Would you let your child ride the subway alone? Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the The New York Sun, let her 9-year-old son do just that, and after writing about it in her column, she ignited a heated debate over the safety of children versus the sheltering of children. Holly and Rodney talk with Lenore about her son's experience and the attention her column has received.
Since her family lives in New York City, Lenore says public transportation is a way of life and something her son really wanted to try on his own. "Everybody I talk to who is [a parent] remembers having that kind of freedom as a kid," she says. "If they were in the city, they took public transportation; if they were in the suburbs—like me—I took my bike."
Lenore says while she was a bit worried he would get lost, she gave her son a Metro card, $20, some quarters for a pay phone and let him find his way home from a downtown department store. "The subway system must seem daunting to people outside of New York, but there are maps that are made for all of the tourists—it's really easy to figure out," she says.
Lenore says her son got home just fine, but many critics of her column thought he just got lucky. Some people accused her of being a bad mother, and say her son could have been kidnapped or molested. She says those people watch too much cable TV and programming that focuses on child abductions. "There is that 24/7 news hook—you've to keep people coming back, so you have to have a dramatic story," she says. "You will spend days hearing a story about a kid who was abducted so far from you, yet it feels so immediate."
After being inundated with letters and e-mails from parents who both disagree and agree with her style of parenting, Lenore started the website freerangekids.com* to help encourage parents to give their kids a bit more freedom. "A lot parents [wrote to me], 'You go girl,' or 'Hooray for your kid,' or 'Thank God someone feels the way I do,'" she says.