At what age can you just drop kids off at a public pool?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 4, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

My husband has full custody of his daughter. Her mother gets visits twice a month and six weeks in the summer. We just found out that the ex is dropping my step daughter, who is 9, and her sister, who is 8, off at a public pool. I was ticked to find this out and so was my husband. The ex told my husband that there are lifeguards there who keep an eye on them. I feel like the lifeguards are not there to babysit the children. Am I wrong? At what age is it ok to leave the children alone at the pool?

From: New1247, Walla Walla, WA

Dear New1247,

If children this age were left home alone, it would be considered neglect. Dropping them off at a public pool strikes me as no less egregious. I can certainly understand your concern and I would agree that having a lifeguard "keep an eye on them" is not adequate supervision. Who's in charge when they are not in the water? How long are the girls at the pool? An hour, or five hours? Is it a small neighborhood pool or a large community complex where it's easy to get lost? A short period of time once in a while, if they like it, could promote a sense of independence; hours on end could promote loneliness and even fear. What if one doesn't feel well? What if one has friends and the other doesn't and is left to her own devises? Sisters don't always like to hang out together, even at this age. And for the older one to be responsible for the younger is totally inappropriate at these ages, possibly putting one or both of them in a compromising position from a developmental perspective, that is, for the younger one not feeling safe, and the older feeling overwhelmed.

Sounds like the dad has every reason to have a conversation about this with his ex. (The dad, not you!). Whether he can take it further than that -- that is, to demand better oversight -- depends on the nature of the custody arrangement. I don't think I'm over-reacting when I say that this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Readers, do you agree? What advice would you offer?

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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28 comments so far...
  1. That seems awfully young to me. I agree that lifeguards are there to keep the swimmers safe, not to babysit. I would think that 11 or 12 might be old enough to go to the pool without an adult, depending on the kid. I know that by the time I was 12 or so, I rode my bike to the pool by myself. This was pre-cellphones, so I had a couple of quarters in my bag in case I needed to call home. I would imagine that when my kids are 12 or so, I'll let them go to the public pool with friends.

    Posted by akmom August 4, 10 06:55 AM
  1. I'm surprised that the pool staff allows this. Our public pool requires all children under 12 to be accompanied by a guardian unless an official swimming lesson is going on (in which case you can drop off).

    Posted by RH August 4, 10 08:08 AM
  1. I'm with RH -- the pool really allows it? At my pool, no one under *16* can be dropped off. The dad needs to speak to the mother, absolutely.

    If she is non-responsive or hostile about it, dad could also investigate the public pool and find out what the rules are. Perhaps they don't realize what is happening -- and he could alert them. Or if they have no minimum age for drop-off, perhaps he could lobby them to implement one..

    Posted by jjlen August 4, 10 09:16 AM
  1. This mom gets to see her children so rarely...and she drops them off at the pool alone? I'd worry about what else is going on. This seems like time for consultation with an attorney. If the biological mother can't provide a safe environment for the kids, sadly, it might be better if she doesn't see them at all unsupervised.

    Posted by momof2 August 4, 10 09:37 AM
  1. At our local pool, between 1 and 4 pm children can be dropped off without parental supervision. After 4 pm children 12 and under must be with a family member. I have been letting my kids go to the pool together without me starting around age 9 or 10. However, I know the pool and staff well, my kids are strong swimmers and my kids know they have to stay at the pool (there is really nowhere else for them to go anyway). Most of the time they can find a friend and the kids get to know the lifeguards as well. I felt this was a safe way to give them a little independence. Would I leave an 8 and 9 year old? At my pool, yes, with a few caveats - if they were strong swimmers (and at 8 I would have my doubts but I've seen swim team 8 year olds who would be fine) and if it were just for a couple of hours. I think before the LW gets all up in arms about the neglectful ex, she should check out the pool herself, talk with the pool director about their policies and ask her stepdaughter what its like at the pool.

