When I was little, I had set parameters for how far I was allowed to go in my neighborhood unsupervised. Of course, "unsupervised" is a loose term here, because there were always people sitting on their front porches in our small town, but the point is that my parents were not expected to constantly hover over me. And that was great for me, because sometimes I wanted to get in some swing time and my parents didn't have to take me to the local park.
Oh how times have changed.
Sociologists are starting to study why we have become a society that believes our children are not safe. One are of focus has been around the availability heuristic. This is the idea that if we can recall a horrific event easily, we think it is more common than it actually is. (Think about all those missing children that appeared on milk cartons...putting the idea in every Mother's mind before breakfast was even over.)
It turns out that when we do hear about incidents of children being left alone, we also allow our own moral biases to color the incidents in our minds. In this study, researchers determined that we were more likely to forgive a parent for letting their child watch a movie alone for 20 minutes while a parent got work done versus a parent using that time to have an affair.
All of this research is good news: If we are able to change the conversation, maybe we will realize our children are safe. I want my son to explore the world, not be afraid of it. But, it is hard to encourage that when the world says he can't leave my backyard.
How much independent roaming of your neighborhood did you do as a child? Tell me in the comments.