Would you leave a 10-year-old child unsupervised in a toy store? If you’re anything like me, you’re saying, “Well, it would depend on the 10-year-old, but in most cases, sure. Be careful, though, because that kind of behavior can get a mom arrested these days. That actually happened this week, when New York police arrested a woman and charged her with child endangerment for leaving her 10-year-old child alone to look around a Lego store in the mall while she shopped at a different store in the same mall.
That sounds like something a lot of parents would do. My mother constantly left me to look at toy stores or book stores while she went to exchange socks or do whatever boring errands moms did at the mall in the 90s. Toy stores are not babysitters, but many 10-year-olds are more than responsible enough to quietly browse toys while their parents shop somewhere else for a little while. Plenty of 10-year-olds even have money to spend at those stores, if they want to.
10-year-old in a toy store.
According to US News, 44-year-old Jia Fan of Pittsford, NY, was arrested Sunday and charged with child endangerment for leaving her 10-year-old at the Lego store to browse the toys while she was at a different store in the mall. It’s not clear how long her child was at the store, but the mother was in the same building the whole time. Still, Lego store employees contacted mall security, and mall security called the police.
Police arrested Fan, but did not take her away at the time. They gave her a ticket to appear in court at a later date. Now she actually has to get a lawyer and appear in court to defend herself against a charge of child endangerment.
This is not an isolated incident.
This story is pretty crazy, but it is not the first time this has happened. In 2014 a mother was arrested for leaving her 7-year-old at the Lego store while she shopped elsewhere in the mall. A seven year old is pretty different than a 10-year-old, though. And in 2015 an 11-year-old boy in Canada who had ridden his bike to the Lego store to buy himself some Lego–with his own money and his father’s permission–was detained by mall security. (The 11-year-old was not arrested, but he was held by security until his father arrived to pick him up.)
A Lego spokesperson at the time said it was store policy to report unaccompanied minors under the age of 12 to security. That’s good information to have, because nobody wants to get charged with child endangerment, but a lot of parents wouldn’t think twice about leaving a 10-year-old at a book or toy store while they shopped at the boring stores.
According to CafeMom’s Jeanne Sager, it is not necessarily illegal to leave a 10-year-old unsupervised in New York. The state merely says that kids develop at different rates and that some kids are more responsible than others at different ages. “Parents and guardians need to make intelligent, reasoned decisions regarding these matters.”
Parents should be able to make intelligent, reasoned decisions about when their kids can be unsupervised at a store, but we can’t necessarily trust that other people will agree. If we’re going to let our kids shop unsupervised at stores in the mall, though, it seems like the Lego store is a bad place to choose.
Do you think these charges are fair? Let us know in the comments.
(Image: iStockPhoto / Ekaterina Minaeva)