At What Age Should Children Be Allowed Out of the House on Their Own?

Family Matters on 11.01.12
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As parents, we always want what is best for our child. But finding that balance between allowing them to spread their wings and become independent and also keeping them safe seems to be becoming increasingly difficult. My son is only 6 years old so he is not ready to go out of my sight when we’re in public even though in many cases he is perfectly capable of doing whatever it is he wants to do. But it’s not him that I am worried about. It is all the crazy people out there. In the past few weeks there have been two instances in which teens have murdered younger children and then there is the horrific murder of two young children by their nanny. Can anyone be trusted anymore?

The truth is that we just don’t know, so how can we possibly let our children out of our sight? I know my son is capable of going to use the bathroom at a restaurant by himself, but I don’t know who else might be in that bathroom that could harm him. I know that he is capable of finding his way through the short wooded path at the park that is within yelling distance, but there is another access to the wooded area where someone could snatch him and take him out the other side before I would know it. Even when “all the other kids are doing it” my answer is “no” because the what-ifs are too great.

But we also can’t live in fear. At some point we will have to let them out of our sight or the sight of their teachers or babysitters. When I think about 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway walking to school in Colorado and 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale riding her bike, I think that their parents must be devastated that they allowed them out on their own, but I also think that by those ages I hope that my child will be able to do the same thing. They were old enough to do them, but they still were victim to the evil of their neighbors.

The world will never be rid of evil people. And it’s probably not even possible to say that it’s more evil now than it was when I was a kid. The news didn’t spread quite as far or as quickly as it does now with the instantaneousness of the internet so people weren’t faced with stories about it every single day. I don’t know when will be the right time to let my child become more independent in this world, but I hope that it is evident to me when it does happen. In the meantime, I will try to teach him how to protect himself without trying to scare him into being afraid to leave the house—which sometimes I feel like I could do to myself with a quick browse of the news. Life isn’t all good, and while I try to shield him from the evil in this world, it’s important that I also teach him about it so that he is well armed should he ever come into harm’s way—which I pray never happens.

What age do you think kids are old enough to venture around on their own?

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