The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersGene Expression Blog
This Moral Panic Shall End Too
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

tnapb4 From Tablet, Letting Go of Our Kids Isn’t a Form of Neglect:

…Kidnapping by strangers is wildly uncommon; in New York State, for instance, the Division of Criminal Justice Services announced that 20,309 children were reported missing statewide in 2011; exactly one of those children was confirmed abducted by a stranger. Most—94 percent—were runaways, most of them teenagers.

The article is in response to the state of Maryland’s horrified response in relation to the existence of a family which practices “free range” parenting. Free range being what used to be called normal parenting as far back as the 1980s. Looking at the statistics above this is a clear case of moral panic. It will abate. Too many cultural forces, from overtaxed working mothers to libertarians and Christian parents’ rights sorts, object to the dominant ethos. But, I suspect that technology, the ubiquity of phones with GPS and tracking technology, will play a role in the changing of the Zeitgeist.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Parenting 
Hide 19 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Just give the kids a microchip implant. That way when they wander off from home without their collar, whoever finds them can identify them with a simple trip to the local pediatrician.

  2. Even when my son was young (ca. 1980) this was starting up. I ignored the paranoia, as most parents in the neighborhood did. But it was there.

    This seems non-ideological. Conservative Christians and yuppie liberals are the most paranoid, by my guess. Part of it is the fine-tuning kind of parenting where parents start scheduling every minute of the kid’s time from the very beginning.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    Yeah I imagine we're looking at a function of socioeconomic status, not ideological conviction. I'm guessing middle to upper-middle-class people who are ambitious social climbers. Lots of Tiger Moms will be implicated, I imagine.
    , @Vijay
    It started exactly in 1984. A picture of Etan Patz, a child who went missing in 1979, was placed on a milk carton. Then, missing children appeared on pizza boxes, grocery bags, and junk mail envelopes. There was always a question, “Have you seen me?” The milk carton campaign was the most visible aspect of the movement. In 1985,40% of 1,800 independent dairies had adopted the practice. This picture promotion followed the cigarette pack warnings. Remember cigarette pack warnings had as much to do with the success of reduced smoking, as any other method. I believe the nation, as a whole, imagined the missing child theme to be as real as other advertised warnings, and greatly reduced the exposure of children to outside influences.

    I believe the last time an American child walked alone to a game or school or library was 1983.
  3. That’s a good point. We put ID chips/GPS collars in/on our dogs so why can’t we do that for our kids?

  4. @John Emerson
    Even when my son was young (ca. 1980) this was starting up. I ignored the paranoia, as most parents in the neighborhood did. But it was there.

    This seems non-ideological. Conservative Christians and yuppie liberals are the most paranoid, by my guess. Part of it is the fine-tuning kind of parenting where parents start scheduling every minute of the kid's time from the very beginning.

    Yeah I imagine we’re looking at a function of socioeconomic status, not ideological conviction. I’m guessing middle to upper-middle-class people who are ambitious social climbers. Lots of Tiger Moms will be implicated, I imagine.

    • Replies: @K.
    Head + nail.

    When I first became aware of that this sort of thing was going on, my informal name for it was "parenting by comittee". In Africa, children are, so I am told, raised by villages- among the wealthiest segment of the white North American middle class children appear to be raised by a panel of piano teachers, soccer coaches, sailing instructors, camp counsellors, and various and sundry other professional persons. The mothers and fathers mainly concern themselves with the logistics. The South Koreans popularized this approach among the broader middle class and the more aspiring portions of the working class in their own country, and now the broader middle class in North America is starting to play catch up.
  5. @John Emerson
    Even when my son was young (ca. 1980) this was starting up. I ignored the paranoia, as most parents in the neighborhood did. But it was there.

    This seems non-ideological. Conservative Christians and yuppie liberals are the most paranoid, by my guess. Part of it is the fine-tuning kind of parenting where parents start scheduling every minute of the kid's time from the very beginning.

