A child harness (alternative: child tether, child leash, British English: walking reins) is a safety restraint for walking with children. The device is mostly used with toddlers and children of preschool age, and typically consists of a shoulder harness with a lead (tether) secured in the back, either directly or by means of a hook.
When the device is used, a child wears the harness and a parent or a guardian holds the end of the lead or attaches it to their wrist. This allows the child relative freedom of movement in comparison to being seated in a stroller, carried by the adult (with or without a child carrier), or being held by the hand. At the same time, the child harness prevents child separation from the adult by the way of the child running off in a crowded or dangerous area.
There exists a difference of opinion on the use of child harnesses. Those in favor argue for the benefit of enhanced safety, and increased freedom of movement compared to hand-holding or confinement of children to strollers. Those opposed to their use prefer restraining children through hand-holding, not making them seem like animals, confinement to strollers, or not permitting children who behave badly or wander away to leave their homes.
The devices are becoming more popular, which has prompted retailers to add more designs. Newer versions often include a backpack or a stuffed animal, with the lead attaching underneath, which softens the appearance.
Some adults disapprove of the use of child harnesses and will express their judgementalism to parents and caregivers who are using them, for example, by making rude remarks to strangers that are using child harnesses. In some cases, the disapproval is because the critic does not have any personal experience with a young child who is unusually impulsive or has invisible disabilities that can cause a child to run away. In other cases, parents who are experienced with children with any number of special needs find the practice of leashing children repugnant, as if a parent can simply look away and depend upon a restraining system rather than giving a child a child's due.