‘Free range’ is the new parenting trend – but is it safe?

Bianca Soldani and Elise Sole

Lawmakers in the US state of Utah have just decided to legalise a controversial childrearing method called ‘free-range parenting’.

It’s a common practice in Japan, where it’s very much a part of their culture, but free-range parenting sparks fear in the hearts of many mums and dads in lower population density areas like Utah and Australia.

The idea behind the method is that children are free to do more things on their own.

Should children be allowed to walk to and from school alone? Photo: Getty

For example, kids are allowed to walk to and from school or the local playground unaccompanied, without it being considered ‘neglect’ on the part of their parents.

Free-range parenting wants to see children to grow up with limited parental supervision with the goal of instilling independence.

Or as Utah senator Lincoln Fillmore puts it, “we have become so over-the-top when ‘protecting’ children that we are refusing to let them learn the lessons of self-reliance and problem-solving that they will need to be successful as adults.” 

Likewise, advocate and author Lenore Skenazy says it’s about “raising kids in a sort of old-fashioned way."

"It is the belief that our kids are not in constant danger, so we don't have to parent them as if they are,” she tells Huffington Post.

Lenore was branded neglectful and slammed as ‘America’s worst mother’ for writing about how she lets her nine-year-old son take the New York subway on his own.

She wants to dispel the idea that the world is becoming an ever more dangerous place and that children need a constant security detail to remain safe.

People against the idea of free-range parenting say the method is a wild and discipline free way of raising children, while others are simply concerned about how safe their local neighbourhoods are.

One mum from a low socio-economic background says she’s worried about letting her nine-year-old daughter walk to their local green grocer alone.

“Even though she has a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile phone, even though I’m sure she’d be fine, I worry other people would think otherwise,” she tells The Establishment.

“Maybe if I let her go too often, people would start to wonder if her mother was around to watch her. Maybe they would call the police.”

She cites the example of the three-year-old child who wandered off from his parents at the Cincinnati zoo only to fall into Harambe the gorilla’s enclosure.

After Harambe was shot dead for the child’s safety, intense backlash was swiftly aimed at his parents for supervising him.

So what do you think? Are you for or against the free-range approach?

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