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The Rise of the Helicopter Parents

A very opinionated article

Image Courtesy of PhotoStock & FreeDigitalphotos.netImage Courtesy of PhotoStock & FreeDigitalphotos.netHelicopter parenting is the technique parents use to raise their children. The term signifies how children are hovered over by parents, in order to protect them and facilitate success. Small families are more inclined to have helicopter parents because, let's face it, it is near impossible to hover over five children.

Why & how parents are commonly over protecting children...

Over protective parents are recognised by Thomasgard & Metz (1993, p.68) to:

  • be attentive and continuously supervising their children

  • not deal with separation from their child well

  • encourages dependent behaviour

  • over schedules their child and controls all aspects of their life

Living conditions, moral panic and parents having desires to raise successful children are contributing factors for children experiencing childhood indoors (Malone 2007). The media scares parents into a moral panic (Howard 2011). Parents are confronted with images that express the idea that their children could be victimised also, and they therefore need to protect their child. The perceived idea that children are innocent has given parents the desire to protect and control the dangers being exposed to their child, they feel it is their responsibility as children are perceived to be vulnerable and less capable to dealing with dangerous situations than adults (Howell 2010).

Additionally, parents are restricting children due to social pressure. Mothers are increasingly working full time, yet still being pressured by society to remain as the main provider of care to children; this makes mothers feel guilty and therefore more attentive to children (Howard 2011; Malone 2007). Mothers fear that if they do not provide qualitative care to their child, where they act as chauffers and maids, other parents will ‘look down’ on them or they will be seen as neglectful (Malone 2007).

Over protectiveness has various antecedents, it can result from environmental and social influences or biological factors effecting children.  Children whom are behind in development, have an ongoing medical condition or are shy or short tempered tend to be protected more by parents. Protectiveness adjusts with the child’s age and development. Additionally children brought up in city environments are restricted on the grounds of traffic and stranger danger, whilst children on farms are protected from animals and machinery (Thomasgard & Metz 1993).

Besides the media, the influence of advertisers on parents to protect children is also a contributing factor. Advertisers manufacture commercials to feed the fear of parents. For instance, seat covers for shopping trolleys where children sit are proclaimed to protect children from the surface of “many germs”, yet shopping trolleys are not considered a main place of spreading germs. This feeds to the fear that children are vulnerable to major health risks.

In Summary...

The consequence of not allowing children to venture out alone in the community is alarming. Protecting children from the dangers of the outside world in order to maintain their innocence actually does more harm than good. Children are limited in being exposed to risks and possibly dangerous situations; their potential to gain ‘street smart’ skills is restricted as well as other learning possibilities (Malone 2007). Children are  continuously enrolled in planned activities which are generally not what the child wants, for example, 87% of children participate in sporting events, however the participation was eighth in line of what the child most wanted to do (Malone 2007, p. 519).

Children of helicopter parents have many consequences to their parenting skills, including lack of independence, lack of confidence, lack of ability to perform social tasks and lack of problem solving skills (LeMoyne & Buchanan 2011).

Below is a table that summarises (but is not limited to), ways children are protected, why and the consequences..

How Parents overprotect children

Why Parents overprotect children

Consequences/ Evidence suggesting over protection

Children have all their activities planned and scheduled; they are to attend after school activities – whether instruments classes, tutoring or sport. (Malone 2007)

This limits children time spent in ‘free play’, where they are not supervised and could be taking part in inappropriate activities. Also, helps ensure child has adequate skills to be successful in life.

These children grow up into a generation that does not know how to entertain themselves.(Hirsch & Goldberger 2010)

Children are not allowed to play in mud or dirt, they are not allowed to climb trees, ride their bikes past certain driveways (Marano & Skenazy 2011)

Children are feared to be vulnerable to health risks, they may break an arm, be in contact with germs etc and therefore become ill (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

By parents discouraging children to not play outside, they instead find indoor activities which limits the amount of exercise, thus adding to the obesity epidemic (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Children who are protected from “unhealthy” interaction and outdoor activities limit their immune systems, which could explain the rise in allergies and asthma (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Children are increasingly not allowed to participate in Haloween in America (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Fear of children being poisoned by potential child predators through giving lollies; fear of children being abducted or victim to abuse or crime (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Children miss out on a childhood experience, they miss out on the social interaction and the possible skills of utilising manners to strangers, such as “hello” “thankyou”


This day is considered one of the safest days for children as so many people are on the streets (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Children are transported to activities by parents who drive cars, they are hardly ever expected to walk, ride a bike or catch public transport (Malone 2007).

fear of stranger danger, their child be abducted or victim to crime.

Children become fearful of strangers. They develop poor social skills and confidence in communicating (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Statistics suggest female ‘children’ aged between 15 and 19 are more likely to be abducted, however, they only accounted for 45 of the 768 people abducted in 2004 (Statistics 2008).


