Monday, September 10, 2007

Protecting our children: Are we destroying childhood? - Telegraph

This is an outstanding piece, from Britain --  I can't find a single thing in it with which to disagree.  The state of childhood in modern urban areas is such that I have a hard time seeing my own childhood in my kids' -- there is simply very little similarity.

Whereas I spent most of my time outdoors, climbing trees, running thru fields, torturing frogs, and walking the 1/2 mile to the neighbor boys house, my son is only able to spend time outdoors when we're outside to supervise him.  In the front or back yard only.  The single neighborhood (next-door, in fact) boy he's been able to meet comes over a few times a week, and vice-versa.  Yes, the kids go to the park... all at 10-20 minutes walking distance.  Play dates, common in the toddler years, become less so as the original group ages.

The reason, as I see it, was touched on in the article.  The media, especially the American media, love fear.  Fear of food (genetically modified), fear of medicine (vaccines -- who cares that we've eradicated entire diseases in the united states? Be afraid anyway!), fear of the economy, fear of foreign nations, fear of guns, and the big ratings topic, fear of pedophiles.  I would wager there is no parent of a child under 10 in the United States today who can look at a male adult with, or near, a child, and wonder if he's a threat.

A new city design would help, of course.  Urban design, maximized for traffic (vehicle) throughput and housing density (even when considering only single family homes, and not complexes) has destroyed American cities.  No longer is the grocer a walk away; introduce yourself to a non-immediate neighbor passing, and they are as likely to ignore you as be afraid.  Of the retailers that are near enough for you to frequent, you'll just be another face, another name.  Perhaps I'll talk more on this later; it's a bit off-topic at the moment.

Snippet of the article:

When my youngest was born, his grandmother gave us a sampler she had embroidered of a little Victorian homily: "Dear little one / I wish you two things / To give you roots and to give you wings," it read.


Never mind wings, these days parenting consists largely of ensuring that our offspring venture nowhere near the edge of the nest; you never know what danger might lie beyond its cosy, bubble-wrapped confines.


Instead of allowing our youngsters to head off alone abroad, discovering life for themselves, we keep them indoors, plonked in front of screens.

And when we do let them step outside, it is only for the short journey from doorstep to car, as we ferry them in our accident-resistant people carriers from school to violin class to swimming lesson, formalising their leisure time, filling it with bustling purpose.

Coupled with over-prescriptive, exam-oriented educational curricula, the result, according to the signatories of the letter, has been an exponential rise in mental health problems, not to mention a decline in independent thinking, basic social skills and plain common sense. In short, smothered by their parents' anxiety, our kids are going stir crazy.

The experts' observation is not a new one. In 1999, the NSPCC issued a report suggesting that childhood was being over-regulated, the life squeezed out of it by parental panic.

Much of the blame was placed then - as now - on a wrongful assumption that a child was in danger from predatory adults the moment they ventured out of sight. As it happens, statistics tell us that no more children are killed or abducted by strangers these days than in the past.

The figures have barely changed in half a century. What's more, of the 50 or so children murdered every year, more than 90 per cent are killed by someone they love, their lives taken in the very place we assume them to be safest: the home.

Protecting our children: Are we destroying childhood? - Telegraph

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