When I was a kid, we all played outside without supervision from a very young age. That is not the reality in today's world... we are either much more knowledgeable or much more paranoid, but either way, it ain't what it used to be! There are no laws that stipulate at what age a child can play unsupervised, so I went to look online... there are lots of conversations on the topic, however, no real consensus. I guess there are too many factors to consider... if you live in the city or in a more rural neighbourhood, your child's personality, if they have older siblings, if there are other neighbourhood kids playing outside unsupervised, etc., etc.
In the US, there are many Home Owner Associations that are passing regulations that children under the age of 16 cannot play outside alone. I found articles on the topic from Colorado and from Florida. Personally, I think 16 is a little crazy - but it appears that the HOAs are not only worried about safety, but also vandalism (and one in Florida is a retirement community - another whole story there).
Basically, I found nothing. If I had to go on pure impulse, I would say somewhere between ages 9 and 11 - depending on my child when he/she reaches that age. What do you think???
And here's something else to consider... because we don't let our children play outside unsupervised, they are less active, watch more TV and play more video games. What about those consequences? I read an article from the UK Telegraph discussing the fact that limiting unsupervised play may affect our children's development - here's a quote:
Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, said it was important that children were given more opportunities to play outside.
"We know that 80 per cent of children prefer to play outside and 86 per cent of parents agreed that on a nice day their children would prefer to go to the park than watch TV," he told a Sunday newspaper.
"Yet children spend less time outside than they would like and less than parents did as children. In our consultations parents told us this is because there are not enough safe places to go - and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that parents think their children are safer playing inside on a computer than outside."
The consultation paper follows a report by Dr Tanya Byron, a psychologist, on the harmful effects of video games and computers on children.I definitely want to make sure that my kid are active... which means more structured activities. That's of course another topic of it's own. It's also important to me that they enjoy the outdoors. When it's nice out in spring/summer/fall, I do try to take them to the park or let them ride their bikes/scooters in front of our house after dinner, but as a working mom I'm not always up for it at the end of a long day. It's a challenge sometimes, but I do try and push myself since our nice weather is so very fleeting. Thankfully, they've always had time outside at day care and now at recess. I'm so looking forward to this summer when my son will go to day camp for the very first time - he has no idea how much fun he will have being outdoors all day, every day. I will, however, point out that this is still ALL supervised outdoor play.
What I remember from my childhood was running wild with friends and exploring. That must do something for our sense of adventure and self-confidence. How will our kids fare when they are finally allowed out on their own? Does it make the world a scarier place? Will they be so used to our guardianship that they won't know how to take care of themselves? Or will they rebel and be risk-takers? All scary stuff with not a lot of answers.
As our world continues to evolve, so does our parenting. We assume that we know more today as parents than previous generations, but do we really? I feel like we are often in uncharted waters and just hoping we are heading the right direction. One thing is for certain, we can't go back... so here's hoping that what we do today will do right by our children's futures.