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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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In Kids & Family Commentary

Many of us walked to school alone or with siblings when we were kids. But what about children today? Is it still OK? (PHOTO: shutterstock.com)

Social Circle: At what age can a kid spend time alone?


The "Social Circle" is a group effort between readers, social networkers and the OnMilwaukee.com editors. Every Monday, we ask a question via Facebook and Twitter and then post the responses from our Facebook "likers" and Twitter followers in this column. Well-known Milwaukee movers and shakers will contribute, too.

Lately, there's been a lot in the news about parents charged with child neglect for letting their school-aged children walk to or play in parks unsupervised.

Last week, a woman was arrested for letting her 7-year-old walk to the park alone. Earlier this summer, in South Carolina, a mother was charged with a felony for letting her 9-year-old play in a park without her.

Crimes against children are real. But so is overprotective, helicopter parenting aimed at shielding kids from disappointment and failure. Consequently, there are a lot of fearful 10-year-olds running around out there. But at least they are safe. Right?

This week, OnMilwaukee.com asked the Social Circle what age it is OK to let a child spend time alone. It's a tough question, without a right or wrong answer.

Read the entire thread here and feel free to share your personal opinion, too.

Jason Bohn: "In Milwaukee? Is it ever OK?"

Patrick Davies: "I walked a half-mile to school and back at age 6. I rode my bike a mile to the park and back to play baseball with my friends at age 8. I took the bus to Northridge and back at age 12. This was completely normal in the '70s. I don't know what the appropriate answer is today."

Patrick Fox: "If you know your kid, you'll know the age. I don't feel there is a fixed number."

Betsy Holmes: "Great question. Easy answer is it depends on the child and the place and the parent. My son is now 30 and I am far away from this issue and will sit on the clueless couch and read with interest what is shared."

Christian Kerhin: "Simply put: you're not gonna even care once they discover masturbation so let 'em have fun while they can."

Kare Kerr: "12 years old."

Lena Kim: "The world is not a more dangerous place than when we grew up. I say you can start around 9 but with limits on time and distance."

Shannon Knapp: "I took the city bus from Brady (and) Prospect to Hartford Avenue Elementary in second and third grades. I had my kids walk, ride bikes to school or take the city bus from kindergarten, but there are four of them so they were never alone."

Kyla Lahaie: "My son is 9, we live in Riverwest, he rides his bike around the block and can go to the co-op a block away on his own. With a friend he can play at the park one block from our house without an adult. He has ridden his bike home from school alone from Brady Street to the 2400 block of Humboldt. He enjoys staying home on his own, the longest I've left him is about an hour. I hold my breath a lot."

Nolan Lawrence: "Depends on the parent and their competence to raise a kid."

Melissa Drummond: "I let my child start walking to school alone when she was 12. I still prefer to drive her, though. Not because she isn't capable or because I don't trust her, it's because I don't trust others. And my 6-year-old won't be able to have the same freedom until she's in middle school, as well. I let them (13 and 6) walk to the park together, but that's the extent of the 6-year-old doing things without a parent."

Nicky Rev: "10."

Nina Schmidt: "Never."

Jen Skladanek: "30."

Suzanne Szydlowski: "Depends on so much: distance, neighborhood, etc. I still get freaked when my daughter takes the bus and she's 20."

Timothy Twaddle: "I walked across a small North Dakota town to kindergarten, and pretty much went wherever I wanted with friends. My daughter is almost 13 and doesn't even like to stay home alone, despite being more responsible than most of the adults I know."

Carrie Ann Wisniewski: "It's sad that this is a question. Albeit a legitimate question. I walked to school on 14th and Becher from 12th and Rogers every day, starting in the first grade. Sigh."

Patty Zastrow-Jankowski: "I think it really depends on the neighborhood. Mine was allowed to ride his bike, but not crossing any streets at age 10. School is too far for him to walk (almost three miles) but by eighth grade he was able to walk it once and a while."

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