parents are more likely to be afraid of a stranger kidnapping their child when their child is far more likely to die on the car ride to school.

Which is sad when you think about how suburbs are designed to make people feel safe even though their road designs tend to be extremely dangerous.

Yup. I lived in Asia for a while and toddlers ride on scooters without helmets. Shocking!

Then I remember back not long ago when seat belt laws came into effect in the US. Before then? Meh. And car seats for 6 year olds?

The difference here is that the these scooters either have a separate lane or are driving on pavement.

There are no such provisions in most of the US.

Some parts have a separate lane, most dont. Plenty of scooters get squished under 53 ft trailers. And most scooters don’t drive on pavement in the US? Not sure what you mean.

Well, the roads are safe (for cars). For pedestrians, it's mostly barely adequate.

> Well, the roads are safe (for cars).

Not necessarily. Your risk of being in a fatal car accident is nearly 3x higher on suburban roads than urban roads.

This is a good video on the deficiencies of suburbia road design if you're curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORzNZUeUHAM

When I was in Louisiana for a year I'd walk or cycle to work. Walk was about half an hour and most of the way had no sidewalks. Buying things at a target meant cycling for 40 minutes on a busy road with no bike lane or sidewalk(a street where I later learned a person had turned without watching and cracked a friends skull open).

"Fun" fact: On my way home I was wearing a pink/white Nike hoodie and asked a woman for directions and she said something like "sir, please step away I have a child".

I grew up in Europe, so I get what you're saying and agree with it, but for most of the US, that is actually built for cars, it's not true.

> Little kids as young as 10 take the subway alone to/from school.

That's not a little kid, that's just a kid. Americans have weird standards for kids' independence.

Compare the Japanese show 'my first errand' where little kids go on their first errands:


You'd probably want to avoid citing Japanese TV shows as reference. They are all fake and completely scripted/heavily edited from start to finish.

In Germany school literally recomends for kids to go alone to school from first grade. First graders also went alone from school to afterschool activity.

7 years old navigating streets is not as much rarity as Americans think. And it used to be completely normal too.

True, but younger kids walk around by themselves (mostly in groups) all around Japan. Japan is a weird case though where the cities are safer than the countryside.

Not saying it's not true. Just saying taking a Japanese TV Show as a proof has 0 credibility.

Yes, it doesn't have credibility for what actually happens, but it can have credibility for what standards people / pop culture apply.

(And that's what my original comment talked about. Also, it's just a cute show.)

In our neighborhood we have folks screaming in the street, repeat offenders flashing girl scouts, others sleeping on the sidewalk, and/or uber sketchy camper vans and tents parked on the way to school.

I don’t believe in helicopter parenting but this is where we live.

The author of the linked piece, Lenore Skenazy, is famous for becaming known as the worst mother in America when she wrote about letting her 9 year old ride the subway alone in her column for the New York Sun. I’ve never seen that in NY, though old Sesame Street cartoons made it seem pretty common prior to the nineties.

> the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan

I think it's far more common than that -- actually, guessing wildly, I suspect most children around the world get themselves to school and that the US is the outlier.

In Germany, where I live, and where my oldest will be starting school in two months, it's common and encouraged for kids to walk to school in their first year (age 6). Admittedly, ours is only a quarter mile away. We've just started letting our son go alone to the bakery downstairs and across the street from our apartment, and while it's not quite typical, it's also not wild here for a 5 year old to do that.

I live in Germany, too and can confirm. In Hungary, where I'm from, it's no different.

What shocked me most in this article was the paragraph:

> A mom wrote that she had been so encouraged that, at the grocery store, she allowed her son to leave her to get cheese from a different aisle. When he came back, she added, “That boy was six inches taller!”

That mother never allowed her son to do that before before being encouraged by the author? Poor child.

I thought that was pretty fucked up as well. My kids are completely free range. When I was 5ish in Poland, I was going to buy bread from a stand about 1.5m away as my daily morning chore. Nobody batted an eye. I loved it, and my mom got her annoying son out of the house for 35 minutes a day: a win-win! Not sure why we infantilize kids in the US.


She has a great video. I'm a German also. I did live in the US too. I'd hate to have to raise a kid there.

When I went to Kindergarten in the late 80s / early 90s in East Germany, many kids went home by themselves.

Germany is on our shortlist too, though the cycling infra seems poor compared to NL/DK/Nordics. Would love for the kids to learn German (and ourselves!)

I think cycling is one of those things where it’s important to do it in spite of Canamerica being such a bad place for it, every person cycling normalizes it and pushes indirectly for positive change. Of course it’s also important to directly push for change in city government.

I agree. Cycling needs good stewardship.

The biggest problem with cycling adoption is “cyclists”. My hyperlocal blog has a guy that makes me want to throw my bicycle in the bay just so I’m not associated with him. And I love riding my bike.

Cycling needs a “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” moment.

E-bikes are a great opportunity for Americans to rediscover motorcycles but unfortunately cities are willing to allow motorized vehicles traveling at 20mph on mixed walking/cycling paths.

I think each near collision with a car radicalizes cyclists a bit. While cycling you build up experiences where cars prioritize speed over your safety. Most “annoying cyclists” I’ve met I feel like are arguing for the right things but they have a lot of bitterness.

It isn't just near collisions. I was once stuck be a car with enough force that it bent my bike frame, ripped the mirror off of their car, and created a crashing sound loud enough for people to hear inside their homes. As far as I can tell, the motorist never even slowed down. The people who came to my aid were nearby residents and pedestrians. How I managed to walk away from that one with little more than (nasty) bruises is a mystery.

Other times attentive drivers exhibit attitudes that are less than redeeming. I once flipped on some streetcar tracks. Attentive motorists simply drove around me and went on their way. The people who did check up on my condition were pedestrians.

I've had a number of other experiences in my life that leave me feeling as though people cease to be human as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car. While there are exceptions, they are exceedingly rare. Getting back to the article, I am extremely worried about children being on their own on the streets. It isn't because of those who would intentionally harm them, since that is relatively uncommon. It is because very few people behind the wheel even seem to care.

I want to find out what kind of architecture/design humanizes people. Because everywhere I go in Canamerica people have to drive and I agree with you that it makes people worse.

It is not having quarter acre single family homes with garages and 2 car driveways. And not having 6+ lane wide intersections. And using traffic circles instead of traffic lights.

But mostly the first one. The second you start giving everyone a 2k+ square foot home and backyard and front yard and 2 car parking, you now have everything spaced so far apart that you need cars. And everyone needs space to put their car, so that means huge setbacks for storefronts, huge parking lots, etc.

You cannot have a community optimized for both numerous cars and non car traffic. It is one or the other, and once the layout is done, it is not politically changeable. Certainly not the huge personal vehicles almost everyone drives today.

I agree perceptions change when behind the wheel of a car. I have had drivers try to ram me on my motorcycle when lane splitting.

It's a common American (but maybe elsewhere too?) attitude to feel something is being taken from you when another person is gaining -- in this case, it's you moving efficiently through traffic while they stand still. Most people will just rage inside their car, but there is definitely a subset of those that think they have a right to harm you over it.

There's some minority of people who are just jerks on the road. Drivers that don't account for other road users. Cyclists who blow through intersections forcing cars and pedestrians to take evasive action. Pedestrians that expect wheeled vehicles to defy the laws of physics on their behalf.

Beyond this minority damn near every road user (regardless of car vs bike vs pedestrian) behaves perfectly reasonably if you understand what they're trying to do. Once you understand what the other participants are trying to do things become very predictable and safe. The road user who is constantly having problems is probably doing it wrong themselves in a "man who smells crap all day should look under his own shoe" sort of way.

Crappy cyclists make crappy pedestrians make crappy drivers.

I've biked walked and driven at various points in my life. If you understand what everyone else is doing and choose your own actions to mesh with this you basically never have problems with other road users. You can blow through intersections on a bike. You can jaywalk. You can ignore turn specific arrows. You can do all these things safely. But you gotta have good situational awareness exercise good judgement about the time and the place you choose to do them or you will often be in conflict with other road users.

The laws and unwritten rules exist for both your and other's protection on the road.

So, that "just this once" blowing an intersection or red light might be this time that a huge crash happens or someone is killed. Not worth the few minutes saved.

And if repeated, it's unforgivable.

Exhaust gas contributes to global warming and pollution kills people.

Every time a red light is blown without directly harming someone net negative externalities are reduced.

There are plenty of stupid cyclists who don’t prioritize their own safety. One of my pet peeves is to have bikes on the road in the dark without lights. Most of these people are adults and they should know that a car driver can’t see them.

Yeah cycling without lights always amazed me.

At the same time, idiotic cyclists are only risking their own lives and that’s it. Idiotic drivers are risking other people’s lives but not their own.

When there is a crash between and a car and a bike that involves a fatality, 100% of the time that fatality is the cyclist and not the driver.

95% is closer to reality. Sometimes a driver trying to avoid a crash will do something wrong and get injured with no harm to cyclist or pedestrian.

Or will harm someone else than the perpetrator.

It’s still overwhelmingly other people than the driver who pay the price.

Cycling lights are the law in most places in Europe, it probably should be enforced in the US as well.

Just a curious question. Cycling lights are indeed the law in most parts of Europe[0]. Are there no laws in the US about cycling laws or are they not enforced?

[0] In my country cycling lights are traditionally used are traditionally used as a training ground for new police officers. These officers have to explain why you are actually breaking the law and also have to deal in a correct manner in the abuse from the perpetrators.

I think there's a self-selection phenomenon. The inherent danger of American roads select for cyclists who are more reckless than the average person.

I strongly believe that when good protected bicycle infrastructure is built, average folks will be more represented among cyclists — and so cyclists will appear nicer and more cautious.

