Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

Free the Kids!

I wrote a while ago about the overprotection of children. Turns out, this is a hot topic. You simply must read this article called Why I Let My 9-year old Ride the Subway Alone.

My reaction is mixed. I try not to subscribe to the culture of fear, but it is all around and so difficult to combat. When I arrived at my new district, I got a list of the 10,000 things that can go wrong and the correct emergency procedures. As I thumbed through the list, alphabetically ordered, (not by severity of disaster) I actually laughed out loud. When will I ever need to know the procedure for an emergency aircraft landing on school property?* Then, my amygdala, center of fear, and my frontal lobe o’ reason had a debate.

Amygdala: Wait. What if there WAS an aircraft that had to land in an emergency? Our school yard is kind of spacious…

Frontal Lobe: When was the last time an aircraft had to land at a school? It would only be newsworthy because it would be extraordinarily rare.

Amygdala: AAAAAAHHHH! Can’t you just see the 747 screaming toward the innocent little kindergartners? And there you are, personally responsible for not ushering them to safety.

Frontal Lobe: Would I even have time to react if a 747 was screaming towards us?

Amygdala: Better safe then sorry. I’ll be ready for the burning inferno of terror.

The real questions I have are: What impact does paranoid adult culture have on our children? Are we teaching them that the world is a scary and unpredictable place? How can educators take appropriate precautions to keep our kids safe without going overboard?

*Some other delightful scenarios included Antrax, Bioterrorism, Hazardous Material Spill Near Campus, and Snipers (Must. refrain. from. Hilliary. Clinton. joke.)

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Comments on Free the Kids!

  1. Christina says:

    I heard this writer on the radio a few weeks ago! As in most things, I was agreeing with her for a while, but she started to lose me with what I thought was unnecessary snarkiness. But maybe that was a natural reaction to being told she is akin to being a child abuser for letting her child ride the subway by himself.

    I don’t have kids, but I have to admit that her overall argument resonated with me, despite the snarkiness. I was a latchkey kid from 5th grade on with no ill effects. (Of course, the worst thing on TV then was reruns of Charlie’s Angels and Bonanza.) I used to roam widely in my neighborhood when I was even younger than that. I really cherish the uninterrupted and undirected play time I had as a kid. I liked being an “explorer.”

    Yet, I do have some sympathy for parents because the world is a different place; not that there’s so many more murderers in the world, but that kids can casually get into some REALLY BAD STUFF that I don’t think I would have been able to access quite so easily when I was growing up in the 1980s.

    You know one thing I don’t understand, though? “Play dates.” I just can’t imagine my parents formalizing my outings in that way. Not that they didn’t care, but, arranging times to play was MY job, I think was their rationale.

  2. Christina,

    Thanks for the comment. I am reading “A Nation of Wimps” now which contends that our overprotection of children is stymying the development of autonomy and causing all kinds of anxiety and depression. Two second review for all who care: Good premise. Belabors the point in every chapter. Not enough snarkyness!

    Your point about cherishing the unsupervised childhood time is well taken. I too have fond memories of exploring the neighborhood on bikes all summer (without my mom riding behind me in her stationwagon, phone primed with the 9 and 1 and finger over the last 1, making sure I didn’t get abducted). Shoot, should have thanked her yesterday on Mothers Day.

  3. I have noticed a recent bloom of stories in the local news lately that can be boiled down to “hysterical adults wildly overreact to perceived threat to children”. Just a couple days ago an entire elementary school was put on lockdown because a girl saw a man across the street who looked scary. story here. I don’t know what the deal is. Threats from strangers are still very rare compared to other harm that might befall children.

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