Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Inside or outside: which is it?

No child left inside:

Concerns about long-term consequences -- affecting emotional well-being, physical health, learning abilities, environmental consciousness -- have spawned a national movement to "leave no child inside." In recent months, it has been the focus of Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, a U.S. Forest Service initiative to get more children into the woods and a national effort to promote a "green hour" in each day.

Tomorrow 40 civic leaders -- representing several governors, three big-city mayors, Walt Disney Co., Sesame Workshop, DuPont, the gaming industry and others -- will launch a campaign to raise $20 million that will ultimately fund 20 initiatives across the country to encourage children to do what once seemed second nature: go outdoors.

Capitol Hill hearings? Really? Mr. Senator, I have no specific memory of not allowing my six-year-old daughter to play in the cul de sac.

Advocates and researchers have been aware of the downturn in outdoor activity for a long time, and it has been documented by experts such as Sandra Hofferth, a family studies professor at the University of Maryland. From 1997 to 2003, Hofferth found, there was a decline of 50 percent, from 16 to 8 percent, in the proportion of children 9 to 12 who spent time in such outside activities as hiking, walking, fishing, beach play and gardening. Organized sports were not included as an outdoor activity in the study, which was based on detailed time diaries.

Hofferth's study also showed an increase in computer play time for all children and in time spent on television and video games for those ages 9 to 12. And it found increases in sleep time, study time and reading time.

More sleep time can't be bad, can it?

Experts suggest a major factor in the decline of outdoor time is parental fears about leaving children unattended -- aggravated by excessive media coverage of horrific crimes.

Changes in family life have also had an influence: more mothers in the workforce, more structured playtime, more organized sports. Fewer hours are left for kids to slip out the back door and play hide-and-seek, catch fireflies, skip stones, create imaginary worlds around makeshift forts.

Stranger danger is a big fear of a friend of mine. I once overheard her instructing her 12-year-old daughter thusly, "When you get to the playground, call me. If you don't call me, I'll think you've been hurt and I'll have to call the police and they'll come and be very angry if nothing is wrong, so make sure you call me, okay? And if I call you, you must answer the phone by the third ring..."

I was aghast at this conversation. The daughter may have been 10 or 11 at the time, by the way, but I remember thinking, why call her at all? Just tell her to be back by a certain time. I try to slip into our conversations, how crime has gone down since the 70's whenever she and I talk about kid safety. "In this day and age, Nance--in this day and age..." is what I get back.

Add to that dual at-work parenting and the kids are at daycare from 8 to 6. But I would guess they get at least an hour if not two of free time on the playground per day.

But all of this is a waste of time anyway. If the WaPo writers would read the NYT's, they'd realize the less time spent out in the sun, the better.
I’d be the last person to suggest that children spend the glorious months of summer indoors. I want them out playing actively year-round, and the warm months are ideal for such activities as running through sprinklers, swimming, boating, playing ball, riding bicycles and scooters, playing in sandboxes and on playground equipment, and otherwise having a grand old time being children.

But just as children must be protected against the hazards of traffic and predators, so must they also be protected against the downside of that life-giving force, the sun.
There you have it: traffic, predators, sun. Better to keep the nation's children safe by having them sit still, sit very still. That way, nobody moves and nobody gets hurt.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Mike LaRoche said...

Stranger danger is a big fear of a friend of mine. I once overheard her instructing her 12-year-old daughter thusly, "When you get to the playground, call me. If you don't call me, I'll think you've been hurt

Wow, talk about helicopter parenting. And now the federal government - via the urging of busybody politicians, social workers, and academics - is trying to fill the role of national helicopter parent.

We've quickly gone from "no child left behind" to "no child left alone."

3:01 PM  
Blogger David N. Scott said...

HAHAHA...

Sorry, but that really makes me laugh. So if I let my kid play outside and she gets hurt or something, Child Protective Services won't step in and laminate me? I'd sort of gotten the opposite impression.

With ever more strict media and police notions of neglect out there, no wonder kids don't get to play.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

I say parents need to not be so influenced by the wishy-washy media when raising their children! No one knows ones children better than their MOM and DAD, period. Instead of looking here and there for confirmation, go with one's gut instinct because again, no one knows those children better than you!

12:11 PM  

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