Overprotected Childhood: How Keeping Kids Safe is Actually Harming Them


Utah recently upheld legislation to “legalize a 80s” and let kids play outward again though fear of CPS being called on a parents. The new law radically tangible a disproportion between vouchsafing kids have autonomy and parental neglect, safeguarding a ability for kids to float bikes and play outward alone.

I common a video about this on Facebook and got a lot of responses that we didn’t expect. Surely, many relatives would be unhappy that it had to be legislated though blissful that kids would be giveaway to play outward more… right?

I was wrong.

Instead we got responses like:

“At slightest if we helicopter parent, we know my kids are alive,”


“Oh great, so now all a pedophiles are customarily going to pierce to Utah and have a smorgasboard of children to kidnap,”


“That was excellent when we were kids though times are opposite now.”

These responses seem to core on a integrate of ideas that we wish to pleasantly challenge:

  1. Things are inherently reduction stable in a universe today.
  2. The customarily proceed to keep children stable is to constantly manipulate them.
  3. Supervising children in this proceed doesn’t have any disastrous long-term effects.

If we determine with a 3 points above, I’d petition we to review by this letter and cruise a tangible data!

How Overprotecting Kids is Harming Them

Of all I’ve combined over a years, this is one of a topics we feel a many strongly about given a proceed we are “protecting” kids is doing them a serious mistreat in life.

Instead, I’d introduce (and will defend) these counterpoints to a ideas above:

  1. The universe is safer than it was when we were kids.
  2. Supervising children during all times does not indispensably keep them safe.
  3. There are long-term disastrous consequences to overprotecting and over-structuring kids and we are starting to see a formula of structuring their lives too much.
  4. Hectic schedules are deleterious families and formulating some-more problems.

Don’t agree? Please review on and leave a courteous (and kind) criticism as to why. But please, not until we review this letter to a end…

But… Isn’t Being Safe Important?

Even one child kidnapped or murdered is one child too many… right?

Absolutely, and I’m positively not arguing that we shouldn’t take measures to keep a children are safe. If life existed in a opening and it was simply a matter of a choice between a) a small possibility of something bad function to kids while personification outside; and b) a 0% possibility of something bad function underneath consistent supervision, afterwards my kids wouldn’t be outward climbing trees right now unsupervised while we write this post!

But that isn’t a case. These things don’t exist in a opening and a genius that “I’d still rather keep them stable (inside) than take even a small risk that something could happen” has some unintended consequences.

Childhood is More Dangerous Safer for Kids Now

By this matter we don’t customarily meant given children are reduction expected to die of childhood illness than in prior centuries. It is statistically safer for kids currently that it ever has been in available history. Children are reduction expected to die or be kidnapped than ever before.

Let me repeat that: 

Despite a fear-mongering in a media, children are LESS expected to be abducted, harmed, or murdered than ever before!

Kids Are Less Likely to Die From All Causes

Don’t trust me? Here’s some information from a CDC and FBI:

  • Child mankind rates have depressed by over half … given 1990 (CDC).
  • The carnage rate for kids underneath 14 is during an all-time low of 1.5 per 100,000 (Bureau of Justice).
  • Meaning, for a child in a US today, a risk of genocide from all causes is 1 in 10,000, or 0.01 percent.

In fact, kids are exponentially some-more expected to die in a automobile collision while we’re pushing them around to several activities than they are to be murdered!

If gripping kids stable is truly a goal, shouldn’t we revoke a series of activities we’re pushing them to all a time? By homeschooling, we mislay dual automobile trips a day with a kids, statistically shortening their risk of genocide many some-more than we would by gripping them inside or supervising them during all times.

Children Are Less Likely to Be Abducted

But many relatives aren’t indispensably disturbed about a child dying. The fear of abduction, disintegrating though a trace, or attack are what keep us adult during night. But maybe these things shouldn’t worry us as many either:

  • Missing persons reports have depressed 40% given 1997 while a race has risen 30% (FBI)
  • 96% of these blank persons cases are children who have exile from home
  • Only 0.1% of tangible blank persons cases are what we’d cruise tangible kidnapping

To put that in perspective, a child has a reduction than 1 in 300,000 possibility of being kidnapped, and many of those cases are by a family member or non-custodial parent.

Since they have a 1 in 3,400 possibility of choking to death, it seems we should be many some-more disturbed about prohibited dogs and grapes than vouchsafing kids play outside!

But, More Likely to Get in Trouble for Playing Outside

Sadly, laws like a Utah “Free Range” one are indispensable given a risk of someone job CPS given a child is personification outward though proceed parental organisation is much, many aloft than a risk of a child indeed removing mistreat by doing so.

