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Free-Range Children

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These kids get around.

"Okay, that was on me, but so fun to be traveling into outer space with a bunch of kids who teleported into my house with no adult supervision."

Pre-teens and young teens in fiction will wander about their town, ride their bikes around the region, or even explore the countryside, with little adult supervision or even concern. They'll ride down to their friend's house on the other side of town and go outside at night to places on the outskirts of town to explore old houses and vacant lots. In some stories, pre-teens may go on trips across the country without their parents.

It was in the mid-Eighties when media-promoted fears of kidnapping and strangers ("Stranger Danger"), which caused parents and society to clamp down on the freedom of children to wander unsupervised.note  Before then, kids were commonly allowed much more latitude, particularly in the summer months, concerning what they did and where they went, whether in a city or in the countryside. City kids were allowed to play games in vacant lots and explore local streets. Kids in the countryside could bike all around their small town. While the freedom kids had to run about town still wasn't necessarily as great as it tends to be in fiction (at least some parents still needed to know where they were going, when they were going to be back, etc.), they were often allowed to at least take their bikes to local shopping centers, swimming pools, libraries, or woods. This was the particular case in a Close-Knit Community where other adults would notice and intervene in cases of danger.

Unusual travel permissiveness in a story can be an acceptable break from reality. A show involving little Timmy and Sally being driven everywhere by their parents wouldn't be very exciting. Parents are, after all, useless and boring, and the kids wouldn't be able to explore that Abandoned Warehouse and solve mysteries, and have grumpy adults yell "You Meddling Kids" at them.

Compare Minor Living Alone and Invisible Parents for one of the more notable examples of this trope at work and Free-Range Pets for the animal equivalent. See also Kids Driving Cars, which takes this trope to the extreme. One extreme can be the Missing Child.

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Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • As an aside, this is quite common in Japanese media due to the Values Dissonance between Japan and the Western world.
  • Bakugan allows some kids to ask adults to take them somewhere by plane or space shuttle.
  • Seems to be the rule in every Beyblade series. The characters are never older than teenagers, but they are free to go all over town, to other towns, or even other countries seemingly with no parental disapproval. As long as they're doing it for their Beyblading dreams, it's all good.
  • This is usually avoided in Bunny Drop except for going to school. 6-year-old Rin and her similarly aged friend Kouki go to school by themselves, but they come home with their parents.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura:
    • Sakura runs errands all over town and even goes to Hong Kong with only her big brother Touya (who's 17 years old tops) to supervise. Her brother is aware of her Magical Girl activities and worries about her but doesn't interfere.
    • Tomoyo has a troupe of bodyguards much of the time, but when needed they are inexplicably absent.
    • Sakura can also create a duplicate of herself to leave in her place, but her brother already knows it's not her.
  • In Case Closed five 7-year-old children with a knack for wandering into murder scenes are allowed free rein over Tokyo. Two of them happen to be Older Than They Look but the parents don't know that. Somewhat more understandable when you remember that Japan has a much lower crime rate than the USA. Also kinda deconstructed in a Backstory arc when the Mouris, before separation, found the Kudos' very laissez-faire parenting a bit annoying. Indeed, the entire reason Shinichi ends up as Conan is that he curiously follows a shady-looking guy (whose companion he earlier noted had the eyes of a cold-blooded killer and is curiously nowhere to be seen) he thinks is up to something illegal. He's right, but it turns out the shady guy doesn't want anyone to find out and is perfectly willing to use violence to make sure it stays secret.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Radical Edward, a genius, eccentric teenager, is this to an extreme, living on her own for much of her childhood, since her kind but scatterbrained father unintentionally abandoned her.
  • Digimon Adventure:
    • The Chosen are 8- to 12-year-old kids who run around Tokyo with no supervision (their Digimon aside), unquestioned, as would be the case with many high-schoolers.
    • This was likely part of the reason the 10-year-olds in Tamers got an age up in the dub. This seems to be the norm in Japan (see the real-life section).
      • Digimon Adventure and Digimon Tamers were deconstructions of this trope — the Digital Worlds of each were filled with dangerous monsters that wanted to kill them and the kids often had problems adjusting to the level of maturity needed to survive, and in Tamers their parents generally were at least initially opposed to letting them go there. In fact, Takato's father, who is not quite as stubborn on this topic as his understandably concerned wife is, briefly discusses this trope with her, convincing her that it's ultimately their son's decision when the Tamers are preparing to head off to the Digital World to rescue Culumon and defeat the Devas.
    • Digimon Data Squad subverts this with the three main characters being either young adults or teenagers. Marcus is a street fighter. The youngest person in the show that owns a Digimon is Keenan, and he grew up in the wilderness of the Digital World nearly on his own.
  • Flying Witch has an interesting exchange in Episode 5. 9-year-old Chinatsu spots the cat Chito sneaking out, runs in, and shouts to her mother that she's going out for a bit. When asked where she simply says "I don't know but I'm sure it's someplace amazing", and all her mother has to say is "watch for cars", at which point Chinatsu proceeds to follow Chito all around the town. And when she comes home covered in dirt from head to toe, her mother still asks nothing and just tells her to wash the dirt off before coming in.
  • Gals!: Sayo, about 11, is allowed to trail her big sister around the streets of Shibuya.
  • Gankutsuou: Albert, Franz, and Eugénie are all around 15 or 16, and are shown driving off to the beach and the countryside in their own cars and motorbikes.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, it's justified as Gon and Killua are Hunters at the age of 12 and it's shown that Gon is stronger than most adults and Killua is a professional assassin. Also, their parental figures know about it as Mito reluctantly gave Gon her blessing to become one while Killua's parents let him travel with Gon without supervision.
  • Lyrical Nanoha. Nanoha's parents practically let her join the enforcement branch of an interdimensional government at age 9. And the government branch seems to have no problems sending out a pair of children to deal with an Artifact of Doom that's already killed hundreds of trained soldiers, which is guarded by a Lady of War with a flaming chain sword, among other things. For backup, they get another 9-year-old. Granted, said children are the biggest guns in the dimension.
  • The Powerpuff Girls in Powerpuff Girls Z are only twelve but run around the city without much issue.
  • Appears often in Michiko & Hatchin. 9-year-old Hatchin goes off by herself and is left alone by Michiko constantly. The same can be said for all the other children who are encountered, as they are mainly seen without adults. Played with in that they rarely do this for enjoyment, but rather out of necessity.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Apart from Kanna and Saikawa (both in third grade) regularly traveling all over town by themselves, the season 2 OVA had Chloe take a multi-day trip from America to Japan by herself and stay with people that her father had never met, which is made even more extreme by the fact that she had been the victim of a kidnapping by the mafia only a few weeks prior.note 
  • In Mitsuboshi Colors three elementary girls are absolutely free to roam Ueno Park and its surroundings until 5pm. They even reach Akihabara (two stations away) playing hide-and-seek.
  • Naruto:
    • This was generally averted due to all of the pre-teen ninja being assigned an adult supervisor. The Sasuke Retrieval Arc was the only canon departure from this. With all the adult ninja being assigned to other missions, none of the members of the retrieval team were older than fourteen. This trope also extends to the Sand siblings who came to their rescue, as there is no evidence their teacher was present.
    • Played straight often during the filler arcs where Naruto, usually accompanied by one or more of his friends, would head out on a mission of some sort. These mini-arcs tended to be lighter fare, but still involved the genin travelling several days from their homes with no supervision in the middle of a Cold War.
  • In Neo Ranga, the girls range from about 10 to 18 and live alone without adults of any kind.
  • Non Non Biyori has the 5 school-age children, one as young as 6, wandering around the countryside, often many miles from home.
  • The heroine of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS is 10 years old, and no adults show any concern about her going out in 1990s Yokohama unsupervised at all times of day and night. Her parents would probably object to her Sneaking Out at Night, but they never catch her. Mostly this chalks up to values dissonance, although the episode where Ririka and some classmates go on vacation in the mountains with no sign of any parents around is surely a bit of a stretch.
  • Pecola: Pecola and the other children play this straight. They are frequently seen running around Cube Town by themselves, sometimes at night or even going up into the nearby snowy mountains without adult supervision.
  • Pokémon:
    • Just like the games, being ten in Pokémon: The Series is seen as an appropriate age to be given an incredibly powerful monster to keep as a companion and to travel around a world inhabited by many species of such monsters. School is never mentioned whatsoever outside of Pokémon-based ones and even these seem to be optional. This is a Justified Trope in that traveling around the world is only allowed because the child is accompanied by a powerful creature that can protect them if things go wrong. The Hoenn seasons of the anime had May hate and fear Pokémon at first, but unable to fulfill her dream of traveling the world unless she received a Pokémon for her own protection. Meanwhile, her younger brother Max was only able to travel with her, Ash, and Brock because she agreed to have custody over him for the duration of the journey; being too young to have his own Pokémon, he was forced to go home when May decided that she wished to continue her travels alone at the end of Advanced Generation. Word of God has people are considered of age for journeys once they turn ten, though not all children will choose to travel like Ash does in the anime. The (albeit non-canon) novelization by head writer of the original series, Takeshi Shudo, even explicitly mentioned that the legal age of adulthood is, indeed, 10, with all of the privileges and responsibilities that come with that. All that said,
    • The manga, Pokémon Adventures, also uses this trope. There it's all the more egregious due to how the world of Adventures is portrayed to be significantly more dangerous than most other Pokémon universes are shown to be. On top of this, the preteen-to-teenage Dex Holders are often seen taking on adult responsibilities like it's completely expected and normal for them, some even having or seriously considering full-on jobs and careers, ranging from stand-up comedians to self-run Pokémon talent agencies to International Police agents. Norman even mentions that the age of 11 is when kids should start looking after themselves.
    • Hareta from Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! is not only allowed to go on a Pokémon adventure on his own, but he was raised by Pokémon in a forest with very minimum supervision from Professor Rowan.
  • Rolling Girls both plays this straight and averts it. Nozomi's mother is very worried about her and initially protests her daughter's plan to ride across Japan on a motorcycle, but gives in once her husband convinces her to give Nozomi some space. On the flip side, none of the other three protagonists' parents seem to have any issue with their daughters ditching school and going on a cross-country road trip.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Chibiusa and (even more extreme) Chibi Chibi, whose strolling off becomes a plot point of one episode.
    • The Inners are able to go all over town at all hours of the day and night and go on beach trips, camping trips and ski trips without supervision despite being middle school/high school age. However, it should be pointed out that Usagi, Ami and Rei are the only ones with guardians (Usagi's parents, Ami's mother and Rei's grandfather), whereas Makoto's parents are dead, Minako's parents are never mentioned, Mamoru's parents are also dead, Haruka and Michiru's parents are never mentioned either (but in the manga, Uranus says they have patrons), Setsuna is the only adult, and Hotaru, the youngest one, is more or less adopted by her fellow Outers.
  • Serial Experiments Lain: The characters live in a society where it's perfectly normal for 14-year-olds to visit an adult nightclub and hang out at night. This also applies to Taro and his friends, who are even younger. In this case, it's supposed to seem weird and creepy to the audience.
  • In Shima Shima Tora no Shimajirō, Shimajiro and company are always seen going around town on their own without adult supervision. Keep in mind that they're basically kindergarteners, Shimajiro can only barely read basic kana forms if any of the toy advertising anime are canon. Sure, they're on an island that statistically always has a very low crime rate, they have a police station, and they have a neighborhood association which means everyone knows each other, but the island is shown to be quite huge with a large town encroaching the entire west and south side of the island, and several smaller villages on the outskirts towards the central north-east, and a working shinkansen line circling it. The probability of getting lost on the island is still very real.
  • In Sonic X, Cream the Rabbit is allowed by her mother to accompany her friends on quests to save the universe, despite being only 6. She has Cheese with her, but still... Sonic and the others aren't much better, being all under 17 and Tails being as young as 8, but it's unknown where their parents even are.
  • In Space Brothers, Mutta and Hibito's parents were present, but seemed to be fine with them running off on adventures alone. This includes a three-day bike ride to Kyoto on their own.
  • The protagonists of Wandering Son are allowed to go ride trains to other cities at 9 years old, accompanied by no adults. On Takatsuki's first trip to the city (while dressed as a boy), he gets hit on by an adult woman, who later becomes a Cool Big Sis. The protagonists are allowed to hang around two adults whom their parents don't know, and even sleep over at their house. Though, to give them a break, their parents are unaware of their friendship for some time and they use vague terms like "friends" — though when they do tell their parents they don't seem scared, just mad that they're keeping secrets from them.
  • Yo-Kai Watch: 11-year-old Nate and his similarly aged friends have free-range of their city and the surrounding area.
  • Yotsuba&!:
    • Yotsuba can run all over the neighborhood without anyone to watch her (though she does usually have either her dad or one of the neighbors in close proximity). She does get scolded when she runs off on her own. She just never really seems to learn her lesson. Thankfully, her world seems to be super safe.
    • It seems this concept was tried out in chapter 1 but was dropped because it made Mr. Koiwai seem neglectful rather than laid back and a bit forgetful. In the first chapter, she wanders around the neighborhood and Koiwai is confident she'll come back to the house when she gets hungry. However, after all the trouble she causes during that escapade he becomes more protective of her. The next time she wanders around unsupervised he does punish her.
    • Deconstructed in one chapter. At the fireworks festival, because Yotsuba hasn't realized the potential dangers of getting lost in a crowd after she runs off (the panel after being told not to let go of Koiwai's hand, naturally), Koiwai has Jumbo, Ena, and Miura hide to teach her a lesson.

