Volokh’s David Bernstein discovers that he was a neglected child — at least by the “minimal acceptable standards for the supervision of children developed by professionals in collaboration with the community” in his Virginia county.
According to these guidelines, eight-year old children “Should not be left alone for any period of time. This includes leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and yards.” I not only played in my back yard unattended at age eight, but, if I remember correctly, was free to wander around my neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult so long as I came home before dark, and in New York City (Queens) no less. Somehow, I survived unscathed, as did each and every one of my peers.
He learned about the rules from a mother who faced endangerment charges for leaving her child asleep in a car for five minutes while she ran an errand.
My mother told me it was routine in Chicago for mothers to park their babies outside grocery stores or drug stores while they were shopping. Certainly when I was growing up in the suburbs as a baby boomer, we walked or biked to school from kindergarten on and played unsupervised after school in the park, someone’s yard or the street.
There were risks. A man who turned out to be a convicted sex offender once offered my brother a “ride” when he was walking to school. He ran away and, unlike the other boys offered rides, reported it. The man was warned, but not arrested. Then a girl walking home from school was kidnapped, raped and “released unharmed” the next day. The man was arrested and convicted. Parents continued to let their kids walk to school and play unsupervised. The kidnapping was seen as an aberration.