But Wait… Are Rates Declining Due to Keeping Kids Safer?

I know what we competence be thinking…

Obviously these rates are disappearing precisely given we are gripping kids safer right?

Not exactly.

That would make clarity if rates of these crimes were disappearing customarily in children. But crime rates are disappearing in adults too! In fact, crime rates are down to during or next what they were in 1963. Ask your relatives (or grandparents) how many they got to play outward in 1963… I’ll wait.

The Free Range Kids Controversy

The Utah “free operation parenting bill” was in response to cases where an witness called CPS given a child was personification outside, mostly in his or her possess yard. The check separates a definitions of childhood play and neglect, observant that slight does not include:

permitting a child, whose elementary needs are met and who is of sufficient age and majority to equivocate mistreat or irrational risk of harm, to rivet in eccentric activities.

This means that children are now giveaway to go to and from propagandize by walking, running, or bicycling. They can also travel or bike to circuitously stores and parks and play unattended in parks. The law prevents people from job a military simply given a child is personification outward unsupervised.

If we don’t live in Utah and wish to know what a laws are in your state, Lenore during Free Range Kids has a useful list of laws by state.

What’s going on? Why are laws indispensable to strengthen a parent’s ability to confirm stable boundary for their child though fear of law coercion removing involved?

I have (just a few) thoughts on that:

Media Over-Attention, Global News, and Fear

The consistent media courtesy and concentration on any disastrous eventuality that happens has connected us to cruise that a kids are in many some-more risk than they indeed are. Biologically, this creates sense. We’re connected to compensate courtesy to threats to a children. But, a inherited protectiveness that we have as relatives is twisted by a 24-hour news cycle.

Here’s what we mean:

For many of history, we lived and stayed in comparatively small geographic areas though many trust of a rest of a world. We knew about problems in a internal area only, definition that we listened about a lot reduction terrible events on a daily basis. Our smarts are connected to compensate courtesy to disastrous events given they can vigilance danger. However, given a events we listened about were within a internal globe we also had a ability to problem solve in a internal area and assistance make it safer.

Now, we’re unprotected to disastrous and frightful events all a time by a news and amicable media and a smarts haven’t nonetheless practiced to this change. The outcome is that a smarts can be underneath a clarity that things are really, really, bad and unsafe, when that’s not unequivocally a case.

News Makes Us Think Things Are Worse Than They Are

According to an letter in Psychology Today, this disastrous news outcome is causing us to trust things are worse than they are. The author reports some observations from a 1997 investigate on a psychological outcome of TV news:

But what was some-more engaging was a outcome that examination disastrous news had on peoples’ worries. We asked any member to tell us what their categorical worry was during a time, and we afterwards asked them to cruise about this worry during a structured interview. We found that those people who had watched a disastrous news circular spent some-more time meditative and articulate about their worry and were some-more expected to catastrophise their worry than people in a other dual groups. Catastrophizing is when we cruise about a worry so steadfastly that we start to make it seem many worse than it was during a opening and many worse than it is in existence – a bent to make “mountains out of molehills”!

How an Overprotected Childhood Harms Kids

Here’s a intolerable reality:

We won’t always be there to strengthen a kids or solve their problems. Nor should we be.

Teachers (grade propagandize by college professors) increasingly protest of children’s inability to solve even elementary problems on their own. Parents meddle for all from grades to fortify problems during propagandize given a stakes are so high. But a outcome is a era of grown children who still need their relatives to adorn their dorms and conduct their lives.

I get a enterprise to keep a kids stable and stable when they are young. But by doing so, are we creation things worse for them when they go out into a world? The answer might be yes.

Thinking about this… there is a 0% possibility of children building travel smarts by sitting on a cot examination TV. Kids also aren’t training problem elucidate or creativity by being stable from any formidable situations that might arise.

The following are some of a factors we need to cruise in a risk/benefit analysis

Kids Are Connecting to Technology More than Nature

Children are spending some-more time on screens than ever. Recent surveys exhibit that children spend half of a time outward that we did as kids. They also spend 56% some-more time looking during screens than personification outdoors.

On a particularly judicious level, this creates problems in several ways:

  1. Sitting and examination a shade is a sedentary activity (and childhood plumpness is on a rise).
  2. Eye doctors are observant augmenting prophesy problems in children given of staring during a shade for too long. (Check out this podcast talk for some-more reason on this.)
  3. Blue light from screens is inspiring kids’ smarts and circadian rhythms.

Yet many of us feel safer vouchsafing a kids watch TV or crop an iPad than stand a tree or float a bike.

