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The new American nanny state: Are we protecting children or attacking parents?

Parents need to be careful with their children these days—not for the safety of the children, but for the well-being of the parent. More parents are facing arrests and court battles for leaving children alone, even if the kids aren't in danger
Emily Hales, Deseret News Modified: July 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm •  Published: July 23, 2014

The recent arrest of a mother who let her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a park is drawing criticism from other mothers who have been accused of child neglect in similar incidents.

South Carolina mother Debra Harrell let her daughter play at a public park alone for several hours while she went to work at a local McDonald's, according to ABC 6. Harrell was arrested and her daughter was taken into the custody of the Department of Social Services after another parent asked the girl where her mother was.

Lesa Lamback, a local mother interviewed at the scene, supported the arrest, saying, "You cannot just leave your child alone at a public place, especially. This day and time, you never know who's around. Good, bad, it's just not safe."

But most people around the country reacting to the incident had a different take.

Lenore Skenazy, a proponent of free-range parenting who made headlines several years ago after letting her 9-year-old son ride the subway home by himself, came to Harrell's defense in a blog post on

"But what are the facts? She let her daughter play at the park for several hours at a time — like we did as kids. She gave her a daughter a phone if she needed to call. Any 'danger' was not only theoretical, it was exceedingly unlikely," she said.

An article in The Atlantic about the incident points out that playing at a park has not been proven statistically more dangerous than other common risk behaviors, such as driving in a car or sitting in a McDonald's restaurant and eating fast food every day. The difference, the author said, is the presence of a parent. Officers aren't looking out for the safety of the child so much as trying to uphold "social norms."

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