I try to be a good ambassador for cycling on my bike — got a rear radar, always hand signal, and always stop at lights and signs. But I've already been indoctrinated into cycling by having lived in the Netherlands.

> The biggest problem with cycling adoption is “cyclists”.

Most like probably number 3 or 4. The "cyclists" are annoying and silly, but on the other hand they aren't literally killing many people.

I was going to say, 40,000 Americans die every year in car accidents. People get into their cars when they're drunk and when they're so tired that they're nodding off at the wheel. People eat tacos, apply makeup, and text their friends while flying along at 45 miles per hour in a 2000-pound death missile.

I find "cyclists" to be as cringey as everyone else does, but cyclists aren't killing 40,000 people a year. They wear silly outfits and are kinda irritating. As far as sins go, those are pretty small in the grand scheme of things. By and large, when a cyclist acts a fool, they're endangering themselves. When a driver acts a fool, they're endangering everyone else on the road.

I live in an European city, where the infrastructure for biking is well established.

To be honest, average people riding bicycles for commuting or getting around cycle on the safe side, use the proper bike lanes, do not make left turns in front of the cars etc... while the "cyclists" insist on cycling on the car lanes, taking left turns and changing lanes while going 25-30 km/h on 50km/h road. Those people annoy me to the death while driving and cycling as well.

> E-bikes are a great opportunity

Until you round the corner on a sidewalk and narrowly avoid collision with a 7 year old on an electric bicycle.

I lived in Denmark for a bit in the 80s and I don't know how it is there these days, but back then, the police pulled you over and ticketed you for the tiniest infractions on a bicycle.

I can't imagine 1/10th of that level of enforcement in the NYC metro area without full scale rioting.

Your selective quoting really changes the meaning of my statement. The rest of that sentence makes clear that e-bikes are more like motorcycles.

It was crazy to me in NL that motor scooters (Vespas) could use the bike paths.

last year this was reatricted, now only scooters with a speed limiter installed are allowed

It's the same in Parts of Asia: bikes and scooters can go in the dedicated non-car lane. Sometimes you'll see a hand or bike pulled cart as well. Still safer than comingling with cars.

A few exceptions from my experience, where the cycling is okay (more space on the shoulder than Japan, but also larger vehicles): Madison , WI; Tucson, AZ; and Minneapolis, MN. I’ve put more time into bicycling as transportation than most other optional activities I can think of (other than walking, reading, videogames?). San Diego, CA boasted of many miles of bike lanes, but we found them often not connected, dumping us into a five-way intersection with no guidance, for example. A hard problem for city planners, maybe.

In my teens I cycled to my last three years of high school because I could sleep in (bus took over an hour) and visit friends on the way home. Thankfully the highway had a decent shoulder. I wore my helmet and eventually saw the benefit of wearing a neon-orange reflective vest (rather than stowing it once out of parental sight).

Where I’m living now I’m pushing for improved bicycle routes between towns, in part for tourism and so we don’t have to drive our kid to school.

I don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, but road shoulders aren't safe cycling/pedestrian spaces. Roads have the shoulders as a run off space for cars travelling at speed, so only having the option of cycling on the shoulder (car run off space) is a bad option that cities need to remedy. Painting the shoulder a "cycling lane" doesn't solve this either, it doesn't change the infrastructure at all it just reminds drivers of their responsibility to safety.

A network of bicycle lanes meant for transportation (rather than silly meandering lanes designed by someone who’s last experience biking was as a child, swerving down the road for the fun of it) would be awesome, potentially requiring less maintenance and reducing wear on automobile-roads, too.

As a pedestrian and ocassional roller blader in any major Metro City i visit, I'm actually far more afraid of bicycles than of any car.

My only times I've near-collision or actual Collision have been with bikes. this is invariably because they far exceed the speed limit in some sections that are really close to pedestrian traffic or because they bike near a curve full of parked cars where he cannot have enough time to break for incoming pedestrian traffic when the bikers going to ~30 miles per hour.

I don’t think this is an absolute. I grew up in a neighborhood that provided what you describe in Idaho. Both my brothers are raising their kids in an environment like you describe. I live in one in Seattle now. It’s not cheap in a city but it’s not unheard of in the US.

I don’t think Seattle does a great job of this either. The eastside is a suburban sprawl, and most of the parents I know in Seattle are too afraid of the homeless to let their kids go to parks/stores nearby alone.

The East side isn’t Seattle. If you want to include suburbs you also need to include Shoreline and Burien.

It depends a lot on your neighborhood. Mine is nice and I see kids running around the neighborhood regularly.

As I mentioned this is definitely a thing in Idaho. My brothers and sister all have families and live in areas where kids can have freedom in the neighborhood but away from home.

> the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan (more for transit than cycling).

From my small experience living in France, Germany, Denmark and spending quite some times in other old[0] EU countries, you can do it everywhere there. From Portugal up to Finland and everything in-between. This is the normal way here.

[0]: Not to be taken negatively, just that I did not had the opportunity to visit/stay in the EU countries from the former East block.

We hoped that this would be our experience moving to the EU (Ireland) but due to housing issues we wound up in a field in the countryside. They DO get free reign of the field and the lovely walking trail, but the road is full of high speed drivers with nothing but a dense, tall hedgerow to jump in to. Ireland copied all the mistakes of America with regards to urban design, too.

Yeah, the Irish countryside is beautiful, but not walkable.

Both my wife and I grew up there, hence why we prioritized getting a walkable place in the suburbs.

Funny enough when we were looking it was either between the canals in Dublin or in the countryside. We looked at places in Clonsilla, etc. but they seemed really hostile to walking. Inside the canals was too expensive, sadly. I ended up getting a remote job and we moved to a few acres in Offaly, about a 15 minute bike ride from the train. It's beautiful and there's a lot to like (We even have a walking trail by the house!) but it's definitely a place you need a car.

Yeah, we looked at clonsilla too but it didn't work for the same reason. We managed to find something just over the m50 but still pretty walkable, in Laurel lodge.

I'm way too neurotic about the future to take the plunge and move away from Dublin, unfortunately.

Lots of kids ride their bikes to my daughters elementary school, where we live in the United States. Safe small towns with functional sidewalks, for kids to ride bikes on as necessary, still happily exist in some places in our nation.

Where you live can the kids get to anything other than single family housing? Because there are definitely suburbs in the US with low enough traffic to be safe, but they don’t allow important freedoms like biking to schools/libraries/shops

We live on Main street in a single family home in a nice moderately touristy fairly inexpensive mountain town in the north-east.

Main street is generally thriving, with the preschool, elementary school, middle-high school, library, and town park/common down said Main street. (The library is one block off.)

Mixed together among the core mile and a half or so stretch is a decent collection of retail establishments (including 2 gas stations, a few coffee shops local and chain, restaurants local and chain, doctors offices, post office, auto mechanics, the now ubiquitous Dollar General, a liquor store, an ole' time hardware store, and a couple good ice cream places), single family homes, a church, a police station/opera house/townhall, and some hotels and motels local and chain.

Side streets with single family homes, and some New England style multi-unit three stories are on both sides of Main street, where the river allows, with a small trailer park mixed in.

There is certainly traffic on Main street, including log trucks, but with a 30 mph speed limit, and lots of crosswalks where people will generally stop for you (the law says you should), it's pretty human friendly.

I will admit it's in many ways a throwback to the way things used to be...

That sounds like a special place that didn’t bulldoze the good stuff for a parking lot in the 60s-80s

Yeah I think this is common. Where I grew up I could easily bike to some other kids' houses or to school, or a mile or two around the neighborhood for exercise, but other destinations I would have been interested in (the library, the local ice cream shop, the hardware store, parks other than the school playground) were basically impossible to reach due to distance, traffic/safety, or both.

Built before WWII is the key. Inner-ring streetcar suburbs tend to have some local resources: schools, parks, library, small overpriced shops. Anything after 1945, forget it.

Some metro areas demolished all of theirs, or developed too late to have built any. Rust Belt is surprisingly rich with them.

They do, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s expensive to live in these places. I found a suburb of Chicago where my kids could walk to school and I feel they’re safe, but my neighborhood is out of reach for most. So yeah, the idyllic American neighborhood still exists, but only for the relatively well off. That sucks.

> But fundamentally, what I want most is to be somewhere my kids can ride bikes or walk alone to school, to friends, to the shop, etc. from the age of 7 or so. As best I can tell that pretty much means the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan (more for transit than cycling).

Why these countries in particular? You can do this in pretty much any EU country and many non-EU European countries.

I walked back 4km from primary school every day. I could go by bus but then I'd had to wait for 30 minutes and everything beats that when you're 10.

And during vacations me and my cousins roamed the forest near my grandparents house whole day every day only returning for a dinner :)

Sounds pretty much like my upbringing in Africa. Bus drivers had authority and if they spied you being naughty through their review mirror they could kick you off the bus resulting in a few kilometre of walk home. It was common to get off the bus in solidarity with your friend who was being kicked off and walk home with him. Sometimes it was just more fun and quicker to walk than wait for the bus much like you.

In Switzerland it’s mandatory to let your kids go to and from school on their own from age 7 (I think, +/- 1 year)

The alternative is called “elterntaxi” (meaning parent taxi) and is very much frowned upon.

So, every school morning, lunch, and afternoon, you have bunches of little kids walking on their own between their schools and their homes, wearing a special reflective jacket.

Switzerland managed to figure out preschool/kindergarten system that literally puts even more limitations on mom then having kids at home.

What is the limitation on "moms" here? And btw, why having a limitation on one parent?

