Free Range Parenting hopes to let kids get back to a simpler time when they would walk or ride their bikes to school (by themselves, not be driven). The movement tries to let kids be kids in hopes that parents will ground their helicoptering.
Lenore Skenazy is the leader of the movement, she’s the one who dropped her kid in Manhattan with some money and told him to find his way home. By himself.
Now the Free Range Model is being endorsed by danah boyd as a way for parents to handle kids and the internet. She talks about the culture of fear that motivates parents when it comes to looking after our kids.
“We’re afraid of all of the ways in which our children might be harmed,” she says. “And we’re afraid of all of the things that children might do to disrupt the status quo.”
After talking with boyd, Katie Roiphe at Slate wrote about letting her 9-year-old surf the internet by herself. Without a hovering eye over her shoulder. Without website trackers. Without security controls.
Could you do it? Could you let your kid loose on the internet?
I will leave my 5-year-old alone with my laptop in the living room with his favourite website open for him to play flash games. He is of the touch generation, his internet skills come from iPods and iPads. He has a hard time with the keyboard, or even the touchpad, so I’m not worried at all about him wandering the web and getting into trouble — he’s still learning how to spell — but what about a 9-year-old?
When I gave a keynote about letting kids under the age of 12 on Facebook, I used the example of sex ed as a reason parents should loosen the strings. If you make something taboo, curiosity will eat at the kid and they will do it anyway. Do you want your kids making informed decisions, or do you want them discovering the world without a full toolbox?
boyd agrees. She says you need to let your kids learn how to handle the world on their own. If you are constantly over a shoulder verifying every click, you’re not giving them the filtering abilities to do it on their own.
She says, “You don’t just throw a 5-year-old out on the streets and tell her to figure it all out. The same is true online. But, equivalently, you can’t expect to put under surveillance and control every action a child makes until she’s 18 and then magically assume she’ll be fine off at college when she hasn’t had any experience managing her own decisions.” [Slate]
My kids are still to young to really understand the vast world of the internet, so if I hover it’s because I’m afraid about the buttons the kids will touch, and what they could do to my software or computer set-up. For instance, I gave my 2-year-old my iPhone for a few minutes and got it back with apps deleted and moved. If he does get my iPhone, I disable internet so that he can play his apps, but not send an email to my boss.
On the iPad the biggest fear I have is my kids flipping the video app open and clicking on an episode of Californication instead of Kung Fu Panda. I’m trying to give my kids the skills to navigate the web on their own.
My son may be only 5, but when he’s ready I’ll have a Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook account ready and waiting for him.
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Image Credit Laura Blankenship