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Am I the only one?

100 replies

indianelephant · 06/04/2021 22:33

I've been having conversations with parents I know including my own sister and her partner about keeping kids safe and how old they should be when let out alone. This came about because I work in a shop in a village and the amount of young children I see out and about without adult supervision surprises me. I grew up in London, it was never deemed safe enough for me to be out alone or with friends until around 16. The kids I see out are primary school aged. I just don't understand it. I know everybody parents differently but when you see interviews of parents who have lost children they always say 'you never think it will happen to you until it does' or something similar. There is always a possibility of something happening to your child and I know it's probably a very small possibility but is it ever worth the risk? I know I would never be able to live with myself if anything happened to one of my children. I feel it's my responsibility to keep them safe until they are old enough to make smart decisions and even then I will always worry. Especially with my girls as we all know how many dangers we face as women. My sisters partner said to me that they will hate me if I don't let them have any freedom.

Am I the only one? Or does letting them have freedom outweigh the potential risks of anything happening to them?

OP posts:
winched · 06/04/2021 23:43

I'm not always on top of my children but while they are still in primary school I wouldn't want them to be out and about without me or another adult within eyeshot.

I think this is basically the definition of always being on top of your children?

Since you were never let out yourself, you probably have no memories of all the things being let out helped you with.

Independence. Resilience. Problem solving. Even democracy!

I was always out with a group of various ages, having to sort things out amongst ourselves and work out what to do when the bus didn't show up and we didn't have mobile phones. Or when Danielle lost her money for chips after swimming and we all pitched in so she could get chips + enough for the bus. Or when I fell off and fucked my bike, and my arm, 2 miles from home and my little brother carried it home while I cycled his bike one handed. All of this was before high school (age 10-12, brother was 2 years younger).

This was in the early 00s so not that long ago.

My oldest is 10 and started going to the park at 6 for 20min intervals, now is allowed to go most places within walking distance as long as she's not out after dark. She'd be practicing on buses with friends if it wasn't for covid. Youngest is 6 and unlike her sister I don't trust her with the road, so she's not allowed to the park unless with her sister but is allowed in the street with friends.

Maybe this is more common in Scotland where the majority of children go to their most local school, but there are maybe 2 or 3 parents who pick up children from P6 (10) class and I assume that's bc they live further away. The P1-P3 (5, 6, 7) class get out 20 minutes earlier, so it's normal for P4+ to walk home themselves especially if they have infant siblings.

And for pp who asked yes 10yo is left home alone for up to an hour while I go to the shop or pop into mums / neighbours for coffee etc.

I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. I've said this on threads before but I remember clearly in high school the kids who had never been let out and were driven everywhere, I was friends with some of them, and they were generally lacking in street smarts.

WorraLiberty · 06/04/2021 23:44


Thank you all for your comments. You've really made me think and see things from different perspectives.

*@diamondpony80* I agree. It might be because my 10 year old hasn't even shown the slightest bit of interest in wanting to do things alone that it feels strange to me and when the time is right for her I'll know and she'll know too. As for the other 2 things could well be completely different but I won't know that for a couple of years yet.

That's a sensible approach OP.

Kids learn responsibility at different ages. You might even find your youngest is more responsible/sensible that their sibling who's 2 years older.

I know my middle DS was and probably still is more sensible than his grown up siblings.
Lyricallie · 06/04/2021 23:44

I mean I lived in a small cul-de-sac in Scotland so maybe it's skewed as it was the suburbs but we had a whole group of us who played up and down the street. Playing imagination games and riding our bikes and in and out of each others houses.

This was only in the early 2000s so although a long time ago not ridiculously so. I was getting a bus to school through Glasgow alone from the age of 11 and would go clubbing at the "unders" in the city centre from about 14/15 in my full emo attire. I think I'm now a well adjusted, confident, independent adult. Can't imagine what I'd be like if I wasn't allowed away from home. I mean I did a summer placement in USA at 18, don't think I would have felt confident to do that if my mum never let me leave the house.

Gatehouse77 · 06/04/2021 23:49

I grew up in London and we travelled home in the tube from secondary age. There was a large enough number of us that you were rarely the sole school aged child.
My sister and I regularly caught the bus/tube to Oxford St, etc. from 12 (ish?) and spent the day shopping/window shopping/ eating fast food.

