Turns out, the big Agua Dulce fire that threatened so many homes right here in my area was started by a kid playing with matches out in the desert. 38,000 acres reduced to ash, 21 homes lost, and some beloved local institutions (like the Lombardi pumpkin patch) damaged, because a bored suburban kid decided to, literally, play with fire.
The boy’s age has not been released, so it’s a little early to start passing very severe judgments, tempting as it might be to do that. Kids do stupid stuff sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re malicious. Parents don’t always have the ability to monitor what their kids are up to. Parents are encouraged to tell their kids to “go out and play,” but there’s always a possibility that when they do that, something like this could happen.
I’ve never been one to say that parents should be held responsible for everything their kids do, because that doesn’t seem like a reasonable interpretation of a parent’s degree of control. And, to complicate matters, kids just don’t always think things through or know what the consequences of their actions might be.
There isn’t a good answer to the problem of what to do with kids whose adventures lead to serious consequences like this. This is why law enforcement officers and prosecutors and judges have to be given discretion to make judgment calls on a case-by-case basis.