It was almost 10 years ago that Leonore Skenazy (AKA Freerange Kids) sent her 9-year-old on the New York subway ALONE (gasp) and caused shockwaves across the US where she was infamously dubbed America’s Worst Mom. Fast forward 10 years, and here in Vancouver, a single dad is perilously close to a similar moniker for allowing his kids to ride public transit alone to school every day.
Local blogger Adrian Crook, of 5 Kids One Condo, was recently investigated by the Ministry of Children and Family Development after an anonymous caller reported that 4 of his kids, between 7 and 11, were riding public transit “alone” to their North Vancouver school.
The situation has raised ire among local parents who would like their children to be able to learn to navigate their local world at an age that they deem appropriate. The crux of the issue appears to be the fact that legally-speaking children under 10 must be supervised by an adult at all times, something that was news to a lot of parents and at odds with their own upbringing. Adding to the confusion, even local pools allow 8 and ups to swim alone.
Here are the facts: In 2015, a BC Supreme Court ruled that children under the age of 10 should not be left home alone, no matter how mature they are. The ruling came after child protective services discovered a single mom from Terrace was leaving her son home alone every day after school in January 2014. From 3 pm- 5 pm, the eight-year-old boy would be unsupervised until the mother, came home from work.
The Supreme Court ruled that kids under 10 must be supervised at all times.
Crime is down from when most of us were kids despite what the Internet will have you believe. Most parents allow kids between 7 and 10 some leeway in roaming their local neighbourhood (usually en masse), taking short trips to the store with friends, taking the bus with friend, going to the park a block away with a friend, walking to a friends house a few blocks away. Parents feel this helps kids develop confidence, independence, and the ability to think for themselves. More importantly, it leads to safer neighbourhoods and strengthens society’s social fabric.
The response from parents*
I was taking the bus before I was 10 on my own in Vancouver and every single bus driver went out of their way to make sure I was good to go. It is absurd that we insist on demonizing parents who are trying to actually equip their kids to be functioning members of society.
“Crazy! Fear mongering. [This is exactly what] leads to parents OVERPROTECTING their kids.”
“Wow! My sister and I used to take public bus to school in grades 1 and 3. Never had any issues bit was a long time ago.”
“The more kids out playing and walking on our streets, the safer our neighbourhoods will be!”
“We just moved to Tokyo from Vancouver- and I’m watching my 7 and 10 year old navigate their way through the neighbourhood. The society is set up for kids – no cars during morning school commute routes- 5 pm bell- it’s only been a few days but they are leading and I’m trying not to helicopter them I wish Vancouver would adapt their policies so our kids could take back the streets.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have your kids playing outside than playing Minecraft or watching Youtube videos inside while you make dinner or work?”
“I’d rather have my son and friends learn to take the bus rather than driving them everywhere? I’m not a chauffeur!”
What do YOU think? What level of freedom do you feel comfortable with? And what do you think of the law?
*Names have been withheld to protect the parents.
Harriet Fancott is the Editor and Social Media Manager for Vancouver Mom. She has over 20 years experience in the arts, tech and mom-based blogging arenas. She lives in East Vancouver with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring all that Vancouver has to offer from festivals and events to playgrounds and beaches to sushi and ice cream (although not together).