“In just a few generations, we have tightly restricted American kids’ freedom to roam, play, and become self-sufficient. The percentage of children walking and bicycling to school has plummeted from almost 50 percent in 1969 to about 13 percent today. Although distance from school is often cited as the main barrier to walking and bicycling, many families still drive when schools are close to home. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, driving accounts for about half of school trips between 1/4- and 1/2-mile long — which in most cases shouldn’t take kids much more than 10 minutes to walk.”
This is a controversial topic and I certainly don’t have all the answers. The free range parenting is a new to to our cultural conversations about parenting, but the ideas are anything but new. Most free range advocates want their children to have the rights to roam about their neighborhoods that others today would see as parental neglect. Many argue that as automobiles have become more prominent in urban design, it has come at the expense of children’s ability to be in public unsupervised (yes, children used to be encouraged to go out to play in the streets). Children don’t know their own neighborhoods as well anymore and this isn’t just about architecture and design. Culturally our communal notions of proper parenting and child safety have shifted in the United States, but they are also very different around the world.
Questions to Ponder: How is parenting shaped by cultural norms? What are the spatial implications of changing parenting strategies? What are the factors that shape your opinion about the ‘proper’ range for kids to roam unsupervised?