Sociologist talks Utah’s free range parent law and it’s double standard

Jessica Calarco, assistant professor of Sociology at Indiana University (Calarco)

Jessica Calarco, assistant sociologist professor at the University of Indiana joins the Matt Bubala show to talk about Utah’s new free-range parenting law.  So far, Utah is the first state to legalize this, where the law states that parents will not be charged with neglect for allowing “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm to engage in independent activities.” Is this new law really ‘letting kids be kids’?

In the context of helicopter parenting, there’s a certain stigma that all parents act the same way, but it is not the case.  She explains that past generations felt more comfortable letting their children be independent. In today’s generation, parents want to keep better control of there children’s whereabouts. Calarco says this is where a double standard of free-range parenting comes into play.  Generally, poor or less privileged parents let their kids stay home alone without child care because they don’t have money for a babysitter, or because of other factors that may be in the way.  Utah created this law because they “want to or need to,” but poor parents have always “faced greater risks.” She feels that the media has had an impact on how self sufficient kids are.  “The vast majority of families that are in the system are poor and are parents of color. There’s a disconnect between what makes the news and what happens day to day.” Calarco thinks that kids do have a high degree of capability to handle situations that adults don’t assume they are capable of. Since the media has overblown fear, “there’s a growing movement of high profile cases that get blown up by the media and we perceive these as bigger threats.” For example, many child abduction statistics show that a relative or family member is involved as opposed to a stranger.  Carlaco suggests the best way to avoid the double standard is to have parents talk to their children more to help them understand issues of race, ethnicity and how it can impact a child’s freedom.

The professor just released a book in March. For more information her book, Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School or to access her article, visit her website or on social media.