    Posted by Cordelia August 4, 10 09:59 AM
  1. As a father of three, all under the age of 9, I would go ballistic if my ex (hopefully I never have an ex) dropped them, unsupervised, at a public pool or anywhere else for that matter. First, it's just not safe and it's not the lifegaurds job to watch children (their job is to save lives if need be). Second, there are many predators out there. Who is watching them when they need to use the rest room or go to the concession stand? This could go on and on with examples, it's incredibly poor judgement and someone capable of making these types of decisions should not have children or custody thereof.

    Posted by Patrick August 4, 10 10:07 AM
  1. Hmmm, our Y allows 8 and older to be signed into the pool area with a lifeguard and swim without parent, but I believe the parent needs to stay in the building.
    I was certainly younger than 13 when I used to go with friends but no adult to our local community pool, but I don't think I'd let my 8-year-old go. I will let her go to the park for a while with a friend.
    I think Barbara's questions are important to get answered. How long, what is the pool like - and what are these girls like?

    Posted by Reading mom August 4, 10 10:22 AM
  1. How many times do you read about children drowning in pools, even with lifeguards on duty? Beyond that, what's to keep the kids from wandering away, with or without someone? I don't think the pool personnel are responsible for keeeping them there. No matter how many times you tell your children stay put, don't talk to strangers, etc., there's still the chance something could happen. Just a horrible, horrible idea by the so-called mom.

    Posted by BobM August 4, 10 01:24 PM
  1. I would report it TODAY. It is neglect. ok, ok, benefit of the doubt, they are good swimmers.... but can they fend of a rapist or kidnapper? report it and get it stopped. Ticked is an understatement!

    Posted by Kristine August 4, 10 01:26 PM
  1. Our Y also allows kids 8 and older to be in the pool w/o a parent there. However, I never take advantage of this. If my 8 year old daughter is going to be in a pool swimming, either myself or another adult whose job is to watch her, is going to be there. I'm not passing judgement on anyone else. It's just how we feel about this. Everyone has different parenting methods. I think the initial poster needs to ask her husband (and not do it herself) to go check out the environment at the public pool. Then they can make a judgement call about whether or not leaving the girls there on their own is appropriate. Until they do this, I don't think they can make the call.

    Posted by Milo August 4, 10 01:26 PM
  1. When I was a kid growing up in the hills of California, my sister and brother and I would explore the hills and valleys all by ourselves without parents. There were snakes in them thar hills and spiders and such. We would go to the near by creek and splash and swim and catch crawdads. My mother would say "Be home by lunch or be home before dark. God what fun.
    My kids were latchkey kids and took care of themselves for a few hours after school when they were 9 and 10. I don't think I was neglectful.

    Posted by bette August 4, 10 02:24 PM
  1. What's the story behind the story here? Why is the new wife writing here?

    If it was truly an alarming situation, wouldn't the dad have already taken immediate, decisive action? (and there would be no need for the new wife to write in here)

    Sounds like the kids are making stuff up or exaggerating, the new wife is stirring up trouble, OR the kids are in danger and no one has done anything about it.

    Posted by just-cos August 4, 10 02:57 PM
  1. Our pool has a policy that children under 10 cannot be left unsupervised. And while I do think that the pool policies should be investigated more prior to discussing this with the ex, it still comes down to the fact that an 8 or 9 year old does not have the capacity to make a smart decision if faced with unforeseen circumstances. So even if the pool says its okay, the question is also whether or not the children are okay with this and are capable of handling themselves. However, to me, bigger questions are raised by the fact that with the limited time the mother has with the children, she just leaves them rather than stay and swim with them or play with them.


    Posted by Vicky August 4, 10 03:06 PM
  1. Vicky posted:....."However, to me, bigger questions are raised by the fact that with the limited time the mother has with the children, she just leaves them rather than stay and swim with them or play with them."

    I'm sure she'd rather be with them during the day but maybe she actually has to GO TO WORK!

    Posted by just-cos August 4, 10 03:33 PM
  1. I question whether these kids are being unusually endangered by being left at a public pool at this age.

