On the theme of free range kids, here are some exerts from the paper Setting children free: Children's Independent Movement in the Local Environment.
Parental concerns about children’s safety and security are restricting children’s independent exploration of the local environment. Children are being denied important opportunities to exercise, to acquire decision-making skills, such as crossing the road safely, and to develop social skills through interaction with their peers.
In Great Britain, children have suffered a loss of freedom in terms of being allowed to go out of the home alone in recent years. For example, in 1985/86, 21% of children aged 5-10 travelled alone to school. By 2005 this had dropped to 6% (Department of Transport, 2002, 2006).
They found that in England, 80% of 7-8 year olds were allowed to go to school alone in 1971. By 1990 this had dropped to 9%.
It can be seen that that in almost all cases, more of the children who are allowed out without an adult visit more of the places than those who are not. This suggests that being allowed out without an adult can offer the opportunity to visit more places.
Children who are allowed out alone are able to visit a greater range of places, particularly to shops and sports facilities. Children who are allowed out without an adult are more likely to spend time outdoors than other children, and to visit a friend’s house frequently.
This paper has shown that more of those who are allowed out without an adult go to various places, and that when children are out alone or just with their friends they behave rather differently. Rather than walking along at an adult pace to reach the destination as quickly as possible they move around in the environment much more.
It will take further research to establish exactly what they gain from this more exploratory type of movement, but it is based on them deciding where to go and what to do, and that is an important part of growing up. It is being lost to children who are not allowed out without an adult, and that may be a very great loss with all sorts of implications.