We’d often spend days in groups going to the park/woods with nothing but a ‘home time’ and 10p for an emergency phone call.

There’s a balance between protecting and preparing your children for the wider world. Of course you never think it’ll happen to you because, statistically, it probably won’t.

We gave ours small freedoms from a relatively young age and it grew with maturity and an understanding of consequences. Lots of discussion and debate and allowing them to put forward their own opinion. We’d always consider what they said but didn’t necessarily go along with it.

Enidblyton1 · 06/04/2021 23:55

I think you feel this way OP because your children are still very young (and your 10 year old isn’t ready to go out alone).
When my eldest child was 6 I wouldn’t have imagined ever letting her out of my sight, but now she’s 10 she’s absolutely fine to pop to the local shops or be left home alone for an hour. They grow up so much in 3-4 years.
That’s very different from allowing a 10 year old to hang around on street corners for hours though. I wouldn’t be happy with that. Not so much from the safety point of view - more that she could be spending her time on more interesting pursuits!

Notimeforaname · 07/04/2021 00:03

Playing in the cul de sac outside the garden from about 4years. Walking to close local shop by about 9years. Allowed 8 miles on bus to city centre for the day with friends from 13years onwards.
This was in the early 2000s so not ages ago.

Had a mobile at 14 and always had to have it on.

Keeping kids in til teens is crazy. I knew some kids like that.

Davros · 07/04/2021 00:04

I also grew up in London and walked alone to school from about age 8. Then I got two tubes to secondary school from age 11. By 15 I was going to pubs and clubs. Ah, the good old days before IDs

StealthPolarBear · 07/04/2021 06:39

Why shouldn't my 11 year old "wander the streets" aka "going for a wander/playing out"?

CeeJay81 · 07/04/2021 07:58

My DS was between 9 and 10 when we let him go to the shop on his own, he started walking to school alone at that age too. He's now almost 12 and he will go down the park with friends for up to a few hours. However we live in a rural part of Wales and it feels pretty safe here. If I lived in a city I think I'd be more worried about him.

alibongo5 · 07/04/2021 08:23

Advice I received when mine were growing up was allow them to do something when they are still a little scared to, which means they approach it cautiously. If you leave it too late, they are over confident but without experience. I think the highest number of road accidents with children is year 7 pupils going to secondary school having never been out at all on their own before.

BikeRunSki · 07/04/2021 08:46

I like that advice @alibongo5
My DC’s first school (YR to Y5) encourages children to walk in by themselves if they can, from Y5. It’s a rural school, but on a main road, and handily next door to the middle school they feed into at Y6.

TheOrigRights · 07/04/2021 09:20

There's a big difference in a child being out alone and a group being out together.

I allowed my children to walk to the park alone at about 10, where they would meet friends.
At 11, the same but also allowed to explore (with friends) further afield around the village. Both were allowed to cross the busy road to the shop at that age.
At 12 both were allowed more independence (having shown they could be trusted).

alibongo5 · 07/04/2021 09:32

Yes @bikeskirun. The other thing I did was gradually get them used to independence, like letting them wander on their own within a shop rather than staying by my side. The next step would be to leave to go to the next shop a minute or so ahead of me etc. Similarly walking home from school - letting them walk ahead. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

IndecentFeminist · 07/04/2021 09:36

Depends where and when. Dd is 10, I would let her walk to the local shop with a friend or her younger brother. Or to the park for an hour.

I allowed DS, 9, to walk to the local park (about 4 mins away) to meet a friend for a play for the first time yesterday.

Chickenlickeninthepot · 07/04/2021 09:45

it was never deemed safe enough for me to be out alone or with friends until around 16.
I had a part time job, a boyfriend and used to go clubbing at 16. As did my friends. I think your teen years sound a bit unusual tbh.

I guess depending on where you live but I'd say 9/10 for playing out or quick trips to the shop. You see little groups of unsupervised older primary age kids in parks here all the time.

BikeRunSki · 07/04/2021 09:47

@alibongo5, that’s definitely the plan when shops open properly. Lockdown came just at the wrong time for DS’s independence, but he and DS think that going to get something from our village shop is the best thing in the world. I’m just mindful that when I was his age, I was zipping up to Oxford Circus on the tube to potter round Topshop!

korawick12345 · 07/04/2021 09:51


I also grew up in London. I got public transport to school (and other places I probably shouldn't have gone) from age 11. Before that, I used to go to the local high street to go shopping with a friend from when I was 9 or 10. I can't imagine not going out alone until I was 16! I was going out to nightclubs and getting a cab home at 3am at that age...