    It started exactly in 1984. A picture of Etan Patz, a child who went missing in 1979, was placed on a milk carton. Then, missing children appeared on pizza boxes, grocery bags, and junk mail envelopes. There was always a question, “Have you seen me?” The milk carton campaign was the most visible aspect of the movement. In 1985,40% of 1,800 independent dairies had adopted the practice. This picture promotion followed the cigarette pack warnings. Remember cigarette pack warnings had as much to do with the success of reduced smoking, as any other method. I believe the nation, as a whole, imagined the missing child theme to be as real as other advertised warnings, and greatly reduced the exposure of children to outside influences.

    I believe the last time an American child walked alone to a game or school or library was 1983.

  6. While I have seen polls showing a majority of Americans are okay with outward criminalization of leaving kids alone, I’m really not sure that fear of abduction/sexual predators is the purported reason any longer.

    Personally speaking, talking to parents, while few would think of leaving a nine-year-old home alone, they do not cite abduction as the reason. In some cases they’re worried if they play outside alone they’ll wander into the street and get hit by a car. In other cases, they’re explicitly most worried about being reported by other people, and losing custody of their children. But I think mostly they’ve just internalized the idea that leaving a pre-pubescent child alone is just wrong in a moral sense for a parent, and they don’t have any clear rationalization for why. The norm has been so internalized that they recognize parents who leave their kids unsupervised as “neglectful” even while admitting when they were a kid they went to the park at nine years old, or stayed home alone for a few hours at a time at the same age.

    I realize my own background, however, may be biased. Against my best intentions, I browsed a few mommy blogs on the subject. At least among active posters (who one would presume would tilt towards being more in the overparenting side of things, since they care enough to post) the discussion was fairly rational. No one raised any concerns about abduction. Most people said they didn’t personally feel comfortable leaving a child under 10 at home alone, but few seemed to think a strict legal age should be set, since children are different in terms of maturity.

    Regardless, my hypothesis remains that the main reason parents feel uncomfortable letting their children stay home alone, or wander the neighborhood in packs, is that’s what “bad parents” let their kids do. Bad parents meaning poor ones.

    • Replies: @PD Shaw
    As someone who actually had a first grade classmate abducted, raped and murdered btw/ home and the park, I don't feel this has motivated any of my conscious thinking because I recognize how rare this is. The fear of injury scenario is real, not just from cars, but from normal falls. Kids sometimes need to be taken for stitches or x-rays. I want to be minutes away when this happens.

    We didn't really allow our kids home alone until 10. Mainly because they were in an after-school program until we picked them up. This was not some sort of elite program, it was basically indoor/outdoor recess, board games, and a place to do homework. It was better than watching TV at home and many of their school friends will be there anyway.

    We do have some social concerns with kids home alone. We don't want other people's kids at our house, so we generally insist our kids stay inside, and we also are not comfortable with our kids playing at other people's houses without a parent because we feel it is an imposition.
    , @Anthony
    My wife and I won't leave the kids (5 and 8) *home* alone for more than about 15 minutes at a time because we're worried we'd get in trouble from the neighbors - I think if it were just a worry about the trouble the kids could get themselves into, our comfort zone might be over an hour.

    The older kid doesn't get to walk to school by herself because it involves crossing heavily trafficked streets, and the younger one starts at the same time. So one of us walks both of them to school. Without the scheduling, we'd consider letting the older one walk by herself next school year.

    I was born in 1966, and the suburb I grew up in had some working mothers, including mine. By first grade (age 6), I was walking to school on my own, but the streets were lower-traffic than they are where we live. At about age 7, I'd been riding my bike around unsupervised for a couple of hours, fell, split my knee open, and walked home. The next weekend I was out riding again.

  7. When I was growing up the only rule was be home by supper.

  8. “this is a clear case of moral panic. It will abate.”

    Sure some of these moral panics are “the Madness of Crowds” and some may not be . The war on drugs was a moral panic that was created with a specific agenda in mind , it certainly hasn’t abated . Instead it has lead to increasing police powers and a steady erosion of long standing constitutional protections . The “War on Terror” is another example although it’s not so much a “moral panic” as just straight up panic . And shows no sign of going away . Now parents can’t be trusted to raise their own kids w/o state intervention .

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=71c_1375765667

    The state can do so much better .

