The Meitiv family of Silver Spring, Maryland is now under Child Protective Services scrutiny for permitting their children to walk the neighborhood alone a little too freely. Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids has been on the story for a while, and now the Washington Post and columnist Petula Dvorak are covering it too (related). More: Beth Greenfield, Yahoo Parenting (cross-posted from Free State Notes).
P.S. Google Street View will let you simulate the experience of walking south a mile down Georgia Avenue from Woodside Park through and past downtown Silver Spring. And welcome listeners from “Frederick’s Forum” on WFMD with host Dave Schmidt, where I’ll be calling in to discuss the case this morning.
For Reason TV. On a pending New Jersey case: “I think it’s the first case of letting a kid wait in a car that’s going to any state supreme court.” Lenore’s now-classic appearance at Cato, “Stop Bubble-Wrapping Our Kids!,” can be viewed here.
Apparently 43 percent of Americans now believe there should be a law against that [Lenore Skenazy] Happily, after years of advocacy from Skenazy (especially) and others, we’re seeing more written from the calmly rational side: “Why I let my children walk to the corner store — and why other parents should, too” [Petula Dvorak, Washington Post]
P.S. “Another Mom Behind Bars for Letting Kids Wait in Air-Conditioned Car” [Skenazy; Brandy Becksted, Ky.]
ABC 20/20 with Elizabeth Vargas takes on the kids-unattended-in-cars hysteria, interviewing Lenore Skenazy and discussing the growing tendency of random passersby to take on the role of informant and call the cops when they see kids — even older kids on cool days — alone in parked cars.
No misprint, the kid’s age was 11. [Lenore Skenazy, Reason; Bristol, Ct.] Related, from Free-Range Kids: “Kid, 8, Skips Church to Play. Dad Arrested” (Blanchester, Ohio). More: Radley Balko (“the criminalization of parenthood”).
“…I had no idea it would consume the next years of my life.” Another mother arrested for leaving her kid in a parked car for a few minutes, from Lenore Skenazy’s files [Free-Range Kids; related, Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week]
“Dad Gets 1 Year Probation for Making Son Walk a Mile” [Hawaii; Free-Range Kids]
“The world is force-feeding you a horror movie [in which] you’re the star, and your kid is dead.” When Lenore Skenazy came to speak earlier this month (video of that) she also recorded this audio podcast with Caleb Brown, which has significantly different content. Among the topics: how the media, law, and police encourage helicopter parenting; the best way to break the fear cycle; and how she got turned on to Cato.
Lenore Skenazy’s incredibly funny talk last Thursday, with me commenting and moderating (and even at one point giving my impression of a 3-year-old losing a cookie), is now online. Several people have told me this was one of the most entertaining and illuminating Cato talks they’ve seen.
Lenore’s blog is Free-Range Kids and you can buy her book of the same name here. Some links on topics that came up in my remarks: Harvard researchers call for yanking obese kids out of their homes; authorities in Queensland, Australia, plan use of satellite data to spy out noncompliance with pool safety rules; courts reward helicopter parents in custody battles; charges dropped against mom who left toddler sleeping in car while she dropped coins in Salvation Army bucket; proposals to cut kids’ food into small bits and discontinue things like peanuts and marshmallows entirely; authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small quantities of pot.
P.S. Direct video link here (h/t comments).
Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?
Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name. This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
Australian journalist Jo Abi is perfectly serious about the idea:
Drowning is one of the leading cause of death in children under five with majority of those deaths occurring in backyard pools. So why haven’t backyard pools been banned? If any other product or activity caused so many injuries and deaths in our most vulnerable they would be banned, there would be lawsuits, there would be outrage. Except backyard pools are an intrinsic part of Australian culture, and it’s costing us children’s lives.
One who isn’t persuaded is Lenore Skenazy, who quotes a commenter at the Australian iVillage site:
I understand one always wants to take measures to prevent deaths, but 16 deaths a year is 0.00000064% of the population. …
We really need to be careful with these kind of ideas, it might not be the banning of cars but the amount of rules that can be added in the name of safety is and will continue to spiral out of control. People seem to want a zero fatality society yet this is not only impossible, the quest for it will create a culture and country based on fear and draconian governance. Given the rules in place now, and articles like this asking for more, 100 years from now you won’t be allowed to swim at all or build, play outside, run, experience anything really.
Lenore Skenazy will be speaking at Cato tomorrow (Wednesday)(Update: postponed to March 6 due to weather). To attend, register here.
More from comments, Bill Poser:
There’s a factor missing from this discussion. The dangers of backyard pools have to be balanced against the dangers of not having them. It seems likely that backyard pools contribute to public health in two ways: (a) by increasing the cardiovascular fitness of the people who use them, who might exercise less if they did not have access to backyard pools; (b) by teaching children to swim and keeping up the swimming ability of adults. Here again, one can learn to swim elsewhere, but it is likely that the availability of backyard pools brings about swimming instruction and practice that would otherwise not occur. We can’t formulate an intelligent policy without knowing the marginal increase in deaths from heart attacks and drownings due that would be incurred by banning backyard pools.
“In [a New Jersey] appeals court decision last week, three judges ruled that a mother who left her toddler sleeping in his car seat while she went into a store for five to 10 minutes was indeed guilty of abuse or neglect for taking insufficient care to protect him from harm.” The child was unharmed. [Lenore Skenazy, New York Post and Free-Range Kids] Author Lenore Skenazy, who has written about hundreds of instances of questionable legal protectiveness or overprotectiveness at her Free-Range Kids blog, will be speaking at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with me commenting; the event is free and open to the public, but you need to register here. (Update: postponed due to weather)
And: Scott Greenfield has more thoughts on the impulse to bring brief episodes of unattended back-seat child solitude into the criminal, therapeutic or supervisory orbit. Like so many others of my generation, I was left in the car during brief shopping errands by my own decidedly conscientious and non-abusive mother.
Will you be in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, February 5? I’m delighted to announce that Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame, whose work I regularly link in this space, will be speaking at the Cato Institute at lunchtime. I’ll be offering comments as well as moderating, and it’s free and open to the public. Register here. The event description:
Our children are in constant danger from — to quote Lenore Skenazy’s list — “kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Or so a small army of experts and government policymakers keep insisting. School authorities punish kids for hugging a friend, pointing a finger as a pretend gun, or starting a game of tag on the playground. Congress bans starter bikes on the chance that some 12-year-old might chew on a brass valve. Police arrest parents for leaving a sleepy kid alone in the back seat of a car for a few minutes. Yet overprotectiveness creates perils of its own. It robs kids not only of fun and sociability but of the joy of learning independence and adult skills, whether it be walking a city street by themselves or using a knife to cut their own sandwich. No one has written more provocatively about these issues than Lenore Skenazy, a journalist with the former New York Sun who now contributes frequently to the Wall Street Journal and runs the popular Free-Range Kids website where she promotes ideas like “Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” Her hilarious and entertaining talks have charmed audiences from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. Please join her and Cato’s Walter Olson for a discussion of helicopter parenting and its unfortunate policy cousin, helicopter governance.
And don’t forget that next Wednesday I’ll be moderating a luncheon talk at Cato by another favorite author, Virginia Postrel, with powerhouse commenters Tyler Cowen and Sam Tanenhaus. Register here.