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Why Are Parents Getting Arrested for Letting Their Kids Go to the Park Alone?

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https://flic.kr/p/8baLxY

Kids, a photo by Stella Yodo on Flickr.

Is your child ready for grade one? According to a 1979 checklist there are number of things to look for, such as:

“3. Can your child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?

9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?

8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?”

http://www.chicagonow.com/little-kids-big-city/2011/08/is-your-child-ready-for-first-grade-1979-edition/

Via

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/08/31/a_1979_first_grade_readiness_checklist_asks_if_your_child_can_tr.html

 

So in 1979 (not that long ago) it was considered normal for a 5 year old to be able to walk eight blocks unsupervised to the “store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home…”

Now, parents are being arrested for letting their kids go outside unsupervised:

“Working Mom Arrested for Letting Her 9-Year-Old Play Alone at Park” http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/arrested-for-letting-a-9-year-old-play-at-the-park-alone/374436/

“Nicole Gainey Was Arrested For Letting Her 7-Year-Old Son Walk To The Park Alone” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/nicole-gainey-was-arrested-for-letting-her-7-year-old-son-walk-to-the-park-alone_n_5633803.html

These are not isolated events. Children playing outside unsupervised is becoming increasingly rare. And the reason give is that we are living in dangerous times with too much crime and too many predators.

Interestingly, in Japan where crime is so much lower than in the United States, children do walk to school and back unsupervised:

“In Japan, 80 percent of kids between 6 and 12 walk to school grownup-free.” http://www.salon.com/2012/07/21/paranoid_parents_kill_cities/

And yet, even in very safe Japan, children have stopped playing outside:

“For example, in the 1970s a Japanese photographer, Keiki Haginoya, undertook what was to be a lifelong project to compile a photo documentary of children’s play on the streets of Tokyo. He gave up the project in 1996, noting that the spontaneous play and laughter that once filled the city’s streets, alleys and vacant lots had utterly vanished.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/opinion/27elkind.html?_r=0

Meanwhile, in Iraq, during the middle of a war, kids were playing outside, unsupervised:

“After all, nothing is more popular in Iraq than soccer. “There are soccer fields everywhere,” Reppenhagen said. “Mostly it is just dirt lots. They don’t have goal posts and so use stumps. Sometimes the kids play in the street. I swear, all they do all day long is play soccer.”” http://www.salon.com/2007/02/07/soccer_balls/

So what has really changed? Perhaps the fact that kids have become hooked on TV, video games, and other electronic entertainment?

“A new survey reveals that today’s children are missing out on pursuits such as cycling and swimming enjoyed by past generations of youngsters, with experts blaming the findings on their parents being too afraid to let them play outside. Rather than go out and ride their bikes, the survey says that today’s kids are more likely to be engrossed in electronic gadgets such as mobile phones and computer games consoles, watching TV or surfing the internet. “ http://road.cc/content/news/35089-experts-blame-parental-fear-kids-shunning-cycling-and-swimming-tv-and-computers

“A poll of 2,100 children conducted by the Telegraph has found that half of eight to 14-year-olds watch a minimum of four hours of television a day during term time.  Even more time is spent in front of the television at weekends and holidays, with some children more than doubling their daily viewing.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1467815/Children-watch-more-than-4-hours-of-TV-a-day.html

Then for the parents willing to risk the wrath of society and allow their kids to go outside to play, who are they going to play with, if the rest of the neighborhood kids are inside playing video games and watching TV? Sad times indeed for kids growing up today… Note: if there was a huge power outage, and all these electronic gadgets died, it would be just a matter of time before parents got irritated by active and loud kids underfoot, and decided to kick them outside so that the parents could quietly mourn the death of their wonderful electronic babysitters.

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