And frightened about a arise of sex trafficking? Children are many some-more expected to be targeted on amicable media and after abducted than they are to be grabbed by a pointless foreigner on a street. If this is a area of concern, and it positively should be, we should be articulate about gripping kids stable online and not as disturbed about gripping them from personification in a backyard.

Kids Need to Be Outside

Outdoor play during childhood serves a many bigger purpose than customarily being fun for kids. Of course, that is critical too, though there are countless psychological and earthy benefits, including:

Fresh Air

Indoor atmosphere can be hundreds of times some-more soiled than outward atmosphere and spending time outward is a good proceed to get some purify air.

Vitamin D

Even customarily a few mins outward helps kids get a Vitamin D they need for many aspects of health.

Bright Outdoor Light

Outdoor light is many brighter than indoor light and is critical for health. Daytime splendid light exposure, generally in a morning, helps umpire hormones, cortisol and circadian rhythm. In fact, studies uncover that it can assistance urge sleep.


It should go though saying, though as childhood plumpness skyrockets, kids regulating around and removing practice is a unequivocally good thing. The normal 19 year aged is as sedentary as a 60 year aged according to a new Johns Hopkins study.

Sensory Input

I recently interviewed an occupational therapist who is assisting scold many of a problems combined by kids not personification outward enough. We keep babies honest and in high chairs, cribs and play pens. They don’t play outward in mud or get feeling submit from grass, or yield and tumble down enough. This is related to some-more anxiety, miss of creativity, and other problems for comparison kids. The miss of vestibular complement growth is also heading to kids being clumsier and not carrying as many balance.

Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and author of Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, explains:

Movement by active giveaway play, generally outside, improves all from creativity to educational success to romantic stability. Kids who don’t get to do this can have so many issues, from problems with romantic regulation—for example, they cry during a dump of a hat—to difficulty holding a pencil, to touching other kids regulating too many force.

She recommends that children need 3 hours of outward play a day to be healthy. These 3 hours should not embody orderly sports or structured activities.

Children Need Unstructured Play

But kids can get all of those advantages even if we’re supervising them. So given let kids play alone?

Here’s why:

Depriving them of opportunities to learn to take control of their possess lives affects them psychologically. Think behind to times in your childhood that pushed we customarily over your comfort zone. Times when we weren’t certain we could figure out a problem, or master a skill, or even customarily stand a tree. But afterwards we did. The initial time we rode a bike, or climbed a wire or tree?

That feeling of fulfilment is critical to kids and we’re mostly safeguarding them from it.

Without these experiences, psychologists like Peter Gray remonstrate that we are augmenting “the possibility that they will humour from anxiety, depression, and several other mental disorders.”

Hanscom agrees, explaining that:

There’s so many value in kids formulating play schemes on their own. Kids who are always told how to play have difficulty meditative outward a box, and even responding freeform letter questions. Plus, loyal outward giveaway play is like cranky training, with a climbing, spinning, going upside down, and a like that adults don’t inspire though that are so profitable for their development.

Kids Need to Experience Risk Frustration

Psychologists also increasingly news that today’s kids are shocked of all from roving a train to propagandize alone to assembly new people. This is given they haven’t been taught that a universe is a mostly stable place or been given a skills to navigate these teenager challenges.

We all wish to keep a kids from harm, but child clergyman David Elkind explains that sheltering them from any problem and teenager damage has lifelong psychological implications.

Kids need to feel badly sometimes. We learn by knowledge and we learn by bad experiences. Through disaster we learn how to cope. There’s a lot to be pronounced for taking risks, making mistakes and training from them. Something kids won’t have a possibility to do if they’re easeful spin a clock. You wish your child to embrace, not bashful divided from a universe he inhabits.

Statistically, we’re even fearful to let a kids assistance as many as they are means in a kitchen. We preserve them from a teenager risk of regulating pointy knives as their ability spin permits for fear of a teenager cut, and yet, knowledge is a best clergyman in this regard.

Norwegian researcher Ellen Hansen Sandseter found in her research that a loose proceed to risk-taking and reserve actually:

Keeps a children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re means of. Children are drawn to a things we relatives fear: high places, water, erratic distant away, dangerous pointy tools. Our instinct is to keep them stable by childproofing their lives. But a many critical reserve insurance we can give a child is to let them take… risks.

And To Experience Getting Feelings Hurt

Another advantage to unstructured play is that relatives aren’t there to “rescue” a child any time he or she gets his feelings hurt. we get it, nothing of us like to see a children feel bad or get their feelings hurt, though they learn from these practice too.

