NYC subwayLenore Skenazy is an op-ed writer for the New York Sun who earlier this month wrote a piece for the paper about letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway and a crosstown bus from Bloomingdale’s department store to their home (also in Manhattan). He had begged her to leave him somewhere and let him figure out how to get home by himself.

He was a smart kid who knew the city. So she let him do it, supplied with a MetroCard and some quarters for a pay phone. And he made it home, immensely proud of himself.

After she wrote about it in her column, she heard from lots of people who were almost ready to have her arrested for child abuse. “Two days later,” she wrote, “I was on the Today Show, MSNBC, FoxNews and all manner of talk radio with a new title under my smiling face: ‘America’s Worst Mom?’”

I know that a huge number of New York City parents never let their kids out of their sight unless accompanied by a trusted adult, somehow believing that any 9-year-old will be immediately snatched off the street if left alone.

So Skenazy has started a blog called Free Range Kids, where she says:

Do you ever… let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less.

I remember growing up in the 50s and 60s, and my friends and I were riding our bikes and exploring our suburban neighborhood all the time on our own, but those days seem a misty memory now. I never felt unsafe, though, and looking back on those days, I don’t feel I ever was unsafe.

The news media, however, bombards 21st-century parents with a seemingly constant stream of horrible (but actually extremely rare if you look at the statistics) tales of lost, kidnapped, and abused kids. No wonder many parents fear that something terrible (such as being lured by a sexual predator while online) might happen to their child at any moment, when the chance of bad stuff happening is actually minuscule. I agree with Skenazy that a child who is trained, by supportive adults, to be self-sufficient – whether when riding the subway or surfing the Net – is far better off than one who is constantly watched and protected from “danger.” But what do you think?

I’m not sure how long Skenazy’s little blog will last, so visit it soon if you’re interested in this topic. It’s definitely worth a read.