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Do You Let Your Kids Walk to School?

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Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a great piece entitled: Why Can't She Walk to School? It explored why so many parents are scared to allow their children to walk to school on their own.

child walking to school alone

One mom, identified only as "Katie," allows her 7-year-old to walk a block and a half to school alone, and said other parents definitely disapprove.

But she says she wants to encourage her daughter's independence. "Somehow, walking to school has become a political act when it's this uncommon," she said. "Somebody has to be first."

In 1969, 41 percent of children either walked or biked to school; by 2001, only 13 percent still did. "Experts say the transition has not only contributed to the rise in pollution, traffic congestion and childhood obesity, but has also hampered children's ability to navigate the world," reports the New York Times.

But many of us are just too scared to take the chance ... what if our kid turns out like Etan Patz or Jaycee Dugard. What if?

This morning, momlogic's Dr. Janet Taylor appeared on the "Today" show to discuss when it's time to let kids walk to school on their own.

Do you let your kids walk to school alone? Why or why not?

next: Restaurant Calls Toddler a 'Little F*****'
50 comments so far | Post a comment now
YvonneB September 14, 2009, 1:52 PM

Me and my husband are constantly bickering about issues like this. I do not want my kids to walk down the road to the bus stop and he thinks i’m paranoid. I find myself calling the school or the bus driver (on her cell phone) to make sure my kids got picked up. Am I being overly protective?

Kristen September 14, 2009, 3:19 PM

I would NEVER let my kids walk to school. It’s fantastic that in 1969 41% of kids were walking to school, that means most kids had buddies to do it, but nowadays the kids would be on there own. Even if my kid did have a buddy I would still say no……what I don’t understand is why isn’t it ok for parents to be protective? The whole argument of your kid needs independance is CRAP, kids are left at school and in daycare programs ALL day away from there parents, that is learning independance, especially because it’s a free for all in the school systems, there aren’t enough teachers to watch all the kids. I am a protective parent and I am OK with that!

sareh September 14, 2009, 3:50 PM

I recently moved from nyc to a very small, rural area in VA. There’s no way I would let my elementary school aged child walk to school in the city, but here…? I definitely will! My new neighbors have the school bus pick up their 10 and 8 year old…we can SEE the school from our porch! This is absolutely crazy, lazy, and completely overprotective in my opinion! At what point to you give your kid some independance? When they can drive…? College…? You have to start somewhere and depending on your situation - how far you live from school, they safety and size of your town/city - allowing your child to walk to school is a great place to start.

DeeCee September 14, 2009, 4:25 PM

I do allow my 11 year old to walk to school alone because she insists that i do but its less than 2 blocks away and we do live in a pretty safe neighbohood. However, it makes me so nervous!!! She has a cell phone and has to call me the very minute she arrives at the door. I hate it but I realize that its part of her learning to be independent so with baited breath, I let her go.

Aralene September 14, 2009, 4:40 PM

I remember going to school alone starting at 6. Has things really changed since this time ? I don’t think so, ppl just watch to much TV series and movies with violence cop and gangsta.

Nothing dangerous as long as there’s some other parents on the way to school but well, we also often see that you can be attacked in front of 10 ppl in the street whithout no one reacting :/.
I guess that all depend on the pathway from house to school.

Pamala September 14, 2009, 5:40 PM

I don’t know what I’ll do. I think that walking/biking to school is important but my daughter is going to attend a private school and I can’t say we’ll live nearby and they don’t bus kids in. But if we do live near by we’ll probably walk to school together. Figure it’s good exercise.

carly September 14, 2009, 6:50 PM

I walk to school everyday, with my two bestfriends. We are all in our Teens and know the town we live in very well. My mother has told me the streets with registered sex offenderS and reaports Of suspicious behavior. I have to call her when I leave and when u arrive. Although there is always a first time for criminals and not all of them can be tracked, letting your child make a 2 and a half block walk to school is okay. And is way better than keeping them in a bubble.