You have to take kids to kindergaten twice and bring them back twice. The time while they are there needs to be used for cooking lunch. They are not there long enough to allow much else. It literally gives you program for whole day without freeing you for other activitities. Being full time with the kid is literally better for that parent, because at least you can structure day how it suits you. (There is benefit for kid itself in terms of socialization, but that is difderent topic)

And I say moms because in Swiss it is moms who are expected to do it and forgo other activities while men are expected to go to work. Men are much less affected by above system.

>You have to take kids to kindergaten twice and bring them back twice.

See that's exactly the mentality problem.

My mum was working too, at lunchtime we made for example a little fire in the wood and exchanged the food our parent packed in, from spaghetti to sausages and so on, made our own snake-bread etc. You have to be really crazy to think your children's have a problem do stuff for them self for 1.5 hours. If it was too cold we eat outside, went back into the school asked the teacher if we can play flight simulator on the apple2's. There is no need that the state has to organize everything for you..children's need freedom too, true?

In Switzerland you'll see very young kids taking themselves to school too. In fact I think the schools discourage you from doing them off. Loads of kids can be seen around town going to and from school, totally normal.

>Children can't drive, which means unless you're lucky enough to live very close to your friends, and ideally on the same side of the street, your home is effectively your prison in the US and Canada.

There are huge swaths of the country that are not the "built up in the 50s and 60s but now populated and trafficked enough to be dangerous" suburban hellscape that you are implying.

This is true. On the other hand, there are huge swaths that are.

America is famous for its small towns. People forget this.

A lot of small town USA looks like this now: https://postimg.cc/4YHfF59X

> As best I can tell that pretty much means the Netherlands, parts of Denmark, or perhaps Japan (more for transit than cycling).

Or old pre-car cities in the US.

The point of those is that they have dense interconnection that predates cars. In addition, building roads cost too much in terms of eminent domain, so they don't have very many high-speed roads interfering.

I grow up in a small town in Poland. I was walking on my own to preschool since I was 5 (it was about 400m from the house).

If I had kids I'd let them free roam the city.

Poland is far more walkable and pedestrian/commuter friendly than the US or Canada. It really has to be experienced first hand to sink in. The way that building codes in North America separate the buildings lends the geography there to be friendly to the cars and only to the cars.

Seeing elementary kids off on their own in Poland is shocking to me now, even though I was an elementary kid wandering around in the USA 30 years ago. Not sure how the USA took such a bizarre and sad turn.

I guess there was a change in law in Poland as well. Now it's illegal to let someone younger than 7 to wonder alone.

A take from Japan - actually for cycling it's not bad. Even though the infrastructure doesn't have nice separate cycling paths, it's still 16% trips taken by bicycle out here vs 25% in the Netherlands [1]. Most neighborhoods aren't high-speed and streets are tiny, making low-speed cycling not so dangerous, and the proximity of neighborhoods means that kids bike places all the time.

[1] https://medium.com/vision-zero-cities-journal/the-unique-saf....

When I was in Japan in the early 2000s I felt safe biking around. I already felt confident on a bicycle, and was grateful for the deference from drivers, both in and between cities. Some mountain tunnels were harrowing, with no railing and a longish drop to the road. Sometimes I used the road (I had lights and reflective vest, and the ignorant bravado of youth). In cities it seemed most cyclists used the sidewalk. I wanted to go fast, so I joined the cars. What a rush! I’m sorry now for the stress I likely caused people in their cars, and grateful I didn’t get injured. In the US I’m somewhat scared of getting shot or “nudged” off the road (had stuff thrown at me and people drive too close), so that and the caution of age make me a more defensive, careful, respectful cyclist.

With plenty of bright, reflective things on my bike I’m willing to take our kid on the road, and am working on promoting better bikeways around here, for locals and tourists.

I grew up in Milwaukee, WI and had this exact experience from an early age through 15 when I got my driver's license. A lot of biking between friends' houses and school.

Not to say that bike lanes and bike protection couldn't be better, because it absolutely could be.

I also grew up in a midsized Midwestern city, and had the same (wonderful) childhood experience. Biked to school, parks and playgrounds, the YMCA, local diner, you name it. This was in the 1990s and early 2000s, so I doubt much has changed.

I disagree with one point on the video: at least in the suburbs I've lived in (various places in the South SF Bay Area, and Los Angeles), you could bike places. And I regularly did starting around 8 years old. I would regularly ride up to 4 miles out. And you could retrofit many of these suburbs to be more bike safe.

I think the far larger problem is cultural. It doesn't matter how safe bicycling is if there's a chance for your children to be taken away from you for letting them take advantage of it. That is also why my wife is hesitant about this stuff.

Not sure if you're already doing this or not, but walking to the bus stop with friends (no adults) and playing outside after school were both the main ways I got independence in my suburban childhood. As long as I was home before dark, I was good.

When I was a kid I lived in the suburbs (Hungary) and I was cycling all day. It was great. I want the same for my kid and for that we had to move to the countryside because the capital (Budapest) became hell on earth in the last 10 years.

This seems like an over-protective attitude to me.

I rode my bike around the (Australian, suburban) streets from age 5, rode to school for 12 odd years, caught the train to the city and skated all over it from about age 13. My parents made a point of letting us (me and siblings) 'rough and tumble' as we grew up.

We had a lot of scrapes, don't get me wrong, but you learn a lot as a kid if you can fall over a few times. Kids are good at taking care of themselves, and each other, if you let them. Within reason, of course, but I see a lot of coddling these days and a lot of soft kids that have never been beyond the padded playground walls.

Why not let your kids take the school bus to school?

Most suburban areas (and urban areas too) have a school bus pickup for the neighborhood. Showing up at the bus stop made me a ton of friends right there in my neighborhood, and made for some great long-lasting relationships that continue to this day.

Having friends that lived in the same neighborhood meant I could ride my bike to my friends house, or walk, or whatever.

My burb school rules are that they’ll only bus you if you are outside of 4 miles of the school as the crow flies. Even if there’s no possible way to walk there, my kids are stuck and I have no option but to drive them.

I agree wholeheartedly. My life dream is to build a car-free city in the US so I can live there. When I was young and even more naive I hoped I could do this before having kids, so they could grow up with that freedom. Now I’m hoping maybe I can do this by the time I have grandchildren. We’ll see.

It would require a lot of capital in the form of patient equity to pull off.

The team at Culdesac is working on something like this in Tempe, Arizona, with capital from the likes of Alexis Ohanian[1]


- https://culdesac.com/

- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/business/culdesac-tempe-p...

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/posts/alexisohanian_culdesac-re-ima...

You could just move to a walkable neighborhood in an existing city.

I don't know North America well enough, but the linked video says such walkable neighbourhoods have very high prices. That's great if you can afford it, but it's also good to campaign for it to be available for those who can't.

But if you built a similar city it would likely have high prices too. Why not try to get more housing built in the places that are already nice instead?

I'm not sure I understand this, why would walkable places be expensive? Walkable places are generally high density which means that buildings are bigger and homes are smaller so prices should be lower.

For the same reason walkable places that currently exist are expensive. People want to live there.

That sounds like a fake supply problem. Potentially people having places to sell or rent blocking high density developments, or lack of infrastructure causing issues.

Good old adage is infrastructure first.

Yeah, they want to live there but they don't want others to live there.

Otherwise you can just build taller.

It exists. Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Permanent population of 492, though. 80 [0] kids in pre-k through 12th grade at the school.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mackinac_Island_School_Distric...

I live in a relatively rural area of America, and I still can't even fathom letting a kid ride their bike to school. I certainly wouldn't be comfortable riding more than a mile along any side roads, not to mention any city streets or main roads. America is really just not made for cyclists (not that I am one).

Familiarity can lead to feeling safer, even if nothing else changes. I’m comfortable on a bicycle, but in a new place I’m more on-guard until the route feels known.

My neighbors kid in San Francisco was 9 and has been taking the Muni bus alone, back and forth to school. There are plenty of kids that age doing that.

I think the “your home is a prison” is an upper middle class thing. Poor folks don’t have much choice but to let their kids use transit.

I'm Swedish, but lived in New Orleans for 6 months in 2001, when I was 5 years old. I used to walk to kindergarten together with my siblings, 3 and 5 years older. Was that another time, or was that too much freedom for the US to handle even then?

I digress, but the reason we lived there for exactly 6 months (on the day) was that we would be ineligible for Swedish child allowance after that.

Interesting that now you can have the same argument but in reverse, with the US introducing child benefit.

> I suppose you _can_ let your kid ride a bike to school alone in the US at 7

I think you're forgetting just how big and diverse the US is.

I think the problem "de-risking" childhood is only an instance of the bigger problem of what Roger Scruton calls "Risk De-aggregation". Risk Deaggregation is taking a single point of risk (and its associated metric), and optimizing to reduce that risk as if it exists in isolation from other risks. I.e. Risk occurs in aggregate, not as individual threats. Risk deaggregation happens everywhere from Climate Change policy, to Covid, to children.

I think this type of risk deaggregation arises from the fact that in a sufficiently complicated space (climate, economy, children, etc) there are really only two heuristics:

1) Ignore all but a manageable number of variables and optimize for them

2) Recognize a larger number of necessary variable, acknowledge there is no optimal solution, and balance the trade offs between those variables. [0]

Heuristic 1 is the easiest, requires no nuance, and seems the type of thing our political and media class love to latch onto. Heuristic 2 actually requires admitting you don't get everything you want, or at least the things you want will cost you something you dont.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

A related way of thinking of these might be legible Vs illegible.

Legible risks are mostly "heuristic 1." They can be measured, quantified, discussed in discrete terms. You can be yelled at over legible things, like ignoring stranger danger on a subway. It's harder to yell about nuance.

