Let’s Stop Overprotecting Kids

Joanna Williams,

Release Date
January 23, 2017


Civil Liberties

What happened to kids walking home from school alone? These days, more kids grow up with  “helicopter parents”. Joanna Williams at the University of Kent examines the decline of childhood freedom.

    1. The Overprotected Kid (article): In this article from The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin explains how overprotecting children impacts the way that they learn. 
    2. Stop Criminalizing Parenting: Free Range Kids’ Lenore Skenazy on Fears over Child Safety (video): ReasonTV interviews Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range Kids Movement. 
    3. Failing better: What we learn by confronting risk and uncertainty (blog post): Adam Thierer argues that we should rethink our understanding of risk and failure. 


Joanna Williams: I mean I think there’s lots of different things going on here. I think you can see, for example, one very, very interesting study shows the geographical distance that children were allowed to go from their home on their own away from home and you can see how since the 1970s year on year, that distance that children are allowed to go has become smaller and smaller. Essentially now days it’s pretty much their back garden.
Dave Rubin: Yeah. You’re talking about literally. Their ability to get on the bike and ride around the neighborhood, slowly has been scaled back.
Joanna Williams: Absolutely, yeah, yeah, which is sad, very, very sad. I let my daughter walk to school on her own with another boy from her class. My fear and this is very, very revealing, my fear was not for one second about anything that would happen to my daughter. She’s a very sensible girl. She’d be absolutely fine. My fear was what will other parents think of me. It’s that idea that we’re all kind of checking or monitoring each other all the time. That’s really unhealthy. People will say funny things to me like, “Oh you’re so lucky. You can do that because your girl’s so sensible.” No, she’s just a regular kid. She’s just the same as your child. The reason why she’s sensible is because I’ve allowed her to take risks.
Dave Rubin: It’s not a coincidence that you got this sensible kid.
Joanna Williams: Yeah. It’s because I’ve let her take these risks that she now is this sensible child. People will come up and say, “I saw her walking to school on her own today.” It’s almost as if they just want me to know that they know that she’s walking on her own.
Dave Rubin: It’s really like big brother stuff at a very micro level.
Joanna Williams: Yeah.
Dave Rubin: They start. It’s almost a way. It’s not just that they’re surveying the kids. In a way they’re surveying the parents.
Joanna Williams: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dave Rubin: You’re all kind of watching each other.
Joanna Williams: Yeah.
Dave Rubin: It really, how do you peel back some of this stuff?
Joanna Williams: I think you’ve got to. You just have to stand up and take that risk and you just have to say, no she’s 10. My daughter, you know, she’s walking to school, and that’s it, end of story.