Are parents too overprotective?

A new study examining the effects of spanking could change how some parents approach discipline. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — With kids, there’s a parental balance between making sure kids are safe and healthy and being too overprotective. But where should parents draw the line?

Some parents in Augusta, Georgia, are concerned that elementary school kids are being required to walk too far — a half-mile — to get to class. A Florida mom was arrested after letting her 7-year-old walk a half-mile to a park.

Also, a recent Reason/Rude poll found 68 percent of Americans think it should be illegal for children age 9 and younger to play in a park unsupervised.

Washington Post columnist Petula Dborak says its OK to let kids have some freedom and that communities may need to loosen the reins on parents.

People often glamorize how safe things used to be for kids, Dborak says.

“Guess what, the kooks were always out there. That’s the problem. People think, ‘In the good old days, you could let your kids run around, but today, you don’t know about those kooks,'” she said.

“We actually have the same amount of kooks, but we monitor them better, our crime rates are lower,” she adds.

In her latest Washington Post column, Dborak discussed letting her kids walk alone. She says she got some backlash after she let her kids, 10 and 7, walk to a nearby Capitol Hill store without parental supervision.

Criticism comes from a society that expects parents to do it all, she says.

“Folks want parents to be a 24-hour detail to their children and you know what, you’re not going to want to know all of those children in 20 years because they aren’t going to be independent, happy, capable, normal people,” Dborak says.

Considering statistics, however grim, can put things in perspective. The danger of an accident while driving with a child is more realistic threat than what can happen when kids walk alone. Over the last 20 years, only about 3 percent of children were murdered by a stranger.

Dborak says getting to know the neighbors can form a network of parents who are able to look after children.

“We’ve gotta let go a little bit, and they’ll grow,” she says.

What do you think? Are today’s parents overprotective or just looking out for their kids’ safety?

What was it like when you were a kid?

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