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Woman Threatens To Call CPS On Neighbor Who Left 13-Year-Old Daughter Home Alone, Sparking Debate About 'Helicopter Parents'

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A teen home alone and an angry woman on the phone

We live in an incredibly fraught world, and particularly in the United States kids are faced with unique dangers that seemed not to have existed just a few decades ago. 

But in the efforts to keep kids safe and secure, some think adults are going way, way too far. Like, for instance, the TikToker below whose parents called the cops when she didn't answer her phone—at 6:00 in the morning.



And a woman's recent letter to an advice columnist has struck many online as a perfect example of so-called helicopter parents' wild overreach.

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A woman wanted to call CPS on her neighbor for leaving her teen child home alone.

The anonymous woman, who nicknamed herself "Concerned Neighbor," voiced her worries to syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson, whose long-running "Ask Amy" advice column appears in online and print newspapers all over the country.

The "Concerned Neighbor" wrote to Dickinson after finding out her neighbor has been leaving her 13-year-old home alone on Saturdays while she goes to work. "I’m concerned about this child and wonder if I should call CPS to report this parent for neglect?"

Most parenting experts agree that kids can be left home alone in their teens if they're comfortable doing so.

If this "Concerned Neighbor's" take on this seems wildly overwrought, there's a good reason. Most babysitters are in their teens after all.

And experts say that most kids can be left alone for small amounts of time somewhere around age 10-12. But experts caution, the decision should be "skill-based" rather than "age-based"—that is, if the child is afraid to be alone, it's not appropriate for them to be left alone. 

Dickinson took a similar take in her advice column. "Thirteen-year-olds are capable of being home for a number of hours on their own," she wrote. She went on to reference the so-called "latch-key kids" of the 70s, 80s and 90s. "For many of us who were raised by single parents... this 'latch-key' life is completely normal."

She suggested that the "Concerned Neighbor" try to help the mom leaving her kid home alone rather than overreacting by reporting her for neglect—a move that can land a kid in foster care and all kinds of far tougher situations than being home alone for a few hours. "

"If you are truly concerned, you might offer this neighbor your phone number, in case their child has any emergency needs," Dickinson wrote.

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The story sparked a debate online about 'helicopter parents' and how they might be damaging their kids. 

In a viral tweet, Twitter user @poppy_haze called out "psycho helicopter parents" like the "Concerned Neighbor" as the reason why childhood has become an increasingly insular experience for kids today.

"People complaining about kids no longer going outside or riding bikes is because if you try to be a normal parent, other psycho helicopter parents will call the cops on you," the Twitter user wrote, and scores of people heartily agreed. 

One fellow tweeter lamented the "lack of agency/privacy children have today" as "helicopter parents" have become ever more vigilant despite a well-documented decades-long decline in crime rates since the heyday of so-called "free-range kids" in the 80s and before.

Others shared their own experiences being left home alone. "I literally started babysitting other people's kids at 13," one Twitter user wrote, while another quipped, "you could have left me home alone for a week at age 11 and all I would have done wrong is stayed up too late."

It turns out there's very real reason for these people to be so concerned.

RELATED: Mom Asks If 11 Years Old Is Too Young To Stay Home Alone After Co-Parenting Conflict

Parenting experts say 'helicopter parents' can do real damage to their kids' development.

Former dean of Stanford University Julie Lythcott-Haims literally wrote the book on helicopter parenting, called "How To Raise An Adult." As she details in the video below, during her tenure at Stanford she was confronted with a student body whose helicopter parents had prepared them to excel academically but had left them ill-equipped for the basics of independent life. 

"Parents protect, direct and handle so much for their children today," Lythcott-Haims writes, "that we prevent them from the very growth that is essential to their development into adult human beings." 

Lythcott-Haims posits that helicopter parents come in three varieties—the overprotective, those who provide too much direction, and those who do too much hand-holding, leaving their kids unable to form and develop their own skills. Some researchers have also suggested that helicopter parents' overbearing parenting style might be linked to the rise in mental health issues among youth.

Parenting is an important job, of course, and in a world that seems to be coming ever more apart at the seams, keeping them safe and sound is no small task. Still, experts like Lythcott-Haims urge parents to find balance in their approach. "Kids don't magically become adults on their 18th birthday," she cautions. "Childhood is meant to prepare the way."

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.