At What Age Can Kids Walk Alone?

The first time a parent sends their child out to walk around their neighborhood alone, it can be scary. At what age can kids walk alone?

The first time a parent sends their child to walk to school or around their neighborhood on their own, it can be scary. It’s difficult to know when kids are old enough to take the walk alone. And it has a lot to do with the parents.

Helicopter parents — parents who believe they should be heavily involved with their children’s lives —  may think kids should walk with parents until they are as old as 15. While “free-range” parents — parents who believe they need to give children more independence and autonomy — may think kids should be allowed to walk alone as young as nine.

Federally, there is not a legal age for when children are allowed to in public walk alone during the day. But that doesn’t mean this issue doesn’t have any legal implications. As MamaBear covered early this year, a set of Maryland free-range parents found themselves in legal trouble after permitting their children to walk home alone.

So, how do you know what is right for your family?

Identify the Real Danger

While many parents are afraid to allow their children walk alone because of concerns about kidnapping, The Washington Post says this shouldn’t necessarily be the primary concern. It is extremely unlikely that a child walking alone will be abducted.

In cases regarding missing minors, less than one percent of cases involve a stranger abduction. Ninety-six percent of missing minors are situations related to runaways or other family issues.

The real danger in children walking alone is street safety.

Street Safety Is Just as Important for Older Kids

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that parents wait to allow their children to start crossing the street on their own at ten years of age. This is the age that it is believed that kids begin to have enough maturity and brain development to form  a better understanding of road dangers — which are serious.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, an estimated 61 children under the age of 19 are injured as pedestrians every day.

Their report also says that as kids age, they are actually at an increased risk of being injured as a pedestrian. Their report showed that 14-year-olds were the most likely age group to be injured while walking.

Prepare Your Child For Walking Alone

When it comes to deciding on an appropriate age, there is no perfect answer. It will be different for each family and child based on the maturity level of the child and the values of the parents.

But one thing will be true for all families. It is important to teach street safety rules to children at all ages, and the lessons and reminders need to follow children into their teen years.

  • Before crossing a street, look left, then look right, then look left once more. Be aware of  cars making a right turn, they could be behind you as you cross. And listen, too.
  • Do not run across the street. If you think you need to run to make it across the traffic, don’t go.
  • When crossing the street in front of a stopped car, make eye contact with the driver before crossing.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk when it is available.
  • If there is not a sidewalk, walk facing traffic so you can step away as vehicles pass.
  • Only cross the street at crosswalks. And don’t assume cars will stop just because you are in the crosswalk. Wait for them to come to a full stop in both directions.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not assume that cars will always be where they are supposed to be on the road.
  • When crossing at intersections, always look for cars that may be turning.
  • If listening to music when walking, only put in one ear bud so you can hear what is happening around you.
  • Do not text, look at  your phone, or talk on your phone while you walk near streets. It may not seem distracting while walking, but using a phone requires eyes, ears and concentration, all of which you need to be safe around traffic.
  • Avoid walking in the dark. If you must, wear reflective or bright clothing.

Related Post: Safety Ideas For Both Free Range Parents, Helicopter Parents and Those In Between

Parents can find additional peace of mind by using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. With the free app, available for iPhones and Androids, parents can receive automated notifications based on GPS technology that alerts them when their child has reached their destination. It’s never easy to see your child walk off alone, but MamaBear helps make it less stressful and more liberating for both child and parent.


Explaining the Consequences of Sexting to Your Kids

Parents need to accept the growing rise in sexting and have conversations with their teens (and preteens) about the potential consequences of sexting.

Many parents would probably say they don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to their teen and sexting, the exchange of sexually explicit messages and photos via SMS, or texting.

But most of those parents would be wrong.

According to a report by Drexel University, more than 50% of surveyed students said that they sexted as minors.

Parents can no longer look the other way when it comes to sexting. They need to accept the growing rise in sexting and have conversations with their teens (and preteens) about the potential consequences of sexting.

Sexting Can Be Considered Child Pornography

Child pornography is a term that will likely scare and repulse most teens. But those same teens probably have no idea that sexting, as in receiving and sharing illicit images of minors, can be legally categorized as child pornography.

The Drexel study showed that many teens are unaware of this association and found that 61% of respondents didn’t know that sexting was considered child pornography.

But sexting is connected to child pornography and can lead to legal repercussions as twelve teens in Chicago found out. A group of male students aged 15 and 16 were taken into custody after it was learned that they were distributing nude images of others under the age of 18.

Related Post: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Relationships May End, But Images Will Remain

It isn’t uncommon for teenagers in relationships to believe that their relationship will last forever and fail to think the possibility of it ever ending. So, when they are about to send an explicit message or photo to their boyfriend or girlfriend, they rarely think about what will happen to that message if they break up.

Parents need to have conversations with their teens about the reality of their relationships and remind them to think about what will happen if the relationships ends.

Would they want their ex to have their hands on the photos after the relationship? What could happen if the relationship ended poorly? Would their ex use that photo against them?

Teens need to be reminded that if they share sexual photos with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that photo will remain even if the relationship ends.

People Can Share and Steal Private Images

When teens send a text, social media post, or sext, they often aren’t thinking about the long-term life of their message.

They send a message to a specific person and believe that is their only audience. They usually don’t think about the possibility of the message being shared or stolen without their knowledge.