    I don't want to rely on the standard saw "well, when I was a kid in '78" style arguments. Still, when I was a kid back in '78. . .

    More pointedly:

    Are these kids at heightened risk of drowning or other injury relative to kids whose parents are present? I don't think so. After all, a parent might go to the bathroom or repair to the snack bar while kids are swimming or stepping near rusty nails and an accident could occur at that point and a parent merely in the area would be of little help, especially since cries for help are difficult to hear among the din of a couple dozen screaming, shrieking, and shouting (both out of terror and delight) children at a public pool.

    Saving a drowning child is primarily the responsibility of a lifeguard, regardless of whether a parent is sunbathing nearby.

    As to the kidnap risk:

    I don't think a pool area is very dangerous. After all, many adults are present and how can a kidnapper know who is accompanied or not? By hanging out there every day until the kidnapper gets to know children's situations? This seems like a very unlikely scenario, even by the standards of kidnapping fear, which is always a fear of a very unlikely event. Lonely country roads are probably a million times more dangerous and creepy neighbors who know a family with young kids coming into a family's own yard is a much more likely scenario (albeit a very remote one in itself, thank God). I don't mean to upset anyone listing a parade of more plausible horrors. I only want to assert that a kidnapping fear at a busy pool seems unclearly justified to me.

    I do think these girls could get bored and/or resentful of being left alone for long stretches and I think the practice of leaving them is a mistake for that reason, but I do not see much imminent danger of harm in them hanging around a pool for a few hours once in a while.

    But I grew up in the 1970's and that remains my main reference point.

    Posted by Neil Paul August 4, 10 04:37 PM
  1. Its all situational. depends on the kids, the pool, the community, etc. In general, I would think it is okay-- I am a father of three, under five. The statistics on child abduction are such that it can be said that it almost never happens. (seriously--look it up--child abduction by stranger almost NEVER happens to kids under 6-- between 6 and 11, it is a little more common (still less common than getting hit by lightning)--the only age group that experiences it is over 12+). Rarely, if ever, have I ever heard of a situation where someone got abducted at a public pool (Tom Cruise movie 'Minority Report' aside). Same thing as at a mall. Stop being so freaked out parents.

    People worry too much.

    Posted by Maineblackbear August 4, 10 07:03 PM
  1. Neil Paul, Predators specifically target such areas because there are so many kids with so much confusion. They also take note of which kids are unattended and, which parents aren't paying attention to their kids. I've provided security measures for public areas specifically to monitor children against sexual predators. Believe it or not, the risks are real.

    When ankle bracelet monitoring for parolees first came out, sexual offenders where (and still are) prohibited from going near schools and public areas in which children use. This includes parks, children's museums, and similar areas that are actually listed as areas that cannot be visited. One large city noticed that a large proportion of their sexual offenders were gathering in vacant fields only to find out that it was carnivals that were not on the prohibited lists. The risks are real.

    As for Maineblackbear, I'm not sure where you got your statistics but, they are wrong. The definition of an abduction is when a stranger takes another person by force. A kidnapping can be by a person known to the victim. Nevertheless, abductions and attempts happen everyday in every major metropolitan area. Something to consider is that the major theme parks employee special security personnel as counter forces specifically assigned to abduction prevention and response. One major theme park in Florida had an internal memo accidentally released some time back that indicated it had over 50 abduction attempts in the year.

    As for the ages, there is no statistical weight on younger or older children (nor is there a weight on boys vs. girls). Many young child abductions have been in the news lately including a 3 or 4 year old taken from her front lawn in Missouri. Within 90 minutes she had a haircut and new cloths. Thankfully she was spotted and recovered. There are also many stories of infants being abducted.

    I have daughters of 5 years old and a 21 years old. They both face different risks. Dismissing the risks will breed more victims. Understanding and appropriately addressing the risks will help keep kids safer.

