Utah just became the first state to pass a “free-range parenting” law, and here’s what that means

From helicopter parenting to attachment parenting, there are many different ways to approach the challenges of parenthood. And now the state of Utah has made it easier for parents to choose how they bring up their children. The state recently passed the country’s first law enabling the practice of “free-range parenting.”

Republican Governor Gary Herbert announced on March 23rd that he had signed the “Free-Range Kids” bill, which makes it legal for parents to allow children to do things like walk to school by themselves or play alone on a playground. The new law will take effect May 8th.

The law is pretty open-ended when it comes to specifying how old “free-range kids” can be, only stating that children must demonstrate enough maturity to do things on their own. According to the Associated Press, the law was purposefully written without imposing an age limit so that each case can be evaluated individually.

On Twitter, supporters of hands-off parenting celebrated the new law.


Connor Boyack, president of the think tank that proposed the law, explained to Yahoo Lifestyle that while letting a child walk to school alone or play without adult supervision was never illegal, the new law makes it harder to penalize parents for doing so.

The term “free-range parenting” dates back to a 2008 column in the New York Sun, in which writer Lenore Skenazy wrote about how she let her nine-year-old son ride the subway by himself. Her blog, “Free-Range Kids,” popularized the term.

"The problem with this everything-is-dangerous outlook is that over-protectiveness is a danger in and of itself," Skenazy wrote in the Sun. "A child who thinks he can't do anything on his own eventually can't."

But there are opponents of free-range parenting. A similar law in Arkansas failed to pass in 2017 because lawmakers feared it would leave children vulnerable to danger.

In the end, there are as many styles of parenting as there are children. It’s hard for strangers to know what’s best for someone else’s child, although that certainly doesn’t prevent many mothers from being shamed for the way they raise their kids. We applaud Utah for making it easier for parents to bring up their little ones the way they feel is best.

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