How much freedom do kids get nowdays?

In this thread the OP mentions that their middle-school aged child cannot play casual sports in their neighborhood, presumably because of safty concerns.

I’ve heard a lot of this lately- how kids can’t do the things we did as children due to safety. From what I can tell, kids don’t walk to school, ride their bikes, and play neighborhood games of tag. I’ve read quite a few posts that say that kids do nothing but watch television and play video games- but this time it is not because of moral decline, it is because they arn’t allowed outside.

I am 23 years old, so it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a kid. I grew up in a bad neighborhood. Police helicopters, drive-by shootings and hard core drug use were not usual things to us as kids. But our parents still let us outside and we did “normal” kids things. When I was in elementry school, I had the run of my apartent complex, and could walk a mile to school with a friend. In middle school, I was allowed in the immediate neighborhood and rode my bike everywhere. By high school I was allowed pretty much anywhere (and took full advantage of my city bus pass to go all over the city) as long as I called home every couple hours and let Mom know where I was. This wasn’t a good neighborhood, but my situation was pretty typical and my parents certainly wern’t being oblivious or neglectful.

Have things really changed that much since I’ve been a kid? What is it that people are scared of- kidnapping is the only thing I can think of that would warrent being lockdowned in the house, but there have been kidnappings throughout history and I don’t think they have risen that much since I was a kid. And that doesn’t explain restrictions on older kids. Since most these people seem to own homes, their neighborhood can’t possibly be that bad and if anything it seems like gangs and the like are less commen. What are these new dangers? Does it merit these rather extreme measures? Has American childhood really changed forever in the last ten years, and what are the forces behind this?

I wonder how people could “typify” American childhood to really answer this is a satisfactory way.

A few thoughts:

It may not be that crimes against children have increased, but that our awareness of them have. The world may seem more risky to parents simply because they know more.

There are more things to keep a child engaged indoors now. It may be that some parents in iffy neighborhoods have always wanted to keep their children in, but it wasn’t feasible. A generation (or even less) later, we have more than 4 TV channels, and more child-targeted cable, and other forms of electronic entertainment aren’t considered luxuries. Now, parents can better act on their protective/paranoid impulses.

I think the number of working mothers has increased. Some families may not feel comfortable with their kids out and about without Mom home as a place to touch base.

To some extent we seem to have become more private and territorial in child-rearing. I am not sure why this is. However, I think this is a real change, and it means families can’t always rely on their neighbors, or strangers in the community, to take a protective, kindly interest in looking out for their children when they are out of reach.

My parents were never overly protective. When I was about 8, my parents would let me ride my bike all around the neighboorhood. They generally didn’t let me cross the very busy street a few blocks to the north, or the other busy street about five blocks to the south, but other than that they let me bike all around the streets. I remember going about a mile and a half from my house to the shopping center at the edge of the freeway. This was in the late '90s (I’m 15 now).

You know, I haven’t just ridden my bike around the neighboorhood in years. I should start doing that again. It was fun.

I let my kids go out a lot more than most of their friends do. I suspect that part of the mindset is that many parents now have their children in day care from early in life through elementary school, and the idea of letting them loose to spend unsupervised time outside is a little scary. It’s also kind of difficult to buck the trend and let the kids have some freedom when your peers are essentially saying that they think it’s unsafe to do so. Peer pressure doesn’t end when you’re a teenager - it can be just as bad when you’re middle-aged and comparing yourself to other parents.

My son (11) doesn’t go out much at home simply because there’s no one elso who’s allowed outside to hang out with except for punks I’d rather he didn’t hang out with. (Like little 10 year old drug-dealing bicycle stealing gangbanger punks, not “harmless” bullies like we used to have.) On fine summer days, I have to kick his little butt out the door, to cries of, “but there’s nothing to DO!”

Although we spend a lot of time camping, and he always seems to find plenty to do on his own when we’re in the middle of the woods.

Of the three schools in two suburbs that he’s attended, no student walked to school alone until 5th grade. This included students who lived across the street from the school. Mom or grandma (occasionally I’d see a dad) would walk them to the schoolyard. Kids who lived further away were generally driven by a parent. Our schools actually have policies in place against children arriving alone more than 10 minutes before the bell rings. (Supervision is only provided for those 10 minutes, otherwise, parents must stay with their kids.) When he started 5th grade, the oldest grade at the elementary school, I noticed a handful of kids who started walking alone, but it was not the majority, by any means.

Now, he’s at the middle school (6th, 7th and 8th grades) and suddenly, nearly every child is an unsupervised walker or bikerider. And their little brains can’t take it. They’ve suddenly experienced freedom, and turned into little hoodlums. (I think the convenience store on the corner doesn’t help, as it seems that most of the students stop there for a wholesome breakfast of Mountain Dew and Sour Skittles.)

So yeah, unfortunately, at least where I live (a very urban “suburb” of Chicago - we’re less than a mile away from the Chicago border) it is true. Kids, even mine who has no video games and limited TV time, just don’t play outside like we did.

I must have an odd kid, then. He plays outside a lot. He rides his bike everywhere - he has free run of my town, basically. He walked to school for years, by himself, and as recent as last fall, I have pictures of him and another kid in the neighborhood jumping out of trees into huge tree “hills” that they’ve raked up. As long as the weather is ok, he LIKES being outside. Not to say he doesn’t have to check in - he does - every few hours - but if he wanted to go outside after he eats his Count Chocula in the morning and come home and dark-thirty, as long as he’s checked in with us at least once, it’s fine.

I think this may be the biggest reason. When I was a child 25 years ago, my parents knew quite a lot of the people who lived around us. There were several neighbors I could have called or gone to had I really needed help. Kids today don’t seem to have adults looking over their shoulders all the time, which may be in part responsible for the young-hoodlum effect. I certainly don’t think it’s the mountain dew and skittles. I walked past a 7-11 to school everyday and lots of kids bought sugar for breakfast. It may not have been good for them, but it wasn’t a 1:1 on who was a bully later.