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Should you know where your 11 year old is at all times? £2 charity donation for every answer

(265 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 03-Aug-13 09:26:47

We've been working with the charity Railway Children with the help of Aviva and they would like to know how you tackle the difficult balance of keeping your children safe and giving them enough freedom.

In particular they'd like to know:

Our ability to keep in touch with where our children are and what they are doing is greater than ever because of mobiles, but as we relax our hold on them and allow them to have greater independence how can we ensure that they stay safe and make the right decisions?

At what age do you allow your children more freedom and independence and what parameters do you set them?

What discussions do you have with your children about safe behaviour, safe people and safe places to encourage them to keep safe when they are away from the home?

Aviva have kindly agreed that they will donate £2 to Railway Children for every valid comment posted on this thread (up to a maximum of 3 times per user). Railway Children work with UK children who have run away from home and end up living on the streets. Part of their work focuses on preventative education, encouraging children to think and talk about safe people and safe places to help them to make the correct decisions when they are away from the home. You can find out more about the charity and more ways to get involved here

thanks MNHQ

PS please note your comments may be used on the Railway Children pages on MN as well as elsewhere.

chickensaladagain Sun 04-Aug-13 09:35:35

One of my proudest moments in regards to dd1 is the first time I let her walk to our local town when she was 10

It's only a 10-15 minute walk but on the way home she realised she had missed a turning she needed to take

She stopped

She thought

She realised that if she carried on the road she was on it took her to her primary school and she was confident of the route home from there -so that's exactly what she did

What enabled her to stay calm and make that decision?

We walk everywhere, she's familiar with the area, where to avoid, social etiquette of being around people

There is a marked difference between the children that walk and get out and about in the local community, to those that are driven everywhere

She has a friend 2 streets away, 1 minor rd to cross and that friend isn't allowed to call for her. My dd has to walk round and fetch her -they start high school in 4 weeks -that worries me but I have no concerns about dd

curlew Sun 04-Aug-13 09:37:28

We live in the country, ds goes to school in the nearest town 5 miles away. I don't expect to know exactly where he is when he is out and about near home, but I do expect him to be home bang on time. I take him to school because there isn't a train that works. And he lets me know at lunchtime whether he is going to get the train home, or go to the park with his friends. If he's going to the park, I pick him up at a specified time- he is expected to be waiting in the car park when I arrive. If he's forgotten his phone,it's the train straight home, no option. I have talked to him about keeping safe, but I have never talked to my children specifically about stranger danger.

HOWEVER! The biggest difficulty he is likely to run into is his peers or older kids being stupid and lairy as they walk through town. So he has a code word that he can text me which means "I don't want to be with this group, come and get me" He then fades out of the group and goes to a prearranged place and I get him as soon as I can.

Notmyidea Sun 04-Aug-13 10:08:54

I agree that they need to start building independence and resiliance in preparation for senior school. I've found it rather interesting that the parents who raised eyebrows at my two running errands/walking themselves to activities in the summer aged nine and ten are the ones wanting their dc to be best buddies with mine so they can walk together.
I don't need to know exactly where mine are, but I do need to know a rough location, and we've talked about taking safer routes, not alleyways, who to go to if you don't feel safe, being back when expected or phone and explain yourself. Etc.
I did find with mine that they were very sensible, quite prim little girls who wanted to be independent and resourceful, then it all went wrong when they hit puberty, (aged 10 ish) and they started to resent my concern and rebel against the groundrules intended to keep them safe and battles ensued.

Doowrah Sun 04-Aug-13 12:04:05

My 11 yr old DS goes to town, some friends, trusted places usually with his phone. I tust him to be sensible and he will be going to and from school by himself soon. They have to learn how to become independent and sensible and I believe we should give them the chance to show us. He does have to tell me if he is moving location or if he wants to go somewhere different. I hope I always know where he is!!!

unquietmind Sun 04-Aug-13 13:26:12

When my teens were 11 I didn't know exactly where they were but they knew the boundaries of where they were allowed to go and set times for returning. Requests to stay at x's house had to come in person and with speaking to the parent: over phone random requests were not accepted. Phones are good in some ways but how many kids use all their credit; don't use it properly or it gets nicked?

My teens made it through but we had some interesting times. Ds3 aged 12 took his girlfriend to the next town to get mcdonalds where someone was attacked that week; when he had been dropped off at dance club; only found out when he left his phone in mcd and they called me! it was 100% no go zone but he still planned to get back to dance club for me to pick him up, situation was okay but it could have been a lot worse. Amongst other things we have had a 14yo son who appeared to be being groomed and someone was trying to get him to meet with them over texts and told him to lie to us - only spotted when I took his phone for bad behaviour and had a nosey as I was suspicious. I spent a lot of time thinking what if after that as it was only chance I had the phone then called the police. The police assurred me there was nothing more I could have done but I felt a failure as a mum and very lucky it never went any further with text person. as parents there will be lots we ddon't know but we will think we know and ita very worrying. The poster who spoke of the daughter saying she was on the beach but gps says otherwise - I hope she's okay but I'd be very interested to know what her response was!