Illegible things are less discrete. The consequences, some hard to describe, many unknown, of growing up without freedom and self reliance. There are dangers here too, but they're more nebulous.

It's hard to justify, externally, a trade-off between illegible gains like building a personality and legible dangers like kidnapping. Hard, but not impossible.

> Illegible things are less discreet.

Illegible things are less discrete, but probably more "discreet", on average.


It's a problem everywhere, from bad KPI's to public policy. We have a bias towards metrics that are easy to measure.

It's much easier to measure large effects on a single metric, than small effects distributed over a wide range of metrics. Concentrated effects that affect one individual/org/group are favored over distributed effects that affect everyone. There are so many examples of policies where this thought process has been applied.

Not even easy to measure, just ones that feel like having big impact, unpredictable timing and are not cumulative. That's not a terrible heuristic as black swan events do happen, but then again common risks need to be optimized for too.

Humans don't seem to be very good at managing risks. From an evolutionary perspective, we can only look at what others are doing and follow along. Breaking it out in terms of percentage weights doesn't give us a feel for practical steps to take.

I’ve seen risk deaggregarion at work and wonder if it stems from how easy it is to shoot an idea down with a counter example.

E.g. Should we switch from “status quo” to “change”? Good idea, but if we move to “change” then “this one bad thing will happen”.

A solution might be to use the lieutenant’s cloud, an idea I learned on a thinking course.

With this you simply ask why “bad thing” and then offer a suggestion that solves the why, not necessarily the bad thing.

This is probably easier to do at a closed organisation. In the public eye with an emotive topic like possibility of child abduction, a lot of sensitivity is needed.

“Risk de-aggregation” sounds like it edifies an implicit perspective that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Is there a specific reference you might recommend looking at, for Roger Scruton’s take?

It's in his book "How to think seriously about the planet: a case for environmental conservatism"

The book itself is worth the read on its own. He has a very specific meaning of conservatism that doesn't map well to political landscapes. The book doesn't dispute climate change, and seems to basically accept it, but creates a framework for dealing with it from a grassroots bottom up perspective rather than an international top down perspective.

I'm trying to look this up but the only hit for "Roger Scruton Risk De-aggregation" is this comment. Any recommendations on where I can read more about this? I've found other Scruton articles that talk about swing sets and stuff but not the term specifically.

It's in his book "How to think seriously about the planet: a case for environmental conservatism"

Dont have the page, but the book is good enough that it's worth reading

Thanks! I'll check it out.

Just so I'm clear, risk de-aggregation is when I worry and optimise about the risks of drink driving, and end up killing myself by [drunk walking in front of a bus]/[accepting a lift from a serial killer]/[Cancer I got in the smokey bar I was really careful not to drive home from]

This is a terrible analogy though, because these aren't aggregate risks (one is a risk you present to other people because of your actions, the others are risks to yourself from your own actions).

maybe you worry about drunk driving, so you never leave your house again and die alone and penniless due to tremendous opportunity costs of avoiding all possibility of a drunk driver ever hitting you.

Thanks! That makes sense.

I've got five kids. The more I loosen up and let the kids take risks and learn for mistakes the better. The challenge is when the adults inject a ridiculous level of risk to something that should be a learning experience. For example, allowing police to arrest and charge a child for bad behavior at school (i.e. won't obey the teacher, outbursts - not for actually criminally violent behavior). Another is lifetime academic and other records. When risk is too high, learning stops and risk avoidance takes over.

I am seeing this, too. Oftentimes, ostensibly in the interest of protecting children from harm, we try to control their behavior with increasingly disproportionate ultimatums, to the point where the authority's response is vastly more harmful than the situation itself.

It seems that nowadays we have an extremely interventionist culture, and it leaves us ill-equipped to recognize situations where the best thing to do is nothing at all.

It's not just around child-rearing. I have chronic pain from a decades-old sports injury, and well-meaning people frequently advise me to get surgery to fix it. There's a tacit assumption that, by choosing to live with it, I'm simply being complacent. (There's also, for that matter, a tacit assumption that an appropriate procedure exists in the first place.) If I point out that the surgery for my sort of thing tends to have much worse long-term outcomes than choosing not to pick at it, then I'm generally told that I just haven't found the right surgeon. Similar for my nearsightedness - I have one family member who thinks I'm crazy for not getting LASIK surgery. My take is myopia can be effectively treated with an inexpensive and non-invasive device, while LASIK comes with significant risk of causing different kinds of visual impairments that cannot be treated, so the risk/reward balance just isn't right for me. But that's not how they see it. What they see is that I'm just being weak-willed, because I'm opting not to do something when there's something that could be done.

But it upsets me more when it's child-rearing, because then it's adults choosing to screw up the life of another person who doesn't have any say in the matter. Ostensibly for their own good, but, more accurately, I think, because the adult feels like this is how they need to perform their role.

> I am seeing this, too. Oftentimes, ostensibly in the interest of protecting children from harm, we try to control their behavior with increasingly disproportionate ultimatums, to the point where the authority's response is vastly more harmful than the situation itself.

And IMO, perversely, this incentivizes behavior problems. Kids sooner or later (and often sooner in the case of smarter kids) catch onto when adults are making disproportionate ultimatums, or when the reasoning behind a ruling is disconnected from objective reality. What does this teach a kid? Adults are liars, don't know what they're talking about, are undeserving of respect, are not to be obeyed if the consequences of such are bearable, are to be subverted whenever possible, etc.

I mean, there's going to be a degree of disrespect and disobedience when a kid enters adolescence and they start to try to assert their independence as they approach adulthood. But learning the above attitude as a child is going to make adolescent behavior so much worse.

My kids figured this out... I think the solution is that you have to be consistent and both parents have to back each other up. Some people say that you should setup house rules and let the kids help set them up that way they have ownership.

The other thing would be to go to therapy. We don't teach people how to be parents but there is a lot of applied child development skills you can learn.

It is shocking to me how often I hear the advice "go to therapy".

Therapy presents its own risks, often never discussed. And it screams of a total lack of self confidence.

Having a disinterested third party to talk to saves my friends and family and internet forums from much of my babble (some clearly gets through:), and it’s a safer place to take risks and grow. The Blindboy Podcast promotes cognitive behavior therapy and other tools one can use on their own vs anxiety and depression, and I’m transitioning away from talk therapy towards these tools. The therapist was pivotal along the way.

More information on the risks?

> My take is myopia can be effectively treated with an inexpensive and non-invasive device

Like what?

>while LASIK comes with significant risk of causing different kinds of visual impairments that cannot be treated

The numbers behind LASIK (and PRK) are pretty solid such that one can make an objective claim that it is a low risk endeavor unless you have some specific conditions.

Here is one study:


Glasses or contact lenses

Low risk -> that paper's definition of "safety" is whether people had good eyesight. It doesn't take into account halos or dry eyes, as far as I can tell.

My feeling has always been... I've been wearing soft contacts for decades--and now multifocals. I do wear reading glasses for, well, reading and other close work when I have the contacts in. (Probably more than I really need to.) So maybe LASIK is super-safe at this point but, honestly, there's very little about my current situation that inconveniences me in any appreciable way.

I would not get refractive eye surgery if I was old enough to have reading glasses (since nothing fixes that yet), but if all you have is run of the mill myopia, a couple thousand dollars to spare, and you are 25 to 30, LASIK or PRK is one of the best quality of life improvements you can make.

The clarity with which you can see everything is stunning at first, and the lack of inconvenience is incredible. If you’re interested in dating, it is probably one of the best investments you can make to improve your experience.

You would get at least 10, maybe even 15 years of not having to deal with glasses.

Personally I had the LASIK surgery done because high correction glasses and contacts are more serious liability in sports or emergency situations than residual -1 diopter nearsightedness. (Compared to -7 D before.) Such as being able to drive a car safely without them, or read. Or work at all.

It didn't cause any halos or dry eye. Those would still be preferable over legal blindness. The bigger problem is they were unable to correct some astigmatism and so in certain conditions I get doubled image without glasses. Still not even comparable.

For low corrections or farsightedness, the risk benefit situation is very different.

I also suspect that another surgery could be risked to further improve on it once technology advances a bit more.

That's fair. My contacts were always for distance vision. But as I've gotten older, I need readers--only if I'm wearing contacts--for reading. Multi-focals improve but don't eliminate the need. So very manageable.

> and you are 25 to 30

Or older, even. I got PRK at 34 and my eyesight is still 20/20 (or better), nearly 6 years later.

> Low risk -> that paper's definition of "safety" is whether people had good eyesight. It doesn't take into account halos or dry eyes, as far as I can tell.

Yes, it was a quick search on my phone. I just remember doing a ton of research for it before I got mine done years ago. I know 6 others who got it done too around when I did, and everyone claims it was well worth it.

I just figured it has been around so long and performed so much, that there would be a lot of people claiming issues and it would show up by now.

I had PRK done 6 years ago. I was lucky and never got the dry eyes thing, but I still have some (fairly minor, I guess?) halos around lights at night. I think the trade off is well worth it, though.

I certainly know people who have had worse complications, though, and they might have a different feeling about it than I do.

It completely depends on the severity of your myopia. If it's mild, yeah, it's pretty safe. If it's moderate or severe, then things start looking a lot more dicey.

The overall numbers give a biased perspective. With the way the risk/benefit ratio varies, people with milder cases are a lot more likely to get it. This is in addition to there being more of them in the first place.

The inexpensive and non-invasive device is corrective eyewear.

Of course, but an unstated assumption for claiming any procedure is safe that you qualify as a safe candidate for it.

I think, more to the point, this advice is typically being offered by people who aren't even thinking in those terms in the first place. They're just operating from a tacit bias toward interventionism.

