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Free-Range Vs. Helicopter: What’s Best For Kids And What Works For Parents?

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Questions about neglect and trust continue after officers picked up two kids, who were not misbehaving or breaking the law, but walking in a Maryland neighborhood without their parents.

The Meitivs family subscribe to a "free-range" parenting method. The couple allowed their children, 6 and 10 years old, to walk home from a neighborhood park alone.

The incident has sparked a national debate: Is it OK for children to be on their own?

Critics of the free-range style of parenting say it's too dangerous. But proponents cite statistics that show crime has declined sharply over the past 25 years, down to 1970 levels, a time when free-range parenting didn't have a name and it was the norm.

But have we moved away from an era where kids were let outside in the morning, and weren't required to come home until the street lights came on?

Do kids benefit from so-called helicopter parents who can’t let their children out of their sights?

"Every parent has to make their own considerate decision as it relates to kids," Darlene Sweetland, co-author of "Teaching Kids to Think: Raising Confident, Independent & Thoughtful Children in an Age of Instant Gratification," told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.

Sweetland said children with free-range parents are allowed to learn critical, life skills.

But helicopter parenting is preferred for Jennifer Coburn, author of "We'll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir."

"For me, as a parent, as long as there's a one-in-a-million chance — it's beyond my comfort level," Coburn said. "I think there are some real benefits to free-range parenting. The drawback for my family is I would be so nervous I'd never get anything done. I felt my daughter was most safe when I was pregnant with her."


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