Mother lets 9 year old ride NYC subway. People go insane. Are we crazy about kid safety these days?

Re this article The last word: Advice from ‘America’s worst mom’, is this women irresponsible or have we all just lost our minds? When I was 9 I rode all over the place on my bicycle and no one blinked an eye. Nowdays it seems the expectation is that should practially have to have a kid leash on your children until they’re 18 or they will be grabbed and raped.

This is an interesting question. When I was four, I used to walk home from Kindergarten, a distance of about a mile 9and across our town’s streets).

When I was 11, my parents let me wander around alone through Montreal for several hours, where the official language is French (which none of us spoke).

I know. Everyone says “it was different then”. Only statistics seem to show that it really isn’t.
Nevertheless, I didn’t let my daughter walk home from school, and would definitely think twice about dropping her off in Canada. But i do think I’m overly-protective.

It’s not the actual danger level that changed. What changed is the society’s standards on what is considered an acceptable amount of danger.

I wouldn’t even blink at a 9yo using the subway in Helsinki… I doubt anyone would.

I’m from a land with little in the way of subways (well, I mean, they have that one in LA, but nobody really uses it), but I was always under the impression that in a place like New York, the subway was just like. . .a bus where I live. Sometimes, before I could drive, I’d have to spend an hour on a bus getting from point A to point B, but no one would bat an eye at that. I just assumed kids rode the subway in NYC to get to places around town. Weird.

Pretty much, yeah. At 9, I was riding New York City Mass Transit (bus, not subway) by myself every day. In the 20 years since then, it’s become taboo to let your kids roam on their own, even though the streets are significantly, demonstrably safer. My guess is that the change is mostly due to increased sensitivity to boogie-man stories on the news, combined with a general disinclination to think about things in terms of statistics and probability (or, in many cases, an ability to do so).

Do you have any kids?

I would never let my ten (almost eleven) year old walk around the block. When I was her age, and much younger, I roamed around practically wild without ever telling anyone where I was going (and usually having little idea myself when I started out), but times have changed.

A NYC subway? I wouldn’t even want to take my kids on a NYC subway if I was with them. I’ve never actually been on a NYC subway, but I’ve seen a lot of movies, and they’re always getting robbed or Bruce Willis is chasing bad guys and having shootouts on them, etc. That must get exhausiting having to deal with so much constant, violent action on the subways all the time. Way too much for the kiddies.

Holy crap that story is old!! She has a blog about her parenting philosophy called Free Range Kids. I think she is wonderful, and I agree with her the vast majority of the time.

I heard about this when she first wrote about it. I’m all about this kind of parenting.

You know, a lot of folks think that this kind of parenting is bad parenting, but I think a lot of them just don’t understand it. A lot of people don’t realize how much work ‘free range’ (I detest that corny term, but I needed a shortcut term to make my point)is. It’s a lot of work.

When I decided I wanted my 10 year old (11, now) to be able to explore the city on her own (her idea), I had to take her everywhere first, showing her this and that, how to respond in this and that situation. How to cross big streets, catch buses, learn all the ways to be safe. Not to mention doing all the research on statistics, and convincing my husband that child abductions are definitely one of the rarer things we have to worry about with our daughter. It was exhausting. Not to mention how I had to battle my mom and sisters and brother and my in laws to understand how and why I trust my kid enough to give her freedom.

That, and also the perception of danger. I don’t know anyone who has had a child abducted; no one I know knows anyone, yet that seems to be the biggest fear of most parents. Everyone I know has been injured or lost someone in a car collision, yet no one thinks twice about driving around with their kids in a car.

I think this outcry about letting a nine year old ride the subway alone also speaks to how kids are being raised differently than in past times. My husband flew across Canada alone to visit his grandparents at nine.

Oh good lord. Please say this is a joke. :eek:

Just out of curiosity, would anyone who actually has a kid that age (or close to that age) be willing to let them ride unattended on a subway like that?

As a parent, I’m conflicted.

On one side, the streets are safer than maybe they’ve ever been. Also, kids need to become independent at some point. They also need to feel that I trust them and that I belive in their competence.

On the other hand, independence is not exactly a required habit to enforce in a kid. They’ll gain their independence in time. And the downside - child kidnapped or worse is, well… massive.

I want to let them be independent, but I worry. And I think that’s natural.

The “solution” to child safety is to drop the speed limits in school and playground zones (and my city just increased the hours for school zones this fall - from ridiculous to really ridiculous); it never seems to be to teach children how to walk safely around traffic.

You are one seriously damaged cat, and your kids are going to pay the price for it.

Yes. But she didn’t allow cell phones. I would definitely have to know that my baby has her cell phone on her. And my baby wasn’t ready at nine, intellectually, in my opinion. By 11, she’s ready.

There is definitely a line to be drawn, but for me the NYC subway at nine years is over the other side of it. The fact is that a nine-year-old is completely defenseless in the face of an adult (or even an older child) with ill-intent.

They are also young enough to do something like run toward the shadows to hide, instead of toward the kiosk and crowd where help is available.

I rode my bike all over town at the age of ten, and hopped trains into town to go buy a hotdog at the gas station. I survived; but not because my parents were doing a good job. But then there were no Crips or Bloods in Northern Virginia at that time either. The murder stats in DC have gotten much better, but I still don’t wander around SouthEast alone after dark.

You can talk all day about statistics and likelihood, but in the end there are some chances one just shouldn’t take. Where that line gets drawn is dependent upon the area, the kid and the parent. But what I’m discovering is that people who have experienced the horror of a truly bad person will draw the line much closer than those who have the luxury of ignorance. The price of knowledge is unfortunately for the child to pay more often than the parent.


Only if the conductor was stoned.

When I was 11 or 12, my mother let me and my 8 or 9 year old brother go to Honolulu by ourselves for 3 days (we were living in California and grew up in an airline family; the flight crew and airline-owned hotel staff were aware of it all).

So yeah, I think a 9 year old riding the subway is fine. Duh.