    Posted by Security Specialist August 4, 10 08:27 PM
  1. I'm a lifeguard. I am VERY not impressed with kids flying into our building, getting left with us, or being left in the building for hours. I know the kids by name. I connect them with the phone. I keep an ear out for the kids roaming our building, BUT my primary responsibility at all times is the pool. What happens if your kid gets sick? What about bullied? What happens when there is an emergency in the pool? Who watches the kids then? As lifeguards, our babysitting rate is $50 per hour.

    Posted by lifeguard August 4, 10 10:09 PM
  1. If they know how to swim, then they're fine. I swam by myself in a local lake starting around age 9 or so. If my daughter was a strong swimmer at 8 (and I have no reason to suspect she won't be as we're in the water almost every day here in Singapore), then I'd send her down to the pool on her own without a second thought.

    Posted by C August 5, 10 05:45 AM
  1. We, at Lifesaving Resources Inc. (www.lifesaving.com) advocate that children under the age of 14 should not be allowed at a beach or swimming pool without adult supervision. Lifeguards are not there to babysit and the parents should be the first line of supervision and the lifeguards should be supplementing that supervision - not the other way around.

    Posted by Gerald M. Dworkin August 5, 10 06:40 AM
  1. Accidents happen and I would rather be there to help than not be there.

    Posted by Lulu August 5, 10 08:24 AM
  1. NO!! NO! NO! NO! NO! Even **if** they are strong swimmers, the risk of drowning is too great.

    Call DCF, and file an abuse by neglect charge.

    Posted by reindeergirl August 5, 10 08:54 AM
  1. when a fireman or policeman is called to a scene unnecessarily, there is a possibility ofsomeone else in harms way becuase these folks were unnecessarily detained. Same with a life guard.....how would you like the life guard to be correcting your kids behavior or helping her open her soda becuase your not around....every time a LG has to assist for a parent role, their eyes come off the pool.

    I dont know where you people live but here in BOSTON, kids disappear everyday and get caught in gang crossfire almost weekly. Why would you ever leave your kid alone anywhere? park, pool, roller rink?

    I think if a child is not old enough to be a babysitter, they are not old enough to be left alone. 12 it is.

    Posted by knowsbetterin boston August 5, 10 09:04 AM
  1. Reindeergirl, you are way out of line here. Everyone is so quick to jump on the abuse bandwagon. If the kid was showing up at the pool crying and bruised that would be one thing but a bored child at the pool who is at minute risk is not being abused. First, the father should find out what the rules are at the pool. Then, if all checks out, the father should visit the pool and check it out for himself. He should also talk to his daughter about how much time she spends there and what she does when she gets bored or if there is a thunderstorm etc. Sheesh, people, get a grip.

    Posted by Cordelia August 5, 10 09:50 AM
  1. knowsbetterin boston,

    kids disappear in Boston every day? Why is this not being reported in the local news?

    One reason to leave kids alone sometimes is for the same reason corrections officials move inmates with short time on their sentences to minimum security and half-way house settings: Because it is dangerously disorienting to release people from super-max right onto the street.

    It is arguably unreasonable to hand-cuff yourself to a child until they are fully able to operate independently of you. Interim steps are called for. By age nine or so some independence from adults may be desirable and salutary.

    I also disagree that keeping oneself safe and out of trouble is the same as supervising others. So I would not set the same age for a few hours of independence and for babysitting which is a much greater and more complicated responsibility.

    But reasonable people differ on these issues.

    Security Specialist,

    by your reasoning the lax attitudes of the 1970's would have produced a generation of victims of an epidemic of sexual predation. Is that what occurred?

    Posted by Neil Paul August 5, 10 11:15 AM
  1. As a grade schooler in Ohio, we all biked sans parents to the local (large) pool and to the Y for swimming lessons. It was a given that everyone swam.
    When my daughter was a toddler she went face down in the shallow water at our local lake. Quick as lightening I snatched her up...there was no way a lifeguard would have seen. Now that I've read the article, I feel fortunate that I had my eyes on her. Indeed, when they were that little, I could never sit and read, even while they were in a foot or two of water.

