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Utah Passes Controversial ‘Free-Range Parenting’ Law

Madison is a freelance writer based out of California who covers politics, entertainment, sex, relationships, wellness, and music. Her heroes are Linda Belcher and whoever's brewing a hot cup of coffee.

‘Free-range parenting’ is legal now — but is it lazy?

People are all about free-range eggs and meat these days — but did you know about "free-range parenting"? I didn't either until Utah just passed a law in its favor.

Don't worry; no one is priming kids for the butcher. Instead, free-range parenting refers to granting children independence to walk around in public spaces without adult supervision. Yep, it's as simple as that. If you had no idea this was illegal before, you are not alone.

More: Cop Threatens Parents Who Let Kids Play Alone in the Park

According to The Washington Post, a New York mother coined the term free-range parenting back in 2008 after she allowed her 9-year-old son to brave the subway and find his way back home all by himself (per his persistent request). As you might imagine, some parents were furious when this mom wrote a book touting the benefits and encouraging other parents to let their children experience the same kind of independence. But despite controversy, legislators in Utah overwhelmingly agreed this week that children who are old enough "to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm" should be allowed to "walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended."

The law would make it more difficult for state child-welfare authorities to punish parents for negligence as long as the children appear mature and capable enough to roam on their own. (Of course, there will be exceptions for children who seem malnourished or otherwise neglected.)

More: Kids Snatched by CPS Because Parents Won't Change Their "Free-Range" Ways

One of the state senators responsible for the bill, Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore told KUTV in February he believes "it's not neglect if you let your child experience childhood. 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." Truer words may never have been spoken.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted his support for the bill and said he looks "forward to continuing to champion this issue on a national level."

Many people have shared that they're grateful for the new law since it reflects how they were raised themselves.

"'Free-range parenting' used to just be called 'parenting normal children in the 80s/90s," one person tweeted. "Then parents went all helicopter crazy and stopped letting kids do anything."

More: Don't Get Sucked Into the Culture of Fear-Based Parenting

Some other people, however, haven't spoken as favorably.

"So Utah now has legalized free range parenting. Just like livestock, allowing you kids no supervision," one person tweeted. "What is this country coming to? Great way to have predators visit Utah. Broadcast this new law in MSM. So stupid!"

"Free range parenting is just lazy parenting that endangers children because parents are like 'uh yeah my kid is mature and I don't wanna pick them up from school,'" another critic wrote. "Emotional maturity doesn't stop human trafficking, go raise a sack of flour."

Ouch.

What's your take on free-range parenting? Tell us in the comments below.

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