As far as I know, it’s not against the law for children to play outside unsupervised. I could be mistaken, but I’d have to read the law for myself. If it is there, I must have missed the fight over its passing. When did parents decide that they would prefer the government to dictate how they did their jobs? I don’t recall that movement; it must have happened when I was asleep.
But there must be a law, because why else would Danielle and Alexander Meitiv be facing child neglect charges? The Maryland couple is under investigation from Child Protective Services for letting their children – 10 and 6 – walk home from a nearby park without supervision. According to reports, the Meitivs have been forced by CPS to sign a “safety plan” wherein they promise not to leave their children unsupervised. Montgomery officials contend that there is a law against leaving a child under the age of 8 inside without someone who is at least 13.
That does not, of course, really apply to the situation at hand.
The Meitivs aren’t alone. These stories are popping up with frightening frequency. They include a Florida mother who was arrested last summer for letting her 7-year-old walk to a local park by herself. Another incident occurred in South Carolina under much the same circumstances.
Look, I get that not everyone subscribes to this notion of free-range parenting. That’s your choice. You can spend the first 18 years of your child’s life hovering over them like a shadow. Good for you. Maybe that’s the best way to do it.
But your choices are your own. And I’m not the only one who grew up in a world where I had more freedoms than restrictions as a child. We think of those bleary, nostalgic days as a simpler time when you didn’t have to worry about some pedophile murderer sweeping you off the street. But that’s not accurate. Truth is, the world is safer today than it was thirty years ago. Crime is down across the board since the early 1990s, particularly as it pertains to crimes against children.
Yes, there must be child protection laws. But, as with any encroachment on our individual liberties, they should be as light-handed and hands-off as possible. We should gag at the thought of making more laws, doing it only when there is simply no other choice. Instead, we seem to do the opposite. We see a problem, we make a law. Someone is living their life in a way we don’t like, we make a law. And for some reason, we are utterly powerless to stand against that timeworn argument: do it for the children. Do what for the children? Anything. Anything at all.
The big debate right now is whether or not we should make vaccines mandatory. But before we “make a law,” maybe we should gag a little first. See if it’s really necessary to steal away a little bit more freedom for the sake of the children.
Before long, they won’t be the only ones who must be supervised at all times.