  • With Terry Ananny's focus on children, this crops up from time to time when the setting clearly isn't at home. A notable case is Winter Wonderland, where the children are at least nearby houses, but one is chopping wood unsupervised and another is alone cooking while the flames leap higher than the pot.

    Comic Books 
  • Paper Girls: It's All Saints Day in 1988 and Erin, Mackenzie, Tiffany, and KJ band together for mutual protection against any lingering Halloween weirdness as they run their early morning newspaper delivery routes.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake being essentially unsupervised while he is not at school allows him to follow Batman around on his bicycle when he is concerned that the Dark Knight has become reckless. His parents' constant absences are what gave him the time to occasionally follow Batman and Robin around on patrols when he was younger as well, in Gotham.
  • Supergirl:
    • Even though she is adopted by the Danvers in The Unknown Supergirl, Linda is essentially allowed free rein to do whatever she wants after school, which is because her adoptive parents know nothing about her adventures as Supergirl until she finally comes clean about her secret identity.
    • In Supergirl's Greatest Challenge, Fred and Edna do not even blink when their adoptive teen daughter, who has just returned home, tells she must leave immediately for the 30th century to face some kind of life-threatening danger.
  • Yakari: Yakari, Rainbow, and Buffalo Seed often wander away from their tribe camp (sometimes very far away, like Yakari's visit to Hopi people in Le Lézard de l'ombre) in either comics or adaptations and no one bats an eye; in some instances however, i.e. when the tribe moves to another location and the children are not there, adults will start searching for them.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Diana comes across some kids sledding when one loses control and goes across a road, nearly getting killed. They learn she's never sledded before and offer to teach her so she spends quite a while with them playing in the snow and trying to keep them off the road and there is zero indication of any adult supervision outside of Diana. When they're done playing for the day the kid who nearly got killed earlier goes to his mother's place of work to wait for her to get off so they can go home together.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes is more deeply philosophical than most 6-year-olds, and is allowed to ride his wagon all over creation, because behind his house apparently there's some kind of national park. This may be a case of an Unreliable Narrator (in addition to the time Calvin runs away from home and figures he must be in the next state by the time he's a few hundred feet away, he also believes he's been to Mars, traveled back in time, and transformed himself into an owl, for example). Everything looks bigger to 6-year-old Calvin.
  • Heart of the City: Heart and Dean get into some wild adventures away from home.
  • Peanuts:
    • The strip began in 1950 but hit this trope due to being a long runner and with the introduction of Peppermint Patty's Cast Herd, who take the bus across town by themselves whenever they visit Charlie Brown's neighborhood. Then again, adults barely exist except for the "wah-wah" speech in the cartoons, or a few brief appearances in a few of them. Linus's Halloween tradition of spending all night in the Pumpkin Patch was cut short by being forced inside at 9 PM the year his Gramma was babysitting. The opinion his parents have of the matter is never brought up.
  • The Perishers, being a kind of quirky British take on the same concept as Peanuts, also does this. Every year the kids go off on summer holiday without any kind of adult supervision.
  • Rupert Bear and his chums have lots of adventures, often in exotic far-off places, but their parents never worry about their safety.

