Walking through base housing in the evening is a pleasant experience. The houses are colorful and inviting, the sun is beginning to set and is gently shimmering in the sky, and the streets are teeming with running and screeching neighborhood kids. A familiar little boy runs by us down the middle of the street, no shoes or parents in sight. Wait a minute…. He’s six years old, right? He was in Alex’s class last year.
Perhaps we just feel extra safe on base, but still. I can’t help but think…. You never know who might be out there. This past spring, there was an attempted rape of a child by a teenage boy here on base. Still feel safe? There are plenty of others who enter base too who do not live in housing. Would that boy’s parents even know where to look if he didn’t come home? There are too many sad stories on the news about kids abducted and killed not far from their homes. Do you remember Somer Thompson? She was a 7-year-old girl who was abducted while walking home from school in October 2009 in Orange Park, Florida. Her body was later found in a Georgia landfill. Orange Park seems like a pretty safe place to me, yet it happened. What about the 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who was abducted while walking 7-blocks home from day camp? It was his first time walking home alone. He reached out to a stranger for help and this terrible man abducted, killed, and dismembered him. Now that’s a lesson in stranger danger if there ever was one. There are some real creeps out there!
There’s a four-year-old neighborhood girl who knocks on our front door several times a week. I have no idea where she lives and she doesn’t know her address. She asks me random questions and has even asked to come in and play. The only thing I can think of is, “Where are you parents? Do they know where you are?” No, we’re not a threat. But someone else could be! Would you know what happened to your child if they wandered the streets and went into some random person’s house? I can’t imagine not knowing where my young child was and not being able to find them!
I remember running around my parent’s property (10 acres) and the surrounding neighbor’s estates as a child, playing with neighbors for hours on end. Yet today I can’t imagine not knowing where my 6-year-old (or 4-year-old!) was for that long. What sort of people are out there who might do them harm? What sort of dangers await? We’re totally into playing outside, but at this age it just seems so much safer to have a little parental supervision. My daughter is free to roam the park and play with kids… but I’ll have a watchful eye on her from a distance.
I think I’ll be fine with my daughter playing at the park and walking to a friend’s house alone when she’s about 10 years old. That seems like a reasonable age too me. She should be responsible enough to practice stranger awareness and stay out of the road. She should be reasonable enough to walk straight to her destination without knocking on strangers’ doors and trying to go into their houses to play. Then again… you’d better ask me again when she’s 10.
How old do you think kids should be before them can play outside unsupervised?