Do Over-Protective Parents Take the Fun out of Being Kids?

Most of us grew up at the local playground without worrying about what could happen if we fell. More and more parents today are over-protective and spend more time worrying about what could happen rather than letting their kids have fun and occasionally skin their knees. Children need to learn independence and some sort of responsibility. It is part of growing up.

In The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin wrote an article, “The Overprotected Kid” which argues that the next generation is on the path to ruin thanks to safe playground equipment! Stating that common sense improvements like replacing the asphalt on playgrounds with grass or rubber can somehow be connected to “depression, narcissism, and a decline in empathy,” as well as “college-age kids taking psychiatric medication,” and even “a fear of growing up,” culminating in the next generation’s “inability to think for themselves.” They say that the primary solution to this societal collapse is “a new kind of playground.”

It is thought that this playground would “encourage a ‘free and permissive atmosphere’ with as little adult supervision as possible,” which would enable kids to “face what to them seem like ‘really dangerous risks’ and then conquer them alone.” This playground is made up of commercial refuse in which children sit on broken chairs, jump on “filthy” mattresses, start trashcan fires, and toss around discarded wooded pallets.

“The park is staffed by professionally trained ‘play workers,’ who keep a close eye on the kids but don’t intervene all that much…[A] play worker is always nearby, watching for impending accidents.” This would fail to let kids actually exercise independence (and suffer the consequences) and create a false sense of security even in truly dangerous situations.

Rosin believes that today’s playgrounds are harmful to children’s development because of their absence of needlessly dangerous components like asphalt (something not even found at adventure playgrounds) and exposed openings on climbing structures, a “problem” that stems from – lawsuits.

New Jersey had a 35-acre theme park nicknamed “Traction Park” due to the serious injuries (between 5 and 10 per day). Visitors knew they were risking life and limb each time they boarded one of the rickety rides. This park was later known as “Class Action Park” after six deaths resulted in a barrage of lawsuits being brought against the owners. The resort closed its doors in 1996. An online film about the park, The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever went viral. It triggered nostalgia about an era when parents worried less about potential injuries and children were encouraged to take risks.

There is an indoor trampoline playground, Off the Wall in Sunrise, Florida that requires parents or guardians to sign a waiver prior to their children entering the facility stating that in the event of serious injury or death, the facility is not liable. Parents continue to bring their children there to play. Is this is a good idea?

Joe Frost, a playground consultant put this into perspective, “In the real world, life is filled with risks – financial, physical, emotional, social – and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development.” It is not necessary to manufacture a risk for children to teach them that the world has risks; the world will show them plenty of risks on its own.

How do you feel about this new playground that substitutes asphalt with grass or rubber for children’s “safety?” Many kids have been hit in the head with swings in early days, yet most playgrounds still have swings today.

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