    Posted by Diann August 12, 10 08:54 PM
  1. People around here drop their 8 year olds off at the pool all the time. When I was little my mom rarely went she would drop me off and I would call her when I was done

    Posted by kim June 14, 12 12:27 PM
  1. If they are not old enough to drop off at the mall, a movie or stay home alone, they should not be at a pool unattended. As to the remark about being more likely to drown if they are on their own... of course not, but its one less set of eyes on them in case it happens. The lifeguards are trying to watch everyone, but the responsible parent only has to keep track of their own kids- can't rely on only the guards. Besides all that, kids unattended are very cruel/nasty to one another. The things i hear when i take my daughter to the playground out of 9 year olds mouthes just out of earshot of their parents is horrible. Much of the same is at the local pools. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among kids- water is too dangerous to leave it to someone else to manage your young ones.

    Posted by brian August 22, 13 12:28 AM
 
28 comments so far...
  1. That seems awfully young to me. I agree that lifeguards are there to keep the swimmers safe, not to babysit. I would think that 11 or 12 might be old enough to go to the pool without an adult, depending on the kid. I know that by the time I was 12 or so, I rode my bike to the pool by myself. This was pre-cellphones, so I had a couple of quarters in my bag in case I needed to call home. I would imagine that when my kids are 12 or so, I'll let them go to the public pool with friends.

    Posted by akmom August 4, 10 06:55 AM
  1. I'm surprised that the pool staff allows this. Our public pool requires all children under 12 to be accompanied by a guardian unless an official swimming lesson is going on (in which case you can drop off).

    Posted by RH August 4, 10 08:08 AM
  1. I'm with RH -- the pool really allows it? At my pool, no one under *16* can be dropped off. The dad needs to speak to the mother, absolutely.

    If she is non-responsive or hostile about it, dad could also investigate the public pool and find out what the rules are. Perhaps they don't realize what is happening -- and he could alert them. Or if they have no minimum age for drop-off, perhaps he could lobby them to implement one..

    Posted by jjlen August 4, 10 09:16 AM
  1. This mom gets to see her children so rarely...and she drops them off at the pool alone? I'd worry about what else is going on. This seems like time for consultation with an attorney. If the biological mother can't provide a safe environment for the kids, sadly, it might be better if she doesn't see them at all unsupervised.

    Posted by momof2 August 4, 10 09:37 AM
  1. At our local pool, between 1 and 4 pm children can be dropped off without parental supervision. After 4 pm children 12 and under must be with a family member. I have been letting my kids go to the pool together without me starting around age 9 or 10. However, I know the pool and staff well, my kids are strong swimmers and my kids know they have to stay at the pool (there is really nowhere else for them to go anyway). Most of the time they can find a friend and the kids get to know the lifeguards as well. I felt this was a safe way to give them a little independence. Would I leave an 8 and 9 year old? At my pool, yes, with a few caveats - if they were strong swimmers (and at 8 I would have my doubts but I've seen swim team 8 year olds who would be fine) and if it were just for a couple of hours. I think before the LW gets all up in arms about the neglectful ex, she should check out the pool herself, talk with the pool director about their policies and ask her stepdaughter what its like at the pool.

    Posted by Cordelia August 4, 10 09:59 AM
  1. As a father of three, all under the age of 9, I would go ballistic if my ex (hopefully I never have an ex) dropped them, unsupervised, at a public pool or anywhere else for that matter. First, it's just not safe and it's not the lifegaurds job to watch children (their job is to save lives if need be). Second, there are many predators out there. Who is watching them when they need to use the rest room or go to the concession stand? This could go on and on with examples, it's incredibly poor judgement and someone capable of making these types of decisions should not have children or custody thereof.

    Posted by Patrick August 4, 10 10:07 AM
  1. Hmmm, our Y allows 8 and older to be signed into the pool area with a lifeguard and swim without parent, but I believe the parent needs to stay in the building.
    I was certainly younger than 13 when I used to go with friends but no adult to our local community pool, but I don't think I'd let my 8-year-old go. I will let her go to the park for a while with a friend.
    I think Barbara's questions are important to get answered. How long, what is the pool like - and what are these girls like?

