I met a guy at a party last week who makes his daughter phone home after walking one block to her friend's house. And he's in a suburb. The leafy kind! Two parents told me they won't let their kids walk to the mail box. There's too much "opportunity" for them to get snatched. Other parents told me that they'd love to let their kids start going out on their own - at maybe 13, or 14. Until then...When my son was nine he rode his bike to school alone, and many other parents thought I was borderline abusive for this. I recall a story from a few years ago of a teen who rode his bike in all weather to school - a "concerned" parent actually called child protective services in on the parents because the Boy Scout was forced to endure weather!
In they stay. Or they're driven around by their parents.
The fact that a child is literally forty times more likely to die in a car accident than at a stranger's hands makes no difference. Driving is seen as safe. Freedom - once a right of childhood -- is seen as suicidal.
Admittedly, nine seems a little young to me, but if the kid is familiar with the route and knows his way, I'm not going to freak about a parent who allows this. In response to all the media attention and controversey, Lenore Skenazy started a new blog, Free Range Kids.