No More Unsupervised Play Time for Children?

As reported on, a recent Reason-Rupe public opinion survey performed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that a majority (68 percent) of those polled believe that the law should require children 9-years-old and younger to be supervised while playing in public parks.  Just over half (53 percent) thought it was acceptable to let 12-year-old children play unsupervised in public parks.  The poll comes on the heels of several media reports that parents around the country have been charged with child neglect for allowing their children to play in public places unsupervised.

Among those more likely to say that the law should require supervision of 9-year-olds at public parks were: strong Republicans, Americans who think government should promote traditional values, respondents with less education and income (interestingly, as the article notes, "those with less education and income were not more likely to believe children face greater risks, suggesting something else explains their views"), and Whites.

Only 27 percent of those surveyed believe that the threats that children face are over-estimated and over-sensationalized by media and politicians.  "Fully 62 percent of Americans think children today face more threats to their physical safety than previous generations, while 30 percent think the threat level is the same, and only 7 percent think kids today face fewer threats."  Belief that children are in greater danger today is more widespread among women and Whites, and increases with age.

The survey also found that on average, Americans prefer for children to be 10 or older before they're allowed to play in the front of the house unsupervised; 12 before they are allowed to walk to and from school without an adult, wait in the car on a cool day for 5 minutes, cook and mow the lawn; 13 before they can stay home alone; 14 before they can babysit and 15 before they can have a part-time job.  Interestingly, "Americans who believe all kids on a sports team should receive a trophy for participation tend to prefer children be older before they take on more responsibilities and independence, compared to those who think only the kids who win should receive trophies."

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Frederique Laubepin

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