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Alone in Public

At what age is it appropriate to let your kids be alone in public?  It’s a timely question, with the Leiby Kletzky (Brooklyn, NY) killing currently in the news. 

There is no specific age at which kids should be able to walk city sidewalks unescorted.  However, there are a variety of abilities and bodies of knowledge that your kids should master before they should be deemed capable to be alone in public.  These are as follows.

  • The wisdom to navigate safely on urban sidewalks [i.e., walk briskly and with a purpose (as opposed to sauntering and wandering), do not speak to or make eye contact with strangers, do not carry or wear visible items of value (i.e., money peeking out of pants pockets), do not traverse dimly lit walkways, etc.]
  • The ability to know what “feels” ok or safe and what does not (i.e., to have appropriate “radar” for danger)
  • The wisdom to steer clear of situations that they think may be dangerous
  • The ability to disobey the commands of a stranger (i.e., if the stranger says not to yell, your kids should know that it’s ok to disobey that command)
  • The ability to say “no” firmly and walk (or run) away when feeling potentially endangered
  • The wisdom to use powerful statements when in trouble (i.e., “I don’t know you!”)
  • The ability to ask (or yell) for help if needed
  • The ability to effectively defend themselves by striking out when necessary

Generally, kids in the single digits (up to age 9) are too young to master each of the foregoing points.  Once kids enter the double digit ages (age 10 and beyond), they are more likely to have mastered the points above.  Bear in mind that each child matures and develops and his/her own pace.  So, pay attention to the development level of your kids and respond accordingly.

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