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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:
Looneytune253 · 07/04/2021 15:11

Wow I'm really surprised at your opinion! I'm quite overprotective really and my 10 year old can walk to the shops or to the local park. She walks to and from school herself too. She will be getting the train to school in September then a long busy road walk so it would be harmful to not allow any freedom now. My eldest was a similar age and seems to be the norm around here. They used to play out in the street a bit earlier and that made me quite nervous but looking back now it was quite irrational.

MsTSwift · 07/04/2021 15:13

There are risks to not letting them out though. Not developing normal coping skills not developing friendships and childhood obesity are far more likely risks than being whisked off by a man in a black cloak.

Love51 · 07/04/2021 15:16

I visited London with a friend of the same age from aged 14. Her dad drove a 2 hour commute every day from our town to London, a couple of times he would give us a lift in and tell us to be back at his office at the end of his working day, and we would buy a travel card and explore! We didn't have much money, I think we used to take a packed lunch!

Love51 · 07/04/2021 15:17

By 16 we were taking the train in a group but at 14 we couldn't afford it! It was a 2 hour commute, not close to London.

MadeOfStarStuff · 07/04/2021 15:18

Most year 7s get themselves to school. Going to the local shop is a good way to develop some independence in upper primary years before they have to travel to school on their own.

Twinkie01 · 07/04/2021 15:22

16 really. I was going to Camden Market from a town outside of M25 with my friends when I was 13.

We lived in a small village 200 yards from village store and DS went when he was 6 (I followed him), v small village and no roads to cross and he was ok going alone after five or six times. All our neighbours knew him and watched out for him.

We now live in another small village but have to cross a big road to get to shop. I let DD 7 play out the front on her bike with a couple of friends but we live in a cul de sac.

NeverDropYourMoonCup · 07/04/2021 15:41


The older the better. There is no rush. A 16 year old can learn quickly and safety. I see no advantage in doing it earlier - there is still the same situations to face but at a younger age.

That was me.

The first 18 year old boy with a car who came along, I jumped at the chance for some freedom. With all the obvious (and disastrous) results.
Cowbells · 07/04/2021 15:51

OP that's pretty unusual. DC were allowed out to play aged 8 or 9 for short periods or to go to the local shop. By 10-11 they were getting the bus from our village into town to go for an ice cream with friends. By about 14 they were hanging out in London on their own with me in a nearby cafe, while they looked at music and clothes shops.

BuckysArm · 07/04/2021 16:01

I think a lot of this comes down to familial experience. I come (as does DH) from police families. They saw a lot of horrors. Both my great grandma and grandma were abducted and sexually assaulted as children. My sister was raped on the estate we lived on when she was 15. The primary school has had an instance of men flashing their penis at girls every year. And we live in a statistically very safe area but I’m just not going to risk it. DD is independent in enough ways that I know she’ll be ok in a few years, but no it won’t be until she’s older that she’s allowed to go out without an adult. I weigh up that risk based on mine and close families experience and the fact DD doesn’t want to go out on her own. Other families will feel differently because they’ve had different experiences so I don’t think there’s a right answer other than doing what you think is best.

Retrievemysanity · 07/04/2021 16:18

Hey op, my eldest is 13 and has SEN. She doesn’t go out alone or stay at home alone. My youngest is 10, walks home from school on her own and I leave her alone occasionally for short periods. She’s asked for this independence and I’m happy to give it to her as she’s mature for her age and I think she’s ready for it. I encourage both girls to do things like make a cup of tea and have done for a few years now. Imo, it’s not so much about what age they are but how responsible and capable the individual child is. As a parent, it’s our job to make sure children get the chance to develop these skills when they’re ready and not hold them back through our own anxieties.

steppemum · 07/04/2021 16:30

my kids go on the train to secondary school.

We drop them at the station. They go 30 minutes on the train, and then walk 15 minutes to school.
There are always older kids on the train and when our eldest did it, we paired him up with an older kid we knew, which lasted 1 day before he switched to walking with other year 7s.

