Every older parent and grandparent likes to talk about what it was like when they were a kid when they would play for hours outside without supervision and just come home in time for dinner. Today’s increased concern for safety and supervision can be a good thing, but it’s ended up limiting exercise and independence for many kids. Some parents are fighting that trend and letting their kids walk or ride their bike to school on their own. However, when is or isn’t it safe to allow your kids to go to school on their own?
A lot of it may depend on how safe your neighborhood and the area around the school is, but the truth is that conditions on the streets are generally far safer for kids now than it was just a few decades ago, no matter what people think. Concerns about safety can be a significant deterrent against letting kids go to school on their own, primarily as law enforcement in some areas have been known to arrest parents for leaving their children outside unsupervised. No matter your concerns, we’ll help you make the right decisions for you and your kids.
How Old Is Old Enough?
It’s hard to pick a specific age to let kids walk to school on their own because every child matures at different rates. For walking to school, you want your children to have the ability and confidence to remember directions, stay safe, and seek appropriate help if they find themselves lost or in danger. For most kids, this magical age is somewhere between five and 10.
If traveling with other kids, a younger child might be all right. However, no child under 10 should try to cross a street alone. If the route to school from your house requires crossing streets without crossing guards, waiting until the child turns 10 would be the safe choice.
The biggest danger for kids traveling to and from school is cars. That’s why you should be extra cautious about streets they have to cross, and that’s why riding a bike to school can add to the safety concerns, primarily if they can’t ride on the sidewalk or in a bike lane the whole way. To ride a bike to school alone, the child needs to be proficient in their skills on the bicycle and fully observant of the rules of the road. “Riding a bike alone on the road requires an extra level of awareness and caution that not all kids will have developed yet,” said Jason Chalik, attorney and founding partner at Chalik and Chalik.
You may want to give your child more independence but be scared off by the sensational news stories about parents arrested for letting their child play alone outside. The good news is that the reaction to stories like that has been producing change, little by little. The new federal law includes a provision explicitly allowing kids to walk or play alone outside. Be safe, but don’t let fear keep you from encouraging your child’s health and independence.