Parenting | news | Family

Parents Are Divided Over A New Law Supporting "Free-Range Parenting"

Pixnio / Elizabeth - Flickr

I'm not even that old, but some days it can feel like I grew up in the Wild West.

My generation of kids didn't have cell phones, iPads, or parents hovering over our shoulders every minute of the day.

After school, me and my brothers were free to go wherever we liked, as long as we were back in time for dinner.

But today's parents are more demanding, which has led to a strange new law in Utah.

Free-range Parenting

Free-range parenting.
PXhere

The state has passed a one of a kind law protecting "free-range parenting."

The law changes the definition of "neglect," so parents won't be charged for leaving their children unsupervised in certain cases.

Lawmakers say the bill allows children to:

  • walk outside alone
  • play in a park without supervision
  • wait in a car without an adult

"We’ve become too hyper about ‘protecting’ kids"

One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Lincoln Fillmore, says children "need to wonder about the world explore and play in it," to learn "self-reliance."

"As a society, we’ve become too hyper about ‘protecting’ kids and then end up sheltering them from the experiences that we took for granted as we were kids."

He says the law was inspired by headline-grabbing cases of parents who lost custody of their children because they were too independent.

A couple from Maryland were deemed negligent by the state's Child Protective Services for letting their sons play outside without adult supervision.

The case divided parents nationwide, and so has the new law, with concerned mother and fathers weighing in on both sides.

"There's no right way to parent"

The woman who popularized (and trademarked) the idea of "free-range" parenting is Lenore Skenazy.

Her book of the same name caused an uproar when she admitted to letting her nine-year-old son ride the New York City subway - alone.

Lenore Skenazy.
Skenazy with her husband and their son.Noonan For News

Skenazy explains her parenting philosophy this way:

"Our kids have the right to some unsupervised time, and we have the right to give it to them without getting arrested."

"There's no right way to parent," she adds. "You have to give the parent leeway because they know best, and they love them the most."

But plenty of parents have a bone to pick with Skenazy and her laissez-faire attitude.

"A bubblewrap society"

Parents debated the new law on social media, and it's safe to say opinions were split.

"When you need a law to protect parents who let kids be independent, you might have a bubblewrap society," one person wrote.

Another explained "this used to be called normal life."

Free-range parenting.
@HLAurora63 / Twitter

But many parents worried that independence without supervision would put children in danger... or affect their manners.

"'Free-Range' parenting is the equivalent of 'Let my Kid be an Assh*le and Like it' parenting," said one woman.

But despite the disagreement, legal cases involving free-range parenting are becoming more common.

Banned from walking to school

Just a few months ago, a school in Magnolia, Texas kicked off a fierce debate by banning parents from walking their kids to and from school.

Free-range parenting.
Magnolia Independent School Board

Out of a concern for student safety, school principal Holly Ray required students to take the bus or be driven to school.

One of the parents who disagreed with the rule accused Ray of "implying that a parent doesn’t have the ability or capability to decide what is safest for her children."

The debate rages on

At the same time, parents are questioning whether the "old ways" of doing things are the best.

A father got in trouble earlier this month after making his bully son run to school in the rain as a punishment.

Other parents accused him of capitalizing on his son's pain for Facebook fame, but he insisted the extreme punishment was "simple parenting."

The fact is that every case is a little different, which is the idea behind the new law in Utah.

The "free-range" bill doesn't mention ages, so it's up to police and case workers to decide punishments on a case-by-case basis.

Are you a "free-range" parent?

[H/T: ABC, AP]