Are We Over Protecting Our Children?

Are We Over Protecting Our Children?

By []Tony S Gee

The short answer to this question is simply 'YES'.

Fears regarding safety and litigation have resulted in playgrounds that are unchallenging and unappealing to young people. Parents are obsessively concerned with protecting their children and this is leading to their offspring not developing the resilience and physical skills that they need.

The streets today are choked with traffic, unrecognisable compared with the roads that we used to play in as children. And the toys of today (video games and computers) actually appear to encourage physical idleness. The explosion in the use of the mobile phone has also contributed to the lazy, sedentary lives that many of us and our children lead today.

Surveys of children and young people have shown that most would actually like to spend more time engaged in healthy activities but facilities no longer exist. Many of us can recall growing up at a time when people were poor and there were very few purpose built facilities for young people. We look at the modern parks and play areas and think 'what is wrong with kids today, we didn't have all this when we were young.'

It is true that the modern, well designed and safe play areas and parks didn't exist when we were young but what we did have was space. The roads were far less crowded and it was possible to play football or soccer in the street outside your house. Where there are now housing estates and car parking spaces there was once open space, ideal for adventurous play. The playgrounds of the sixties and seventies would have just a few pieces of poorly maintained playground equipment. Maybe a slide, some swings and occasionally a roundabout. The fact that the equipment was old and a little dangerous made it all the more exciting! Today much of this equipment would be considered unsafe and local authorities would not allow it to be used for fear of expensive claims for damages if a child hurt themselves using it.

It is us, the older generation who are responsible for these changes and the growing risk aversion that is denying our children the opportunities to play outdoors. I am not suggesting that we should tolerate poorly maintained or dangerous playground equipment in our parks and play areas but what I am saying is that we are responsible for the overcrowded, unhealthy society in which we live today and the over-protection of our youngsters. The developmental needs of our children have been pushed aside as we have tried to make everything ultra-safe in order to allay our anxieties whilst, at the same time, we've allowed our towns and cities to become horribly overcrowded.

We need to fix things now! We need to provide our children with the opportunities to play outdoors, to have adventures, to develop their physical skills, resilience and to be trusted. We need to take a hard look at the society that we have created and the examples that we set and take steps to make it a healthy society with facilities and attitudes that encourage youngsters to develop healthy habits.

By Tony S Gee

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