Gone are the days…

Do you have memories of playing in the streets and fields with your friends as a child? Maybe you remember games of football in the street, playing kick the can, chickenelly, hopscotch? Seems like as children we were always playing outside – running, skipping, playing conkers, and generally sneaking into any area we shouldn’t have been in.

Here’s how the streets used to look:

Perhaps we really were the lucky ones – if we look further back to Victorian times, many children who played out in the streets were picked up as ‘vagrants’ or were found to not have ‘proper guardianship’. This led to many children being removed from their community and placed in industrial schools such as The Mars, often for up to 10 years. We’ve done some research on the injustices and harsh sentences placed on children in Victorian Dundee that we’ll be writing up soon as a featured article, so be sure to subscribe to our mailing list so that you don’t miss it.

Anyway, I digress – what of today’s children?

Research shows that in the last few generations, children’s freedom to roam has been drastically reduced.  Young children from the early 1900’s sometimes travelled several miles unsupervised in their quest to play and explore, whereas the young children of today are lucky to be allowed to the end of their street without the watchful eye of a parent or protector. 30% of our children are now classed as obese, but ask experts and they’ll tell you it’s the child’s inactivity and not their size that’s the worrying statistic. Even though most parents are aware of the value and benefits of outdoor play, they can still be wary of “stranger-danger”, busy traffic and other perceived risks. Although the media can often hype up the idea of stranger danger, children are actually more likely to have a heart attack than they are to be kidnapped by a stranger.

Recently there have been cases reported where parents have been arrested for allowing children to play in the park alone, walk to the park alone, and even just play unsupervised right outside their own homes. While most of these reports come from America, when asked a majority of people responded that they thought parents should be arrested for letting children outdoors unsupervised.

Where did this thinking come from?

Don’t most of us have fond memories from our own childhood of playing outside and exploring without an army of helicopter parents watching over us? What happened to the world that we are suddenly so keen to limit the extent to which our children can explore the world? There has always been terrible darkness in the world, but is it any worse now than it was, say, 100 or 200 years ago? Have crimes against children increased, or is it our knowledge and sources of information that have increased, heightening our sense of awareness and protectiveness over our loved ones?

What do you think – should we let our children roam free and explore the world they live in, or are parents who let their children outside alone irresponsible criminals?

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