Last Saturday marked the third annual “Take Our Children to the Park …And Leave Them There” Day (in case you missed it).
It was started by Lenore Skenazy, the author of “Free-Range Kids”. She wanted to see parks filled once again with children at play, unsupervised for a time, in hopes that parents would overcome societal fears and kids would be able to get a better sense of independence and childhood fun.
“I wanted to start a day when all children meet at their local parks,” Skenazy told HLN’s Dr. Drew Tuesday night. “If they're young kids, up to age 7, we would supervise them -- but age 8, 9, 10 -- we leave them there to play with each other to do that old-fashioned thing we used to, which is just hang out with friends -- get a ball -- get a jump rope.”
She added, “I was hoping that by having all the kids together in the park on that day at that time, the next day they would just go and do it automatically the way we used to do.”
Skenazy explained that she chose the age of 7 because "that's the age around the world most parents send their children to school on their own." She also claimed that studies show that “when kids are on their own playing together, they actually get more exercise.”
But Dr. Drew said, “To me -- it makes me anxious. Maybe it's because I deal with kids who are sexually or physically abused all the time …it's a pandemic in our country … something that's been exponentially increasing. [And] when someone is a perpetrator, they don't perpetrate on [just] one kid.”
Skenazy interjected, “The exponential thing that's been happening is a drop in crime
since the time that most of us were kids and our parents let us go outside and play without always thinking about the broken arm and the predator and the murderer around the corner. Crime is actually down. I know it never feels like that.”
Jill Starishevsky, author of "My Body Belongs To Me", joined in the debate with strong feelings of her own.
“I don't understand why it has to be ‘leave your kids at the park all day’?” she said. “Why can't they be in the backyard or in front of the house? … It just feels like gambling to me.”
Skenazy responded, “When we talk about not wanting to gamble with our children's lives -- none of us want to and none of us deliberately do that.”
Dr. Drew concluded, “We're all becoming helicopter parents, over-intrusive and over-involved, perhaps. I don't disagree with that part. I [just] don't necessarily think we should be leaving them out in the park by themselves.”
Watch Dr. Drew Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on HLN and follow the show on Twitter @DrDrewHLN.