Malone (2007) discusses how Australian streets are actually safer now than what they were previously.


Fear of child being confronted with traffic situations believed to be difficult, such as crossing a busy road (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Children become fearful of traffic, they have low confidence in their skills; Children need to learn how to cross a road from a young age to prepare them for adulthood. Not having the skills built up over time can cause anxiety for these children (Marano & Skenazy 2011).

Parents insist on not allowing children to play with toy guns or role play potentially violent scenarios, such as cowboys and Indians etc (Donahoo & Andrusiak 2008).

Fear that “gunplay” and role playing scenarios will fuel violence in adulthood (Donahoo & Andrusiak 2008).

Children are limited in their ability to be creative, they are not able to establish possible confrontation experiences and resolutions to this (Marano & Skenazy 2011).


Children who are violent or delinquent are more likely to derive from a parent who does not supervise, monitor or give age appropriate activities to children. Such involvement needs to be balanced so that they are not over protecting the child (Biebelhausen 2006).

toy items that may be stolen or cause arguments between children (Such as Pokemon trading cards) are avoided by parents (Newsweek 1999).

To protect children from being victim of theft, or to protect them from arguing (Newsweek 1999).

Children are not able to develop problem solving  or negotiating skills (LeMoyne & Buchanan 2011).

Children are supervised and limited in internet use

Children are perceived to be vulnerable to the dangers luring on the internet. Parents fear children will learn about hate groups and cults and how to be violent and gamble; additionally, children will have their privacy invaded, will be confronted with gender inequality, cultural imperialism and sexual representation (Potter & Potter 2001)

Children do not learn net etiquette; they are protected from images and real life situations; they therefore are not able to gather information and form personal opinions on certain topics.


a study on predators online revealed that whilst children being confronted by sexual information occurred mostly in chat rooms (65%), the amount of relationships formed on the internet that turned sexual were very minimal (Potter & Potter 2001).












































































Facts about overprotecting children

  • Parental anxiety is considerably higher for parents than children by 20% (Malone 2007, p. 517).

  • “The combination of a shy child and an anxious controlling parent could result in a pattern of interaction leading to an anxious child for whom novel events would be particularly stressful, inviting the parent to intensify a pre-existing tendency to over protect” (Thomasgard & Metz 1993, p.69) 

  • Parents are increasingly becoming “theme park parents”, where parents take children on one off adventures instead of spending quality and consistent free time together (Malone 2007, p. 523).

  • Mothers tend to be more overprotective than fathers; the fathers tend to take the back seat so that they do not intervene with the mother’s emotional needs (Thomasgard & Metz 1993).


 What's your opinion on helicopter parents, is it necessary?














Biebelhausen, LA 2006,Protective parent and youth factors in the prevention of externalizing behaviour in early adolescence, thesis, Case Western Reserve University, viewed 17th September 2011, Australian Digital Thesis Database.

Donahoo, D & Andrusiak, T 2008, ‘Modern parents’ toy trouble’, EurekaStreet, Vol. 18, No. 18, pp. 1-2.

Hirsch, D & Goldberger, E 2010, ‘Hovering practices in and outside the classroom’, About Campus, January/February, pp. 30-32.

Howard, BJ 2011, ‘Landing helicopter parents’, Padiatric News, Vol. 45, No. 7, p.8.

Howell, JP 2010, Parents watching: introducing surveillance into modern American parenting, Thesis, University of Iowa, Viewed 17th September 2011, Australian Digital Thesis Database.

LeMoyne, T & Buchanan, T  2011, ‘Does hovering matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on wellbeing’, Sociological Spectrum, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 399-418.

Malone, K 2007, ‘The bubble-wrap generation: children growing up in walled gardens’, Environmental education research, Vol. 13, No. 4, Pp 513-527.

Marano, H & Skenazy, L 2011, ‘Why Parents Should Stop Overprotecting Kids and Let Them Play’, American Journal of Play, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp 423 -442.

Newsweek 1999, ‘Is Pokemon evil? Well, probably not. But educators and parents still worry it’s gone too far’, Newsweek, Vol. 134, No. 20, p. 72.

Potter, RH & Potter, LA 2001, ‘The internet, cyberporn, and sexual exploitation of children: media moral panics and urban myths for middle class parents?’, Sexuality and Culture, Vol. 5, No. 3, Pp. 31-48. 

Rouch, G Thomson, G Wilson, N Hudson, S Edwards, R Gifford, H & Lanumata, T 2010, ‘Public, private ad personal: qualitative research on policymakers’ opinions on smokefree interventions to protect children in ‘private’ spaces’, BMC Public Health, Vol. 10 pp 797-807.

Statistics2008, viewed 19th September 2011, <>

Thomasgard, M & Metz, WP 1993, ‘Parental overprotection revisited’, Child Psychiatry and Human Development, Vol. 24, No. 2, Pp 67-80.