  9. Thanks for reminding of the concept moral panic.

    First time I encountered it was in Haggai Ram’s Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession.

    Can that problem, too, be solved by placing GPS chips inside mullah’s turbans? Or Sarah Netanyahu’s soda cans?

  10. K. says:
    @jtgw
    Yeah I imagine we're looking at a function of socioeconomic status, not ideological conviction. I'm guessing middle to upper-middle-class people who are ambitious social climbers. Lots of Tiger Moms will be implicated, I imagine.

    Head + nail.

    When I first became aware of that this sort of thing was going on, my informal name for it was “parenting by comittee”. In Africa, children are, so I am told, raised by villages- among the wealthiest segment of the white North American middle class children appear to be raised by a panel of piano teachers, soccer coaches, sailing instructors, camp counsellors, and various and sundry other professional persons. The mothers and fathers mainly concern themselves with the logistics. The South Koreans popularized this approach among the broader middle class and the more aspiring portions of the working class in their own country, and now the broader middle class in North America is starting to play catch up.

  11. My family moved from the inner city to the suburbs when I was young in the early 1980s. My parents alarmed some of the suburbanites by allowing me to walk to school on my own at 7 ( just down the street) to ride away on my bike for hours unsupervised and to ride the bus at 12. We were in turn surprised that they left ground floor windows open and front doors unlocked

  12. @Robert Ford

    I was mostly attempting to be humorous. An implant seems a bit invasive to me. Parents have a degree of control over their children and I guess logically it wouldn’t be anymore invasive than circumcision (which our culture accepts) but implanting something in another human being for the purposes of monitoring them seems a bit too authoritarian. But that’s just me. It certainly isn’t beyond comprehension (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microchip_implant_%28human%29).In a world where everybody has cellphones and blathers on the internet everything about themselves maybe its not so crazy. Though I guess in such a world it would be of less need.

  13. I remember my church wouldn’t let kids leave the building even to walk to the parking lot or stand on the sidewalk on their own after Sunday school let out. Would insist on every parent having to park and come inside to pick up their children. My fifth grade brother I had to come in and get because they would not allow him to walk to the damned car.

  14. As a Gen-X parent, accused by my elders of being a helicopter parent, the biggest concern/change has been the difference from our childhood when there was always a parent at home (my mom stopped working when I was born, my wife’s mom was a teacher). This was the norm and one could easily find parents everywhere and kids everywhere. We were also for the most part a one-car house, so my mom often literally couldn’t go anywhere.

    Now, both parents work, and the schools offer before/after school programs to assist with commutes. The busing service is more generous, and itself is a place to store kids so we can work. The peer group is the same, so at any time there are fewer parents/kids around.

    Anyway, roaming for us is highly contingent upon whether a parent is at home, the age of the child, and what is on the schedule (how soon is supper, practice, etc.) I’m not sure this is at all different from my parents, except I had more time between school and supper and after supper. I notice that the dad in Maryland was at home when his children were roaming, a 10 yr old supervising a 6 yr old doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue to me either. And is it really roaming if you know where they are (between home and the park),?

  15. @Karl Zimmerman
    While I have seen polls showing a majority of Americans are okay with outward criminalization of leaving kids alone, I'm really not sure that fear of abduction/sexual predators is the purported reason any longer.

    Personally speaking, talking to parents, while few would think of leaving a nine-year-old home alone, they do not cite abduction as the reason. In some cases they're worried if they play outside alone they'll wander into the street and get hit by a car. In other cases, they're explicitly most worried about being reported by other people, and losing custody of their children. But I think mostly they've just internalized the idea that leaving a pre-pubescent child alone is just wrong in a moral sense for a parent, and they don't have any clear rationalization for why. The norm has been so internalized that they recognize parents who leave their kids unsupervised as "neglectful" even while admitting when they were a kid they went to the park at nine years old, or stayed home alone for a few hours at a time at the same age.

    I realize my own background, however, may be biased. Against my best intentions, I browsed a few mommy blogs on the subject. At least among active posters (who one would presume would tilt towards being more in the overparenting side of things, since they care enough to post) the discussion was fairly rational. No one raised any concerns about abduction. Most people said they didn't personally feel comfortable leaving a child under 10 at home alone, but few seemed to think a strict legal age should be set, since children are different in terms of maturity.

