Transcript for Free Range Parents Believe in Letting Kids Roam Alone
Tonight you're going to meet moms and dads whose parenting style you'll either agree with or find disturbing. When they gave their young children some independentance it wasn't the kids who ran into trouble, it was the grownups. ABC's David Wright enters this new kind of fight for freedom. Reporter: Ralphie and Devora were walking home from the park in silver spring, Maryland, when they were suddenly confronted by a stranger. Not a gang member or a bully or, god forbid, a child molester. No, the stranger danger this time was the police. Right here. Two police cars pull up over here. Reporter: The Montgomery county police gave the kids, ages 6 and 10, a stern warning. Embarrassed. Reporter: The cops reported the parents to child protective services, who threatened to take the kids away. Okay, then you'll have to take my children. I rlsed then they won't release my children. Reporter: Under Maryland law leaving anyone under 18 unsupervised constitutes child neglect. Maryland parents are accused of child neglect after allowing their two kids to walk home alone from a park a mile away. Reporter: Suddenly this middle-class suburban family found themselves smack in the middle of a national debate about parenting. Every parent has a comfort level. You do what you think is best for your child and your situation. Reporter: All of this was news to ralphie and Devora. Who are out on the streets all the time, running, playing, crossing the street. It's very busy. Reporter: But their parents trust them, giving them the freedom to make mistakes. Away from the parental safety nets. It's an approach known these days as free-range parenting. To them it isn't a fad. I'm parenting the way I was parented, the way almost every adult I know was parented. Reporter: In the era of helicopter parenting, plenty of people wouldn't dream of letting their kids go out of their sight alone. Worried about kidnappers, perverts, violent crime, all the stuff you hear about on the news. Is this a one-off? Or have you heard other stories? Nancy grace hears all the stories about kidnappings. I hear all the people who have been arrested for letting their kids play outside, walk to school, spent a day in the park. Reporter: Lenore skenazy is a champion of free-range parenting. We aren't allowed to play in the backyard alone. Reporter: The star of a new reality show on discovery life. The concept is that I go to families that are extremely nervous and overprotective and I find out all the things the kids are not allowed to do. I lock the parents in their house and I send the kids out to do things on their own. You bring helicopter parents down to Earth? I make helicopter parents see what their kids can really do. Reporter: The title of the show, an insult she's been called many times. So now you're officially the world's worse mom. I've been bumped up. For a while I was America's worst. Reporter: When we met her in 2009 she'd been dubbed America's worst mom for letting her 9-year-old son take the New York City subway all by himself. We thought, gee. You know, he knows the subway. He knows how to use the card that gets you on. We sat him down, we made sure he knew how to read a map. You brought him to the south bronx. Right, we gave him a revolver and he got home fine. Reporter: Now izzy is grown up. Well, he's in high school. He's an impressive kid. You think that's okay? I'm alive. After I got home I was ecstatic. I felt like I was on top of the world. So, very brave that I could really do anything. Reporter: It worked out so well for itzzy I decided to enlest my daughters in a controlled experiment, going to the playground. Would you go over with Deanna? By myself? Reporter: 6-year-old Philomena wasn't so sure. 8-year-old Deanna did some convincing. Okay, fine, I'll do it. What? She said she'll do it. Reporter: Going to the playground in the park right across from our house. How do you cross the road safely? My heart is already racing. Okay, come on. It's a little nerve-racking. Be careful! We know already! Reporter: And they're off. See you later! Last one there is a rotten egg! Reporter: I can't resist taking a quick peek. You're not supposed to be here. I'm not really here. Go play, be careful. I know! Bye-bye! Reporter: The 6-year-old actually sent me a text from the playground. Dear David, it's me Philomena, I will have lots of fun, I love you. In the end, they didn't miss me at all. It was fun. What do you think, Philomena? Love it! Are you still scared? No. I want to stay at the park for as much minutes as we want. Reporter: When I tell Lenore about it, she's proud of me. I was nervous. You were nervous. That's totally Normal. You're always going to be nervous before you let your kid do something for the first time. I have girls. Should I be any more worried? In this day and age it's the safest times in human history. We are living in the golden era of safety. Nothing is ever going to be perfectly safe because that's -- because nothing is. Reporter: Back in Maryland, the metieves are still under investigation. The Maryland child protective services declined to comment citing confidentiality laws. Even some supporters of free-range parenting say there should be some limits. A 10-year-old should never be in charge of a 6-year-old. Because of what could happen and the dangers of having the 10-year-old in a situation that they can't handle. Reporter: They say they are the best ones to judge if their kids are ready, and if their neighborhood is safe, not the government. Frankly, I think raising independent children and responsible children and giving them the freedom that I enjoyed is a risk worth taking. It should be your decision? Exactly, in the end it's our decision as parents. Reporter: Free-range partying is a hit with kids. The potential for our development. I love it. The other kids are really fun. Everybody who sees us should go and do it. Because we know that the world is not dangerous. Reporter: The thing is, they don't know what they don't know. And it's the most natural impulse in all of us to want to protect them. I'm David Wright for "Nightline" in New York. "World's worst mom" airs Thursday .Thursday night on discovery life. Will she say yes to the
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