In preparation for that, during year 5 and 6 we gradually taught them to be sensisble out and about, made sure they were able to cross the road, to go to the local library, to go to the corner shop.

They walked to school in year 5 and 6, it is round the block and no roads to cross.

This to me is normal.
Your description of not letting them out til year 8 is, to me extraordinary. By year 8, they are able to go to a friends house by themselves, maybe meet up in the town centre.

The worst age for road traffic accidents for kids is first and second year of secondary, and it has been linked to the fact that they are walking to school, and are not prepared or street wise as too many of them are not allowed to walk before then.

jessstan2 · 07/04/2021 20:14


I grew up on the outskirts of London and was travelling in to places like Camden with a friend from aged 14.

In my hometown, we’d be allowed out to play on our own from maybe about 10/11? But home before dark.

Me too.

I went out by myself during the day when I was 8 or 9, nowhere far but to the park (top of our road and cross over), or local shops with my pocket money. Also walked to and from school which was only around the corner. Most children did.
EveryDayIsADuvetDay · 07/04/2021 20:19

The old stranger danger myth still alive and kickingHmm

Many assaults take place in the home, and as recent media coverage has indicated, school isn't always the safest of places.

Frownette · 07/04/2021 20:31

It really depends on context. Kids around here seem pretty safe, their parents tell them to get home by 9.30pm. If I'm walking and they yell what's the time? I yell it back with a gasp and they run off home.

Only time I nearly interfered was when it looked like some boys were going to beat up another but they quietened down.

I'm used to teenagers skipping around me and saying "I'm called heavenly! I'm called angel! I'm called Trixie!" etc, it just makes me laugh and I say well hello. It's pretty safe here.

TLKlover · 07/04/2021 23:48

I've openly said to my 11 and 13 year old girls that I'm overprotective & they've gone 'duh!' Haha x

However, our neighbourhood is dire & actually they appreciate not having the run of the local estate xx

They probably are a bit spoilt but I will drive them to where their school friends are so that I know that they are safe but I also know when I grew up, I was allowed to walk a few estates away with no problem and would actually go shopping with friends!
It is an utter shame they don't have that same independence however I will always discuss any risk knowing they both have phones to contact not only me, but my husband, my mum and my dad for immediate support.

Feelingconfused2020 · 07/04/2021 23:59

I take a very different view to you on this. If you over protect them and don't give them.freedom until they are teenagers they won't have the basic skills that most other kids will have at that age.

At the moment my ten year old (semi-rural NOT a city) is allowed to the park 10 mins away.with friends for an hour or so. There are no big roads but a couple of smaller 20mph ones to cross, they walk together. I also leave him on his own for up to an hour to go shopping or pick his sister's up from clubs etc. He is year 5 and this has only been since he started year 5.

I intend for his freedom to gradually increase so that he is comfortable with and used to each stage before I allow the next one.

You will.not suddenly be confident that your child is safe when they are 13 or 14 or even 18. You will be worried and they will still be at a very small risk every time they leave the house. In fact statistically a teenager is at a higher risk of harm from a stranger than a younger child.

Feelingconfused2020 · 08/04/2021 00:03


*My sister was raped on the estate we lived on when she was 15."

I'm so sorry to hear about this. However this could have happened go a 16/17/18 year old too. We can't keep them in forever.

ZenNudist · 08/04/2021 07:48

10yo ds (year 5) walks to school with a friend in front of the group of teachers who walk a group of younger dc to school. I put my 7yo in with the teacher chaperoned group but it would be ridiculous to make a 10yo do this.

He walks home alone ringing us as he sets off. He also goes to the shop for me and sometimes asks to walk to a park or friends house on his way home from school.

RosesAndHellebores · 08/04/2021 07:57

Mine were brought up in London. DD went to school on public transport from 11; DS came home on public transport from 10/11. I did drop him but because it was a 7 minute drive compared to a 45 minute walk and awkward bus times.