I think that setting boundaries and expecting them to stay within them and then widening those boundaries as the get older is the way to go.

So at the age of 11 dd was allowed in town for a fixed amount of time with the boundaries of what constituted town being set.

At the age of 13 I expect to know if she is going into town but she can get herself too and from. At first I use to specify a route, now I don't. If she is going to a friends after or changing plans she needs to let me know. She can also get the train to another familiar town.

Recently she had a school trip abroad (and did when she was 12 too). They were allowed off in 3s around the local market by themselves.

The aim is that by the time she is 17 she can find her way to unfamiliar towns on the train to go and look at unis by herself.

TeaAndANatter Mon 05-Aug-13 12:28:38

Pretty much exactly, and almost all of the time. The exceptions would be if I'd allowed him to go to the park (5 mins walk away) with two of his friends (all three are 11), and in that case I wouldn't know exactly when he'd got to Joe's house, and when to Fred's, and when to the park, and on which street exactly he'd taken (but I'd be able to narrow it down to three streets). This happens about one hour per week, but he has his mobile, and he has to 'check in' after half an hour by phone. Also, he's allowed to go to the shops after school so long as he has phoned and told me to which shops he's going.

QOD Mon 05-Aug-13 12:34:16

Although I leave my 14 yr old home, she has a mobile and has to text thru the day. Allowed to be left at dance in town at 11 again with a mobile.
Sad as I was just left here there and everywhere!

StepAwayFromTheEcclesCakes Mon 05-Aug-13 14:34:11

mine are 17 and 20 and I still like to know where they are so YES definitely at 11. I ask mine to text me if plans change so although I don't know there exact location i know roughly they are 'downtown' or a x's house.

I don't know exactly where DS (11) is at all times, but I trust him to let me know if he's out on his bike and decides to go to a friend's house. If he goes on a bike ride (about 3-4 miles), he works out the route beforehand to make sure he won't get lost.
He does not have a phone, as I feel phones make children complacent about personal safety and timekeeping. If DS has agreed a time to get home, he can't just decide to stay later and phone me, he has to get back. Likewise, if he feels a situation is getting out of hand, he knows to leave it and come home, instead of relying on the magical protective properties of a phone.

mrsravelstein Mon 05-Aug-13 14:49:17

i know roughly where my just turned 12 yr old is at all times - i mean, he might be 'on the way to school' or 'on the way home from cricket' or at a friend's house and popped out to the shop... so i couldn't pinpoint him exactly, but i'd like to think i could always locate him if needed

manfalou Mon 05-Aug-13 14:53:14

I don't have an 11 year old but I would want to know where they are. I would let them have some freedom and a cheap mobile (not smartphone with camera or internet)

curlew Mon 05-Aug-13 16:27:35

"Although I leave my 14 yr old home, she has a mobile and has to text thru the day. Allowed to be left at dance in town at 11 again with a mobile.
Sad as I was just left here there and everywhere!"

So why do you think it's different for your 14 year old?

QOD Mon 05-Aug-13 19:57:31

You what curlew? I don't know wot you mean. I left her at a dance lesson in town with her mobile, as in I'd drop her off and come back 10 min after it finished, but she still had a mobile, so if a problem she'd be able to contact me.
I don't know if I didn't explain or if you think I shouldn't have left her at 11

QOD Mon 05-Aug-13 20:01:15

Ah hold on, so you mean why was it ok for me to be left? To be fair at 14, I was living in a house with my 15 yr old sister and her boyfriend staying over ... Sexually active etc ... I was left unsupervised and therefore she ain't!
Also, I think it's more obvious that she's home alone, I lived in a terraced house on a main road, no one would know if there was an adult home or not. Now, living in a detached house, on a village, with drive etc, its obvious no adult is home, therefore I feel she is a bit more exposed. I'd hate to not have a clue if everything was ok.
Powercut means no landline, but mobile works etc.

Monty27 Mon 05-Aug-13 20:07:04

Of course you should know where an 11 year old child is, I certainly did when my two dcs were 11. In fact, I still like them to let me know, and they're 17 and 20 now grin OTT

nooka Mon 05-Aug-13 21:35:45

I leave my 14 year old and 12 year old at home, as they are on holiday and dh and I am not. I usually ring once to check that they have got out of bed and are doing whatever chores they have been asked to do. They know what to do in an emergency, who to ring etc. I have no real concerns about terrible things happening to them, although of course it is possible. It's very much the norm where we live.