They learn things like:

  • Not everybody in a universe has a same opinion as me, and this is ok and should be respected. (Facebook is still behind on this trend, apparently.)
  • If we am meant to other kids, they won’t wish to play with me.
  • I don’t always get to play a diversion we wish or select a activity during all times.
  • Relationships need a ability to work by teenager dispute and compromise.

But when relatives burst in to promote complete intervention for any teenager infraction, kids don’t get to figure out how to work by frustrations like this on their own.

How We’re Behind a Rest of a World

If a reserve information isn’t adequate to remonstrate we that maybe we preserve a kids a small too much, cruise a rest of a world. Our kids are going to spin adults in a technologically connected universe where they will be during a waste compared to their tellurian peers.

While a kids are being shuttled to and from activities and carrying structured playtime, other children in a universe are:

  • Riding a transport to propagandize alone from age 4 (Japan)
  • Biking to propagandize or parks alone from age 4 (Netherlands)
  • Using knives in a kitchen and to make sticks by kindergarten (Germany)
  • Climbing trees and personification outward alone from age 3 (Sweden, that has a lowest rate of child damage in a world)
  • Don’t start propagandize until age 7 and have many longer recess when they do (Finland, where children customarily arrange among a best in a universe academically)

…And More Stressed Than The Rest of a World

Our enterprise to constantly protect, occupy and heighten a children has led to a lot of stressed out families. I’ve talked to so many relatives who are stressed perplexing to keep adult with all of a activities their kids attend in. And a kids are stressed too. Statistics uncover that stress and basin are on a arise in both children and adults. Of march there are many factors involved, though experts cruise that a chaotic schedules many of us keep are partial of a culprit.

But, what does a information say?

What Kids Really Need to Thrive

Psychologically, a few factors are unequivocally critical to a child’s building mind (and grown-up smarts too, for that matter!):

  1. Getting adequate sleep
  2. Having down time and unstructured play (not on a screen)
  3. Strong family relations and a clarity of community

Too many extracurricular activities take divided from all 3 of these critical factors for childhood development. For this reason, those above factors are my criteria for evaluating any extracurricular activity. Strong family relationships, downtime, and nap are a tip priorities and non-negotiables. Some activities are great, though if they start slicing into family time, down time or sleep, they aren’t value it to us anymore.

Instituting this process for evaluating things we supplement to a life has led to a lot happier kids (and adults). It has also, ironically, led to a kids carrying some-more seductiveness in activities and training them on their own. For instance, song lessons don’t fit into a news right now, though my 9-year-old found a book and online march and is training herself a ukulele. Our five-year-old is picking adult gymnastics/tumbling for fun and cartwheels everywhere. All. Day. Long.

Kids are extraordinary sponges who can collect adult new skills and uncover implausible creativity when we let them. Let’s give them a space to do it!

What If We Change a Environment Bring Back Play

Again, we totally know a enterprise to make certain a kids are safe. Unfortunately, restricting giveaway play and constantly supervising them has some disastrous consequences as well. I’d like to introduce that as parents, instead of restricting these activities, we work together to emanate stable ways for them to happen.

In Our Own Homes and Yards

Every plcae and family has opposite circumstances, though many of us should be means to find places in a yards or neighborhoods where children can play openly though organisation (or with minimal supervision). We can structure their lives a small reduction and let them knowledge dullness (and a fruit: creativity) a small more.

We can reason a tongue and not complete “be careful” any time they stand a tree or burst off something. Or inspire them to customarily go out and try nature, float a bike or stand something.

At a house, we’ve worked to emanate a backyard that keeps kids active and wanting to play outside. It also fosters giveaway play with space and healthy materials for them to build forts and emanate games to play.

And In Our Communities

Even better? We could select (when possible) or emanate places where kids are stable to play on a incomparable scale. And we can get to know a neighbors to emanate a bigger area where kids can ramble freely. Or we can find like-minded relatives and emanate places and times when kids can customarily play by themselves.

And we can let go of a (unfounded) fear that if a child plays outward they are during high risk for being abducted or murdered… given a US is safer now that it was when we did all those things as kids.

Practical Steps to Raise Free Range Kids

Hopefully, I’ve assured we of something that children instinctively know… that they need unsupervised giveaway play to be healthy and happy. But anticipating time and space to let it occur can be tough, generally in a universe where an unsupervised child is taboo.

It’s critical to remember that child-directed play is critical to children’s romantic and egghead growth and to prioritize it. According to a 2007 news from a American Academy of Pediatrics ”

some play contingency sojourn wholly child driven, with relatives possibly not benefaction or as pacifist observers, given play builds some of a particular resources children need to rise and sojourn resilient.