    Fan Works 
  • The Twilight Child:
    • The main character, when she was a foal, as the first flashback shows. In one instance, she runs off just seconds after being lectured for wandering off.
    • The Cutie Mark Crusaders, naturally, but Scootaloo most all, at one point she's found wandering around town on a school day.
  • Gensokyo 20XX: Subverted. If Reimu were younger than her assumed age-regression age (which is implied to be either five or six), she would be a Straying Baby, she is clearly not allowed to be free-ranged and they do worry about her when she goes missing but that didn't stop her from getting out anyway. Same thing occurs with the other children, given their circumstances, and the adults do worry and often go out to find them.
  • Kill la Kill AU: Satsuki, Nui, Ryuuko, and Mako (although mostly the latter three, especially Ryuuko) are seen going here and there, i.e, seeing how many times Ryuuko has been thrown in jail and in one comic the kids are seen going places at night, then again, their parents didn't know that is what they were doing. We also had this with Mako's mother, Sukuyo, as a child, according to Ragyou, due to her parents being loving yet painfully absent-minded
  • Phineas Flynn and Isabella Garcia-Shapiro in Finding Dad travel 900 miles from their home in Danville to New Orleans, and are even allowed on domestic flights.
  • Pokemon: Johto Quest: Protagonist Emily Hawthorne is one of these for a majority of the series as she travels freely through the Johto region.
  • In If I Only Had A Heart, Izuku and Mashi are basically given free rein to do whatever they want after school because their parents are busy at work. Izuku mainly uses this time to design new machines while Mashi watches, but he also has Mashi help him install new prosthetics during these unsupervised hours. Inko becomes painfully aware of this after Izuku gives himself a seizure with his new artificial eye. After this, she has her neighbor Aizawa as well as his friends Nemuri and Hizashi walk to and from school and look after him in her absence.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku and Bakugou used to hang out together unsupervised when they were kids, as per canon. It gets horribly deconstructed when Izuku doesn't learn to control his newfound Super-Strength before brawling with Bakugou for bullying someone, which ends with Bakugou nearly dying after Izuku accidentally throws him through a brick wall.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Izuku and Katsuki used to go for romps in the woods around Mountain Glenn when they were kids, even though Grimm are known to prowl around the area.
  • Used as Deliberate Values Dissonance in Blind Courage. Zelda lets her blind and sheltered daughter wander around the local forest by herself. At almost 7 years old, Baby is old enough to go play outside by herself.
  • In the oneshot Cicada Psalms, it's mentioned that kids in Hinamizawa are given a fair amount of freedom because it's a small rural town in 1990:
    The sun’s dying down, but Mikoto has lived here her whole life, and it’s Hinamizawa, and everyone knows everyone, so Keiichi, who has to lock up, sees her off to walk home alone without a worry. Little Mikoto scampers off down the path with her little backpack, but then she turns back, and very swiftly, without a word, hugs Keiichi tight. It lasts a few moments. Then she rushes off, faster than before.
  • Her Max:
    • A 6-year-old Ruby convinces her parents to leave her home alone with her 2-year-old brother for a few hours.
    • After the death of their parents, Ruby and Max become fully free-range. The only adult supervision they have is their grandmother, who doesn't live with them.
  • CWCollateral: A Tale of the Resistance: Taken to an extreme degree with feral Sonees and Roseys. Sonichus and Rosechus are incredibly fecund and will sometimes simply let their offspring wander off. These Sonees and Roseys are referred to as 'ferals'; ferals have better self-preservation instincts than their "homebred" counterparts, are slightly leaner and faster, and can be dangerous when encountered in large groups.
  • The differing Japanese and American perspectives are discussed in a Halloween chapter for A Game of Cat and Cat. Nine to eleven year old Soma Kurusu/Cruz recently moved from Japan to America; while his parents still allow him to go off on his own, his new neighbors don't agree. When Soma is trick or treating alone, he avoids a group of classmates accompanied by adults because he knows he'll be forced to join the group 'for his own safety.'

    Films — Animated 
  • Alma: The title character, a little girl, is running around in the middle of town without any adult supervision. Maybe if she had someone with her, she wouldn’t have fallen into the clutches of the evil toy shop.
  • Deconstructed in Lilo & Stitch. Nani takes over as Lilo's guardian after the death of their parents. She has to take care of her 6-year-old sister, but work often leaves her away from home. As a result, Lilo walks home a lot, though Nani usually walks her home from dance rehearsal. Nani and Lilo have issues with CPS because they don't believe Nani is in the best situation to be a good guardian for her sister.
  • Little Dogs on the Prairie: Darcy, Sport, and Scout wander around town by themselves when they are not in school, but since Prairie Town is a Close-Knit Community, they are never in any danger.
  • Pinocchio: Exaggerated and played for drama. Instead of taking Pinocchio to his first day of school, Geppetto merely directs him to walk there with the town's other children. Although Pinocchio has the mentality of a 6-year-old, at this point, he has only been alive for one day and has never been outside his house before. Not surprisingly, he doesn't actually get to school.
  • Deconstructed in The Rescuers Down Under. Cody is free to run around the local areas of the Australian outback... but runs into the film's villain (a poacher) and... then you have the plot of the movie.
  • Despite being grounded for most of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman are still free to roam the town as they please, largely because their parents are too busy waging war on their behalf to keep track of where their children are.
  • As a part of the Deliberate Values Dissonance in The Wizard of Oz, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry leave their young niece to take care of their farm for the day.
  • Justified with the kid racers of Sugar Rush in Wreck-It Ralph, in that they are In-Universe video game characters with no programmed parents. It's unknown what they're up to when they aren't racing.
    • Averted in the sequel, in which they are adopted by Fix-It Felix and Calhoun when Sugar Rush gets unplugged and they are without a place to live.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 12th Man: The first people to help Jan are two young kids who are out on the fjord in a rowboat at night.
  • In Apaches, the six kids play around on a farm, and all of them except for one die in freak accidents that could have been avoided if they were properly supervised.
  • In BMX Bandits, the young teen heroes ride all over Sydney without any parental supervision at all. And some of the characters in the bike cavalry are even younger and equally unsupervised.
  • A big problem for the 2007 Bridge to Terabithia film, which is set after 2000. Nowadays, the well-off city-born Burke parents would never have allowed Leslie (their only child and only ten) to even go near the rope or in the woods by herself (or even with Jess), precisely out of fear that something might happen, despite the natural tendency of country-born parents often letting their kids do exactly that, after of course teaching them how to do so safely (or not, it's pretty much Russian Roulette). As with the Harriet The Spy example below, the book was written in the seventies, where one could arguably see this happening, but the movie is clearly set in the year it was released.
    • It implied that Jess and Leslie snuck out to the woods without their parents knowing, and they somehow managed to keep their parents completely uninformed about their little adventures. Which is somewhat justified, since the Aarons are too busy watching over their other four children and consider Jess, their only son, to be capable of taking care of himself, whilst the Burkes, being from the city, are on the eccentric side and thinks Leslie is independent enough on her own despite her age. The trope still fits though.
  • Shirley Temple vehicle Bright Eyes features Shirley hitchhiking to the airport. Her character is 5-years-old.
  • The four junior high protagonists in Camp Nowhere are pretty free-range to begin with. That said, the concept is brought into full play once they set up their own phony summer camp and bring along several of their friends. The trope is also explored in detail — issues like boredom, homesickness, injuries, and brushes with the law crop up throughout.
  • In The Candy Snatchers, mute toddler Sean's parents let him come and go as he pleases.
  • The Cave of the Yellow Dog: Maybe it's different when you're a family of nomads living on the actual range — or the steppes of Mongolia as it were. Still, Nansal can't be more than nine, is tasked with getting on a horse and taking the sheep out to graze. Her mother gets very upset when Nansal doesn't come home — Nansal got distracted looking for her dog.
  • Cop Car: The protagonists are two young boys who have run away from home to wander around the wilderness outside their town. They find a cop car and take it for a joy ride, claiming it as theirs.
  • The dangers of this trope are shown in the 1928 film The Crowd. The protagonist's toddler-aged daughter ends up run over and killed while crossing the street with her barely-older brother. In their case, they were in view of their parent's house but were still mostly unsupervised.
  • The three siblings in the French movie Demi Tarif were abandoned by their single mother (though she occasionally calls). They are between the ages of 11 and 8 and live alone, steal food, roam the streets, beg for money, and do anything they want as they live alone in a Paris apartment. They also try to hide the fact that they live alone, which is difficult. The stress of living alone shows on all of them.
  • Early silent The Evidence of the Film shows a kid who looks about seven working as a messenger boy, walking across town. The role was played by an 11-year-old girl. Justified in that in this time period, it was not only common but completely legal for kids to have actual paying jobs, some of which would have been far more dangerous of themselves than simply allowing the kid out to play.
  • The kids in The Florida Project freely wander the Kissimmee strip area without supervision, with it not being until one major incident that one of the mothers takes action.
  • In A Girl Named Sooner, Sooner decides to return to her old home, and a yokel on the side of the road even gives her a ride without asking about where she is going.
  • Harriet the Spy: In the movie, the children are only 11, yet they wander aimlessly around town with little to no concern from their parents. The book may have been written in the '60s, but since the movie was clearly set in the '90s, it was a bit jarring to see.
  • In The Human Comedy, 5-year-old Ulysses is allowed to wander all over Ithaca, CA with a group of older boys. Eventually he wanders away from them and winds up alone and crying. Since Ithaca is an absurdly idealized Everytown, America, he's immediately recognized and given back to his older brother.
  • Invasion of the Neptune Men has a group of children who can seemingly go anywhere. And not simply around their neighborhood; they can waltz into government buildings during high-stakes defense meetings and press conferences regarding an alien invasion. Lampshaded in the MST3K viewing: "Apparently the kids have level five security access". In the "MST3K Episode Guide" book, while reviewing Gamera, Kevin Murphy elaborates:
    "In Japan, there is a class of children who are, well, special... these are the monster children. The merest, most remote chance encounter with a monster sweeps the child into the inner circle of Japanese military and government security and strategic planning... The monster child is a treasure to the Japanese matched only by the emperor and his family..."
  • In the 1997 informative video The Kids Guide to the Internet, the mother leaves her kids and their friends alone with an internet connection, free to wander where they please on the Internet of the 1990s, where it was far easier to wander haphazardly into porn.
  • In Mario (1984), Mario's parents are so busy during the tourist season that no one is around to watch him except his older brother Simon. The other neighborhood boys are also allowed to spend hours playing in the hills with Mario and Simon.
  • Many Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen vehicles have this trope:
    • In To Grandmother's House We Go the girls, who are six, board a city bus trying to get to their grandmother in Edgemont. The only reaction an older woman who talks to them has is that the bus doesn't travel that far.
    • In How the West Was Fun, the 8-year-old twins ride horses from a rural dude ranch to Denver and back, and regularly roam around said ranch by themselves.
    • In The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley series, the girls play kid detectives who can "solve any crime by dinnertime". The kids travel (often by bike) as far away as Transylvania and remote tropical islands with no parental supervision, which none of the adults they come across question.
    • The You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's series occasionally had the girls and their friends running around the Mall of America or a fashion college with virtually no adult supervision aside from a college-aged cousin or sister who would conveniently leave the scene when the plot demanded it.
  • At the beginning of Run Wild, Run Free, Philip attends a clinic for emotionally disturbed children, but his mother stops taking him because she doesn't think he's making any progress. Philip can't attend a regular school, so for the rest of the movie, he's free to spend all his time wandering the moors.
  • Stand by Me has the Four Kid Band seemingly crossing county lines to see a dead body. They all agree to lie to their parents about where they're going, and none of the adults bothers to check with the others. Justified in-universe in that, first, it's 1959, and second, the alleged parents range from indifferent (Vern's) to borderline-criminally neglectful (Gordie's) to abusive (Chris's) to single-mom-with-dad-in-the-psych-ward-of-a-VA-hospital (Teddy's).
  • Stand by Me's Distaff Counterpart is Now and Then, which features the girls biking for an entire day to read archived newspapers at a library.
  • Super 8: The kids. Justified in that it's set in the 1970s.
  • Ultraman X The Movie: Here Comes! Our Ultraman!: The local archeologist and single mother, Tsukasa Tamaki, is allowed to bring her 11-year-old son, Yuuto Tamaki, with her to archeological digs and site excavations, where the boy is free to roam about picking up whatever artifacts he can find. Especially jarring considering the film takes place in a universe where giant monster attacks happen on a regular basis, and the preceding TV series has an episode where two children, having wandered too far near a lake, nearly gets devoured by a giant water monster...
  • Whistle Down the Wind: All three youngsters (and the rest of their Sunday School class).
  • The Goonies: An entire gang of them go out on a last adventure following the trail of Pirate Treasure on the northern Oregon coast.

