V is not someone I always agree with but I like her blunt, even shocking, in your face way of putting things and sometimes she comes up with a topic like this that makes me want to consider my own view on the subject.
Plus she makes me laugh, I am THAT sick and twisted. So shoot me.
I let my kids ride around our neighborhood on their bikes, daughter hangs out with the neighborhood kids at "the jumps" and they all can walk to the gas station/convenience store to get a soda or a treat (or milk if I have forgotten to stop at the grocery store on my way home from school) which is maybe a mile from our house but you have to walk on a street that takes a 90 degree turn with no sidewalks. Daughter even hangs out with some kids in our neighborhood that smoke cigarettes and pot. She is very honest with me and told me when she tried cigarettes ("it was SO GROSS Mom, I don't know how they do that all the time on PURPOSE!") and asked me what pot was like when one of her friends got into trouble for trying it. I told her what it felt like to get high and gave her vivid and real examples from our family about why she should NOT smoke pot but ultimately it is her decision and all I can do is give her guidance. I am quite sure, from personal experience, that if you just say DON'T DO THIS then they are absolutely 100% sure to DO IT and make sure you don't know. But if you have an ongoing conversation they will ask questions and talk to you about things. I would rather this start now, when they are in our house and we are still in control over their day to day activities than have their first experiences making decisions when they are in college. Kids who live under their parents thumbs throughout high school go absolutely APESHIT in college and get into a lot of trouble.
My kids walked to elementary school by themselves in 1st grade. Well, they weren't ALONE, they walked with each other and the rest of the neighborhood kids but I didn't walk with them. Or drive them.
In the summer I have been known to send them outside to play with strict instructions not to come back until lunch. The boys are homebodies and usually just play in the yard but daughter has friends all over the place and it can be all day until I see her. Granted, she has her own cell phone so I can call her, but she is out of my sight for hours at a time in the summertime and on the weekends.
12 was the magic age for being old enough to be dropped off at the movies with a friend or sibling and we let daughter fly alone to Vegas at 12 to visit my Dad and Stepmonster. (We are going to send thing 1 to Vegas for an extended visit with them next week. Until he is 18. They don't know yet.)
We followed the law and didn't let them stay home alone until they were 10 or to be at home alone in charge of younger kids until they were 12 but I probably would have let them do that at a younger age were it not for the laws in Washington state. (And the fact that daughter would have killed her brothers and buried the bodies but I digress...)
When I was a kid I rode public busses in my neighborhood and into Seattle alone in elementary school but there are parents of my kids friends who are horrified at the thought of letting their middle and high schoolers ride public transportation alone. Many of their friends have never been to the movies without a grownup or ridden their bikes to a friends house unaccompanied. I let the kids walk to the bookstore while I shop at Target or the grocery store and some of my friends ask if I'm worried about them "wandering around alone". No, they're 12 and 14 years old for god's sake! Daughter does her own laundry, they all have chores they have to do every day and the boys are getting really good at dishes! I try not to be a helicopter parent but compared to my peers I am practically neglectful. My whole goal at this point is to have them learn everything they need to know to get the hell out of my house and live successfully on their own! If I don't teach them that, they will NEVER LEAVE. And that would fuck up my plans in a very big way!
So what do you do? When is it necessary to let them out of your sight and learn things the hard way? We can't protect them from the real world forever and I think that not preparing them for reality is a subtle form of neglect.