These are ways we can assistance it happen…

Ask “What’s The Fear?”

Since it is a parental fear gripping kids from personification outward and unsupervised enough, maybe we should spin a investigate inward. Angela Hanscom suggests that relatives ask themselves what a base of a fear is and work to lessen that though restricting kids from giveaway play.

If a fear is a child being abducted, let a kids play in groups though though supervision. Or work to yield a stable place to play though organisation like a backyard or organisation of yards, a neighborhood, or even a park where a primogenitor is hands-off and examination from a distance.

If a fear is being strike by a car, let’s learn a kids travel smarts instead of gripping them divided from all roads. After all, they’ll have to cranky streets eventually!

Let Them Be Bored

When we pronounced we was wearied as a child, we customarily got a response along a lines of “then we haven’t suspicion of anything engaging to do yet.” But many kids don’t get a possibility to spin wearied these days. The customarily proceed this happens is if any impulse is not spent bouncing behind and onward from propagandize to sports to activities and afterwards to bed. And if any giveaway impulse is not spent in front of a screen.

It sounds counterintuitive when perplexing to emanate unscheduled play, though news time when there isn’t anywhere else to be or anything else to do.

Find a Place for Unstructured Play

Even if it is customarily a backyard. Or in areas though yards, anticipating places kids can ramble and play. In a UK, there is a extravagantly renouned (among children) journey stadium called “The Land.” It resembles a junkyard some-more than a stadium and kids adore it. Local residents combined it to give children in a swarming and bustling universe a place to play and learn.

They start fires, burst on mattresses like trampolines, and build forts regulating hammers and nails and throw lumber. They are loosely looked after by non-parent adults famous as “playworkers” who don’t meddle though customarily keep an eye on a glow starting and installation building. (You can watch a brief chronicle of a documentary about it here).

Find Ways to Keep Them Safe While They Play

I’ll admit, it is easier to have assent of mind when vouchsafing my kids play though organisation given there are adequate of them that they are always in groups. We also live in an extraordinary area where many relatives are on a same page and there is always a container of kids roaming a streets together.

For safety, kids can hang together in groups to play or take a dog or a walkie talkie with them.

Teach Them Situational Awareness

This is a pivotal point. I’m not suggesting we send a kids into any and any sourroundings unsupervised. Not by a prolonged shot. They shouldn’t play in parking lots or run around malls during a immature age customarily given they need giveaway play. Common clarity is critical and so is situational awareness. We need to learn children how to be wakeful of their vicinity and keep an eye out for tangible risk by doing so ourselves.

This also means we have to let go of a fear when there isn’t any genuine risk so that we will notice when there indeed is a problem.

At a elementary level, this means training kids skills like channel a travel safely and being wakeful of vicinity (and staying tighten to us) in swarming places. It is also about training them that a universe is a generally stable place (because it is) and vouchsafing them knowledge some-more of it.

Bottom Line: Shouldn’t a Parents Get to Decide?

Certainly, we don’t have to determine with me that your possess children should play outward unsupervised. But a information doesn’t behind adult a thought that they aren’t stable when they do.

But during a finish of a day, shouldn’t this preference be adult to a settlement of a relatives formed on their possess resources and location? Without a some-more genuine risk of CPS being called customarily given children are personification outward like many of us had a leisure to do as kids?

If a whole thought of this post creates a greeting anything along a lines of “parents who let their kids play unsupervised shouldn’t be authorised to be parents,” greatfully cruise a tangible information and a fact that you’d see relatives get in difficulty or have their kids taken for something that isn’t indeed unsafe!

I’d adore to hear your (respectfully voiced) opinion in a comments. My position is that I’m perplexing to lift responsible, problem-solving adults and we cruise a risk of psychologically dwarfing them by safeguarding them from even teenager problems to be a many bigger courtesy than a statistically roughly nonexistent risk that they’ll be kidnapped if they aren’t supervised during all times.

We all wish a best in life for a kids and that is precisely given we make certain my kids have a lot of unsupervised play time outside.

What do we think? Agree or disagree? Please import in below, customarily keep it kind and equivocate personal attacks and name calling, customarily like we all inspire a kids to do!

Not convinced? These are easy reads and yield some-more investigate and unsentimental advice:


  • Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes Strong, Confident, Capable Children
  • Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)
  • The Happiest Kids in a World: How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less
  • The Danish Way of Parenting: What a Happiest People in a World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids
  • How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of a Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success


  • The Fragile Generation
  • The World Is Actually Safer Than Ever, And Here’s a Data to Prove That
  • There’s Never Been a Safer Time to Be a Kid in America (Washington Post)


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