Parents should let children live as ‘Stranger Things’ characters

Netflix’s hit “Stranger Things” features a bizarre, supernatural character. And no, I’m not talking about demogorgons or demon birds. I’m talking about kids cycling, problem solving and fighting monsters, all without their mothers.

Why are El, Will, Max, Dustin, Lucas and Mike never seen in a van on their way to football? What kind of parent lets their children fight evil without a phone call in an emergency? And, my God, where are their bicycle helmets?

Sure, “Stranger Things” is supernatural fiction, but it is very realistic in one respect: Most 80s children, even if they did not face the demons of Upside Down, were confronted with the fear, pleasure and freedom that came from a master key and a Schwinn.

Fast forward to 2022. A survey this month showed that only 10% of American parents with children ages 7 to 9 leave them alone at home, and nearly one in five said he would not even let his teens do it. In fact, the survey among 2,500 U.S. parents commissioned by found that parents do not feel safe letting their children go to school, bike to a friend’s house, or play. in an unattended park until they are at least 12 years old. Old.

Children riding unattended on bicycles barely raised an eyebrow during the “Stranger Things” era. Today, only 10% of American parents with children between the ages of 7 and 9 say they have ever left their children alone at home.
© Netflix / Courtesy Everett Colle

If you, like me, went all the way to primary school at the time, the results of these polls are staggering. But the fact is that since the 1980s, parents have put their children on ever-tighter leashes, perhaps triggered by the images of missing children printed on milk cartons (without any acknowledgment that most missing children are runaway or led to divorce disputes). These sad portraits have created an obsession with child abduction to the point that today’s parents do not believe that their children should be allowed to play unattended. in their own front yard up to 10 years according to a 2014 Rupe-Reason study.

Looking back just a generation or two ago – the “Stranger Things” era – it was normal for a 9-, 10- or 11-year-old to get a newspaper route. This job required not only walking or cycling around the neighborhood, but also preparing a pile of papers, sometimes beginning before dawn. Newspaper boys and girls were even allowed to knock on strangers’ doors and ask adults they met to pay their bills.

“Tracking” apps like Annabelle allow parents to digitally monitor their children’s whereabouts. Reassuring for adults – but too controlling for their children.

In other words, America relied on children’s endurance, intelligence, maturity, and responsibility, which in turn allowed them to develop these qualities.

Today’s parents think there is some things children should be exposed at a young age. According to the study, children must be able to have their own digital tablet at the age of 8 years. And 72% of parents said children should be exposed to bullying prevention materials before the age of six.

In other words, children are helpless babies until they hit double-digit, but also born so bad or so easily victims that if they are not imbued with anti-bullying materials before the first year. , they will hunt or be hunted.

No wonder children today are so anxious and depressed! The statistics are striking: Between 2013 and 2017 alone, the percentage of pediatric patients with an anxiety diagnosis more than doubled, according to a study by AthenaHealth, while the number of young people suffering from depression increased by 59% between 2007 and 2017, according to Pew Research Center. . You would also feel miserable if you were constantly underestimated.

So. . . Is there a way to go back to the kind of time when adults trusted children to be competent – back then when newspaper boys (and perhaps a Mind-Flayer) roamed the earth?

There is. Psychologists say that avoiding something out of fear gives it even more power to scare us. This means that the more parents protect their children from everyday childhood activities, such as going to school or staying home for a while, the more frightening these activities become for both generations.

The antidote is to combat the fear imposed on families from the milk cartons. Send the kids out on a errand this summer or to play outside. Parents should not be arrested or investigated for neglect if they give their children some independence, as happened for the Meitivs of Maryland, which was investigated twice for letting their 10- and 6-year-olds go home from the park, or Natasha Felix from Chicago, who left her 11-, 9- and 5-year-olds playing outside while watching them from a window and being thrown at the Illinois Child Abuse Registry for this.

In the 1980s, missing children began to appear on milk cartons, increasing fears of child abduction.  But most of the missing were runaways or victims of custody disputes.
In the 1980s, missing children began to appear on milk cartons, increasing fears of child abduction. But most of the missing were runaways or victims of custody disputes.

In fact, states across the country should pass laws that allow children “reasonable independence,” as Colorado, Utah, Texas and Oklahoma have done.

Make independence the new norm in your neighborhood by doing things like having a party with the adults in, the kids out. (Bonus: Both groups will feel better.) Let the kids shop. Tell them to go skateboarding. When parents begin to give their children some independence, anxiety loses its power.

He is muscular with pride.

Lenore Skenazy is president of let growa non-profit organization that promotes childhood independence and resilience, and is the founder of Children at large movement. She also writes for

Leave a Comment