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10-Year-Old Rider Kicked Off Train

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How young is too young to ride alone?


Lenore Skenazy started a national debate when she wrote a column about allowing her 9-year-old son Izzy to ride the subway alone. Now she's started a website and is touting a parenting philosophy called "Free Range Kids."

"At Free Range Kids, we believe in safe kids," she writes on the site. "We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school-age children go outside, they need a security detail."

But on Christmas Day, her free-wheeling parenting philosophy hit a snag when her son (now 10) got escorted off a train by a policeman for riding alone.

His solo status upset a conductor who called the police, reports the New York Times. Izzy tried to explain he had done this before, and he even got his mom on his cell phone, but the conductor refused to speak to her. Finally a policeman did get on the line. By this point Lenore was getting a little frantic -- not that Izzy was in any danger riding alone, but that a zealous cop could actually mean her son could be taken from her.

She explained to the officer that she had checked with the railroad information booth the first time the boy had taken this very ride and asked, "What age is a child allowed to ride alone?" The agent had said that there was no specific age, but agreed that 10 "sounded good, if there was someone waiting at the other end."

Her story continues:

"The police officer listened and agreed this sounded reasonable. He said as much to the conductor and the boss and they got back on the train. My son was free to go. The policeman wished me a 'Merry Christmas.'"

"But if I had been given a summons as a delinquent parent, or hauled into family court, or had my child had been taken away from me," says Lenore, "this would not have been very merry at all."

As it turns out, the MTA, which runs the LIRR and Metro-North railroads, does have a written policy about minimum traveler age on their Web site -- "They have to be 8 or older."

At what age would you let your child ride the train alone?

next: Vigilante Mom Ellie Nesler Dies
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
funfelt December 29, 2008, 5:18 PM

I had enough of a hard time putting my kids on a plane alone at 12 and 9 and that was with a paid airline escort. No way would I put them on a train all alone with no supervision at 9. It’s not the kid and his level of responsibility, it’s that there are numerous adults alongside who are bigger/stronger/craftier than him and you just can’t predict when there’d be trouble.

bubbledumpser December 29, 2008, 5:33 PM

If you’re going to link back to the main article, maybe you should read it first. The kid is 10, not 9.

anony December 29, 2008, 7:09 PM

So if they had not decided to let the kid back on the train to get home would they have taken him home… or to the police station… or what???

tonya December 29, 2008, 11:17 PM

i think people who let their children even wander out of their sight in a walmart or similar place at such a young age are despicable people. give me a break! have you people been watching the news lately? no way i would ever let mine do that at that age. your baby has no way to protect himself in case of a harmful stranger. i will never understand this modern parenting, and i have 2 babies ages 3 and 7.

Uly December 30, 2008, 12:15 AM

Probably ten. That’s the age that I was riding the trains myself to get from one approved location to another. And it’s definitely *safer* in NYC than it was when I was growing up!

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