What Steps Are You Taking to Keep Your Children Safe?

I’m really floored by the way parents keep an eye on their kids these days. I’m an older mom; when I was a kid, I did all kinds of things on my own, like riding my bike in the neighborhood, playing outdoors, going to the store, etc.
Do your children play in their own yard, unsupervised?

Do they ride their bikes in the area?

At what age would you let them go to a public bathroom (i.e., restaurant, library) on their own?

Do you think the world is more dangerous now, or do you think the news just makes it seem that way?

My kids are adults (finally) but I allowed them lots of unsupervised play because that was how I was raised. When they were quite young (kindergarten to second grade) we lived on an Army base, so I felt safe letting them play across several yards and the neighborhood playground (which was adjacent to our backyard) without me being out there with them 100%. When they were older, and we moved back to the civilian world, they had fewer friends in the neighborhood to romp with, but they were allowed to go off on their bikes and over to friends’ houses within a few blocks on their own. I had them check in with me much more than my mom ever did, but when I became a divorced parent their world got a bit smaller as they had to stay home more…until they became teens. Once they were about 8 I’d let them go into public bathrooms on their own, but I was usually nearby.

My neighbors right now have two small children…kindergarten and second grade, I think. Not really sure, because despite having a fenced-in backyard, those kids are never, ever outside on their own to swing or scamper or ride their bikes in the drive. Even with a stay-at-home mom. I never see them outside alone. Very few kids are ever seen out playing in this neighborhood anymore, partly because a lot of them are latchkey kids, but just the general prevailing fear thing, too…and this is a safe suburban city. I think the perception of danger is way higher than the actual threat.

There’s a lot of paranoia about, isn’t there?

My small girls are three and pushing-one, so they don’t get an awful lot of opportunity to be off by themselves, but I do let them play in the backyard which I can see from the kitchen, and if it’s just the older one I’d only check intermittently.

I was brought up with a fair degree of freedom to roam around, and I value that and would hope I’d be able to reproduce a similar upbringing for my kids. They will probably be more circumscribed unless we move house though, simply because there’s so much traffic around here - we do not live in a suburban area at all.

I don’t believe the world is more dangerous than when we were kids, I think we’re all more risk-averse in lots of ways.

My nephews, though (ten, nine and four, in a little country town) are allowed to go to the park by themselves (over the back fence!) and the older two can ride their bikes around the neighborhood. I don’t think they’re unusual in their area. So the paranoia hasn’t reached everywhere yet…

Things certainly have changed. We just started letting my 8 yo boy walk to the 7-11, about a block away. It’s not so much that we’re afraid of creeps, but that there’s a very busy street he has to cross to get there, and he sometimes isn’t so focused (ADHD). When I was 8, I had a minibike and I rode it all over town. Of course, growing up in a town of about 3000 in the 70s is way different than being in Northern Virginia in the 00s.

My little mudgirl will be 7 just after Christmas. She goes out riding her bike all the time. She knows her boundaries are around our block, and she can cross the alley to go one block down. This does not include crossing either of the two busy streets close to here. For that, she needs a grown-up. She has gotten in hot water on occasion by stopping her bike at a friend’s house and going inside to play, without telling me first. We’ve had conversations about that. Also, when the street lights start coming on, she has to come inside.

I guess if we lived in a bigger city, I might be more restrictive. But she’s an active kid by nature, and the city (and I use the term loosely) we live in is small, and everyone knows everyone. As a kid, I was more of a homebody, but my hubby was very much the wanderer, and she’s very much like him.

Mine are teens now, so you can subtract about 7 years for the youngest for the answers.

All the time. Just like my parents taught me - apply boot to backside, close door. Ignore cries of boredom. Find out when it is time to come back in, they’re having too much fun to want to stop.

Not really. Rollerskate on the block. I live in Queens, NY. Narrow streets and high traffic.

Around 6 / 7. More when they felt comfortable going alone rather than when I felt comfortable.

Define more dangerous. The traffic on the roads was much less when I was growing up. Pre-teens, in Queens, there were mostly cars lining the street, so the drivers had a much less obstructive view of what was happening on the sidewalks Now numerous SUVs and minivans obscure the views to a much greater degree. Teens, in Suffolk, Long Island, the population density and traffic were much much less. Kids can no longer play street hockey where I used to play because the traffic on the side streets has increased so much. In that manner, it has become more dangerous.

