Utah Passes Law to Let \'Free-Range\' Kids Play

 Megan Trimble

Forget helicopter parenting. Utah's kids are now free to do what many people associate with childhood – play at a park or walk and bike to school – alone and without parental supervision.

The state is said to be the first in the nation to legalize a so-called free-range parenting law that declares it not neglectful for parents to let their children roam independently. Gov. Gary Herbert recently signed the bill into law, and it is set to take effect May 8. Under the law, children are also permitted to travel to nearby recreational facilities, play outdoors and remain in a vehicle or stay home alone.

The law does not define an age limit, but instead says kids should show maturity and good judgment to avoid harm. One of the bill's backers suggested that legal action would still result in cases of actual abuse or neglect, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

"This is to prevent in Utah a problem that has happened in too many other states … where parents have been prosecuted, gotten in trouble for doing nothing more than allowing a child to play outside or go to the park," said state Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.

The controversial debate has divided parents and parenting experts, who are torn between supervising kids for safety reasons versus allowing them to exercise independence.

Lenore Skenazy, author of "Free Range Kids," set alight a movement when she penned a 2008 column for the New York Sun that drew national attention and introduced the term "free-range" to the parenting lexicon. Skenazy says she learned that independence empowers kids firsthand after allowing her then-9-year-old son to ride the New York subway by himself and take a bus home.

"I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home," she wrote. "If he couldn't do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, 'Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I'll abduct this adorable child instead.'"

She continued: "Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence."

The idea was central to Republican state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore's arguments in support of the measure. Fillmore, who sponsored the bill, warned against over protection and told Salt Lake City's KUTV 2News that "it's not neglect if you let your child experience childhood."

Not all states agree. The Arkansas Legislature considered a similar bill last year, but lawmakers finally rejected it. And, in another high-profile case, a Maryland couple made headlines when they were investigated for neglect after allowing their 10- and 6-year-old children to walk about a mile home from a park in Silver Spring.

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Domain: Afterhours
Category: Entertainment
Megan Trimble
21 June, 2018
Megan Trimble
15 June, 2018
Megan Trimble
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