    Posted by Reading mom August 4, 10 10:22 AM
  1. How many times do you read about children drowning in pools, even with lifeguards on duty? Beyond that, what's to keep the kids from wandering away, with or without someone? I don't think the pool personnel are responsible for keeeping them there. No matter how many times you tell your children stay put, don't talk to strangers, etc., there's still the chance something could happen. Just a horrible, horrible idea by the so-called mom.

    Posted by BobM August 4, 10 01:24 PM
  1. I would report it TODAY. It is neglect. ok, ok, benefit of the doubt, they are good swimmers.... but can they fend of a rapist or kidnapper? report it and get it stopped. Ticked is an understatement!

    Posted by Kristine August 4, 10 01:26 PM
  1. Our Y also allows kids 8 and older to be in the pool w/o a parent there. However, I never take advantage of this. If my 8 year old daughter is going to be in a pool swimming, either myself or another adult whose job is to watch her, is going to be there. I'm not passing judgement on anyone else. It's just how we feel about this. Everyone has different parenting methods. I think the initial poster needs to ask her husband (and not do it herself) to go check out the environment at the public pool. Then they can make a judgement call about whether or not leaving the girls there on their own is appropriate. Until they do this, I don't think they can make the call.

    Posted by Milo August 4, 10 01:26 PM
  1. When I was a kid growing up in the hills of California, my sister and brother and I would explore the hills and valleys all by ourselves without parents. There were snakes in them thar hills and spiders and such. We would go to the near by creek and splash and swim and catch crawdads. My mother would say "Be home by lunch or be home before dark. God what fun.
    My kids were latchkey kids and took care of themselves for a few hours after school when they were 9 and 10. I don't think I was neglectful.

    Posted by bette August 4, 10 02:24 PM
  1. What's the story behind the story here? Why is the new wife writing here?

    If it was truly an alarming situation, wouldn't the dad have already taken immediate, decisive action? (and there would be no need for the new wife to write in here)

    Sounds like the kids are making stuff up or exaggerating, the new wife is stirring up trouble, OR the kids are in danger and no one has done anything about it.

    Posted by just-cos August 4, 10 02:57 PM
  1. Our pool has a policy that children under 10 cannot be left unsupervised. And while I do think that the pool policies should be investigated more prior to discussing this with the ex, it still comes down to the fact that an 8 or 9 year old does not have the capacity to make a smart decision if faced with unforeseen circumstances. So even if the pool says its okay, the question is also whether or not the children are okay with this and are capable of handling themselves. However, to me, bigger questions are raised by the fact that with the limited time the mother has with the children, she just leaves them rather than stay and swim with them or play with them.


    Posted by Vicky August 4, 10 03:06 PM
  1. Vicky posted:....."However, to me, bigger questions are raised by the fact that with the limited time the mother has with the children, she just leaves them rather than stay and swim with them or play with them."

    I'm sure she'd rather be with them during the day but maybe she actually has to GO TO WORK!

    Posted by just-cos August 4, 10 03:33 PM
  1. I question whether these kids are being unusually endangered by being left at a public pool at this age.

    I don't want to rely on the standard saw "well, when I was a kid in '78" style arguments. Still, when I was a kid back in '78. . .

    More pointedly:

    Are these kids at heightened risk of drowning or other injury relative to kids whose parents are present? I don't think so. After all, a parent might go to the bathroom or repair to the snack bar while kids are swimming or stepping near rusty nails and an accident could occur at that point and a parent merely in the area would be of little help, especially since cries for help are difficult to hear among the din of a couple dozen screaming, shrieking, and shouting (both out of terror and delight) children at a public pool.

    Saving a drowning child is primarily the responsibility of a lifeguard, regardless of whether a parent is sunbathing nearby.