Well people who are not ophthalmologists who have not diagnosed your eyes should not be commenting on whether or not you are a good candidate for refractive eye surgery.

> Like what?

I believe the OP is talking about glasses/spectacles. Although contact lenses would probably also fit that description.

This will sound terrible, but one theory why parents are so risk-averse with their kids is that 1-2 kids per family is the norm today. When it was more like 3-5 it was harder to keep track of all of them and they (the kids) inevitably did risker things. Moreover, the loss of a kid feels far worse if you don't have more.

There might actually be something to this. My child #3 gets more freedom (and is much more self sufficient!) just because I am often too busy with the many other things to interfere with her learning process.

My parents had/have about 9 siblings each. There is no way in hell my grand parents could have raised those many kids without letting them be free most of the time.

Of course the times were different (between 1930s - 1970s) and in India the definition/threshold of risk is, let's just say, different compared to the west :-)

> Moreover, the loss of a kid feels far worse if you don't have more.

Let me tell you you’re very wrong here. Loosing a kid is the worst thing ever and is independent on the number of kids you have. I have 5 kids and I can’t imagine losing one.

The biggest reason IMO for kids having more freedom is not that we have less time for them but that they play more together instead of with us. This emulation leads to more risk taken.

> For example, allowing police to arrest and charge a child for bad behavior at school (i.e. won't obey the teacher, outbursts - not for actually criminally violent behavior). Another is lifetime academic and other records.

Just send them to a private school where matters are handled privately.

1) Private schools can be expensive, and a few have participation requirements for parents that folks working non-traditional hours can't adhere to.

2) Every private school I lived around growing up was religious, and I'd rather children not have religion forced on them.

I have. Not everyone has the money or lives in a voucher state.

Handled meaning being expelled for bad behavior.

> For example, allowing police to arrest and charge a child for bad behavior at school (i.e. won't obey the teacher, outbursts - not for actually criminally violent behavior).

Are there any examples of this happening? I do not recall reading about any incident where police responded to a school where the cause was not due to physical violence.

If I was managing a school (or any other establishment), I would instruct staff that no one is to touch anyone outside of administering medical aid, for obvious liability reasons. In such cases, I can see it being necessary to call police if a child has to be physically moved or restrained.

Using shady url from yesterday's HN topic:

Students arrested for social media posts: http://www.5z8.info/openme.exe_bknq

Student arrested for burping: http://www.5z8.info/peepshow_jxbr

Student referred to judge and jailed for not doing homework: http://www.5z8.info/foodporn_axiz

School cops arrest more kids of color, too: http://www.5z8.info/aohell.exe_zane

Thanks, those are sad and ridiculous.

The top two might be good examples, but the YouTube link says the kid was punching a teacher, which is a good example of what I meant by punting that to someone with better legal resources than me (if I am a worker at the school).

It is an 8 year old kid. The fact we're worried so much about legal resources is the problem.

That is a systemic problem regarding tort and liability, I would not blame individuals at the school or police for that. The solution would have to be systemic reform.

Does anyone else feel like the current climate is partly a by-product of the lazy “think of the children!” Rhetoric that so many law enforcement agencies and politicians use to get their legislation and budgets passed? It’s hard to let kids be unsupervised if the only thing you hear from politicians, police and others is that kids are in so much danger we need to pass otherwise ridiculous laws just to protect them.

It's between that, the zero tolerance policies that many places have, and the unwalkable suburban residential nightmares we have built.

I know for several of my minority friends, they won't let their kids go anywhere alone due to run-ins with law enforcement.

Sadly, most zero-tolerance policies exist because getting sued is simply too expensive for the schools to deal with. Why make a nuanced judgement when you risk getting a lawsuit by trying to be fair?

> Sadly, most zero-tolerance policies exist because getting sued is simply too expensive for the schools to deal with.

No, zero-tolerance policies exist because they are low-effort ways of being seen as addressing issues of political concern (and because minimizing discretion of subordinate staff while avoiding creating an incentive to kick sensitive decisions up the chain is itself desirable to decision-makers); excessive restrictions, like insufficient ones, are sources of lawsuits, if schools were concerned about maximum mitigation of legal risk they would have more carefully tailored policies.

EDIT: It’s worth noting that zero-tolerance policies are sold as necessary for mitigating legal risk, but that's because that’s a more palatable sales pitch than “we want neither to permit subordinates to exercise judgement nor to have to consider details of individual cases ourselves”.

In some cases zero-tolerance is marketing but in others it's not.

Take disciplinary action for example. Very few schools have the same rate of expulsion/suspension for students of all races. How do schools prove to a jury that this is not a result of discrimination or racism? Quite difficult unless they have a zero-tolerance policy.

>"zero-tolerance policies are sold as necessary for mitigating legal risk,"

I guess I fell for the marketing. In any event I detest zero-tolerance policies for just about everything.

I don't think I agree with you. I can definitely see a parent filing a lawsuit for "You suspended my kid because someone punched him in the face"

(No idea if it would go anywhere in court, but when has that ever stopped someone?)

Zero-tolerance policies are wasy to implement and sound tough. Many people like though and like hearing someone was punishes and "made to learn the lesson".

It all feels good for many people.

> Why make a nuanced judgement when you risk getting a lawsuit by trying to be fair?

School policy has exactly 0 legal weight. It won't protect the school against a lawsuit. Maybe the low end of layers believe it, but there's a reason lawyer's compensation is bimodal.

But by the time school administrators figure this out, they are typically being offered an out-of-court settlement with a confidentiality clause.

This is an oft repeated talking point, but I’ve never seen any evidence for it.

At least your friends will be able to let their kids go places once the police are defunded.

I know of communities where they won't let kids go anywhere because the lack of law enforcement (this includes minority communities). So this concern about law enforcement presence is not universal though white allies are big on focusing on that area.

> kids are in so much danger we need to pass otherwise ridiculous laws just to protect them

Also: "kids are in so much danger, you must elect me to keep them safe!" or "kids are in so much danger, tune in at 6 O'Clock to find out why!"

A whole hell of a lot of people who buy into emotionally appealing rhetoric without thinking critically do not deserve to be shielded from blame. There is no shortage of them among us here.

which, taken to an extreme, also makes me think of "pizzagate" and obsessive conspiracy theories about imaginary pedophilia.

I thought this article would be about other things judging from the title, but these are good points.

I'm not that old, and I remember "be home before dark" when I was in the single digits. I was going outside, by myself, since about the age of 5. As soon as I could ride a bike that was it. Basically my parents made dinner and paid the rent, the rest was all me in my own life.

There was a phase in my childhood where I was actually in a very dangerous environment, and as a result my freedom was restricted. I can compare the two. I think it damaged me quite a bit. I wonder about kids who never knew the freedom to be human beings.

Again as a teenager I experienced that freedom and the good fitness that comes with having a wide range and only feet to get around. And there was trouble (exposure to drugs, etc). But all in all the trouble didn't affect me negatively in the long term, I think it was less harmful than if I'd otherwise been restricted, and most adults don't avoid those sorts of troubles either way.

There is a network effect reinforcing this trend. Kids don't go outside because there's no kids outside. Also I think that while the fear of abduction or a terrible accident is there, I think we downplay other factors in the trend now, particularly the increased demand for creature comforts over the last 2 decades (and longer, but more pronounced more recently) and the availability of stimulation indoors. I remember the middle of the summer and going outside every day not once thinking it was too hot to go outside, then spending the entire day out there. People think I'm weird now for not using the AC in my car. I remember waking up in the morning and there was no inkling to check a phone. People can be immensely stimulated laying in bed now, with phones and videogames and such, and there are positives that come with these new tools but there are negative changes as well, and many people are beginning to come to the conclusion that the negatives outweigh the positives.

Gen X here. I started riding my bike in my neighborhood as soon as my next door neighbor took off the training wheels. It was a small neighborhood with clear boundaries.

But as soon as I was 10 and 11 I was leaving to visit friends. I was thinking back recently to one forgotten friend who lived about 1.5 miles away and the pathway I would have taken to his house. It involved crossing two 6-lane divided highways and another Avenue.

I was safe and patient. But I would be aghast to see it in action today.

When I was 13 and 14 we would take "tours" of the city. Even on foot, I would meet friends and we would start early and walk as far as we could. Then take the bus or call our parents. I love those memories. So much.

I loved the city for its shape before I was an adult. And that freedom and those memories have filled me my entire life. And when I started driving I knew how to get to all of the places.

Before she died my mother would always tell me "the kids don't play the way you guys used to". We really tore it up.

Sounds awesome, thanks for sharing. Reminded me of this short story by James Joyce called The Encounter [0], (minus the creepy guy). I never did anything like that, and I grew up in the US in the 90s. Typical suburban upbringing, nowhere in particular to go without a car. Were you in the US?

[0] https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2814/2814-h/2814-h.htm#chap0...

This might not come as a surprise but New Orleans. Things were.. different in the 80's here. And for sure we had plenty of run-ins with creeps.

I think I was younger than 13 when Back to the Future came out. I saw that 3 times with my friends, and each time we had to travel by bus by ourselves for about 45 mins across town.

> I was safe and patient. But I would be aghast to see it in action today.

Do you think that's because you believe things are less safe now than when you were a kid? Or is it because societal norms around risks & children have changed?

I would say it is both.

I say that because when I pass the places I crossed those roads, the traffic itself looks downright frightening. I don't remember this many cars. I don't remember them going _this_ fast.

I spent a some time on my childhood street and saw some teens throwing football. The number of times they had to get out of the street for cars was surprising. And we never had to "dodge" oncoming cars when playing games in the street. I remember someone would say "car" and we would have plenty time to move.