    Literature — Fiction 
  • Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck gets a pass because he's an orphan (more or less), but in general the kids are allowed to go wherever they please, and the parents only get worried if the kid doesn't come home for a few days. A little girl's birthday party includes an afternoon of exploring the local caves, though it's well-known that you could get lost and never find your way out.
  • Afternoon of the Elves: Sara-Kate's runs wild and does whatever she wants, apparently free of adult supervision because her mother is too sick and/or depressed to look after her, and Sara-Kate is trying to keep it a secret so she won't be taken away by CPS.
  • Alice, Girl from the Future:
    • The kids living in the 2070s and later often tend to be like this, especially on Earth and other civilized planets.
    • In the earlier and more serious stories it actually gets deconstructed: for example, in One Hundred Years Ahead, Alice is left in a public zoo to work alone with a priceless thought-reading machine, and it's not too long before the latter gets stolen.
    • In the later books, however, played perfectly straight. In The War with Lilliputs, Alice, Pashka, and Arkasha (all of them aged twelve) live fully by themselves in Arkasha's country house, and the grownups are okay with it because at least the kids stay on Earth and close to Moscow. In Alice in Gusliar, children are even allowed to make long-distance time travel on their own with the adults' full consent.
  • Doris Burn's Andrew Henrys Meadow starts out with one kid, who likes to build complex contraptions, catching heat from the rest of his family for those contraptions getting in everyone's way. He retreats to a tranquil meadow and builds a little house for himself to build stuff all day in. Eventually other oppressed kids show up, and he builds houses for them. They spend hours at a time in their makeshift village until their parents start wondering where they keep running off to.
  • Animorphs carefully averts the trope; the heroes constantly have to make up excuses and lie about supervision for their absences from home, or even get substitutes for themselves. Except Tobias, who's "lucky" enough to have legal guardians so disinterested they barely even notice when he goes missing.
  • In Ascendance of a Bookworm, commoner children as young as three are typically let out the city gate (under supervision of children who aren't that much older) into the surrounding woods to gather firewood for their working parents, forage, or do other things like trying to invent paper. This is justified by the fact that in this culture, children are expected to begin training for their adult vocation at the age of seven, so they expect a lot of discipline and maturity at a young age. On top of this, the main character is part of a poorer class where children have to start contributing to the household literally as soon as they can.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, the eighth-graders are treated like high schoolers, while the sixth-graders are treated like young teens. They're allowed to run around New York City and Europe and take little kids sailing on the ocean, all without adult supervision. 11-year-old Jessi gets the starring roles in all her ballet productions and was left in charge of her 8-year-old sister and baby brother for a whole weekend.
  • In Bambi, Bambi's mother and his Aunt Ena encourage this with their kids as is realistic for deer. After they're weaned, they force their kids to wander around all day alone. The twins usually stick together, and sometimes Bambi plays with his cousins too, but usually he sticks to himself.
  • Bat Pat: in both the books and the animated adaption, the parents of the 3 main protagonists don’t seem too concerned about their kids going out in the night or traveling all over town on their own.
  • The Boxcar Children series is essentially built on this trope. The children's independence is not only allowed but encouraged by their grandfather (who raises them). Henry and Jessie, the two oldest, are only 14 and 12, but they usually seem more like high schoolers and act basically as parent figures to Violet and Benny, the two youngest — who are 10 and 6 but also act older. Throughout the series, they've done such varied things as camping out, exploring the Arizona desert, and even caving, all without a lick of supervision. This makes sense since the premise of the series is that they lived just fine in an abandoned boxcar for several months before learning their grandpa wasn't a jerk.
  • Dandelion Wine is full of examples of this.
  • Duumvirate: Bioengineered children are treated as adults by age eight, and the 6-year-olds know how to fly jets. Want to mess with one? Go on, try it. What's the worst that could happen?
  • The kids in most of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books are this. In The Egypt Game it becomes a plot point because of the child murders in the area.
  • Emily the Strange: The Lost Days: Subverted with Emily/Earwig, though she doesn't know it until she gets her memory back. However, Molly's parents let her go anywhere she wants as long as her grades are good. Anywhere includes anywhere in the country.
  • The Famous Five: Certainly there was less helicopter parenting in 1950s Britain, but letting a group of 10- to 12-year-olds go on weeklong camping trips in various desolated areas with no supervision? They have the dog to take care of them, it's probably fine. The books do have them age up a couple of years. Julian was meant to be 15 or 16 at one point. One website worked out, from the pattern of summer/Easter/x-mas/half-term holidays they had, that by the end of the books, they should all be in their early 20s.
  • Feeling Sorry for Celia has a great version of this trope. The titular girl, who is herself a Cloudcuckoolander, runs off to join the circus. The mother, who had been worried but expressing it strangely for a good part of the book, is instantly put at ease when she's told that her daughter is just with a traveling circus, saying "Oh, the circus! Why didn't we think of that earlier?" Another example from the same book is when a younger Celia and her best friend were planning on building a treehouse. Her mother is absolutely fine with the idea, no questions asked; however, the best friend's mother wants to know details. The two mothers get into an argument over the issue.
  • Flavia de Luce: The main character is 11 years old and spends her time riding around on her bike investigating cases of murder. She does run into adults who tell her she has no business getting involved in police work on a regular basis, but Flavia has long since learned to make use of the gaps in adult supervision and of the hands-off parenting of her widowed father.
  • Ghost Girl (2021): 11 year olds Zee, Elijah and Nellie visit cemeteries, sneak out into the woods, and even skip town, all without adult supervision.
  • The Hampdenshire Wonder: When the titular Child Prodigy is four, his mother already lets him wander about unsupervised. He has an intense stare that makes his mother unable to stop him from doing what he wants.
  • Hive Mind: Children old enough to have their monitoring bracelets removed (on their 10th birthday) have the run of the public places on their level. 13-year-olds move up to Teen Level to live independently for five years before becoming an adult.
  • Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games at 11 years old roamed around town trying to sell her sister's baby clothes and ended up looking through garbage bins in the pouring rain and her mother didn't seem to notice she was gone. At the age of twelve, Katniss (and Gale, who was fourteen) was running around in the woods trying to gather food and hunt which was not only potentially dangerous for kids that age in its own right, in Panem, it's illegal and would have terrible consequences if the wrong person found out. Neither Katniss' nor Gale's mother seemed to mind at all.
    • This is justified and played with for Katniss. She had to do the aforementioned things because her father died and her mother became so stricken with grief that she barely noticed her children anymore. Katniss resents her mother for life because she wanted her mother to scold her for doing such things and feed her, as mothers are ought to do. Basically, she was forced to become a Free-Range Child, even though she didn't want to.
    • It's also justified for Gale. Though Hazelle is an infinitely better mother than Mrs. Everdeen, she has to take care of Gale's three younger siblings in a poor household and no husband (he died alongside Katniss' father), while her manual job only provides a meager income that's not sufficient to feed them all (even after Gale started helping her, he still had to take tesserae, which increased his chances of being Reaped). Plus, Gale is a competent hunter. It's not as if she had a choice.