    Regardless, my hypothesis remains that the main reason parents feel uncomfortable letting their children stay home alone, or wander the neighborhood in packs, is that's what "bad parents" let their kids do. Bad parents meaning poor ones.

    As someone who actually had a first grade classmate abducted, raped and murdered btw/ home and the park, I don’t feel this has motivated any of my conscious thinking because I recognize how rare this is. The fear of injury scenario is real, not just from cars, but from normal falls. Kids sometimes need to be taken for stitches or x-rays. I want to be minutes away when this happens.

    We didn’t really allow our kids home alone until 10. Mainly because they were in an after-school program until we picked them up. This was not some sort of elite program, it was basically indoor/outdoor recess, board games, and a place to do homework. It was better than watching TV at home and many of their school friends will be there anyway.

    We do have some social concerns with kids home alone. We don’t want other people’s kids at our house, so we generally insist our kids stay inside, and we also are not comfortable with our kids playing at other people’s houses without a parent because we feel it is an imposition.

  16. But, I suspect that technology, the ubiquity of phones with GPS and tracking technology, will play a role in the changing of the Zeitgeist.

    So it won’t actually go away, it’ll just be replaced by Big Brother (or Big Mommy & Daddy in this case)? 🙂

    This is captured by episode 5 (“Persistent Romeo”) of the new ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. A great many problems arise because of people’s inability to manage probability and general innumeracy.

  17. @Karl Zimmerman
    While I have seen polls showing a majority of Americans are okay with outward criminalization of leaving kids alone, I'm really not sure that fear of abduction/sexual predators is the purported reason any longer.

    Personally speaking, talking to parents, while few would think of leaving a nine-year-old home alone, they do not cite abduction as the reason. In some cases they're worried if they play outside alone they'll wander into the street and get hit by a car. In other cases, they're explicitly most worried about being reported by other people, and losing custody of their children. But I think mostly they've just internalized the idea that leaving a pre-pubescent child alone is just wrong in a moral sense for a parent, and they don't have any clear rationalization for why. The norm has been so internalized that they recognize parents who leave their kids unsupervised as "neglectful" even while admitting when they were a kid they went to the park at nine years old, or stayed home alone for a few hours at a time at the same age.

    I realize my own background, however, may be biased. Against my best intentions, I browsed a few mommy blogs on the subject. At least among active posters (who one would presume would tilt towards being more in the overparenting side of things, since they care enough to post) the discussion was fairly rational. No one raised any concerns about abduction. Most people said they didn't personally feel comfortable leaving a child under 10 at home alone, but few seemed to think a strict legal age should be set, since children are different in terms of maturity.

    Regardless, my hypothesis remains that the main reason parents feel uncomfortable letting their children stay home alone, or wander the neighborhood in packs, is that's what "bad parents" let their kids do. Bad parents meaning poor ones.

    My wife and I won’t leave the kids (5 and 8) *home* alone for more than about 15 minutes at a time because we’re worried we’d get in trouble from the neighbors – I think if it were just a worry about the trouble the kids could get themselves into, our comfort zone might be over an hour.

    The older kid doesn’t get to walk to school by herself because it involves crossing heavily trafficked streets, and the younger one starts at the same time. So one of us walks both of them to school. Without the scheduling, we’d consider letting the older one walk by herself next school year.

    I was born in 1966, and the suburb I grew up in had some working mothers, including mine. By first grade (age 6), I was walking to school on my own, but the streets were lower-traffic than they are where we live. At about age 7, I’d been riding my bike around unsupervised for a couple of hours, fell, split my knee open, and walked home. The next weekend I was out riding again.

    • Replies: @Karl Zimmerman
    I'm a bit younger than you, having been born in 1979. My childhood was a bit nontraditional for a middle-class American though in that our household was multi-generational - my mother's parents moved in when I was an infant, and were a constant feature of my household. This allowed both my parents to work full time and meant someone was always there with my brother and I in the household. So I was seldom "left alone" as a child - although I was always someone who had more fun entertaining myself, so I was quite often alone in some corner of the house.