    As to the kidnap risk:

    I don't think a pool area is very dangerous. After all, many adults are present and how can a kidnapper know who is accompanied or not? By hanging out there every day until the kidnapper gets to know children's situations? This seems like a very unlikely scenario, even by the standards of kidnapping fear, which is always a fear of a very unlikely event. Lonely country roads are probably a million times more dangerous and creepy neighbors who know a family with young kids coming into a family's own yard is a much more likely scenario (albeit a very remote one in itself, thank God). I don't mean to upset anyone listing a parade of more plausible horrors. I only want to assert that a kidnapping fear at a busy pool seems unclearly justified to me.

    I do think these girls could get bored and/or resentful of being left alone for long stretches and I think the practice of leaving them is a mistake for that reason, but I do not see much imminent danger of harm in them hanging around a pool for a few hours once in a while.

    But I grew up in the 1970's and that remains my main reference point.

    Posted by Neil Paul August 4, 10 04:37 PM
  1. Its all situational. depends on the kids, the pool, the community, etc. In general, I would think it is okay-- I am a father of three, under five. The statistics on child abduction are such that it can be said that it almost never happens. (seriously--look it up--child abduction by stranger almost NEVER happens to kids under 6-- between 6 and 11, it is a little more common (still less common than getting hit by lightning)--the only age group that experiences it is over 12+). Rarely, if ever, have I ever heard of a situation where someone got abducted at a public pool (Tom Cruise movie 'Minority Report' aside). Same thing as at a mall. Stop being so freaked out parents.

    People worry too much.

    Posted by Maineblackbear August 4, 10 07:03 PM
  1. Neil Paul, Predators specifically target such areas because there are so many kids with so much confusion. They also take note of which kids are unattended and, which parents aren't paying attention to their kids. I've provided security measures for public areas specifically to monitor children against sexual predators. Believe it or not, the risks are real.

    When ankle bracelet monitoring for parolees first came out, sexual offenders where (and still are) prohibited from going near schools and public areas in which children use. This includes parks, children's museums, and similar areas that are actually listed as areas that cannot be visited. One large city noticed that a large proportion of their sexual offenders were gathering in vacant fields only to find out that it was carnivals that were not on the prohibited lists. The risks are real.

    As for Maineblackbear, I'm not sure where you got your statistics but, they are wrong. The definition of an abduction is when a stranger takes another person by force. A kidnapping can be by a person known to the victim. Nevertheless, abductions and attempts happen everyday in every major metropolitan area. Something to consider is that the major theme parks employee special security personnel as counter forces specifically assigned to abduction prevention and response. One major theme park in Florida had an internal memo accidentally released some time back that indicated it had over 50 abduction attempts in the year.

    As for the ages, there is no statistical weight on younger or older children (nor is there a weight on boys vs. girls). Many young child abductions have been in the news lately including a 3 or 4 year old taken from her front lawn in Missouri. Within 90 minutes she had a haircut and new cloths. Thankfully she was spotted and recovered. There are also many stories of infants being abducted.

    I have daughters of 5 years old and a 21 years old. They both face different risks. Dismissing the risks will breed more victims. Understanding and appropriately addressing the risks will help keep kids safer.

    Posted by Security Specialist August 4, 10 08:27 PM
  1. I'm a lifeguard. I am VERY not impressed with kids flying into our building, getting left with us, or being left in the building for hours. I know the kids by name. I connect them with the phone. I keep an ear out for the kids roaming our building, BUT my primary responsibility at all times is the pool. What happens if your kid gets sick? What about bullied? What happens when there is an emergency in the pool? Who watches the kids then? As lifeguards, our babysitting rate is $50 per hour.

    Posted by lifeguard August 4, 10 10:09 PM
  1. If they know how to swim, then they're fine. I swam by myself in a local lake starting around age 9 or so. If my daughter was a strong swimmer at 8 (and I have no reason to suspect she won't be as we're in the water almost every day here in Singapore), then I'd send her down to the pool on her own without a second thought.

    Posted by C August 5, 10 05:45 AM
  1. We, at Lifesaving Resources Inc. (www.lifesaving.com) advocate that children under the age of 14 should not be allowed at a beach or swimming pool without adult supervision. Lifeguards are not there to babysit and the parents should be the first line of supervision and the lifeguards should be supplementing that supervision - not the other way around.

