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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.

Turniptwirl Sat 03-Aug-13 13:00:26

I would want to know where they are as 11 is still very young. In some ways they're more vulnerable than a younger child because they think they're all grown up!

"Playing out" is fine as long as we both know what that encompasses

timidviper Sat 03-Aug-13 13:06:35

Yes within reason.
We live in a safe area and at 11 my children were allowed to go out with friends so we knew where they were even if we couldn't pinpoint them exactly at every given minute. So, for example, we would know DC and friends are meeting at A's house and will be hanging out there most of the time but they will probably go to the local shops around lunchtime and may go to the field to play football if A's mum says it is ok.

Hassled Sat 03-Aug-13 13:06:45

I have an 11 year old - who has a mobile phone and is thankfully insanely responsible. He has done 20+ minute walks from school on his own for a while and been to the park with friends on his own - I do worry, but 11 is quite old enough (certainly in comparison to the level of freedom I had at his age - at 9 I was changing buses in central Dublin every day getting back from school).

I read something horrifying in the Guardian recently - that 11 year olds are way more likely to be hit by a car than 10 year olds, because that's the age they get their first mobiles, and so are more likely to be texting etc while crossing roads. I forget the %age increase but it was quite scary. I worry way more about my 11 year old's road safety than I do about stranger danger etc.

Buswanker Sat 03-Aug-13 13:17:57

I have an 11 year old and I know where she is most of the time, I also have a 15 year old and I expect them both to be honest about where they are, what the plans are. Eg going to the park until 3, then friends house until 4.
They both have a phone which always has credit on to text or call if they are late, but I do ask they are home on time as I worry. I tell them if they can't keep the phones charged up or let me know what they are doing then I can't let them go out.

OneStepCloser Sat 03-Aug-13 13:24:29

Yes, I always wanted to know where she was, but she also had a PAYG mobile then so we could keep in contact. She would come and go to school herself but always let me know when she was on the bus etc. 11 in my opinion is a little too young to have too much independence.

mynameisslimshady Sat 03-Aug-13 13:51:29

My 11yo has a lot of freedom, he 'earns' it. The more he comes in on time, calls me when he wants to go somewhere else and tells me the truth about things, the more I trust him and allow him to do other things.

I have been harsh with punishments when he hasn't stuck to the rules, I ground him for a length of time if he is over 10 mins late, and take things like TV and games consoles away if he isn't where he says he is so I've created a situation where he now automatically calls or asks me because he knows I will be harsh if he doesn't.

Its a funny age and there is a fine line between not giving them enough freedom and giving them too much which is so difficult to balance. I opt for a lot of freedom as long as he is honest with me where he is, but it really does depend on the child.

MavisG Sat 03-Aug-13 15:07:03

It's the possibility of them being run over that concerns me the most: my children are much younger than 11 and I'm teaching them road safety in preparation for when they want to go out without supervision. I guess 7 or 8 for agreed, rehearsed routes to local shops & park. We live in London and by 11 I hope they'll be confident using public transport and navigating their way to places they want to go, friends' houses etc. I'd like to hear about where they've been and where they plan to go, and anticipate having a fairly clear idea of where they're likely to be & to know their close friends and where they live, but their potential lack if freedom worries me. It doesn't seem very life-enhancing to spend all your time under observation.

BeyonceCastle Sat 03-Aug-13 15:12:53

My 11 year old DD has her mobile phone with her most days - I say most because if it isn't fully charged, if it doesn't have money on it or if she leaves it on the kitchen table then it is no good to me!
DH is able to tell me where she is via internet stalking latitude but it is being phased out apparently to be taken over by google plus in the future provided phone is on of course and not been thrown in a bin somewhere by her kidnapper. dh also has access and alerts to her emails.

Having seen me in bits when she has been late a couple of times my DD is now pretty good at updating me or DH as to where she is/how far away/how long she'll be. She makes her way to and from school by bus and/or tube/tram and can be trusted to run errands or nip into town for a purchase.

I live in Germany where kids aged 7 make their own way to and from school and are expected to be independent. This is the norm even in the city and it doesn't make them safer but nor does it make them victims.

As to keeping her safe vs freedom essentially she knows about actively avoiding any situations which might become tricky eg drunk people on platforms/gangs/ and to 'stay under the radar'. Having had an unfortunate incident in a shop in broad daylight when I was metres away thank God she is aware that her location/attire/confidence/actions are not going to be foolproof against a determined felon or an opportunity thief/molester/flasher.
In other words if someone is going to commit a crime, knowing where she is will only help protect her if I can get to her first. Even then that won't protect the next child.

She knows not to take shortcuts, she knows to avoid lone alleys etc
she knows an adult should not need to ask for help from a child rather than from another adult. She knows about internet safety.

As the age of consent is lower here -14 - she knows already about her body being hers and her rights to say no to anything which makes her uncomfortable. She has been told to listen to any alarm bells/bad vibes re a person or situation. I will not tell her what to wear or do in future but she is aware of the dangers of alcohol/drugs and being left vulnerable. But as I said all this knowledge and more can't protect you from the random thug or pervert unless you are chained to your parents - not healthy.