When I was 18 I traveled on my own through India, my parents got one post card and otherwise no contact before the call to ask if they could pick me up from the airport. I would like my children to have the confidence and independence to do the same thing (if they want to) and think it needs to be built up over time.

I was a little concerned when I asked ds what he would do if he got into trouble in town - he looked at me incredulously (I gave a few scenarios that he obviously felt were completely out of the realms of possibility), grinned and told me he would "panic and run around in circles like a headless chicken". Sometimes I regret moving from South East London - he'd be a lot more savvy if we were still in the city.

DD is 11 and goes off with her friends but I expect her to call or text if they change location.

cory Tue 06-Aug-13 08:34:11

I expected my 11yos to have roughly the same amount of common sense and ability to look after themselves as I and my friends had at their age (and in fairness they haven't let me down). So felt I needed roughly the same amount of information as to their whereabouts as my parents did, seeing that they were the same kind of caring but not very anxious parents as dh and I, and that we don't really feel the world has grown much more dangerous.

At 11 I would want to know general area they are in- e.g. be told if they are leaving local area to go into town- and they would definitely have a curfew, but I wouldn't feel the need to have exact information as to route or constant up-dates.

We started gradually building up, so that they were allowed to walk to corner shop at 9 or so, then home from school at 10. We've always talked a lot and that includes informal conversations along the lines of what would you do if x happened.

Dd was tricky as she has a joint condition which means she can (or at least could in those days) collapse at any time, but I didn't think that was a reason for making her less independent: if anything I thought she would have to work harder at independence and ways of dealing with crises because they were more likely to happen to her.

I have always felt reassured by their reactions when things have happened. E.g. ds getting lost as we were out walking in a strange town when he was about 6 and remembering instructions and staying in the same place until we came to find him. Or ds at 12 coming home one evening to tell me that a strange car had been slowing up and seeming to follow him and that he'd backed away from the kerb and run up a side street.

The one thing I will not let mine do that I was allowed at 11 is to take a boat out on their own, but that is because they have not spent as much time on boats as I had and I don't think their seamanship, particularly their ability to judge changes in the weather, is at the same level as mine was.

BoffinMum Tue 06-Aug-13 09:04:09

Mine are allowed out and about from the age of about 9, but we have a rule that I need to know where they are purely in case of disaster so that I can 'tell the police where to start looking for them'. There are also curfews, but based on how late I feel I can stay up depending on whether it's a working day or not, and whether I am tired (in reality it's more to do with age appropriateness). We've found this allows people to conform without losing face with their friends.

Donki Tue 06-Aug-13 11:18:37

DS is almost 11. He will have to walk to school by himself on a years time. He Occasionally goes round to a friend's and they sometimes go out round the estate. He is still not confident about this - I am trying to encourage him to be more independent, so long as I know approximately where he is, and am trying to train him to come home on time. He can tell the time, but is really bad at judging how much time has passed. (And forgets to look at his watch to check)

NayFindus Tue 06-Aug-13 16:43:25

I would hope I know where dd is when she's 11 but it's difficult when they want to appear grown up to their friends without doing anything Mum would disapprove of. I will tell her it's important in case she has an accident or gets in a fix, and that she's still young and can easily be taken advantage even although she wants to be independent. I will trust her and hope she trusts me.

NayFindus Tue 06-Aug-13 16:48:48

Meant to add, where I grew up parents never wanted their children around and I was heartbroken to read a thread showing that many parents are still like this. i have no role model! But I will NOT be like my mother.

Howstricks Tue 06-Aug-13 16:51:06

I have a 13 yo and i still like to know where she iis and what her plans are. She is allowed into town shopping/bowling/cinema etc with a group of known friends. If she is at a sleepover she has to text in the evening to let me know she is ok and i also have the parents number. She is a lovely, clever, trustworthy girl and knows and sticks to the rules. Gradually allowing more freedom as she gets older. We have a great relationship. We were a lot stricter at 11, but made up for it in other ways. (Had a lot of fun as a family and did things together with friends). So far it's working.

AuntySib Tue 06-Aug-13 16:55:06

I have a 12 year old, and I do know where he is, always. Would add he doesn't carry a mobile with him to school ( not allowed) but calls from school to let me know if he is going somewhere on way home ( this doesn't happen very often though). he doesn't play in the street anymore, but used to, and would always stay within the stretch of the street we had told him to. None of the kids in our street would go into anyone else's house without checking with parents first.

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