The debate about when (or if) parents should allow their children to play unsupervised outside has been simmering all year. Now things have heated up again, with parents in America charged with felony neglect after letting their 11-year-old son play in the backyard while a family here in Australia almost lost their eight-year-old son to an abductor for allowing him to do the same thing… and with the parents only metres away.
These events spark concerns from parents around the world with some families agreeing that children should be allowed to play outside unsupervised while other parents believe you can never be too careful. Have a read through these two eerily similar situations with very different outcomes. Where do you stand?
In Florida, two parents were accused of felony neglect after leaving their 11-year-old son alone in the backyard. He was seen playing basketball in his yard by a neighbour who called the police. His parents arrived 90 minutes later and were greeted by a police officer who arrested them for child negligence.
Police claim the boy had no access to water or shelter, but his mother insists this was not the case.
“We have an open shed in the back yard and two working sinks and two hoses. They said he had no food. He ate his snacks already. He had no bathroom, but the responding officer found our yard good enough to relieve himself in while our son sat in a police car alone,” she says.
Florida has no minimum age for children to be alone and the parents (along with many more parents around the world) say the charges are over-the-top and outrageous. This isn’t the first time American parents have been slapped with neglect charges after allowing their children to play unsupervised and I think it is safe to say that it is certainly won’t be the last.
But while not everyone agrees that parents should face charges for leaving older children along, the scary truth is that abductions do happen. And in our own backyards.
In the southern Perth suburb of Shelley, an eight-year-old boy was enjoying the morning fresh air earlier this month when an unidentified man jumped the fence, covered the boy’s mouth and dragged him away. His parents were both inside the house, only metres away from where the attempted abduction took place, but were unaware the attack was happening.
The boy managed to escape his attacker by elbowing him in the stomach and ran more than two blocks before being found by neighbours. He was not injured and the man has yet to be identified.
The story also bears a disturbing similarity to the disappearance of toddler William Tyrrell who was also allegedly taken from his grandma’s yard in Kempsey, New South Wales.
So, where do you stand, Babyologists? Do you let your child play outside unsupervised? What about in your own backyard?