Utah and ‘Free-Range Parenting’: Legalizing Going Out and Playing

Remember, this is now the generation that tells adults how much we don’t know.

So-called free-range parenting will soon be the law of the land in Utah after the governor signed what appears to be the country’s first measure to formally legalize allowing kids to do things on their own to foster self-sufficiency.

The bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday that he’d signed, specifies that it isn’t neglectful to let kids do things alone like travel to school, explore a playground or stay in the car. The law takes effect May 8.
Associated Press, 3/16/18


Believe it or not, there was a time when walking to school (weather conditions would require appropriate adjustment) and later going out to play was a normal activity of childhood. Then again, there were no video games, dozens of television stations or other substitutes for babysitters. Granted, there were families where both parents were working, so they did what would now be considered the unthinkable: they left children at home and taught them the advanced activity of knowing how to lock the door behind them and how to unlock it to let themselves back in. Some of us had to learn to prepare lunches of varying complexity, meaning some of us were entrusted with the arduous task of cooking.

Weather was a minor factor as we’d still go out and play. The difference was we’d adapt and seek what is now known as shelter so we could still hang out but not be rained or snowed upon. That might require utilizing a garage or under a porch, but there was very little to keep us inside.

While outside unsupervised, that child would go out and meet up with other children in the neighborhood to engage in a variety of activities. Children would play stick-ball (a more modest version of baseball) on side streets using a bat and sometimes a tennis or Wiffle ball. Sometimes children would play street hockey, or mimic some of the television programs of the time like Batman, Superman, or the Green Hornet where they’d be arguments over who would be Kato.

It was very normal for children of all ages to go out and play. It was never deemed a sign of neglect worthy of having some social worker from Child Protective Service investigate a family for neglect. Maybe that’s why today’s young people are less able to handle the many adversities of life; adversities that come with challenging activities that occurred after school before going home for supper, on weekends, and during those long summer months.

Little could be done anonymously. We learned to deal with challenges as they happened in real time. We learned to socialize in person. There were winners and losers. There were conflicts that were almost always resolved face-to-face.

BTW — There were no mass school violence incidents. Zero, ever.

We’re not sure when this all formally changed, but it was clearly not for the better as we now have children quite content in staying home all day, engaging their peers via social media behind a PC or smartphone, and not expending the physical exercise and using the imagination all young people have but are now being forced to suppress for the convenience of parents and teachers.

Who ever thought walking to school or going out to play would be considered child neglect and/or abuse that was actually labeled the same as farm animals… “free range”, seriously?

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