As far as the stranger danger, as an adult male I have zero interest in helping any kids in need. If I saw a kid outside fell and scraped up their knees I would probably not come to their aid. Maybe text a female neighbor.

But as young teens we definitely came across creeps. A female friend's sister took us to a strip club when we were 14. With that as a baseline...

We did things that were dangerous in any context.

We explored abandoned buildings. We jumped on slow moving trains. We rode down steep hills and jumps without any helmets. Swung from insane tree rope swings, some from 10-15 foot tree branches and some from much higher. We climbed bridges under construction. Went out on ledges that seeing today make my feet tingle. We climbed the drive-in theater screen to the top. Carried old bikes up there and threw them off. My dad made me a zip line from my tree house, over the pool, and to a very small perch in a tree. You were meant to jump into the pool (4 feet deep). We made camp fires supervised and on our own. We shot weapons at 10. Explored remote creeks and piloted small craft (15 hp). Drove around the city a good year before my actual license. At 15 we would routinely drive to another state to go a beach. At night sometimes.

Apparently from typing this, I had a real love of heights when I was younger. We had a rope swing in the back yard tied up to a branch some 30 feet. I would climb to the top and grab the branch regularly.

I think I was considered a bit less adventurous than some of my friends. I honestly have no idea how we didn't die.

But as to your question. The city used to be covered with tree swings and I haven't seen one in ages. I would guess they are considered dangerous today, or moreso a liability. Helmets for bicycles were just _not_ a thing - a changed norm for society and myself very gladly. Kids still enjoy access to weaponry, especially in the deep south. But that will be supervised instead of some lessons and "here you go". I know of teenagers that go sailing, boating, etc. I think the age range simply shifted up a few years.

> Kids don't go outside because there's no kids outside.

I don't think it's that simple. If you let your kids outside, away from your supervision, there's a very real (absolutely certain, where I live) risk of the police getting involved.

I can confirm this - last year I had to deal with Redwood City PD because my 11 year old daughter was playing after school on the playground (which is, amazingly, not allowed in CA?!). I stood my ground, but the incident involved the police department and meetings with the principal before it was resolved. California is doing a good job of driving the liberal right out of me.

“California is doing a good job of driving the liberal right out of me.”

Same for me. CA seems to be full of control freaks who like to control others.

Thank you for sharing these stories from the trenches. I wonder what practical things I can do when I am a parent that will prevent these harmful interactions.

It reminds me of the fact that I used to be crazy paranoid on weed in uni but I ate some a year or so ago and I just felt good. I was terrified of the consequences of being caught. Once the police disappeared as a threat, the actual thing was fine.

The cop was liberal?

Where I live that's not really a worry and you still don't see children outside all that much by themselves, not like when I was a kid. You see a couple every now and then, when I was little outside belonged to the kids after school let out.

Maybe we need to talk about what’s wrong with adults being so freaking creepy !

Basically my parents made dinner and paid the rent, the rest was all me in my own life

This is not really the relationship I aspire to have with my children.

But it's the relationship they need from you. You don't create them for you, you create them for them.

It's not literally I had no relationship with my parents. They got me ready for school in the morning, my mom and I had inside jokes, we spent time together, we went to the grocery store, I had homework. But from the minute I was headed to school until the sun went down most days I was out in the world by myself.

But the relationship your kids want, you are not a friend but a parent, you can be a friend when they are in their 20s-30

I can‘t find the link anymore, but in the prologue of (I think) a German norm for building playgrounds it said something along these lines that resonated a lot with me: „Kids have the right to hurt themselves and test their boundaries in a safe and limited way“

That‘s just so important for kids I think. US playgrounds all look sad to no end compared to the 15 meter high rope pyramids you see here in a lot of schools.

First time you see them, you tell yourself: No way I‘m going to let my kids play on that thingy.

But when you take a close look, all ways down you‘d bump into a rope, there‘s no direct free fall and there‘s usually thick rubber or sand below.

Sure it‘s going to hurt and maybe break a bone in the very worst case if you miss, but that is just super rare.

But what it adds in developing courage, resilience and risk awareness is just priceless.

Then again, having your kids break a bone won‘t bankrupt your family for life over here…

> Then again, having your kids break a bone won‘t bankrupt your family for life over here…

That's the key. I've noticed in places with universal health care, they tend to have more fun playgrounds. Because the owner knows they won't get sued for medical expenses.

That applies in general in places with universal healthcare. My friends who live in those places told me their car and home insurance are much cheaper than when they lived in the USA, because there is no risk of getting sued for medical expenses.

To be fair, in many places with universal coverage of health insurance, the owner doesn't know they won't get sued for medical expenses. The European countries that have often been mentioned here (Germany, Switzerland, etc.) most often use a system of private insurers with deductibles and co-pays that patients must pay, although the minimum level of coverage tends to be far more protective than in the US. Medical expenses wouldn't cost tens of thousands (USD/EUR/CHF/...) but would still cost hundreds or somewhere north of a thousand in a place like Switzerland.

Well, they know the lawsuit would be quite limited. If an uninsured person in the US gets hurt, there could be nearly unlimited liability.

Also, my understanding (although it could be wrong) is that insurance companies in the EU can't sue people to recover medical costs, so at worst you're on the hook for their deductible but you don't have to worry about the insurance company coming for the rest like you do in the USA.

In Germany the accident or health insurance company can (and sometimes will) sue the owner of the playground for the cost of treatment, and the parents of the child can sue the owner of the playground for the copay and pain and suffering. So there is still liability of a similar amount, just the parties suing are somewhat different. There are just no punitive damages.

That is why every playground will only buy certified safe devices or get an overall certification by a known certification body. That usually cuts the lawsuit risk down to negligent maintenance. Also, there is liability insurance which everyone in their right minds has (of course you need to check if running a playground is covered).

We used to have playgrounds like that. My favorite playground as a kid had metal slides, a merry-go-round that we used to have fun throwing kids off of by spinning it at high speed, and this gigantic metal turtle that would get so hot in the summer sun that it would burn you. My elementary school had monkey bars at varying heights... etc etc..

But last time I checked that playground replaced everything with bulky plastic toys and one of those boring wood castle things with plastic slides

You mean one like in this classic video? https://youtu.be/iRasoZMirRc

Not quite 15m, but tall rope pyramids exist in the US. Here's the first one I laid eyes on, in Ashland Oregon on a road trip a couple years ago:


Of course I had to climb it immediately. My son was only 2 at the time so he didn't make it far. He's old enough now that I really want to find another one.

I found a few similar items in other parts of Oregon, but I haven't found one in California yet.

Man, I thought you were talking about a 4 story rope climb at first.

The perfect article for this 80s kid to rant about good old times.

My dad gave me a tiny bicycle at the age of 6, and basically said "good luck". I could go anywhere I want for as long as I'm back home in time for dinner. They had no idea where I was, with whom, or what I was doing.

One day, an older kid hit me in the playground. I came home crying, assuming I'd get some support. I was told to just hit him back, preferably harder. I explained that the kid was much older and far bigger. "Get a piece of wood then".

Standard equipment for every kid everywhere were thick knee pads, as mothers grew tired of fixing bloody knees and probably more important: the jeans. On any day, we'd come home looking like pigs, and almost always with fresh wounds.

Throughout this entire period, outside of formal family moments, not a single photo, audio or video recording exists of me.

Not only was it a fantastic childhood, it has helped me become a robust character. I can handle setbacks with ease and instead of complaining, solve things myself.

By today's standards, it would be neglectful or even child abuse. It wasn't. It was paradise.

Child abuse is imprisoning your own child. Not only obsessing over their security, also micro managing their day as if production units.

As for children "performing", my deal was pretty simple and enjoyable. "Come home with good grades or there will be hell". Zero oversight, only the outcome counts.

A fair deal if you ask me. No daily nagging about doing homework, none at all. They couldn't care less. I was fully free to deliver the desired outcome in any way I see fit. Maximum freedom, whilst also instilling responsibility from the start.

To sum this up, the lack of parenting has helped me tremendously.

I recently watched E.T. by Steven Spielberg, and was shocked at how different life was in the 80s.

The mom left Elliott at home alone, sick with a fever, at the age of 9. She also left the daughter who was 3.5 alone while she went to the supermarket. Their only instructions were "don't get into trouble."

Those would both get you in a lot of trouble in 2021, but I'm not sure I understand why. It's even easier these days to contact your parents, since everyone has cell phones. My son has contacted me via Facebook Messenger through his iPad, so it's not that difficult anymore unlike the 80s. You didn't have a way to contact people except by calling, and if the parent wasn't there sitting by the phone there wasn't even answering machines!

I think people just gave more credit to kids back then and nowadays we just keep them as kids much much longer.

This is a movie.

Not really helpful feedback, as it was a movie reflecting the standards of the time.

I was a latch-key kid starting at age 7 in the 80s because I hated the daycare that we used after school and advocated for the freedom. I remember being blocks away from home at age 4 or 5 on my own until it was time to eat and heading back home.

It really was a different experience. And, I say this as a parent of a 6 year old in a roughly similar neighborhood environment.

Would you do this again for your child?

> American parents are having their right to raise independent kids restored, so their kids can grow into confident and capable adults, ready for the world out there. The parents win, the children win—and so does America.

I’m a beneficiary of childhood freedom, to injure myself (tools, fire, trees), to explore (walking for miles through the woods, along defunct railways, and biking the dirt roads), and to read whatever I found at the library. The downside was I didn’t have what I think of as healthy discussions with my parents, perhaps because it was awkward for them? As a parent now I’m trying to build on their successes, adding emotional mindfulness.