CCTV/mobiles/technology make us a little more careless/a little more trusting perhaps but nor is there a paedophile lurking on every corner nor are dangers always strangers. So you have to protect as best you can without wrapping in cotton wool.

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?

You make sure they make informed decisions. You give them the knowledge to protect themselves eg internet safety, assertiveness training, self defence. You make them aware of risks so they can assess situations whilst being aware this does not make them bullet proof. You set times/routines/trust whereby they call back/report in/tell you their plans. You cannot ensure safety but you can minimise risk

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

Freedom to travel independently - here aged 9 (still two years later than everyone else in Germany but that's the English in me).Parameters = routes/times eg not past 6pm in Winter

Freedom to chat room/surf etc - aged 11 for youtube, pixie hollow BUT we do not allow facebook, twitter, moviestarplanet etc and won't until she is 15/16.

Freedom to play/walk/go out alone - between 10 and 11 pending activity, company and my distance from it eg she can go into town with a friend for an hour, cinema or playground as long as I know start-end times

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?

Sex ed from an early age, still think it is done too late in UK. Respect for self and others and body boundaries i.e their body, their feelings, rights to say no instilled early. Have discussed at length dangers of roads, rivers, strangers and peer pressure. Also drugs, alcohol, bullying and sex abuse.

but at the end of the day you can only do so much - being Chas Tenenbaum isn't going to help your child. Nor is yearning for your own childhood and harking back to open door days where you could be a 'free range child'.

Fact: there have always been dangers.

It seems to me the media seem to publicise many dangers these days.
Those dangers can be physical/nature eg recent children falling into rivers or people eg abduction and kids should be warned of dangers of both.

As a child in the 70s I had more freedom than I give my kids eg I used to be allowed to play outside in the woods, park, playground on hot summer nights til 9pm.

Opinion: the ability to access porn/like-minded individuals/the ability to groom via internet means the risks re people are more real these days than my own childhood. Potentially this is one reason why I am more protective plus easier access to alcopops, drugs etc Alternatively I have been indoctrinated by the British press.

Solution: safety in numbers, compromise, communication -whether electronically or face-to-face.

This post is worth more than two quid btw wink

tittytittyhanghang Sat 03-Aug-13 15:16:06

No, ds is 12 now but being in a smallish town he has the same freedoms as i did (same town as well).

onedev Sat 03-Aug-13 15:44:09

Excellent post Beyonce - you should have posted in 3 parts as I agree worth more than £2 grin.

I would also agree with what you said about your own childhood vs today.

MavisG Sat 03-Aug-13 17:26:15

Yes, excellent post, Beyonce. Worth all six quid & then some.

I think my relationship with my kids is the single most important factor: if they can trust me not to overreact/be over-protective/limit their freedom, they'll have the freedom to be honest with me and will be more likely to heed the concerns I do have. That's my hope, anyway.

NotEnoughTime Sat 03-Aug-13 17:30:40

I have an eleven year old DS. He is allowed to walk or cycle to and from school. I will not allow him to the park-there has been incidences of indecent exposure there recently sad I do allow him to stay at home on his own for up to an hour at a time. It is a strange age-my DS looks more like a fourteen year old than an eleven year old which I don't like very much

Madratlady Sat 03-Aug-13 17:32:45

I don't have an 11 year old yet but I think rather than knowing their exact location it's important to know roughly where they are, for example at the cinema, in town with a friend, at a friend's house. I'd want to know who they were with though and agree on a time for them to be home by.

racingheart Sat 03-Aug-13 23:07:24

Yes, at 11 I expect always to know where DS is up to a point. We live in a village and he is allowed to go into the nearest town (20 min bus ride away) so long as he goes with known friends, shows me his mobile and friend's mobiles all are fully charged before they leave, and has to ring me when he's setting off for home, so if he's not back at the expected time, I can check up.

Within the village - a bit more freedom - they go off on their bikes to visit friends, to the park and into the local woods, not always with their mobiles, but again the rule is that I know where they're going, who with and I give them a return time, which they are pretty good at sticking to.

They really need freedom. They need to learn to be confident navigating their way round their territory and to extend that territory bit by bit. I want DC to feel confident in towns and cities without me by the time they're in their mid teens. But above all, they need to be safe and responsible. I trust them to be where they say they'll be, who with and when. If they ever break that trust we'll reconsider, for their own safety.

flow4 Sat 03-Aug-13 23:27:59

Not exactly where, but generally. I'd expect info along the lines of "I'm going to call for Jake, and if he isn't home, I'll go up to Billy's". But my DS2 had a mobile phone at 11, which DS1 did not, which certainly makes it feel safer to let them have more freedom.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 03-Aug-13 23:52:46

Yes I did. older but we live in London and there were some nasty incidents in the area. He got himself to school and his chikdminderd by himself ( we both work full time) and childminder would want to know where he was too.