  • If I Fall, If I Die: Will's mother is so agoraphobic she can't leave the house, and Jonah is being raised by his brothers, who let him do whatever he wants. The two of them are free to spend their free time skateboarding, exploring, and investigating Marcus's disappearance alone in the bad part of town.
  • Pretty much every James Patterson juvenile character exhibits this to some extent, but I Funny's Jamie Grimm went to another town by himself for a comedy contest on his own — did we mention he's paraplegic? — and it's strongly implied he wheeled himself home in the middle of the night.
  • Jill And Joy: The titular little girls are so neglected by their parents that they just leave and buy their own house without their parents caring much.
  • Books by Diana Wynne Jones exhibit this to differing degrees, depending on the level of Parental Neglect (a frequent trope in her books) and somewhat on the decade in which the book was written.
    • The children in The Ogre Downstairs (early 1970s) have attentive parents, but the youngest child (aged seven or so) is allowed to go to the library on her own in the daytime, though it's clear that none of the children is allowed out after dark.
    • The girls in The Time of the Ghost, set in the late '70s, live in a separate building from their parents, who don't check up on their whereabouts and don't notice when one of them goes missing (on purpose, to test them).
    • Polly in Fire and Hemlock (1980s) ends up wandering alone around a city she doesn't know well, not knowing where she'll spend the night, because her divorced parents have both assumed that the other one is going to take care of her — but it's made clear that her parents are irresponsible, and her granny is appalled when she finds out.
    • Later books tend to have a much elder sibling character (or similar) who can plausibly supervise, such as Vanessa in The Homeward Bounders or Fifi the au pair in Archer's Goon.
  • Stephen King:
    • The parents of the seven main kids in IT might as well be nonexistent, considering how they let their kids roam around unsupervised all day despite there being a killer preying on children loose in town. Of course, one of Pennywise/IT's powers seems to be making the townsfolk indifferent, maybe even accepting, of his evils, so it might be Justified. Partially justified in-story for Bill Denborough's parents, whose grief over the death of his younger brother has made them both withdraw emotionally (even by the standards of the era).
      • That said, Ben and Mike at least have strict curfews.
    • The novella The Body, which became Stand by Me. As with It, above, it's largely justified: although the kids do have to come up with a cover story, it's clear that the adventure is only possible due to rampant familial dysfunction and Parental Neglect among the group, with two, Chris Chambers and Teddy Duchamp, explicitly having abusive, alcoholic fathers, and protagonist Gordie LaChance's parents in Excessive Mourning after the death of his older brother.
  • Lockwood & Co.: The main characters run the eponymous agency by themselves, with no adult supervision.
  • Lumbanico The Cubic Planet: Pirela (14 years old), her friend Ustrum and her little sister Mela are allowed to wander around the Blue Valley with no supervision, thanks to which they are able to plan a dangerous journey through the Great Mountains without their parents being the wiser.
  • The Magic Treehouse series averts the trope by having no time pass while the treehouse takes them anywhere or anytime in the world.
  • Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Quartet has the Melendy children running unsupervised all over New York City and the countryside. When Oliver (who's six) does it in imitation of the older ones, it's not with permission, and he gets into trouble. After that, the older kids decide that they'll accompany him to do whatever he wants on his Saturday because it's not fair that they have more freedom than he does.
  • In the October Daye novel Ashes of Honor, a human child had to live quite close to the school, since she walks, which surprises a young fae. On the other hand, the police only treat her as missing after 48 hours, which causes Toby to think about how they would never wait that long.
  • Oona: Oona is a mermaid kid who spends her days hunting for see treasures with her friends Otto the otter and a tiny blue turtle. Throughout the book, her parents are never seen or commented upon.
  • A bicycling shoal of them in rural Oxfordshire play a major part in Michael Innes' Appleby detective story, Operation Pax / The Paper Thunderbolt.
  • Pale: the Kennet Witches, all aged thirteen, tend to have pretty free evenings to go around in their hometown of Kennet, meeting with supernatural creatures to interview them about the murder of the Carmine Beast and learning magic from them. They make some use of connection-blocking runes to distract their parents from thinking of them, but this only goes so far-a parent is naturally inclined to think of their child so the runes tend to burn out quickly.
  • Pippi Longstocking. Granted, well, her mother is in Heaven, her father is a Captain who roams the Seven Seas on his ship and later on the King of some exotic island kingdom, and since Pippi is living in a house all alone with no adults, a certain orphanage lady is always after her. But Tommi and Annika? Whenever that red-haired anarcho goes on another adventure, be it all around Sweden or even somewhere overseas, their thoroughly square parents let them tag along! (Tommi and Annika were just as square before they met Pippi.) Then again, what bad could happen to you when you accompany a girl who is stronger than most grown-ups, and who neither knows nor cares for and therefore doesn't really obey any laws of physics and therefore has the liberty to do anything she wants to?
  • Lucinda Wyman and Tony Coppino in Ruth Sawyer's Roller Skates. Set in the 1890s, a policeman sees Lucinda doing pretty much as she pleases every day and thinks that New York isn't too big a city to turn a child loose in, "barring a few corners of it." One "corner" turns out to be a fancy hotel, and Lucinda, aged ten, finds an adult friend of hers who has been stabbed to death. The policeman never finds out about that.
  • In The Roman Mysteries the four main characters border on this trope and cross the line into it during several books.
  • The cub-aged main characters in Seeker Bears all walk around together for various reasons. One was abandoned by his mother, the other ran off taking the Call to Adventure, the third character's mother died, and the fourth has no mother. It's frequently mentioned that it's odd for them to be on their own at their ages.
  • Most of the Stark kids in A Song of Ice and Fire, since they have a tendency to be separated from their parents for long periods of time. Rickon, the youngest Stark at 3 years old, practically becomes feral along with his direwolf Shaggydog. Deconstructed in that the only reason Bran and Rickon Stark can go anywhere is that their home is destroyed and they are both presumed dead. After her father's death, Arya ends up in the company of criminals and assassins.
  • The Swallows and Amazons series has kids who are allowed to go sailing on their own, even though they can't all swim, from an Island on a lake where they're left alone for days on end. In one book, their 4- to 5-year-old sister comes along too. "Better drowned than Duffers. If not duffers, won't drown."
  • Tailchaser from Tailchaser's Song used to go off to play by himself in his first summer. This came to a halt when he returned home and found his family gone.
  • Justified in The Thirteenth Tale. Before they have a governess, Emmeline and Adeline go wherever they want to in the village because the Missus and John-the-dig are too busy taking care of a huge house and too old to keep up with them.
  • Deconstructed in the Tomorrow, When The War Began series. Here are a band of Australian teenagers who roam around the countryside, armed to the teeth, participating in guerilla-style warfare, all without parental supervision. However, this is only because their parents are being held in detention centers after Australia was invaded.
  • In Truth or Dare (2000), Joanna writes about her childhood in The '50s, when she, her brothers, and their friends would roam the countryside all day, only coming home for meals. Patrick and Katherine find the document on her computer, and as they read it, Katherine comments, 'They could do what they liked back then, eh? Stay out all day, come back soaking wet.… When I was that age, my mum acted like most of the adult population were paedophiles and child molesters. I wasn't allowed to the end of the road without a police escort.'
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Averted with kits (who are five months or younger). They're not allowed outside of their Clan's nesting place.
    • Played straight with apprentices, who begin at roughly between the equivalent of 10-13. They're allowed to go within their borders on their own, however, they're usually accompanied by warriors.