Absolutely this! I grew up in London and this mirrors the experience of me and all my friends. I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t allowed independence until they were 16.
indianelephant · 07/04/2021 10:01

@StealthPolarBear nobody has said anything about what your kids can or can't do.

OP posts:
daysofthunder · 07/04/2021 10:01

I'm relieved to see the absolute majority of posters see sense on this subject.

Kids need to be going out and about on their own by aged 8 at the latest. I grew up in the 90s and we played in the streets til dark only coming in for tea and then running straight back out again. This isn't the reserve of country dwellers. I grew up in the city. Children should be able to navigate their local area on foot, on bikes, take their pocket money to the shop, go to friends houses and see who's coming out to play. They need to be away from adults.

By early 2000 I was 13/14/15 and going to unders gigs in the city centre, getting on buses to go swimming with friends or on buses by myself early on Saturday mornings to make the cheap matinee cinema screenings.

If you have children with special needs I can see why this might be different. But otherwise, you need to let children get on with things alone. Crime rates have never been as low as they are now. Teach them good road safety and have consequences for not being home by an agreed time, or for being caught acting the fool in public. Otherwise, leave them to it.

daysofthunder · 07/04/2021 10:05

I'll add that the thought of kids being chaperoned to school and back gives me the creeps unless you truly live miles away. This would be unusual in Scotland where kids go to their catchment school. I don't know what it's like elsewhere.

Same goes for local scouts/girl guides etc etc. One of the greatest joys I remember from growing up was the freedom of walking around town with my friends, playing in parks, going out on rollerblades, going to a café for ice cream. All of this should be experienced from a young age. Pre-teen for sure.

x2boys · 07/04/2021 10:12

I think the fact your oldest daughter has learning disabilities,is clouding your judgement here op,my youngest is nearly 11 and has severe autism and learning disabilities,goes to a special school etc, obviously there's no way I would let him go anywhere on his own,but my oldest is 14 and no disabilities ,and he walks to and from school ,stays on his own at home for a couple of hours,would be going into the local town with friends but for the Pandemic etc

puppychaos · 07/04/2021 10:32

Goodness! IIRC, I was:

  • Nipping to the corner shop aged 7
  • Walking to school with my 6-year-old sibling when I was 8
  • Both my little sister and I were playing out regularly around the same age
  • I was allowed into town with friends aged 11
  • I went for lunch at local cafes with friends probably from 10-ish
  • Travelling semi-regularly to England and Wales from Scotland completely alone from aged 13

I left home 2 months after I turned 16. I do think my mum let me be too independent, but not letting your kids have a bit of independence at the right times is a really, really bad thing.
NoIDontWatchLoveIsland · 07/04/2021 13:57

I live in a quiet friendly village in the london commuter belt where we recognise almost everyone we see out and about. The children walk to the primary school from age 10 without parents. It would be a maximum 10 minute walk for anywhere in the village and can be done entirely away from the main road as the streets have lots of footpaths between them. There are always familiar adults around and it would be considered absurd here to refuse to little a 12 or 13 year old out without parents.

Children of 9 and 10 are often sent to the shop in the middle and junior age children will call on friends and play in the green spaces between the houses.

People watch out for the kids. We recognise them all from the small local school.

Rukaya · 07/04/2021 14:37

There is always a possibility of something happening to your child and I know it's probably a very small possibility but is it ever worth the risk?

You can say that about literally anything though. Every time you put them in the car, its a risk. Every time you walk down the street with them, theres a risk. Children have been killed falling down their own stairs, so thats a risk, and falling off bunk beds, and on bouncy castles and falling out of fairground rides, and off bikes and scooters and on roller skates.
There is literally nothing your children do that doesn't carry some small kind of risk, and yet they do all those things.

Stompythedinosaur · 07/04/2021 15:07

Lots of things have risks. How can a child prepare for adulthood without the chance to develop some independent skills? I was definitely out with friends in London from around 13, which I think was fine.

I don't live in London now, and I let my 8 and 9yo play out in our village and go to the playground. Honestly, they are fine. I think it is normal.

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