Utah Becomes First State to Pass a ‘Free-Range Parenting’ Law

Parents who subscribe to the free-range philosophy of child-rearing have scored a victory this week. Lawmakers in Utah have passed what is believed to be the first free-range parenting law in the country, giving parents there more freedom in what they allow their kids to do unsupervised. The law sailed through the state House and Senate, and Governor Gary Herbert signed it into law. The bill outlines situations where kids can legally be unsupervised, without their parents facing legal repercussions.

The free-range parenting law sets some boundaries between what’s considered legal, and what would be considered neglect.

Free-range parenting is sort of a catchall phrase, and can mean a lot of different things for different parents. For free-range parents, the threat of legal harm can be a cloud of worry over their heads. The new bill gives parents guidance and a much-needed sense of relief that they won’t be arrested for neglect.

The bill doesn’t give specific ages for when kids are allowed to do some of these free-range activities. Lawmakers chose to leave that up to the discretion of the parents.

Which makes sense! Kids mature at very different rates. What may be fine for one 10-year-old wouldn’t be for another.

Under the new law, kids and parents will get a bit more freedom. Kids will be able travel to and from school alone, travel to and from public areas or recreational facilities alone, play outside (I mean, seriously, how is this not OK?), and stay home by themselves. Kids can also remain in a car unattended, as long as they’re at least 9-years-old and not in danger of the elements. The point about being in the car alone is the only situation that specifies an age. Additionally, the law doesn’t address if kids left home alone can be responsible for younger kids.

Republican state senator Lincoln Fillmore, who wrote and sponsored the bill, told Yahoo Lifestyle, “I feel strongly about the issue because we have become so over-the-top when ”˜protecting’ children that we are refusing to let them learn the lessons of self-reliance and problem-solving that they will need to be successful as adults.”

But before you go letting your kid off on their own, check the laws in your own state. The Utah law is a boon for free-range parenting, but it’s the first of its kind. So unless you live in Utah, there may still be laws against some forms of free-range parenting where you live.

(Image: iStock / Jcomp)

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