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Parents in Utah can no longer be prosecuted for 'free range' kids

(Photo:  Spirit-Fire / Flickr / CC BY 2.0/MGN)
(Photo: Spirit-Fire / Flickr / CC BY 2.0/MGN)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 28, 2018 at 4:51 PM EDT
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(3/28/2018) - Helicopter parents are taking a hit in Utah.

That's because Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill earlier this month that makes it OK for parents to let their children "free range." It's believed to be the first state in the nation to pass such a law.

The measure essentially changes the state's legal definition of neglect, meaning parents won't be prosecuted for letting their children (of appropriate age) do things like walk to school by themselves, go to the store alone, play outside unsupervised, sit in a vehicle alone or stay at home by themselves.

The lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, Republican state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, said he wanted to keep police and state agencies from arresting parents for things like letting their kids walk to school unaccompanied.

"It's not neglect if you let your child experience childhood," Fillmore said last month. "The message is you need to protect your kids but we are not doing kids any favors if we shelter them to the point where they are not learning how to function."

The bill does not define what the appropriate age is to allow children to be on their own.

The free-range movement is considered a pushback on helicopter parenting -- the idea that kids need to be supervised all the time.

Free-range parenting gained steam about a decade ago with the publication of the book, "Free-Range Kids," by Lenore Skenazy, a New York mom, television host and author.

Skenazy was called the worst mother on the planet after she wrote a story in 2008 on why she let her then-9-year-old son take the subway by himself.

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