    Literature — Non-Fiction 
  • Christiane F. strongly implies that a lot of teens of her age (keep in mind that Christiane was a girl living in Berlin who became a prostitute) just wandered around in the streets without their parents knowing what they did all night.

    Live Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? might as well be the epitome of this trope. Think about it. The children are outside late at night in the middle of the woods telling horror stories that would make you wonder if their parents knew they were outside this time of night. Just look at the name of the crew: The Midnight Society.
  • The high school years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer used this trope. The teenage scoobies will be seen wandering around numerous points of town from their school building to a restricted research facility, during and after school hours. Buffy herself is used to climbing in and out of her bedroom window to hunt vampires at the local cemetery. It's explained in Season 2 that each of the scoobies allow themselves the free time to fight evil and save the world by calling their respective parents and telling them they're staying at everyone else's house.
  • Eerie, Indiana:
    • Poor Simon is completely ignored by his parents, who constantly fight with each other. The Tellers become his surrogate family.
    • Likewise, Sara Bob's family in "Who's Who". Her dad is physically present but Sara Bob has to care for him as well as her hellion brothers.
  • Good Omens: While Adam and his friends are expected home in time for supper they seem to spend their summer days going wherever they please on their bicycles with no adult supervision. After they get caught breaking into a military base Adam gets grounded, but the other three kids are still free to wander as they please. It's hinted this is due to Adam's powers subtly shaping the world around him into what he wants as the perfect childhood.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Barney's childhood was apparently like this, as he comments that he would go grocery shopping and buy nothing but candy when his mom was gone for the weekend.
  • In iCarly, Carly, Sam, and Freddy are allowed to do pretty much anything they want since they usually lack actual parent supervision, though this is sometimes averted with Freddy's overbearing and overprotective mother.
  • Kyle XY tends to zigzag this a lot, varying between impromptu investigative adventures into the woods, hidden bunkers, or just the other side of Seattle, to take down evil megacorps, ferret out conspiracies, or even get a friend's car out of a towing lot to the kids getting grounded and forced to sneak around (and out of) the house. Lying to parents, covering for siblings, and generally skulking about is all over, especially if the quest involves going to a party or a bar. Justified in that they are high-schoolers, some of them are even touring colleges they plan to attend, several of the kids have their own cars, and that Nicole trusts Kyle more than the other kids because he's a super-genius and not a regular, impulsive teenager. Also increasingly justified as the super-genius starts to change into actual superpowers and the parents, though they legitimately try to keep an eye on their charges, are increasingly outgunned.
  • This trope is usually deconstructed and portrayed as negative in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It is usually because of Parental Neglect and is often the cause of children being kidnapped, injured, or raped. One episode has Munch mentioning to a 10-year-old boy that, when he was his age, his parents wouldn't even let him ride around the block on his bike but the boy goes on the subway by himself.
  • Season 2 of Mindhunter deals with the Atlanta child killings. Many of the victims would spend their days outside doing odd jobs for cash, that ranged from carrying groceries and selling air freshners, to taking naked pictures for pedophiles. While doing groundwork for the case, Gregg also runs into a group of very streetwise Baltimore kids.
  • The kids who work at Odd Squad (hell, most kids in general, really) roam around Toronto, going about their daily lives with absolutely no parental supervision whatsoever, although the concept of parents (if there are any at all) being a mystery is enforced by show staff, who intentionally don't reveal the parents of any character in order to push the message of equality that the show and organization have. At least until Season 2, when we see at least one character's parents and learn about another character having Parental Substitutes. All of the Odd Squad agents are children and the oldest ones are 12 years old, but they are more mature and smart than the majority of adults seen on the show.
  • The Japanese TV series Old Enough is about the Japanese practice of sending preschoolers out for errands, in this case with a TV crew filming them to register their dawdling, talking to themselves, and hilarious misunderstandings.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • Teenagers Walter Denton, Stretch and Bones Snodgrass tend to be able to go where they please and when. Averted with Harriet Conklin, who Mr. Conklin is (sometimes) seen to keep an eye on.
  • In the Power Rangers universe the parents aren't seen or even acknowledged unless they're relevant to the plot. A perfect example is the final episode of Power Rangers Turbo where the team boards a rocket to go into space. Justin stays behind to stay with his father. Nothing is mentioned about the other parents, so apparently they wouldn't miss their kids. Granted the Rangers are all high schoolers who spend most of their time in a popular high school hangout and they all have cars. Though the kids going off in space definitely counts (though they return to Earth in a matter of hours due to Artistic license on space travel)
  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force, there's a two-parter where Vida becomes a vampire. It takes place over several days, naturally mostly at night. We never found out what the parents thought of their teens being out all night, and Vida being nowhere to be found all that time as far as the parents were concerned.
  • In Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, at least, the teens are known to be with their science teacher, who used to be a Power Ranger himself and is used to that anyway.
  • In Round the Twist, the Twist kids regularly wander all about Port Niranda without adult supervision — from a new toxic waste dump to the depths of the local unexplored forest, nowhere seems off-limits. To be fair, the two older Twist twins are 14.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Downplayed with Naomi Wildman. She starts out as the ship's sole child because her mother, Ensign Samantha Wildman, was still pregnant with her when the ship was first stranded in the Delta Quadrant. She's able to go around the ship by herself, but isn't allowed to go into more vital areas like the Bridge or Main Engineering without the supervision of Seven of Nine or the senior officers.
  • This is in full effect in Stranger Things with Mike and his friends in the first half of the season, and even moreso near the end. Stranger Danger hadn't yet kicked in in 1983, so this wouldn't have been unusual, especially in a small-town setting. On the other hand, you also have instances like the kids having to sneak out of their houses because they've been forbidden from going out while Will is missing, and Joyce driving Will to the arcade in Season 2 while repeatedly confirming plans for getting home. This is also somewhat averted in Stranger Things 2, as the kids usually have the supervision of Hopper, Bob, Joyce, or Steve (who is himself only a teenager). Then again, Nancy and Jonathan do travel far enough away from Hawkins that they have to spend the night in a motel, and they're only teenagers. Also, Eleven travels to Chicago of all places during the season, although this does send Hopper into a frenzy, especially when he discovers she hitched a ride with a "nice man in a truck". Interestingly, Stranger Things is somewhat of a deconstruction of the trope, reflecting some of the Values Dissonance between media made in the 1980s and media made in the 2010s about the 1980s. The only reason the kids are able to be free-range is due to Parental Neglect, as the only kid to live in a functional, healthy family is Lucas. The other kids live in homes where their parents either do not have time to devote to their children or are too self-absorbed to do so. El is on the other end of the spectrum for justified reasons, and a lot of conflict in the second and third seasons is her wanting more independence than Hopper is willing to give. It's also a deconstruction in that when they're solving things on their own, they tend to screw them up, implying they're too young to have this level of responsibility over themselves and need adult intervention. By Season 3, the kids are all old enough that no one seems to pay attention or care that they're out all hours of the night and have the entire group in the house at 6am.
  • Dean on Supernatural was allowed to do pretty much everything he wanted to do, as long as he watched after Sam, which John didn't even have to ask him to do. He reveals this with slightly melancholic undertones to a girlfriend in high school who seems to be quite surprised and a bit worried.
  • In Tiere bis unters Dach, the kids go pretty much anywhere they want in Waldau and the surrounding forests and farms. In one case, they even go over to a neighboring town to investigate a suspected pet-napping ring. The parents never seem to worry except when someone actually ends up in danger.
  • The Tomorrow People (1973) had a solution to the issue of children running off on adventures with aliens on distant planets or around London that was so simple and straightforward that it is hard to believe: They just told their parents that they were an advanced form of human and were tasked with protecting the Earth. Once they'd seen their children teleport, the parents didn't see themselves as having much choice but to accept it.
  • On The Walking Dead, no one seems to be tasked with watching Carl, despite the worldwide zombie apocalypse. Carl wanders freely as the plot needs him to.
  • We Are Who We Are: Fraser and other Army brats seem to wander around base freely (along with the surrounding area). He especially goes very far afield and has to be picked up by Maggie when he's lost.
  • Many of the underage cast of The Wire, in a case of either Parental Neglect or Parental Abandonment (depending on the character), played straight. In one scene from Season 1, police go to Wallace's mother, fearing for his life. She doesn't know where he is, doesn't care, and doesn't care to be bothered by cops: he owes her $10, and she's "trying to get my drink on." As the audience has previously discovered, the 16-year-old Wallace has spent the last several months living in a vacant building with several younger kids.
  • All over the place in Yeralash, where the kids from the elementary up are seen to freely wander around the city, using public transport, etc., because the children are generally allowed much more independence from the early age in Russia, compared to the US.
  • Zoey 101 practically revolves around this. Despite being in high school (as well as Dustin being a middle schooler), the students are able to go pretty much wherever without any adult supervision. The fact that it's a campus a lot of them hang out at makes it seem as if they were in college instead.

  • The flashback epilogue of My Beloved Mother have the then 4-year-old Sinbell somehow wandering out of his kindergarten, into a town square a few miles away where a gas leak had occurred. With not a single adult noticing, where the local military had the square evacuated while somehow missing a toddler wandering on his own without adult supervision. Things get ugly when Sinbell's Struggling Single Mother Aya receives news of her child wandering out the kindergarten, where she tore open a barbed-wire fence with her bare hands to search for Sinbell and managed to retrieve him... only for the square to blow up. It ends with poor Aya performing a Heroic Sacrifice and getting herself incinerated to shield her son from the flames.

