Support Grows for Debra Harrell: Parents Realize They're Overbearing Assholes


While many are shocked to read that any mother would leave her nine-year-old child at a city park unsupervised, the Internet has also been buzzing about the dangers of a growing trend often referred to as “risk-aversion parenting.” I’m guessing this is the scientific term for “helicopter parenting.” A recent article in the Guardian reported, “Roaming radiuses have shrunk by 90% … and as children’s contact with nature is slowly exterminated, they’re getting unhealthier, unhappier and less able to take risks.” The more parents worry about crime, bullying, harassment, kidnapping and germs, the tighter the reins they tend to keep on their children, and professionals argue this style of risk-aversion parenting has been shown to interrupt normal child development.

As a result of over-supervision culture, kids aren’t learning how to self-regulate, they’re feeling more insecure and developing more social and emotional problems, and perhaps the biggest danger for us all—they aren’t developing any independence. And it’s no wonder, because we can’t even let kids attend birthday parties unaccompanied anymore. I don’t know when that trend started, but remember when parents just dropped their kids off at a birthday party instead of hanging out the entire time? As they get older, kids need increasing exposure to unsupervised spaces—and dropping your kid off for a birthday party (or allowing a nine-year-old to hang out at the park down the road while you’re at work) is a good place to start. We can talk to our kids about how to handle stressful situations until we’re blue in the face, but can it ever be effective without experiential learning?  By refusing to let them out of our sight, or ride the bus home from school if they want to, we’re preventing our kids from developing any “street smarts.” And that’s critical to their survival.

What can we do about it?

We can acknowledge that the culture of fear propagated by the media isn’t reflective of reality.

We can remember how much freedom we had as kids.

We can give our kids the room to be bold, take chances, make mistakes… and get hurt.

Debra Harrell wasn’t neglecting her daughter when she agreed to drop her off at that park while she went to work; she was encouraging her to be a little independent, and giving her a competitive edge in the game of life. While I expect many to disagree, you’re more likely to find me criticizing parents who allow their kids to sit through dinner while playing some handheld video game, or ignore their play-date while they sit on the Xbox. If a playground isn’t an appropriate babysitter, then neither is a smartphone.

Harrell is still incarcerated and her daughter is in the custody of the State of South Carolina. Yesterday, a supporter created a petition calling for the charges against her to be dropped, and another supporter created a YouCaring fundraiser to help cover her legal expenses. If Justin Ross Harris can bring in more than $20,000 after he “accidentally” left his son to die in his hot car, then come on, America … surely we can bring in twice that much to help a mother who, GASP, let her nine-year-old daughter play at the local park while she was at work. And then maybe we can let our kids ride their bikes around the block by themselves again. Or at least ride the bus home from school.

Recent Posts by WritingVirginia


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.