For example: finger crushed in a heavy book? Yeah, that hurts, and it’ll hurt awhile yet (no asking “you okay?” because that’s too binary, and mainly to appease the parent). In the meantime, take long, slow breaths and feel the pain as it subsides and you’re ready to move on. If it doesn’t go away, let’s take another look at it. I also let my kid fall, and I tell her it’s helpful to feel what it’s like to fall. She’s learning to climb and take steps, and when I’m spotting her for safety I’ll intervene enough to prevent injury but not the initial slip. I largely credit our Early Childhood Education teachers with my own progress here.

For those of you who give your children more freedom, how do you manage your concerns around risk? How do you decide how much freedom to give? What do those conversations look like?

I'm having this issue a bit with my wife. I want my 9-yr old daughter to go to the playground a couple blocks away on her own; my wife is reluctant.

My argument is that it's statistically very safe, especially in our neighborhood, and that we and her older brothers all did similar things. Her argument is that a girl needs to be more cautious than a boy, and that although she knows it's unlikely anything bad would happen, it would destroy us if it did.

We're planning to compromise by letting her do it, but only after we get her her first phone.

Parents today are overprotective (this includes me!) and don't realize that it actually damages their kids. I was 5-years-old when my parents would just drop me off to the kindergarten and then I was on my own pretty much the whole day after kindergarten finishes in the afternoon. I would go to different classes kilometers away, crossing roads, etc. and it was common practice. I don't think kids get injured less today than when I was a kid. Also, my parents would send me to the store to buy them beer or cigarettes - all you needed back then to either bring a handwritten note from your parent or for the salesperson to know you and know your parents - I don't drink, I don't smoke. We always underestimate the power of the forbidden fruit! Leaving kids on their own makes them more responsible and independent.

I highly recommend Free-Range Kids [0]!

[0]: https://www.freerangekids.com/

I was a four-year old forty-five years ago. I was walking to my pre-school and back, a couple of blocks and a pretty big and busy street across daily.

The cars weren't a problem. Getting mobbed by primary school kids on my way back and getting beaten up was a problem. A bigger problem was when I told my parents the reason I was getting home later and later was because of the detours I was taking to avoid getting beaten up, and they arranged a meeting with me, the beaters-up and their parents and them -- and in the end, it was clearly my fault, I had never been beaten up, and these were all friendly kids, brought up all wholesome.

The past wasn't a better place, it just was a place where you didn't talk about being abused, no matter what.

> The past wasn't a better place, it just was a place where you didn't talk about being abused, no matter what.

I guess that is true, but an interesting question is: Did the past prepare kids better to become responsible and capable adults?

No, it just made us into damaged people more likely to damage other people.

No. Just look at the boomer generation.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. At least compared to every other generation.

We had a bully at school and he beat me up 2 times. After that i always had a stone in my pocket, long story short, he had a hole in his skull and never did it again, no consequences for me (apart from a some explanations). But i was 9.

So in essence, the overprotective parents trade their kids' freedom for personal (and egoistical, tbh) peace of mind.

Which begs the question, why have kids at that point? They're human beings, not instinct driven pets.

I think the way people view pets is pretty inhumane. It just seems so thoroughly selfish to purchase an animal bred to be provide you joy.

I am in the same camp. There was this girl I met on tinder that I always noticed the irony of her rescuing a dog from somewhere only for her to lock it up in a cage for 8-12 hours a day while she is working or partying. It's not right at all.

I have to agree - maybe outside of dogs, all other pets are not happy. For example, how can "fixing" cats be acceptable?! Just because we don't want to allow cats to mate and inconvenience ourselves, we "fix" them and everybody seems okay with it! How is this not animal cruelty by the book?! Cats grow obese and feel miserable. I've had cats, I let them go in and out, they lived fruitful lives and were not forced to come back, yet, they did. During the mating seasons, of course, they were gone for weeks.

There are so many people, and some of us have cats and dogs. Cats kill a lot of birds (and mice and rats—-maybe a good reason to have a cat on a farm) and don’t give much back to the ecosystem. Cat and dog poop adds pollution to land and waterways if not picked up (some is okay, but it doesn’t scale well). I love our dog and feel this non-human person is family. I’m also sad for him not being free to roam and track down deer, elk, bears, coyotes, and potentially end up injured or dead. We run with him often, set boundaries, share affection, and I’m not sure I want to subject another animal to this captivity after he dies. I’d like to switch to helping the land I’m on be more diverse and robust, with healthier soil, more insects, more birds, more mammals (with measures taken to keep rodents out of the house), and to spend time observing this as a way to get me outside.

why is this different for dogs?

I have been bothered at times at just how outside the overton window the idea that animals/pets, dog or cats should be able to e.g. see their parents or children, ever again, falls. I'm not a vegan or a big animal person, but it just isn't talked about.

Well, you're right. Dogs are emotional, and get attached to people and happy, but it's only because they don't realize how miserable they actually are and simply don't know any better. I personally like dog breeds closest to wolves like the German Shepherd. And I pity some of the breeds resulting from ages of selective breeding, which don't even resemble dogs.

Why have pets? They're not JUST instinct driven beings, either.

Because peer pressure and because it gives them a sense of accomplishment. And because, well, kids often happen by accident.

The first two are very sad honestly and it really doesn't help with a child's psyche if they discover the purpose of their birth was for this reasons. It's almost like your purpose is to become a disappointment specifically because your parents had you as a trophy.

My son just underwent Sex Ed this year - it was so detailed that I'm sure many adults could learn tons of stuff. Yet, accidents happen, but mostly because we don't educate kids. In the past, I remember my grandparents talking to my sister about these things, and teen pregnancies were much less than now with all the Sex Ed, wide availability of contraceptives, etc.

> teen pregnancies were much less than now with all the Sex Ed, wide availability of contraceptives, etc.

While a common perception, that's actually almost entirely false. Teen pregnancies have been dropping pretty steadily for the last ~70 years and they're now almost one quarter the rate of just 30 years ago. Sex ed and availability of contraceptives (especially IUDs) are quite effective at preventing teen pregnancies.


In case anyone else didn't make the connection, the author of the linked article (Lenore Skenazy) is also the author of Free-Range Kids.

I did notice and got embarrassed for not paying attention who wrote it.

We let our very-capable son and his less-capable-but-bright and more-experienced older sister freely wander the neighborhood on bicycles when they were 5.5 and 7, respectively. Worked out fine so far.

Varies by neighborhood, though. Our current one's busy-body and kids-only-play-with-parental-escort enough that we had a couple neighbors stop by to warn us that they'd seen our kids several streets over, thinking they'd gotten away from us. Not quite busy-body enough that anyone called the cops (I suspect we were right on the edge of that happening, and maybe just got lucky). Our last neighborhood had wonderful mixed-age "gangs" of kids wandering around playing all the time, and it would have been entirely safe there. That was a much younger neighborhood (in terms of both the ages of the houses and the average age of residents) than this one (not sure whether that's related), and, I suspect, there were some class issues at play (the other had a very high-prole character to it, in Fussellian terms, while this one's 100%, gratingly, middle-class as hell)

As for chances of assault, your main worry by a country mile should be cars, not predators. All forms of attacks on kids by strangers are incredibly rare. Leaving your kid in the company of a specific adult or set of adults is far riskier than letting them walk to the park (yet people do that all the time). Shit, statistically siblings or cousins are far "scarier" and worthy of concern, in that regard, than the risk of regular walks to a park 2 blocks away.

> your main worry by a country mile should be cars, not predators

100%, and cars are a reasonable worry that we should do something about. There are well known traffic calming measures that we know slow down traffic substantially (speed being one of the greatest causes of pedestrian fatalities) and even in my very walkable city we're largely not using them.

speed doesn’t cause fatalities, or even cause collisions, it increases severity in the case of a collision. collisions cause (pedestrian) fatalities, and distracted driving is the leading cause of collisions.

Well no; speed does increase severity in the case of a collision as you say, but it also directly impacts your stopping distance, even at the same level of alertness/reaction time/etc. If a kid runs out in front of your car, you are both more likely to hit them at 30 mph than 15 mph (due to not being able to stop in time) and more likely to kill them having hit them.

you see, that's exactly the kind of marginal thinking that gets us into these kinds of shut-in situations for children in the name of "safety". that exact scenario, where only the speed difference rather than a myriad of other factors, is material to life and death, is a tiny, and probably an undifferentiable, portion of collisions. putting forth such imagined scenarios as if they present significant risk is poor rationale.

support traffic calming measures (like narrowing car lanes, adding streetside trees, converting parking to bike lanes, etc.), not for specious reasons like this, but because they reduce distracted driving, and thereby reduce collisions and injury/death. it's at best misdirection to talk about reducing speed, and at worst, leads to poor policy that not only doesn't address the problem (reducing injury/death) but creates unintended consequences (like traffic and more distracted driving).

And focusing just on distracted driving similarly leads to campaigns that are little more than "you, driver, pay attention" PSAs while ignoring the structural reasons that drivers incorrectly feel safe enough to do so.

Of course they both contribute to the problem. So why not both? Traffic calming is the answer, either way.

no, that sounds like a reasonable compromise, but it's just appeasing poor thinking, which is exactly how we get so many bad policies and regulations. addressing distracted driving with traffic calming is a reasonable solution for a correctly identified problem. psa's for distracted driving is a bad solution for the right problem. traffic calming for speed is a bad solution for the wrong problem. it's how we get stupid speed bumps and unproductive stop signs as an energy and time tax on everyone rather than targeting the reckless directly, which is the (other) right problem to address. while excess speed is indicative (but not conclusive) of reckless driving, a focus on reducing speed is a safety theater red herring. just like "think of the children" and ceqa (environmental) challenges to housing, it's used as a brainless cudgel to get a pet outcome approved, not to improve societies.