  • In episode three of Mystery Show, called "Belt Buckle," the titular belt buckle was found on the ground by a boy named Jimmy Turk before being given to Starlee's client, Carson. Carson describes Jimmy as a good kid who just had a lot of unsupervised time, which let him wander around finding things like mysterious belt buckles and (allegedly) sticks of dynamite.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Chica Show: When it comes to the cartoon segments, Chica is one, as parents Mr. and Mrs. C (both puppets) only appear in the live-action segments.
  • Donkey Hodie and her friends frequently do activities without the supervision of adults. In addition, very few of the kid characters have their parents mentioned, and in the case of Donkey, she only has a grandfather.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Empress Elisabetta Barbados in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Despite being just 12 years old and ruling alone the most powerful nation in the game's setting, she likes to leave the palace to live adventures causing lots of headaches to those adults close to her.
  • Kids on Bikes — Tabletop RPG about free-range kids solving mysteries and saving the town. Very rules-light system. Hyper RPG, a professional tabletop RPG streaming channel, is running Kollok 1991, which is a Stranger Things-esque game / campaign using Kids on Bikes RPG.
  • Monsters and Other Childish Things can easily go this way as the game focuses on young children and adolescents who have befriended Eldritch Abominations, and must deal with the trials and tribulations of childhood complicated by their new friends. Kids from broken homes and latchkey children are not uncommon Player Characters.
  • Tales from the Loop & Things from the Flood — Tabletop RPG about free-range kids solving mysteries. Uses Year Zero rules engine.

    Video Games 
  • 9-year-old Pearl is incredibly sheltered in Ace Attorney and barely knows anything about the outside world, probably because of her mother. However, after Morgan's arrest it can be assumed that the other women in the village are taking care of her. So why do these women let Pearl walk to Los Angeles by herself (a two-hour train ride from the village) and constantly hang out with Maya and Nick? Is anyone paying attention to this kid? But it's because that's a Japanese game, and portrays mainly Japanese society with some Eagleland Osmosis. It's pretty normal in Japan for 9-year-old kids to commute around all by themselves. Even sheltered ones.
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure: Alba and Ines have the run of Pinar del Mar and can catch the ferry to La Roqueta as well.
  • The Disgaea series often has adolescent protagonists who operate with no adult supervision, even traveling to other universes, and fighting constantly. Justified since the characters are mostly demons, meaning A) they are actually Really 700 Years Old, they just have the bodies and maturity of teenagers, B) demonic parents (if they are still around at all) don't really care what they get up to (best seen in Disgaea 3 where Raspberyl and her friends give themselves a curfew specifically to annoy their parents) and C) they are so powerful that they wield abilities like punching people into the sun or landing meteors on their enemies heads.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X-2. Well, of course. The world of Spira is filled with children who have been made orphans due to Sin killing off the parents. Some, such as Shinra, have found new guardians, at least, of a sort. Others, such as a Calli, Lian & Ayde, and the Kinderguardians are definitely very free-range. Many of them are more than capable of fighting basic fiends and journey the globe much like the player characters.
    • The original also deserves a mention: Rikku is only 15 for the duration of the story, and Cid seems fine with letting her hop across Spira, by foot or airship — even inside the Big Bad Sin. Possibly justified by the fact that she is a capable fighter, and she's travelling with several older people (ranging in age from 17 to 35), one of whom is a legendary guardian.
  • Limbo, where the child protagonist wanders through a forest and a seemingly-abandoned factory. Other children try to kill you. There are no adults.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: Lan and Mega Man save the world left and right and wander about it, but Lan is only 11 years old and in fifth grade (a year or two older in later games). Lan's parents sometimes show worry, but he's still able to battle dangerous criminals without being held up in his room. To say nothing about Mayl, Dex, and Yai. While they occasionally can't accompany Lan to something or other due to something during the main plot, they always at least try to follow Lan into the evil base at the end of each game. The epitome of this has to be the 5th game where Yai manages to take the entire gang to a deserted island two hours away from home. And then they go to explore an abandoned mine with predictable results. You'd think after that their parents would never let them go anywhere on their own again. The second anime eventually solves this by making Lan a "Net Savior", basically an agent of the Net Police. After this, he stops randomly wandering into criminals on random adventures and is actively dispatched to crime scenes and anyone attempting to stop him on the grounds that a dangerous site is no place for a child will immediately yield when he shows them his badge.
    • The first game hangs a lampshade on this near the end. Lan has acquired the WWW's web address, but the access point from the public internet has been destroyed. When Lan brings the address to his father, he explains that he can use it to track down where their headquarters in the real world are, but tries to refuse to let Lan know the location. In response, Lan points out how he's already dealt with most of the WWW and their attacks already, so he's the best qualified to help finish the job, which convinces Dr. Hikari to relent.
  • Mega Man Star Force: In the second game, Geo goes running off to other countries. His mom doesn't seem to notice her son's absence. Although at one point she scolds Geo when he returns home in the early morning. Geo can travel the world at high speeds using his radio wave abilities though so it's understandable she doesn't notice as he can leave his room to adventure and then return before she even notices he's gone.
  • Mother:
    • The first two Mother games are somewhat egregious examples, but Mother 3 justifies it by having the island be a former utopia.
    • In EarthBound, Ness realizes his tremendous role as leader of The Chosen Four, gaining support from his family and his close friends in his hometown, Paula's parents know their daughter has a destiny to fulfill (and how strong she and Ness are), Dr. Andonuts believes that Jeff can take care of himself, despite the fact that they haven't seen each other for 10 years, and Prince Poo is on a mission from his ancestors, something his people take very seriously.
    • Even protagonists aside, kids Ness's age or even younger can be seen here and there without direct accompaniment, such as a little girl near the path leading from Onett to Twoson or a young boy on the path from Twoson to Peaceful Rest Valley.
  • My Child Lebensborn: This is partly justified by the game's setting being a small Norwegian town in the 1950s. The first scene of the game proper consists of the child, who is turning seven the next, telling the Player Character all about the unsupervised play session they were just having with their best friend. This continues to be the case on each Saturday as the Player Character needs to work, but the child doesn't have school. When the bullying towards the child gets bad enough, they start considering staying at home when they don't have school and the Player Character is at work.
  • Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom: Among the characters that you can convince to live in Evermore there are some children, like Li Li, Fillipos or Chip. The majority of them make absolutely no mention of any parent or guardian who would have any problem about their kid leaving their hometown to live in a completely different kingdom by themselves. The only notable exception is Mylas, whose mother you have to convince before he's able to join you.
  • Pokémon:
    • The characters wander about their local region at a young age, with little concern from any adults. Although to be fair, the regions appear to be so small that if one chucked a rock hard enough, it could cross several cities. It also makes sense that only children with tamed Pokémon are allowed to roam freely. It seems to almost be a rite of passage. Even then, most child trainers don't appear to really go far from home until they're in their teens, with this even being the case for the protagonist in Black and White, its direct sequel, and X and Y. Regardless, it's still a bit odd seeing very young trainers, such as preschoolers and the kids you see at beaches being farther from home than Campers and Youngsters. The beach kids, at least, usually make some reference to their parents being around (in RBY, one of them notes that her mom won't let her swim without a float ring).
    • Partially deconstructed in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. It is treated as very dangerous for the protagonist and their rival to head out into tall grass without any Pokémon. It's only until after the first encounter with the villain team of the game about 10-15 minutes into the game and they get their starter Pokémon that they consider going to the town down the road by themselves.
    • Deconstructed in Pokémon Black and White, as the teenage Bianca's father goes nuts at the thought of his daughter traveling out there alone in the dangerous world. Reconstructed as he's reminded that his daughter isn't alone, as she has regular contact with her friends, has monster bodyguards, and that roaming the world is a good way to expand one's horizons.
    • This is deconstructed yet again in Pokémon Sun and Moon, though Played for Laughs. Team Skull is a street gang made up of a bunch of teenagers and young adults, some of them from abusive homes, who turned to a life of petty crime because failing their Island Challenges has left them homeless, jobless, and with almost zero self-esteem. Unlike every other villain team in the series, their biggest concern is just getting enough money to buy food from day to day. The locals regard them as annoyances at worst and pitiable at best, with few characters treating any of their grievances seriously.
      Team Skull, represent! We can't pay the rent!
      Had a lot of fun, but our youth was misspent.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is no better than the main games. Kid Heroes and young civilians alike walk around on their own with no adults. Azurill ends up kidnapped as a result of him walking alone in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers.
  • Princess Maker 2: The player can send Olive out into town or even on adventures to distant parts of the kingdom completely on her own. Though, in the case of the adventures, Cube will always rescue her if she gets into too much trouble, implying he's somehow keeping an eye on her.
  • The Sims:
    • In The Sims 3, any Sim older than toddler can go anywhere in town the player or their own free will sends them, subject to curfew restrictions on children and teens.
    • Same for The Sims Medieval, which actually makes some sense, as children would have been working in their family's trade, given errands, and/or sent to a scholar for lessons. Add in the fact that unlike real medieval kids, Sims Medieval kids can't actually be hurt by anything, and you have a pretty justified example.
    • Averted with a vengeance in The Sims 2, where even latchkey kids who are home alone after school while the parents work are likely to draw the attention of the Social Worker. Going Downtown to a nightclub on their own is right out.
  • Most of the Sonic the Hedgehog characters are minors (Tails is 8, Amy is 12, Sonic is 15, etc.), and very few of them have legal guardians. Cream (6) lives with her mother Vanilla, Charmy and Espio have Vector, and Blaze is a princess and is stated to have a living family, though they are unseen. In some cases, an explanation is given; Tails is an orphan and was the only inhabitant of a very small island before meeting Sonic, and Knuckles is the last of his species. The rest are unexplained.
  • Tomodachi Life doesn't have many differences between adult and kid Miis, other than kids not being able to get married. This means that Kid Miis move into and live in their own apartments, wander the island, and get part-time jobs without any parents or guardians in sight.
  • Deconstructed in Umineko: When They Cry when Rosa frequently leaves her 9-year-old daughter Maria alone so she can run off on vacation with her boyfriend, and other adults like the owner of a local convenience store are troubled to see her wandering around with nothing but her stuffed lion that she talks to as though it's alive. Any attempts to intervene with social services usually ends badly, and it's acknowledged to be traumatizing for Maria.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Maya explains showing up at the castle alone at age twelve by her parents letting her roam around while they're working. It turns out that the real reason is that her father is leading a group of refugees that has been mistaken for an invading army by the player character's scouts, so he has several reasons to not be keeping a close eye on Maya.
  • Yo-Kai Watch allows the elementary-aged protagonist to run around wherever they please with no issue. They spend all day running around town, running to other towns, and even traveling by train alone in Yo-kai Watch 2. This is played with when it comes to night, though. On one hand, they use a youkai to sneak out. On the other hand, NPCs only mildly scold you if they see you walking around in the middle of the night.