Anonymous September 15, 2009, 7:15 AM

At the right age, they can be smart. You’re just going to baby your children so that when you finally let them free into the world they won’t have a clue of what’s going on? I walked to school until I had a bus, then I walked to the bus stop. And to the first comment, yes, you are babying way to much.

(Sorry for the typos, still better than half of your guys typing though.)

Anonymous September 15, 2009, 10:10 AM

nope, NO way, NEVER! call me paranoid and all the things you want, but i willdo everything to protect my child from all the perverts out there! thanks to melissa huckaby, now you have to wonder if you can trust your friends MOMS!!!

christina September 15, 2009, 12:46 PM

I started walking to the bus stop in 2nd grade. I knew not to get into the car of someone I didn’t know, and I knew to ask (or yell) for help, if someone grabbed me. No one ever did, and I lived in cities, rural areas and small towns growing up. The fact of the matter is, most adults are not perverts. Our kids, statistically, have a much greater chance of being molested by a family member than a stranger. I believe in allowing children age-appropriate steps toward independence. You may think you are keeping your child safe, but you are infantilizing him/her and denying he/she the learning and coping skills needed to develop into a healthy adult.

Chrissy September 15, 2009, 2:44 PM

Christina - you hit the nail on the head.
Kids will absorb theor parents’ fears and anxieties.

ame i. September 16, 2009, 1:00 PM

My 6th grader’s private school is much too far for her to walk. The public school my 4th grader attends is less than a mile away but there are no sidewalks leading to the school so walking along the road with cars & busses driving by isn’t an option. I would like to walk her to school but it’s too dangerous.

molly September 19, 2009, 11:21 AM

i know what it’s like to want to walk to school. in my neigborhood we dont have side walks so my daughter doesn’t walk to school. but if we did it would be better. someone did die on or road so i would probably get her a cell phone and call her every 5 min. if you live in a crappy place though, you might want to reconsider. try to make it up by finding other ways to give them independence.

queenbee October 7, 2009, 7:58 AM

Molestation is a crime of opportunity—to have your kids walk to school alone or even in a group of other youngsters is to present a fine opportunity to any pedophiles trolling for kids.

As for what traditions were in the 1960s—this is NOT your granddad’s America anymore. In 1969, there were not so many child rapist/serial killers running around and not so many abductions—the thing about a “stand” in this case is that if for some reason any parent’s child is targeted—the parent has only themselves to blame for putting their child at risk in the name of ideas. Think about it—we used to walk in parks after dark in this country too—but muggings and rapes and the Central Park jogger incident put that to rest. The problem with this idea of trying to instill independence is that the cost may be your childs innocence or life.

Here’s a suggestion—walk with your kids to school or car pool the neighbors kids and yours—learn to exercise independence in other ways..walking to school is not the arbiter of independence—never was—never will be and right now—it IS downright foolhardy—as are sleepovers with men or older boys present.

queenbee October 7, 2009, 8:10 AM

“I recently moved from nyc to a very small, rural area in VA. There’s no way I would let my elementary school aged child walk to school in the city, but here…? I definitely will! My new neighbors have the school bus pick up their 10 and 8 year old…we can SEE the school from our porch!

Hello, city person…. Do you imagine that only urban people molest, kidnap or kill children?

Until they are caught and monitored, most child molesters not only live as close to schools, libraries and playgrounds as they can—they also volunteer to coach the little league and soccer teams, preach at your church, sing in the choir, be scouts leaders and may even be on all kinds of civics committees.

Everything you fear in the “big city” also goes on in small towns all over the US. Don’t believe it? Next time you read about a serial killer or child rapist or kidnapping, check out the name of the town..chances are it is a po dunk town YOU never heard of.

Molestation is a crime of opportunity, tragically, it is not usually the child who places themselves in harm’s way, it is the naivety and denial of the parents who put their kids in harms way—who allow the “really nice old grandpa to babysit” their kids, because he seems so friendly, who send their kids on sleepovers to homes in which they do not have a clue who the parents are…who send their kids toddling down the nice town streets because they think that proximity to a school or a small town means a safer place. do they lock up genitalia in small towns?

