How young is too young? At what age would you let your child venture outside unsupervised? It’s a contentious issue – on one hand, you want to allow your child to experience independence and the liberty to play unsupervised. On the other hand – hello, safety concerns!
With Christmas holidays looming, it’s a hot topic for all parents. A new survey has found that the most common age to let children venture outside alone is nine to ten years. At this age, 28.6% of respondents said they would let their children walk to the corner shop without adult supervision. (Author’s note – As the mother of an eight year old, I say, “No way!” And then I say, “What does a primary kid need to buy at the corner shop?!”)
The survey, conducted by kids’ tech brand Moochies, found that the strongest determining factor for parents deciding if their child was ready to spend time outside unsupervised was the maturity of the child (48%). This was considered more important than the perceived safety of the neighbourhood (30%), the child’s age (19%), and what other parents think (less than 1%). But maturity is such a subjective thing – some nine year olds may be ready to run free, while others are content sticking by mum’s side. Even siblings can differ markedly in maturity at the same age.
Whether or not the child is perceived to be mature enough, 82.25% of parents reported feeling at least some level of anxiety about their young child going outside unsupervised, with 13.9% responding they felt extremely anxious.
It’s a fine line between independence and safety. Mike Lanza, in his book Playborhood says, “Think about your own 10 best memories of childhood, and chances are most of them involve free play outdoors.” Yet the anxiety of “What if?” can stir up parents’ fears and stifle kids’ freedom.
How can you help to bridge the gap?
- Instil a knowledge of road rules, and assess how your child evaluates risk – can they calculate distance between approaching cars (do they even look for approaching cars?!) and do they understand the potential danger of vehicles and bikes – both on the road, and emerging from driveways.
- Talk to your kids about ‘stranger danger’. Engage with your school about key messages and strategies.
- Start small – let them go, but let them know you’re watching from a feasible distance. Give them a little independence, then a little more. Make sure they know they need to earn your trust.
Independence is a vital part of growing up. Sometimes it means we as parents need to grow up too – letting our little ones trial their emerging maturity, and giving them the freedom to play alone outdoors. If we can only keep ourselves from having a panic attack in the meantime…
Tell us your thoughts – how young is too young? Comment @havenhub and share with us.
Pssst . . . and if you’re looking for a cool Christmas gift that the kids will love and will give you peace of mind, check out Moochies wrist-worn mobiles. Connected with an app and your phone, the watch can make and receive calls and you can check the child’s location. In pink, blue, black and lime, these might be just the reassurance you need. $139.99 from www.moochiesforkids.com.au