'Free-Range Parenting' Catching On Around US

Other states may follow Utah's lead in making it OK for parents to give kids more leeway
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2018 3:48 PM CDT
'Free-Range Parenting' Catching On Around US
In this April 6, 2018, photo, Caleb Coulter, 10, left, and his sister Kendra, 12, play tag during a visit to the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

After Utah passed the country's first law legalizing so-called free-range parenting, groups in states from New York to Texas are pushing for similar steps to bolster the idea that supporters say is an antidote for anxiety-plagued parents and overscheduled kids. Free-range parenting is the concept that giving kids the freedom to do things alone—like explore a playground or ride a bike to school—makes them healthier, happier, and more resilient. It surfaced nearly a decade ago, when Lenore Skenazy touched off a firestorm with a column about letting her then-9-year-old son ride the New York City subway alone. Since then, she's become a vocal advocate for free-range parenting. Critics say letting kids strike out on their own can expose them to serious dangers, from criminals to cars. Parents have been investigated by child-welfare authorities in several high-profile cases.

Utah's new law specifies that it isn't neglectful to let well-cared-for children travel to school, explore a playground, or stay in the car alone if they're mature enough to handle it, per the AP. In New York, Democratic state Assemblyman Phil Steck said he's gearing up to introduce a similar proposal. "When I was a child, you let your dogs and your children out after breakfast and ... they had to be home for dinner," he said. "I felt I gained a lot more from just playing on the street than my children did from being in organized sports activities." It's an idea that cuts across the ideological spectrum. Brandon Logan with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation is working with lawmakers for a bill next year. A conservative group is also pushing for a bill in Idaho, and an Arkansas lawmaker whose effort failed plans to bring it back again.

(More parenting stories.)

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