He had to tell us, keep broadly to agreed time, take cheap mobile, emergency money and keys if he,was meeting friends.

Seems to have worked.

nooka Sat 03-Aug-13 23:54:03

My children are 14 and 12, so a little older, but we are very lucky to live somewhere where children are generally expected to be more independent at a younger age, so they have had a fair bit of freedom. Neither of them have mobile phones, and I'm not at all sure that the expectation of keeping in constant touch with children has really done anything to help with independence. It seems to me that the trend is for less and less freedom, and I wonder what the long term impact will be.

Anyway, thinking about my dd last year when she was 11 I'd say generally I knew where she was, as if she went and played at friends houses she would usually be back when required and if she wanted to go somewhere else she rang to get permission first. She walked to and from school on her own (normal past the age of 7 or so here), and she went into town (40 min bus ride) with older friends a few times.

This summer she has got herself to and from activities on the bus, and been into town with friends her own age. She is also on her own after school until ds gets back and then they are on their own until we get back a couple of hours later. All considered pretty normal. We'll probably get a couple of PAYG phones next term as their transport arrangements have got more complicated and buses don't go very often here.

We talk about everything, although not really touched on safe places, because it's just not been an issue (they know which local friends to turn to, but I don't think I've talked about what to do in town if they get in trouble, mostly they are just under general instructions to stick together).

Gruntfuttocks Sun 04-Aug-13 00:00:48

DS is 12, has a mobile, but is basically at home or at school or with another adult at all times. I always know where he is. He isn't particularly grown up for his age and doesn't want any more freedom than he has. He has occasionally walked to our local shops on his own, but doesn't want to do anything more. My older two were more independent at this age, as they walked to secondary school. They didn't get mobile phones, unlike many of their friends, just because they were walking to and from school, as I didn't feel that they really needed them. If there had been a problem or emergency, there are always people around and they knew to go into a shop or knock on a door for help. DS2 goes to school in another town and is further away from me with earlier starts and late finishes, so I feel happier knowing he has a phone so that I can let him know if I will be late and he can contact me if need be.

kreecherlivesupstairs Sun 04-Aug-13 00:05:45

My DD is 12. She is not allowed out on her own, not even to the shops next door. I walk her to school every morning and collect her every night.
We've had several incidences of child abduction (real, not FB or imaginary) so I want to keep her safe.
OTOH, we are moving to england in a couple of weeks. I imagine she'll be walking herself to school and into town.
She does have a PAYG mobile for emergencies. unfortunately, her idea of an emergency is a premium line competition for a lipstick.

lottieandmia Sun 04-Aug-13 00:07:41

11 is a bit too young to not know where your child is imo.

CalvinHobbesMum Sun 04-Aug-13 00:17:27

DD just 11.

Allowed out in cul-de-sac unsupervised since about 5 years. Sometimes unable to find her as she was in a different friends house.

She has gradually learned that she has to let us know where, and also telling time, and be back by x'o'clock.

In the last year, allowed to go beyond the cul-de-sac to visit a friend or go to corner shop.

Just received a mobile for her birthday, and we expect a call any time she deviates from the plan. I gave her hell last week when she wasn't in the agreed pick-up place.

CalvinHobbesMum Sun 04-Aug-13 00:23:02

Holiday club is tricky, we said if there was a problem she should go to the library, or Sainsbury 's to ask for help.

She does understand that she should never accept a lift - even from someone she knows.

Amiee Sun 04-Aug-13 00:33:07

Yes. 11 year olds think there grown up but they are vulnerable and need adult guidance. I think you need to allow some independence but not to the extent you don't know where they are. When my DD is 11 I hope to be able to have open and frank discussions with her regarding safety but I will supervise everything from Internet usage to school work. I was given too much freedom at that age and if my DD gets up to half the stuff I did I'll be horrified.

Cheddar1976 Sun 04-Aug-13 09:03:13

I have 10 yr old & 9 yr old, no phones to date. I will expect to know their exact whereabouts at least until age 13. This summer I expect to allow 10 yr to be able to walk to places within our village requiring crossing busy B road. This is in preparation for walking to school on her own in September yr6.

I plan phones to be Xmas presents this year. I will download the tracker app! Independence needs to be built on trust both ways.

Hulababy Sun 04-Aug-13 09:19:19

My 11y is allowed to be out with friends without an adult - park, local shops, etc but not to just wander and not just going into town. If going anywhere further intake her, or other parents do, and collect. But that is the norm round here, none of her friends have much further freedom.

Dd has a phone which, when out without me, she has to carry. It's usually in a pocket as she knows she shouldn't be flashing it around lots so it's not a target.

In September she starts secondary some upped the independence much more this year - she's walked from school, been on bus with a friend, local shops and park a bit further away than our closest. I've taken her and a friend swimming but not gone in. Would be happy for her to go to the cinema without me, etc, but I'd still do most of the transporting at the moment for peace of mind. That'll up in the coming year.

I hate having groups of youngsters in town and shopping centres when I go, hence why I'm not letting dd do that.

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