Journal: News & Comment

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
# 1:48:00 PM:

Kids need to take risks

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From Maclean's via

In Britain, as in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, an overwhelming concern for safety—along with a desire to safeguard against child-injury litigation—has completely altered the landscape of kids' activities over the past 20 years. [...] When [Ute Navidi] asks audiences to reminisce about their childhood experiences, they recall excitedly how they climbed trees, got dirty, built forts and broke a lot of limbs. [...] But when she asks about the same risk-taking opportunities for their kids, they balk. "I wouldn't let my children do that," is the common refrain.

The story mentions something that hit me a last year: an 11-year-old Utah boy was lost in the woods, and stayed that way for four days because he'd had "don't talk to strangers" so drilled into him that he hid from his rescuers. As far as I've been able to determine, the risks to kids today, especially from being abducted by a stranger, aren't significantly greater than before (i.e. not very great), and except in places like my neighbourhood where car traffic has increased since I was a kid, other risks aren't measurably higher either.

Life is risky, and one thing kids need to learn is how to recognize and manage those risks. It's a tough task as a parent, as our daughters grow into their early grades at school, for my wife and me to find the line between protection and overprotection.

Oh, and so far, the two places where our kids have received the greatest injuries (requiring trips to the hospital) were stepping out of our bathtub onto a terracotta pot, and bouncing on the bed in my parents' den. Go figure.


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