PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A New York man allegedly confessed to luring an 8-year-old boy to his home, smothering him and chopping him up when he learned that a search was underway for the missing child this week.

That story is bringing new debate to a question that many parents deal with every day:

How much freedom can you really allow your children and still keep them safe?

Are there lessons to be learned from this terrible tragedy in Brooklyn, N.Y.?

The 8-year-old boy pleaded with his parents to be able to walk home alone. The parents gave in only after walking the route with the boy several times and the unspeakable still happened.

For parents, the toughest of calls is when to allow your child the independence to venture out on their own, knowing that there is danger in the world.

“It’s not a matter of if we’re going to let go. It’s a matter of when,” Dr. Anthony Mannarino from Allegheny General Hospital said.

Dr. Mannarino said there is no magic age, but he said pre-teens must at some point learn to be independent or risk becoming overly dependent on their parents.

“Kids don’t learn how to make decisions. They don’t learn how to trust themselves. They don’t learn the kind of independence that’s important when you’re growing up,” Dr. Mannarino said.

At the same time, law enforcement stresses that parents need to prepare the child for that independence.

Guidelines go beyond just not talking to strangers. They include clear instructions of where the child is allowed to go with adults or other children whenever possible.

The child should not be texting or listening to his or her iPod, but have eyes and ears open for anything amiss.

“Just be aware of their surrounding and don’t be afraid to contact a policeman or a known adult if they feel something’s not right,” Lt. Kevin Kraus said.

For parents of young children, it will remain a tough call as to when to let go and let your child be out on their own.

The task as parents is to prepare your child for that day.


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