Tuesday, June 05, 2007

There are reports on the news today about the fact that children have less freedom to roam and play than they used to. How parents are stopping them playing out because of fear of what may happen to them and the fact that this is causing problems later in life with their ability to form lasting bonds and friendships.

I agree that this is a problem.

When I look back on the camps that have run with Cubs that have been the biggest success they have been the ones with plenty of time put in for free time. This is what the kids demand, not to go abseiling or canoeing or rafting, but to go running off and climb trees and dam streams, to build dens and have water fights.

That is what being a child is all about and they love it! In fact I have sometimes wondered how successful a camp would be if we had no programme other than meal times. One for the future maybe!

I confess to not knowing the exact ground rules that my Cubs operate under at home, where they can go, when they have to be back etc, although at a guess I would say that they have slightly more free reign than average, but certainly not as much as I had at a similar age.

A worrying aspect of the report though is the complete misconception parents have about the risks their children face. If you are a parent ask yourself this, are you seriously concerned about the risk of your child being struck by lightening? Are you? Probably not. It’s something you may have considered and will probably have told your child not to try and fly a kite or shelter under a loan tree when there is lightening about, but that probably took 5 minutes and you have not thought much about it.

Now ask yourself, are you concerned about your child being abducted by a stranger? Are you? Probably you are. And you may well spend hours worrying about it, you’ve probably spent hours teaching your child the dangers and equally their school will have spent a lot of time too. And it seems that many children are actually restricted in what they can do because of this danger perceived by their parents.

Yet consider this, there is a greater risk of your child being struck by lightening than of being abducted by someone they do not know. The number it happens to is vanishingly small. The fact is, that is just not significant at all.

Of course I worry about the children in my care and when I take them out in public I do watch out for their safety as I will on Saturday when we are running an ice cream stand in town (shameless plug alert!). The fact is though that I wont be watching out for strangers trying to abduct them. I will be watching out for those Chelsea tractors that parents are driving their kids around in because of all those non existent dangers they perceive. The ones that kill and injure children every week.

I write this from the advantage of not being a parents myself. Maybe if I was my attitude would be different.

But while I may not be a parent, I can tell you that for 18 years I was most definitely a child. And in that time I was never approached by someone wanting to abduct me, and I learnt lessons by being let loose and making mistakes (I learnt don’t cycle down hill and high speed and go straight through pot holes the hard and painful way and still have the scar of my leg to prove it!).

Think about it.

1 comment:

Nick Kiddle said...

I agree that children need freedom to explore, but I wonder how much the risk of abduction really figures into parental protectiveness. My daughter's still way too young to be out on her own, but if she does run off, I'm more worried about cars than kidnappers.

Then there's the way other people's worries confuse the issue - if my daughter roams too far, one of the neighbours is sure to call the police, who will tell me she's in danger of getting kidnapped even if she isnt...