    Posted by Gerald M. Dworkin August 5, 10 06:40 AM
  1. Accidents happen and I would rather be there to help than not be there.

    Posted by Lulu August 5, 10 08:24 AM
  1. NO!! NO! NO! NO! NO! Even **if** they are strong swimmers, the risk of drowning is too great.

    Call DCF, and file an abuse by neglect charge.

    Posted by reindeergirl August 5, 10 08:54 AM
  1. when a fireman or policeman is called to a scene unnecessarily, there is a possibility ofsomeone else in harms way becuase these folks were unnecessarily detained. Same with a life guard.....how would you like the life guard to be correcting your kids behavior or helping her open her soda becuase your not around....every time a LG has to assist for a parent role, their eyes come off the pool.

    I dont know where you people live but here in BOSTON, kids disappear everyday and get caught in gang crossfire almost weekly. Why would you ever leave your kid alone anywhere? park, pool, roller rink?

    I think if a child is not old enough to be a babysitter, they are not old enough to be left alone. 12 it is.

    Posted by knowsbetterin boston August 5, 10 09:04 AM
  1. Reindeergirl, you are way out of line here. Everyone is so quick to jump on the abuse bandwagon. If the kid was showing up at the pool crying and bruised that would be one thing but a bored child at the pool who is at minute risk is not being abused. First, the father should find out what the rules are at the pool. Then, if all checks out, the father should visit the pool and check it out for himself. He should also talk to his daughter about how much time she spends there and what she does when she gets bored or if there is a thunderstorm etc. Sheesh, people, get a grip.

    Posted by Cordelia August 5, 10 09:50 AM
  1. knowsbetterin boston,

    kids disappear in Boston every day? Why is this not being reported in the local news?

    One reason to leave kids alone sometimes is for the same reason corrections officials move inmates with short time on their sentences to minimum security and half-way house settings: Because it is dangerously disorienting to release people from super-max right onto the street.

    It is arguably unreasonable to hand-cuff yourself to a child until they are fully able to operate independently of you. Interim steps are called for. By age nine or so some independence from adults may be desirable and salutary.

    I also disagree that keeping oneself safe and out of trouble is the same as supervising others. So I would not set the same age for a few hours of independence and for babysitting which is a much greater and more complicated responsibility.

    But reasonable people differ on these issues.

    Security Specialist,

    by your reasoning the lax attitudes of the 1970's would have produced a generation of victims of an epidemic of sexual predation. Is that what occurred?

    Posted by Neil Paul August 5, 10 11:15 AM
  1. As a grade schooler in Ohio, we all biked sans parents to the local (large) pool and to the Y for swimming lessons. It was a given that everyone swam.
    When my daughter was a toddler she went face down in the shallow water at our local lake. Quick as lightening I snatched her up...there was no way a lifeguard would have seen. Now that I've read the article, I feel fortunate that I had my eyes on her. Indeed, when they were that little, I could never sit and read, even while they were in a foot or two of water.

    Posted by Diann August 12, 10 08:54 PM
  1. People around here drop their 8 year olds off at the pool all the time. When I was little my mom rarely went she would drop me off and I would call her when I was done

    Posted by kim June 14, 12 12:27 PM
  1. If they are not old enough to drop off at the mall, a movie or stay home alone, they should not be at a pool unattended. As to the remark about being more likely to drown if they are on their own... of course not, but its one less set of eyes on them in case it happens. The lifeguards are trying to watch everyone, but the responsible parent only has to keep track of their own kids- can't rely on only the guards. Besides all that, kids unattended are very cruel/nasty to one another. The things i hear when i take my daughter to the playground out of 9 year olds mouthes just out of earshot of their parents is horrible. Much of the same is at the local pools. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among kids- water is too dangerous to leave it to someone else to manage your young ones.

    Posted by brian August 22, 13 12:28 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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