Credit: Pixabay

It’s often advised not to bring up politics or religion in polite company, as such heated subjects can quickly turn conversations into arguments. These days, you could add “parenting styles” to the list of unmentionable topics.

As any new parent can tell you, arguments and shaming begin well before birth — from whether it’s healthy for pregnant moms to jog to whether or not to breastfeed. But one of the biggest arguments has been over how protective parents should be.

The battle between so-called “helicopter” and “free-range” parents is one of safety vs. independence, of protecting your kids vs. teaching life skills. Now a national poll shows where American parents stand, and the “helicopter” side seems to be winning.

A Pew Research report released last month titled “Parenting in America” contains a trove of data on parents’ attitudes, from how active parents are in education, to how often parents read to their kids. One question that stood out asked at what age children could be left alone without supervision. To play alone in front of their houses, the median minimum age from respondents was 10, with just 37 percent believing that a child could play in the front yard without parents watching. Seven percent believed it was never appropriate for a child to be in front of the house without adult supervision. Not even a 17-year-old child.

Asked at what age a child can be left at home for more than an hour, the median age among parents responding was 12. About 43 percent answered that 10- to 12-year-olds could be left alone without supervision. Another 39 percent said kids should be 13 to 17 before they’re allowed to be home alone. Five percent said it wasn’t even appropriate for a 17-year-old.

On the question of whether parents could let a child be alone in a public park, parents’ median age was 14. Only 5 percent said they’d let a child age 10 or younger in a park unsupervised. Just 25 percent said they’d allow a 10-12 year old to go to the park, and 47 percent said age 13-17. Another 19 wouldn’t even let a 17-year-old go to the park unsupervised. Some parents answered “it depends” or “don’t know,” which is why it doesn’t add up to 100 percent.

Also interesting: The younger the parent, the more likely they are to describe themselves as overprotective. According to Pew, 54 percent of Baby Boomers,  60 percent of Gen Xers and 68 percent of Millennial parents called themselves “overprotective” in the survey.

Given that kids in America are safer than they’ve ever been, is growing protectiveness a little hysterical, or is it just smart parenting?

Stock image by Pixabay