I recently read an article about a couple being investigated for child neglect after allowing their two children to walk, unsupervised, a block to the neighborhood playground. The whole idea of it really burnt my bacon. I realize we’re living in a different time, but as a child I spent a lot of time unsupervised. My parents taught me not to get into vans with strangers and told me to be home for dinner. I rode bikes all over my town, my brother and I took the boat out to visit friends, they even left us on Snake Island one night to go camping with friends. Sure, it could have turned into¬†Lord of the Flies, or we could have been mauled by bobcats, but we were fine.

Technology has made it so easy to police children that it has become expected. “You don’t know where your children are every second of every day? What is wrong with you?” I acknowledge that I can only comment from the perspective of the child as I do not have children of my own, but the idea of constant surveillance sounds stifling. The implied trust my parents had in me to take care of myself and the space to move through the world and judge things on my own was an important aspect of my person growth. Sure, I made some mistakes, and that is when my parents were there to guide me and help me understand my mistakes.

The idea of constant surveillance also brings to mind the debate over The Elf on the Shelf and whether it normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy. If kids grow up never having any privacy or independence they won’t understand, or demand, those rights as an adult.

I’m not telling anyone to ignore their children, or how to parent, just to consider all the angles before calling the cops on your neighbors for having looser reins than some people.