However, regarding child abductions and other crimes against children, I’d argue it has become safer. CNN taught all the networks us that this type of news sells. Once it started permeating the national psyche, changes were implemented so that the authorities take the accusations much more seriously. After all, no one wants to be seen on CNN sitting on their thumbs. Mobilisation is quicker and more coordinated. In addition, people have learned that weird Uncle Earl is not just a family problem, and that people will believe you (sometimes too quickly) when you complain. Teachers look out for signs of abuse and report them. None of the crimes are new and I don’t think they are any more prevalent as a percentage of population; what is new is that authorities take them seriously (for the most part). Also, what is new is that they are disproportionately reported, stoking people’s highly irrational fears of bogeymen on every corner.

My kids are grown now (more or less) – my son is 20 and my daughter, 19. My personal situation is further complicated by the fact that my daighter is disabled with Cerebral Palsy and, since she was 7 or so, has walked with crutches. Before that she used a walker.

Do your children play in their own yard, unsupervised? Yes to this, for both of them, since they were 2 or 3. That’s the backyard, of course, which in our case, was always fenced. They were let to play in the front yard since they were, oh, 6 and 7. Before that we lived on a fairly busy street, so I didn’t let them play in front without supervision. When they were 6 and 7 we moved to a house on a quiet culdesac and they were allowed to play anywhere on the culdesac without direct supervison. By 9 or 10, I would let them leave the culdesac, so long as they were going somewhere specific – to a friend’s house, or the park, say – and they told me where they were going and when they’d be back.

Do they ride their bikes in the area? My son, yes, according to the rules above. My daughter didn’t have a bike.

At what age would you let them go to a public bathroom (i.e., restaurant, library) on their own? My son at about 7. Before that, he went into the ladies with Doe and I. Once he was 7 he didn’t want to do that anymore. This was a pain because a trip to a public restroom with my daughter wasn’t a quick trip. So I would send Nick into the men’s room, while Doe and I waited right outside. Then, once he came out, Doe and I would go into the ladies, and Nick would wait right outside the door until we came out.

Do you think the world is more dangerous now, or do you think the news just makes it seem that way? I’m of the opinion that the news just makes the world seem more dangerous.

I dunno, I’m usually on all fours, sneaking around the corner of the house so I can blast them with the hose.

Yup. With helmets, until they get out of sight.

I’ve tried to teach my kids that neither the library nor Le Chez Henri et Francoise is a public bathroom. We’re still allowed in the library.

The world today, compared with a few decades ago, is relatively free of things that will hurt them, relatively well-stocked with things that might scare them, and absolutely rife with things that will disappoint and disillusion them. What kind of danger worries you the most?

That was really lovely - well, sad, but beautifully put.

I think the moms of my acquaintance are convinced that released sex offenders have taken up residence in bathroom stalls throught the country, and are just waiting there to pounce on their sons.

Maybe I’m naive, and I sure don’t want to be foolhardy with my own kids, but I don’t think there’s a perv in every potty.

Now, apparently there IS a perv in every chatroom - the cyberworld seems to be far more saturated with sickos. THAT’s where kids need supervision, in my book.

By the way, I think a lot of kids are nowadays are way oversupervised. Especially disabled kids. Doe has known disabled kids who grow up, literally, never having been anywhere on their own. Obviously, there are severely disabled kids who need a caretaker on hand on the time, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Doe knows a girl who has about the same level of disablity that she has whose parent are lalways with her in public. Doe would meet this girl at church youth group meetings and both her parents would be on the trip wiith her. When the kids stopped to eat (usually at a fast food place), Anna and her parents would sit together at a table away from the other kids. They sometimes asked Doe to join them and the dinner conversation would be be ‘life with CP,’ a subject that bores Doe silly. End result – Anna is living at home, taking one or two community college course at a time, with her parents ferrying her to and from classes and, sometimes, attending class with her (on test days and other ‘stressful’ times).

I have been accused, by other parents of disabled children of being too casual about Doe’s disablity. Nobody has ever used the word ‘neglectful’ to my face, although Nick did overhear Anna’s parents comment that they thought I must be ‘almost neglectful’ to allow Doe to go on overnight trips without me. ::shrugs:: The proof is in the pudding, IMO. Doe has had problems over the years but I don’t think they were a result of her disablity. And I can honestly say that I have never met a kid at her level of disabilty who is as independant and self-sufficiant as Doe is. She is living at college now, and is so busy and happy that we sometimes don’t hear from her for 3 or 4 days.

IMO, the risk to kids of never allowing them any autonomy is far greater than the minor risk that they will fall victim to a molester.

