Way back in 1979 there was the very high profile missing child’s case of Etan Patz — a 6-year-old who went missing in New York City after walking to a school bus stop from home. Etan’s case received quite a heaping of press attention with reportedly even Ronald Reagan weighing in on the disappearing child, and declaring May 25th National Missing Child Day. But after three decades with no charges, Etan’s case is being reopened along with dig up of a SoHo basement. And although it’s obvious that this parental nightmare still keeps resurfacing in truly horrific headlines, the fact that Etan’s parents even let their 6-year-old walk anywhere by himself lets you know that this case was quite a long time ago.
In these modern times of video baby monitors and helicopter babysitters and parents, I don’t know anyone who would let their 6-year-old go anywhere unattended — New York City or otherwise. Our very own editor-in-chief Shawna Cohen doesn’t let her 6-year stray from the home with adult supervision, and the kid apparently has no interest in doing so. Lindsay Cross‘s 6-year-old niece isn’t allowed to play in her fenced in backyard without an adult present — in suburban Indiana. The belief of keeping children that age under constant adult supervision doesn’t seem to waver regardless of whether you’re living in a metropolitan area or a quiet town.
Little Etan disappeared on a solo walk to a school bus stop, a testament to the relatively lax parenting of the 1970s, but also a reminder of how quickly parenting norms have changed.