They are grown up now and to be honest I would worry more about dd walking 0.5 miles late at night along quiet and lonely road than in London.

I worked full-time and from 12 they won the battle for no au-pair. At 12 dd took herself up to the west end for the afternoon to avoid the cleaner and then did it regularly.

They were perfectly safe in daylight hours. They were always collected from parties/evening glasses events. But they were sensible and responsible and as DC brought up in London pretty streetwise.

However I'll caveat with the fact that we were in a very safe part of London and had fabulous neighbours. I think that makes a difference.

Do remember op they might leave home just after their 18th for uni and need the skills to handle the freedom..

JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil · 08/04/2021 08:51

I grew up and still live in London and was going to nightclubs at 16. I was walking to and from primary school from Year 5. My parents drilled road safety into me from as long as I can remember.

DD started walking to school from Y5 and goes to the park with her friends alone. She always comes back at the time I tell her to and has good road awareness. Conversely she has a friend also 10 years old who is never out of her mothers sight and won’t even go inside the newsagent alone whilst a trusted adult waits outside. The adult has to go inside the shop and stand next to her at the till. I’m guessing her parents will be walking her to and from secondary school until at least A levels because her mum is so anxious she’s passed those anxieties on to her DD.

The fact is kids are in more danger from their own families than from strangers.

leiaskye · 08/04/2021 09:54

I agree with you, OP.

My children are 13 & 10. We live less than a mile from both the primary & high school they now go to.

At primary school, a childminder walked them to school. My youngest is in year 6, & still does this. I do allow her to walk around a third of the way home with a friend, but then I meet her for the rest of the way. She can go into a shop on her own, but I’ll be outside. She is year 6.

My eldest didn’t walk to/from school alone until year 9 (this school year). Before that, I dropped her at her friend’s house on my way to the CM & then onto work. She went back to her friend’s after school where I collected her from. That was in year 7.

Year 8, mornings were the same, but she walked home from her friend’s. If her friend wasn’t at school, I collected her from school.

During the first lockdown, whilst she was in year 8, & once they could meet up, we allowed her to meet up with her friends. So there seemed little point in mot allowing more freedom to/from school.

Now in year 9, she walks to & from school, via her friend’s house (doesn’t go in).

My youngest has asking to go to the park with her friends. It’s a 10 minute walk away, so her request has been denied. She can still go, I just cramp her style.

All her other friends are there, & I am the only parent. I don’t know if she’s embarrassed, but she has two choices. Me staying at home is not one of them.

daffodilsandprimroses · 08/04/2021 09:57

The problem is that ‘stranger danger’ comes from a number of very high profile and nasty child abductions and murders throughout the 80s and 90s.

These have tapered right off. I can’t see that as a bad thing, really.

Proudboomer · 08/04/2021 10:03

I started letting mine out alone in the last year of primary so they would be confident when getting a train to secondary.
I never allowed playing in the street at any age but from 10 they could go to the local park, shops, each other’s houses, library and leisure centre.
By starting secondary they were confident using the train, could read and understand the time table and could go to the larger town at the weekend with friends and to the beach.
I live on the south coast.

Etherealhedgehog · 08/04/2021 10:23

I grew up in London and was going to and from school by myself on the tube from year 8 and out and about with friends from about the same age. My mother felt (and I agree) that roaming around London was much safer than if we lived somewhere rural, small town or very suburban, because in London there are always lots of people around and the vast majority of people are good. I guess if you wanted to worry it might be slightly more justified outside of the city but even then the chances of anything happening are vanishingly small

JackieWeaverHandforthCouncil · 08/04/2021 10:37

I also agree that I feel safer allowing my DD out in daylight in London walking to and from school and to her friends house than if it were a remote rural area. There are people everywhere here. If someone were to attempt to snatch her there would be about 100 camera phones and CCTV recording it. Stranger danger for younger kids is rare. They are in more danger from teen years +

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