Totally agreed. My middle daughter’s best friend has a father who’s frighteningly overprotective of both his daughter and his son. They were not allowed to ride their bikes beyond line-of-vision of their house until they were 10; the girl is 13 now and is still not allowed out of the house after dark. Now, I’m not arguing that a kid that age needs to be roaming around in the middle of the night, but recently, it’s dark before 8:30, and that girl could certainly walk the two and a half blocks to our house at 8:30, except her father doesn’t allow it. One night, my daughter was over there, and ready to come home at 9:30; the father called me and asked if I wanted him to walk her home. Hello? It’s two and a half blocks, in a safe neighborhood, and she’s 15. No, I do not need him to walk her home.

So true.

Because age matters, Sophie is four-going-on-five.

  1. Yes.

  2. Her tricycle, yes.

  3. She’ll go in by herself, but I keep the door in view and an ear out.

  4. No.

Her mom will give totally different answers, I’m sure. Me, I’m like “Soph, why don’t you walk down to your friends and see if they want to play.” Mom is like “Well, let me call their parents and see if we can come down for half an hour.” :rolleyes:

That is exactly the topic of my thesis. You might be interested to know that there was a study released recently that found that online solicitation of minors is decreasing, and most of the problem seems to be coming from people the child knows IRL.

I’m not saying (in fact, no one is saying) that it’s okay to let kids go online alone. But the problem of the “perv in every corner” is probably not true. (I’ll know more after I finish my research.)



Maybe not, but it isn’t necessarily a safety issue. For men of a certain age and upbringing, it’s simply how a gentleman acts. It wouldn’t occur to me, for example, even to call and ask: a lady is always, now and forever, to be escorted home, no matter what the neighborhood is like. If I’m employing her as a babysitter, I have that responsibility. If it’s a social call, she chose our company for the visit, she can tolerate it on the journey home. She can get used to it the same way she’ll eventually get used to me (and my son) standing up when she enters the room.

I think I am more lax than most mothers I know. I recall one of my son’s daycare moms pulling over and letting me know my son, then four, had wandered into the front yard, as opposed to the back yard. I was not too concerned. He’s 7 1/2 now and goes into the men’s room by himself if Daddy’s not with us. He rides up the street to his friend’s on his bike. It’s a very quiet side street. With friends, he can ride around the block. In they summer he can be out till 8:30, now till 7:15.

My SIL has a son who is 10 mos younger, and she doesn’t allow him to do any of these things even though he’s also a second grader. I had to really laugh at a recent family gathering. She was going on and on about men’s rooms and how they are hotbeds of “gay perverts” and would NEVER allow her son to go alone at this age and she went to a seminar, blah, blah, blah. Less than an hour later she was drunk off her ass, as she so often is, and didn’t care where he was.

When I was a preschooler, apparently my mother had NO concern about my safety. I crossed streets, hung out at creeks, went all over town. I recall, when I was younger than my son is now, sitting with my feet hanging from a bridge in Bangor, Maine, eating a pizza I had purchased with a dollar I had.

Hmmm. I guess I’m lucky to be alive.

I work for a company heavily involved in safety.

Children today are unquestionably safer than they used to be. I can get some numbers later this week, but it’s a dramatic difference. Children are less likely to be injured and killed in almost every concievable manner than was once the case.

Point taken. But did you read about how he is with his own kids? I mean, they were nine years old, and not allowed to ride their bikes anywhere where they could not be seen from the front porch. :rolleyes: He is definitely over-protective, imho, and I’m just afraid, for the kids’ sake, that it’s going to bite him in the ass, at the expense of his kids’ safety, because the only way they’ve been taught to deal with potential danger is to avoid it.

Wow, it’s night and day, the difference in replies here vs. on the mommyboard.

I wonder if that’s b/c Dopers tend to be stringently empirical? From the studies I’ve seen, automobiles are a much bigger threat to small children than anything else.

Or perhaps it’s the methodology of the surveys, with only people who agree taking the time to post.

I’ve seen something I find disturbing.

I take back roads to work each morning about the time buses pick up. I see, as I expect to see, parents standing out at the bus stop with their small kids (I send mine out on their own - first and second grade - but the neighbor is in forth grade and is generally out there with them - I walked out with them the first few times last year). I also see adults standing out there with much older kids. Either, lots of kids have truancy problems where they aren’t even getting on the bus in the morning (the reason I’d be standing out at the stop with my pre-teen or teenager) or parents are a lot more cautious than I think is really healthy. I think a little of both.