The only difference between Pedophiles in the city and those in small towns are the secrets the entire town has to keep—because in cities you worry about strangers, in small towns it could be your neighbor and like incest—it is a crime that has a lot of shame. There is NO TOWN in the country who is devoid of child molesters or deviants —even within families—the question is—who will be the person to give access to their child through their own gullibility? YOU?

queenbee October 7, 2009, 8:22 AM

I LOVE how so many of you think walking to school is not only independent but also think that the pathway in your particular neighborhood is so safe. SOOOOOOO..what does your small town have, special force fields that keep pedophiles from driving or walking around your schools? You guys act like people cannot manage to be where your kids are—they can. There are many ways to exercise Independence—walking to school or not walking is NOT the arbiter of Independence and is fool hardy in ANY town unless you walk with them (does no one remember that elementary school crossing guard a few years back that was raping kids—in a small town?) As for cell phones—great idea, Parents: not only get your kids a cell phone but tell them that when ever they feel threatened, immediately take a picture of the person they are scared of and send it via their phone—this decreases their chance of being grabbed. Why? Because neither pedophiles or serial killers want to be caught. If the child lets them see their picture has been taken and sent via phone to 5 or 6 people, they will target someone else, if your kid is really bold and independent (as my kids are) then your kids can cheekily add ” I just sent your pic to my mom and 5 other people—if you touch me, they will know exactly what you look like.

My daughter (who is very beautiful) has had to do this several times, and each time her would be stalker, attacker or others, immediately backed away, —one yelled at her that she was paranoid—she said “Yep—but I’m safe too”

Those who have bad intentions are less likely to carry them out if they think evidence exists that they cannot control (like texts) that will give them away or point to them.

Joyce October 23, 2009, 10:21 AM

My daughter is in 2nd grade. Yes she does walk to school. I think you do have to take the circumstances, like distance and how many people are around, into consideration when making this decision. Yes, pedophiles are opportunistic. They are looking for a child alone, in an area they can snatch the child and no one will see them. A small town typically everyone knows everyone, and everyone looks out for everyone else’s kids too. If my daughter was snatched while walking to school, there would be 20 witnesses that know her to report it immediately. In a big city, where she would just be a nameless face in the crowd, or a child alone walking down an empty street—no way.

lilly October 24, 2009, 2:00 AM

I have a suggestion for when is the right time for you to let your kid fend for himself/herself.
Try when you think s/he is not too young for dating world. When a person date they start to have responsibility in themselves for real. That will solve the problem. And I mean it in real dating boy-girl kissing n stuff, not when your kid crush someone(we all knwo kids start the whole crushing game since they start kindergaten).
So that’s how it is. When you thin it is appropriate for your kid to date(when you don’t scream OMG you’re too young!) then that is the right time to let them go. But if you still think s/he is still too young for dating, then never ever- I repeat NEVER EVER- let them fend for themselves!
Think, in animal world, as long as the cubs are not ready for the ‘dating’ game then they are still considered kids and will have their parents monitoring them, and they are let go when they start ‘dating’. So if you think your 10 years old is okay to date at that age well….yeah, it’s up to you but I think most will scream it’s crazy. Just my two cents.
I hope this solves the problem.

lily October 24, 2009, 2:18 AM

Oh, just to make my suggestion more clear: by dating here I mean it in having boyfriend/girlfriend like a teens used to have. You know, he dating stuff teens go- some teens may have their parents agree with them having boyfriend.girlfriend at age 14, some may agree at age 15 or 16, some may choose 17 as the “Okay, you can have a boyfriend/girlfriend now-but really don’t forget your school blahblahblah!” age. So really, it’s up to the parents when they think it’s okay to date-and-start-to-have-freedom. I think my suggestion will solve the ‘Is s/he too young for walking to school on her/his own?’ confusion. What do you think about it?

alee October 25, 2009, 8:47 AM

I love how you all think all these bad things just began. Speaking from previous law enforcement, you just didn’t know about it back then due to lack of information and technology; ie the internet and all the the expanded news media feeding your fears. Hate to ruin it for you, but proportionally the crimes have grown at relatively the same rate with the population. Go figure, math…

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