    In addition, as I was pretty severely hyperactive as a child, I was aware that my parents kept a much closer watch on me when I was in the young child age (say preschool to first grade) than most kids in our neighborhood. I aware other kids wandered the neighborhood in packs, but I was not allowed to be one of them, for fear I'd do something stupid. Of course, I still have memories of sneaking out on occasion, doing things like crawling through storm sewers and entering open basement doors - you know, normal things for a six year old.

    Still, my the time I was say nine, I was given essentially free reign outside. I definitely remember many summer days when I rode my bike to the nearest park and spent most of the day just wandering around the woods, coming back for dinner. So it's amusing for me to think that even if by the standards of the 1980s my mother was overprotective, by today's standards she would have been a free-range parent.

    My oldest is six. There is a playground literally a block away from our house. My wife and I are in discussion about when we will feel comfortable letting her walk to it on her own - not due to fear of much of anything but being reported. I'm thinking eight. That said, my daughter appears to be naturally fearful of doing things alone, so I'm guessing when we offer her said freedom, she won't particularly want it.
  18. I grew up in a lower-middle class Australian family in the 1980s and back then there tended to be a 50/50 split between taxi parents who carried there kids around a lot and parents who expected their kids to transport themselves to school and sports/music practice. My parents’ attitude was that it you really wanted to do a particular activity, you would get yourself getting there, and that would prove you were genuinely keen.

    I’m remember they bought a second hand piano for my younger sister. She complained it needed tuning and never really used it. My father refused to get it tuned as he thought if she really wanted to use it she would make do or pay for the tuning herself.

    Ideologically speaking, the parents that hovered over their kids and tended to transport them everywhere tended to be left-wing liberals or strict religious conservatives, while those who gave them space and expected them to show initiative tended to be non-religious right-wing liberals and moderates.

  19. @Anthony
    My wife and I won't leave the kids (5 and 8) *home* alone for more than about 15 minutes at a time because we're worried we'd get in trouble from the neighbors - I think if it were just a worry about the trouble the kids could get themselves into, our comfort zone might be over an hour.

    The older kid doesn't get to walk to school by herself because it involves crossing heavily trafficked streets, and the younger one starts at the same time. So one of us walks both of them to school. Without the scheduling, we'd consider letting the older one walk by herself next school year.

    I was born in 1966, and the suburb I grew up in had some working mothers, including mine. By first grade (age 6), I was walking to school on my own, but the streets were lower-traffic than they are where we live. At about age 7, I'd been riding my bike around unsupervised for a couple of hours, fell, split my knee open, and walked home. The next weekend I was out riding again.

    I’m a bit younger than you, having been born in 1979. My childhood was a bit nontraditional for a middle-class American though in that our household was multi-generational – my mother’s parents moved in when I was an infant, and were a constant feature of my household. This allowed both my parents to work full time and meant someone was always there with my brother and I in the household. So I was seldom “left alone” as a child – although I was always someone who had more fun entertaining myself, so I was quite often alone in some corner of the house.

    In addition, as I was pretty severely hyperactive as a child, I was aware that my parents kept a much closer watch on me when I was in the young child age (say preschool to first grade) than most kids in our neighborhood. I aware other kids wandered the neighborhood in packs, but I was not allowed to be one of them, for fear I’d do something stupid. Of course, I still have memories of sneaking out on occasion, doing things like crawling through storm sewers and entering open basement doors – you know, normal things for a six year old.

    Still, my the time I was say nine, I was given essentially free reign outside. I definitely remember many summer days when I rode my bike to the nearest park and spent most of the day just wandering around the woods, coming back for dinner. So it’s amusing for me to think that even if by the standards of the 1980s my mother was overprotective, by today’s standards she would have been a free-range parent.

    My oldest is six. There is a playground literally a block away from our house. My wife and I are in discussion about when we will feel comfortable letting her walk to it on her own – not due to fear of much of anything but being reported. I’m thinking eight. That said, my daughter appears to be naturally fearful of doing things alone, so I’m guessing when we offer her said freedom, she won’t particularly want it.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Razib Khan Comments via RSS