> a couple neighbors stop by to warn us that they'd seen our kids several streets over, thinking they'd gotten away from us

Like dogs?!

Ha, yes, actually it was almost exactly like that. With a concerned look, "I think I saw your boy over on [street] and thought I'd better let you know". Was he playing in the road? Getting in the way of traffic? Stomping on flowers? Otherwise behaving like a jack-ass? Nope, just there. OK, uh, thanks for telling us.

Well intentioned and mostly just amusing. At least no-one called the authorities when they realized we weren't planning to confine our kids to the yard or accompany them on every idle play-outing all damn Summer.

My mom used to take the bus into the city when she was 8, spend the day wandering around, and come back on her own time. This was in the 70s with no smartphones. If there was an issue, she could use a pay phone. Her own mother sent her out of the house to get some free time for herself.

When I was growing up, I did similar things, taking my 5 year old sister on the public bus with me to get to school when I was 10. If I had some pocket change we’d get ice creams from McDonald’s on the way home.

It depends on what neighborhood you live in, but the world is very safe today and if you’re on HN I assume you’re in a decent area.

I think parents have too much time and energy today to spend worrying about their frankly very competent kids. The smartphone thing is a good idea but I really think it’s best to push your kid out of the nest to discover the world themself, lest you end up with a grown up daughter who’s afraid of the world.

In the 90s I walked to school(two busy streets and one market Square with stalls away) on my own at the age of 7, I was expected to leave the house and lock the door behind me on my own(my parents both left to work by that time), make it back at the end of school and let myself in and wait at home for their return.

Nowadays just leaving a 7 year old at home alone would be a crime.

Sounds like your grandmother would be getting letters from a social worker if she were a parent today.


I’d rather fight the battle than cripple my own child so they can fit into a pathetic society.

"I'm having this issue a bit with my wife. I want my 9-yr old daughter to go to the playground a couple blocks away on her own; my wife is reluctant."


"We're planning to compromise by letting her do it, but only after we get her her first phone."

I hesitate to enter into child rearing discussions but ...

May I suggest a slightly different approach: satisfy your wife by following, secretly, your child at a distance the first few times. All the benefits of independence and self-reliance, etc., for your child - and a gradual, baby steps approach for your wife as she gets comfortable with this routine.

May I also suggest that a phone is unnecessary due to the fact that every single other person already has a phone. Further, bad actors will likely assume your daughter has a phone. It's classically selfish behavior but you can piggyback on the (telephone) safety net that everyone else has already constructed. I know from voluminous personal experience that everyone, everywhere, is happy to use their phone to help your child. Just make sure she memorizes your phone numbers :)

> May I suggest a slightly different approach: satisfy your wife by following, secretly, your child

Suspect they already trust their child enough to not need to follow her at all. She's capable. The concern is unforeseen events outside the child's control such as irresponsible drivers, bullies, or worse. None of which is any less likely to happen after you stop following the child.

They're not likely to ever happen, and the child's independence is probably worth the risk, but there's no way to ever completely eliminate those risks or put your mind completely at ease about it.

I agree with your analysis - but this suggestion is for his wife, not the child. It's a way to become comfortable - in a slow and controlled manner - with expanding the range of the child, etc.

I have to disagree with both points here.

Following the child after apparently granting freedom would be a massive breach of trust: bad enough on its own, but potentially very scarring if discovered. Don't add that risk!

As for the phone, you're right if you only think of the phone as somehow protecting against stranger danger. But as someone who lives alone with health problems I think of the phone entirely differently: it's a lifeline to all kinds of potential help, from a medical emergency to being locked out of my car or apartment building. And of course not only in that direction; it works the other way too where having my phone means I can be a point of contact for help for others. This is obviously a somewhat new aspect of our society in the past 20 years, and I'm certainly not saying we couldn't get along without it; but I am asking, "why would you want to go back to a time before these universal lifelines?".

My eldest is also a daughter of a similar age. What my partner and I have said is "yes you're old enough to go do things, as long as you're going with friends." She's not old enough to go places alone, or to go places where she'll be supervising her younger sibs. But she's old enough to be in a setting where peers are watching out for each other and know how to find help if needed.

I know that's still a walk-back from what previous generations enjoyed, but it's not that different from what we both experienced at this age in the 90s. And in parallel to this, we've put a fair bit into teaching our kids to navigate on foot, use public transportation, and safely ride their bikes on the road— all of it an investment in pre-car/non-car teenage autonomy.

I would be much more concerned about some well intentioned rando calling the cops on you because there's a child unattended.

This really is a great thing about living in Utah with young kids (one of the states mentioned in the article with laws explicitly protecting parents from these randos.)

In my neighborhood the street is literally full of neighborhood kids almost every day, ranging from 2-3 years old to teens, out riding bikes and playing games. There's a park a few blocks away that my kids (3yo-10yo) walk or bike to unsupervised.

Obviously as a parent you still worry - for me I worry more about someone getting hit by a car than being abducted - but it's nice to know at least that child services isn't going to show up just because the kids are out playing.

I live in the Midwest. I am a teacher. My wife is a social worker. I hear this fear about being charged Or having your kids taken by CPS because you let them walk alone to the grocery store or something, but I’ve literally never heard of it happening. I even have known a couple CPS workers in the past. The stuff they deal with day to day is wildly more intense than what people are suggesting here. My instinct is that it’s a straw man, but clue me in. How common could this possibly be?

The bigger risk is getting run over by an inattentive driver, and yet most parents are worrying about pedophiles. How would a phone guard against distracted driving?

Given what we have learned regarding the catholic church, boy scouts and penn state athletics program. I'd say young boys have just as much to fear if not more.

That said I'm with you on her walking to the park.

> We're planning to compromise by letting her do it, but only after we get her her first phone.

Might I suggest looking into one of those cell phone watches for kids. They allow you to lock down who they can send and receive calls/messages from and have gps and geofencing so you can keep an eye on them. It basically allows you to give them the advantages of a phone, without having to give them a phone.

The irony in making this suggestion in this thread...

I don't think the intention behind "free range kids" is that they get unrestricted access to technology and everything the internet can serve up to them.

It's a good compromise for mom. Let kids run free, and give mom the reassurance they can call someone if they need help.

I don't like giving cell phones to kids younger than 12 or 13 because childhood should be free of a lot of the technology we use today.

> I don't like giving cell phones to kids younger than 12 or 13 because childhood should be free of a lot of the technology we use today.

The future is technology. You're holding them back, socially and technology skills wise, if you wait until they're 13 to give them a cell phone.

I was fixing computers and was generally the house technology expert well before I was 13. To get to that point required unrestricted access to tech and the internet. If I was locked down until 13, I would not be as successful as I am today in tech, if I was in tech at all.

The computer that you used required skills to use and maintain, and stayed at home. It is vastly different than a dumb (yes) internet appliance kept in a pocket all day long subjecting children to dark patterns and dopamine hits for hours a day.

Hard disagree. Children with phones don't socialize face to face with other children. That's pretty much the most important skill taught in elementary school and you're taking it away from them. You can still let your child use computers at home, but they should have to interact face to face in order to socialize. Yes, the future is technology, but not being able to interact with people without anxiety is not a path to happiness, and that's what you get when you give children phones.

Fully agreed. I spent my entire childhood with essentially zero electronics (we lived overseas), and didn't get into computers until we were back stateside, and I was a young teen.

As an adult, I'm proud of my technical accomplishments. But having no social anxiety, because I learned how to communicate face to face throughout my childhood, has been the biggest boon of all. Not joking.

[edit] I feel I should also add that not getting in to tech until already a teen has never felt like a deficit, or that I was starting behind anyone else. On the contrary, the non-virtual skills that came from playing with physical things like lincoln logs, tinkertoys, building models with friends, etc. gave me a intuition of how the world works that has helped me a great deal in getting my head around the nature of more virtual structures.

> Children with phones don't socialize face to face with other children.

Where in the world did you pull this out from?

Interacting with children who have smartphones. Both as a child myself and now. Obviously it's not a universal truth, but I've seen it more than 10 children who suffer from this which is enough to convince me that it's a risk.

What about a dumbphone?

If you can really lock it down, maybe. Kids are prone to loosing items while a watch is likely to stay on them.

I'm puzzled by this attitude. It's as if a kid is a monkey of some sort that can randomly call someone. If a kid is smart enough to use a phone, he or she can understand your concerns.

You might try to get longish distance walkie-talkies. They are cheap and probably go far enough. I let my (similar age) kids free range a block or two, especially if they go together and bring a walkie talkie.

Why not just give them a real phone?. That way they are never at risk of being out of range. Parental control it so it can't install apps if you are super paranoid.

It's the "John Walsh" effect. His son's kidnapping was all over the news and then later he had "America's Most Wanted" and he literally started scaring people from allowing their kids out of their sight. To this day, people still think their kid is going to be abducted if they let them go play.

I remember being 9 and riding my bike miles away to the mall and back. Kids can't do that anymore.

It’s a conversation being had by parents all the time. The mistake is to think that not letting the kids do things doesn’t have an effect.

More realistically you are often balancing a high harm, low risk (sometime tiny, eg abduction) event against a low harm, high risk one. This is inherently difficult, but easier I think when framed this way.

Even back when us kids were 'free range' there were more restrictions placed on the girls, my older sister couldn't get up to as many shenanigans as I could at the same or younger age -- cultural norms and whatnot.

Stories like this make me so sad. We've turned ourselves into wusses in just 20 years...

Get her a Gizmo pal watch.

You can call her. The watch auto-answers, so she can't ignore it. She can call 5 pre-programmed numbers.

And you can see her location in an app.

I was against Apple Watch for kids, but honestly if I were in this situation, it seems like a decent compromise.

Maybe even just an Air Tag?

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