Ask today's grandparents how they got to school, and nearly all of them will tell you, "I walked." But by the time current parents were growing up, that number had dropped dramatically. When and why did we stop letting kids walk to school, especially on their own?
It happened in a single generation.
Britain's Policy Studies Institute has the answer to when we stopped having kids walk to school. In a study on Children's Independent Mobility, they found that in 1972, 80% of 7- and 8-year-old British children got to school unaccompanied by an adult. By 1990, that number had plummeted to 9%. That's a jaw-dropping change!
They also found that in 1971, 55% of British children under 10 were allowed to travel to places other than school on their own. By 1990, the number was 30%. And in 2010, that number was almost zero.
Children over 10 have fared a little better, though they're becoming more restricted too. In 1971, they were allowed to walk to school and other places alone at a rate of about 80%. That dropped to 50% by 2010.
What about the why? Well, in most cases, parents blamed these decisions to restrict their kids' freedoms on a worry about traffic accidents.
We're endangering our kids by limiting freedoms.
Why don't we see this reluctance to let kids walk to school alone for what it is? A heist! We have stolen children's freedom! They are transported from locked space to locked space like prisoners. And we are expected to be their jailers.
We're just trying to give our kids a better life, right? Why should they walk when we can drive them? Why should they scrabble around in the park when we can give them professional sports lessons? I'll tell you why: We are taking away the building blocks of independence and the social skills they need to succeed.
Kids are losing autonomy generation by generation. Their physical condition is declining, leading to obesity and other health problems. And they're not gaining the practical and social skills they need to act independently.
It's time for a change.
Ready to restore your children's ability to think and act independently? It can be hard to do these days, but we're here to help. Join the Let Grow community and find other families nearby who feel the same way. Encourage your local schools to try the Let Grow Project or Let Grow Play Club. Together, these programs give kids a chance to make their own fun and become part of the neighborhood again.
Looking for a simple place to start? This year, consider letting your kids walk to school on their own.