  • Exaggerated in Atshi's backstory in Anecdote of Error. Her sister, Mishmai, took her halfway around the world to another continent all by herself, to get her medical treatment from a healer friend free of charge. Mishmai was twelve and Atshi was five at the time.
  • Bad Machinery. Most of the time; though in one storyline, with a predator terrorizing the town, the parents do clamp down on the kids' movements, interfering with their sleuthing; and in another, they need to pretend to be at one another's houses in order to free themselves to go out at night.
  • Deconstructed in Camp Weedonwantcha: the campers' parents don't mind them running around in the wild without supervision because they don't care about them at all. In addition, the kids get seriously injured and sick quite often, and it's heavily implied there have been a few casualties.
  • Cyanide and Happiness demonstrates that leashes aren't so bad in comparison.
  • Dawn of Time initially appears to be a feral child. Mantell is shocked to find that she has a home and parents... but her parents explain that they could never hold on to her for long.
  • In Erstwhile, following the "Snow-White and Rose-Red" Fairy Tale, the girls' mother is untroubled by how they slept in the forest overnight.
  • Flora in Forest Hill was raised in a hippy community and could do whatever she felt like doing including never having to wear any clothes .
  • In Frivolesque, you have fourth grader Mimi and her friends often hanging around town with no adults around.
  • Jupiter-Men: Due to their mom's busy schedule as a police officer and their dad being conspicuously absent, the Avalon twins are generally left to their own devices with only Arrio serving as a chaperone and chauffeur from time to time. This is why Quintin and Jackie are able to do superhero things without getting in trouble with their mom. Arrio has the excuse of his part-time job to be out after hours. Nathan has no supervision at all since both of his parents are missing and his guardian is an apathetic Gold Digger.
  • It ain't called "Latchkey Kingdom" for nothin'. Willa is 13 years old and Dungeon Crawls half because it's fun, and half because she lives alone most of the time and has to have some way of paying for food. The society of Hilla accepts Free Range Children as the norm and will happily sell swords, explosives, and booze to any kid who can afford it.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things parodies the Pokémon tradition with Jared Kowalski, a teenager who balked at the idea of leaving home on a Pokémon journey (because it would separate him from his Xbox games), until his parents got fed up and kicked him out of the house. They were shocked and upset that he wouldn't take off to Walking the Earth with his pet Pokémon.
  • Poison Ivy Gulch: Ace is shown wandering about town minus Lotta's supervision or even going out of town on an overnight trip Story Arc to a neighboring town.
  • Precocious has the Sapphire Lake kids (and on occasion others) wandering around the neighbourhood, and in one arc they go downtown. Tiffany's thoughts? 'I was told lowlifes and villains hang out here [the corner of Cruelty Ave and Evil Rd]. But it's only us! Where are they?'
  • Project 0 this scene only starts to feel out of place when you realize that they're 13.
  • Sam, from Questionable Content can be this, although she usually turns up at Faye’s repair business or Dora’s coffee shop, both of whom know her father and let him know where she is.
  • Fi's mother in Storywisher is apparently fine with her daughter and nephew wandering through the woods alone.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette's essay "Savages," about herself and her brothers and sister in the village of Saint-Sauveur, is a prose poem about this.
  • If Charlotte Brontë and her sisters and brother hadn't been this, we probably wouldn't have their amazing novels and poetry today.
  • Gerald Durrell's childhood in Corfu was this, as related in My Family and Other Animals.
  • The Free-Range Parenting movement, kickstarted by journalist Lenore Skenazy when she let her then-9-year-old son ride the New York subway home alone in 2008 causing her to be dubbed the "World's Worst Mom" by some detractorsnote , openly advocates for reduced parental supervision and letting children take on age-appropriate independent activities. Skenazy herself has written a book and hosted a television series extolling the virtues of more relaxed parenting.
  • This video found on YouTube discusses both sides of this trope.
  • As noted in Too Smart for Strangers and in a similar manner to Missing White Woman Syndrome, child abductions had a massive spike in news coverage in the '80s, which led to a societal shift towards more attentive parenting and restrictions on kids being able to act independently. In reality, statistically, child abductions are far more likely to be from family members (particularly disaffected divorced parents) or known acquaintances than complete strangers coming across them on the streetnote .
  • Japan zigzags this trope.
    • On one hand, it's quite common to see school-aged children walking around freely or even riding the train without an adult. Since Japan has considerably less crime than many other countries, in part because their society views everyone as part of an interconnected social group (basically, if you try and commit a felony in public, everyone sees you, and you're caught red-handed), it's generally viewed as much safer for kids to travel about unsupervised. A Japanese proverb, かわいい子供には旅をさせよ, is commonly interpreted as "if you love your children, send them out while they're young."
    • Averted once a kid enters middle school. Liberty gets severely limited at an age where you would expect them to acquire more liberties to socialize out of home, they're expected to get from home to school and vice versa alone but only through a preselected path, they can't use smartphones, just regular cellphones and only for emergencies. It should be noted that all of this is just on paper and can't actually stop kids, but to counteract this you can get reprimanded in school for your personal activities outside of school hours and schools have been pushing cram schools which leaves kids with even less free time.
  • Very much averted in Switzerland, where children are expected to walk to school, alone, starting with kindergarten at age four. This is considered an important part of social development, and they are carefully coached in it with parental and police involvement. (Parents are actually forbidden from taking children to school themselves.)
  • This trope is in full effect in many countries other than the United States (though Americanization turns more and more parents into helicopter parents). Especially prevalent in The Netherlands and Denmark where children who have outgrown the child seats of their parents' bicycle are expected to bike to and from school, after-school activities, etc... In other countries, many towns have functional public transportation that isn't considered dangerous. Children frequently commute on this system on their own.
  • Has been true by default before the post-industrial era (and is still true in areas that haven't fully entered it yet). Children were expected to socialize and get around by themselves on the street since early age using older peers for advice and protection with only limited guidance from adults (who couldn't afford to give much anyway in a society stuck in the Malthusian trap).
  • The documentary Class Action Park discusses this trope, saying that in the '80s, like in the movies of the decade, minors would basically seek adventure going around anywhere they wanted (one of the interviewees notes people would tell about their weekends saying "I went to my cousin's house" and "I ventured into an Abandoned Hospital and found a group of skinheads which pursued me" in the same tone). This included going on their own to the title park — basically a real-life Amusement Park of Doom, with rides that often injured guests and even a few deaths to their name.


Video Example(s):


"Kids on Bikes"

"Kids on Bikes" is SMOSH satirizing this trope, a member of a group of troperiffic kids trying to get one of their members to go on another adventure.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / FreeRangeChildren

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