Would you let your 9-year-old ride the subway alone?

Lenore Skenazy writes about her son’s first solo subway and bus trip in the New York Sun. He had been preparing for the chance, and knew how to read a subway map. The 9-year-old made it home just fine, but half the people who heard about it thought it was too dangerous. What do you think? How can we balance the remote risk of crime with the necessity of teaching children to negotiate the world on their own? Link -via Reddit

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I didn't start using public transportation by myself until I was 12. It didn't kill or cripple me to wait a few years. Letting 9 year olds ride the subway alone is not the only way to give them responsibility or show that you trust them.

I appreciate that my mom was "overprotective" and didn't let me go places alone til I was older, even though I always complained, "but Mom, other kids are doing it!" And guess what? Other kids were getting abducted too, including a very smart/observant/mature schoolmate of mine. Fortunately, she managed to get away. So being "intelligent" doesn't make a kid safe from predators.

Let's also keep in mind that predators come in many shapes and sizes, it's not just the creepy guy who lives next door. They are men, women, young and old. In my town, there was a little old lady who killed over a dozen people and hid their bodies in her basement.
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would this lady let her son hitchhike? if the answer is no, then she should definitely minimize the kid's self-guided adventures in N.Y.C.

the same element who would gladly prey on her son were he to get into their car or van is riding the SUBWAY, ready to make a move on some vulnerable child. at the risk of being crude, she is offering her son up as boymeat to one of them...by their own admission, these people look for unattended kids.

i don't like the subtext in this story.....
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I applaud Lenore's decision to allow her son to take the subway by himself! I myself was born and raised in NYC in the seventies and even though I didn't ride the subway by myself frequently (I lived in the Bronx in Co-Op City which does not have a subway stop nearby), I spent many days traveling by myself on the buses around the Bronx and took the Express bus alone to visit my mom who worked at 30 Rockfellar Center by the time I was 10 (by the way, Lenore's son was on the verge of turning 10 years old at the time of his subway ride). I, along with MANY of my friends growing up were latch-key kids. I started staying by myself after school at the age of seven out of necessity (both of my parents worked). New York was a far more dangerous place back then -- remember folks, 42nd Street was not the tourist friendly new Mall of America that it is today. Also, the subway was a very dangerous place back then-- the subway cars themselves weren't as safe as they are now and a police presence was non-existent. My tween years were during the great blackout of 1977 and the Son of Sam killings (and let us not forget "President Ford to NY 'Drop Dead'" headline. I grew up quickly back then learning both responsibility and to be completely self aware of my surroundings at an early age. I was not a big tough kid either, I was a girl who was very small for my age.

With all of that , I want you all to know that I now have a 9 year old son. He, like myself, is small for his age BUT he is a very intelligent self aware young person (Lenore commented in her article that her son is 10 going on 40 and so is my son). If I still lived in NYC I would let him at least ride the buses by himself. And explore his neighborhood alone (but preferably with friends.. it's much more fun that way). Thanks to the State of Connecticut, I am not allowed by law to leave him alone unattended until he is at least 12 years old. And by law, he is supposed to still be in a child safety seat in our car (because he is still not 80 pounds). I can understand that we all want our kids to be safe, but things are getting way out of control. What ever happened to just hanging out with your friends after school? We're not letting our kids have the experiences they will need to become responsible adults. We now have college kids who email their school papers home to be checked over by their parents. I've also heard of many young adults who bring their PARENTS on jobs interviews! Enough is enough people. It's time to let our kids grow up as we did. And if the start is to let our 9 or 10 year olds ride the subway for 5 stops or so, let it be. I only wish my son could have that opportunity too.
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