But any piece of digital material has the potential of being shared without consent.

Teens may think that they are safe using platforms like Snapchat, where images are deleted after an allotted amount of time.

But even these sites and platforms are not safe. Last year, MamaBear covered a situation where 13GB of photos and videos on SnapChat were stolen by hackers.

Images that teens thought were private were stolen and shared without the creator’s’ knowledge.

Related: Snappening: What Snapchat’s Third Party Hack Means for Our Kids

The Cost of a Damaged Reputation

Whether images from sexting are stolen, intentionally misused, or just remain on a social media site on the Internet,  the ultimate danger is a permanent consequence linked to a damaged reputation.

When a college entrance committee, a prospective employer, or anyone else that may be in a position to make a decision affecting your child’s future can find  messages and photos as they search your child’s name across the web they are more and more likely to say “no,” often before even considering the actual school or job application. Many colleges are now running software to scan the Internet for content linked to potential new students. Imagine 4 years of hard work in high school to achieve grades and test scores high enough to apply to the best schools, only to be denied because of a few stray sexting messages.

Related: How To Talk to Your Kids About Their Digital Reputation

Parents can no longer avoid and ignore teen sexting.

They need to have conversations with their teens to help them clearly see the potential consequences that can come from sexting and sharing inappropriate and illicit messages. Parents can also get more involved with their child’s digital world by using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. The free app, available for iPhones and Androids, sends parents notifications regarding their child’s social media activity and account, keeping them in the loop of their child’s social media habits and digital life.

Distracted Driving Causes More Teen Accidents Than Ever Known

An unprecedented study of teen driving shows the connection between distracted driving and teen crashes is stronger than originally thought.

The study found that police estimates of crash statistics were way off. Six out of ten moderate-to-severe teen crashes are caused by distracted driving — four times as many as original estimates claimed based on police reports.

About the Study

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Lytx (a company that has collected data using in-vehicle event recorders for a decade) compiled data to create a 71-page report that shows we underestimated the dangers of distracted teen driving.

Researchers analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,691 videos of crashes involving drivers ages 16-19 and found that distraction was a factor in 58% of crashes.

Distraction played a role in 89% of road-departure crashes and 76% of rear-end crashes.

The Main Distractions

Passengers are the most dangerous distraction for teens. According to the report, 15% of crashes were caused when the driver was interacting with one or more passengers.

Digital distractions were a close second. Twelve percent of crashes were caused due to cell phone use. Cell phone use included calling, texting, and other uses (app usage, adjusting music, etc.)

Digital distractions caused teens to take their eyes off the road for “an average of 4.1 of the final six seconds leading up to the crash,” the study reported. It also limited reaction time. In rear-end crashes, teen drivers using cell phones were more likely to crash without steering away or braking.

Ordinary distractions are just as dangerous. Parents may focus on teaching their teens to put their phones away while driving, but they need to remind them about ordinary distractions they may underestimate. A surprising percentage of crashes were caused by common distractions.

  • 10% — looking at something in the vehicle
  • 9% — looking at something outside the vehicle
  • 8% — singing/moving to music
  • 6% — grooming
  • 6% — reaching for an object

What Parents Can Do

Create a Safe Driving Contract — Use a safe driving contract to set boundaries and expectations for your teen’s driving. AAA offers a free PDF agreement for parents that outlines both rules and consequences of driving.

Limiting the Number of Passengers — Interacting with passengers was the number one cause of accidents for distracted teen drivers. Limit the number of passengers that your teen can have in the vehicle and let them work their way up to having more passengers as they get more driving experience.

Teach Your Kids About #X — Remind your teens that they don’t need to respond to text conversations while they are driving. They should use a tactic from the “It Can Wait” campaign and simply text #X before getting behind the wheel — which is a way to pause the conversation until they are off the road.

Don’t Contribute to Your Child’s Distracted Driving — Parents who expect their children to answer their phone at all times could be increasing the amount of distracted driving their teens are involved in. All but one teenage driving demographic surveyed by APA said that parents were the number one contact they talked to while driving.

Related: Parents Are Most Distracting to Teen Drivers

Set a Good Example — If you frequently engage in distracted driving in front of your teen, they will begin to see that as a normal driving habit. So, practice the same safe driving habits you would like your teen to exhibit.

Monitor Their Speed — You can’t be on the road with your teen every time they drive, but you can be aware of their activity on the road.

With MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™, parents can receive alerts regarding where their teen is driving and how fast they are going. The free app, available for iPhones and Androids, is a way for you to give independence to your teen driver while staying connected to their driving habits and encouraging safe driving practices.

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{Video} MamaBear CEO Discusses Social Media Safety for Kids on The Valley Girl Show

MamaBear CEO discusses social media safety for kids on The Valley Girl Show and how today's technology can help parents protect their kids.

Did you know 8,000,000 kids go missing each year? And many child predators who commit these crimes use kids’ social media accounts to find their victims. Today’s technology can help parents protect their kids against these and other harmful situations in many ways and give families more peace of mind everyday. MamaBear CEO, Suzanne Horton, sits down with Jesse Draper from the Valley Girl Show to talk about the MamaBear App and how the app and its “ultimate parenting tool” technology is connecting and protecting families and kids around the world. #JesseDraper #ValleyGirlShow



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