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Is Too Much Supervision Hurting Our Kids?

What happened to how we used to play? Kids aren't in more danger today, but we act like they are. Is supervision making kids that are unable to function?
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Pop quiz!

play at playground

1.) It's more dangerous out there for our kids now than when we were kids (T/F)

2.) Playgrounds keep kids safer now than the old playgrounds from when you were a kid (T/F)

3.) The risk of abduction is greater now than when you were a kid (T/F)

4.) Would you trust your kid to walk by themselves to school? (Y/N)

5.) As a child did you spend hours away from your home and parents, roaming with your friends, even getting into scrapes, or just exploring? (Y/N)

6.) Could you imagine your kid spending as much time playing outside and without parental supervisions as you did? (Y/N)


1.) False. Is it the same amount of dangerous now as it was then. In fact, it might even be safer today than when you were a kid.

2.) False. Despite all the rubber mats and plastic coated metal surfaces, kids get injured at the same rates as they did back when playgrounds were just burning metal pipes and asphalt.

3.) False. Abduction, which (outside of family custody cases) is extremely rare, and occurs at roughly the same rate as it did in the 1970s.

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4.) Probably "No," because kids walking by themselves has largely disappeared.

5.) You probably said "Yes."

6.) Probably not.

What happened to childhood play?

Hanna Rosin's incredible new article for The Atlantic, "The Overprotected Kid", is an absolute must read for any parent. Rosin realized that her 10-year-old daughter had probably spent no more than 10 minutes of time unsupervised in her entire life. Contrast that with Rosin's own childhood in Queens, New York, where she would disappear for the entire day, rarely seeing her mother. And Rosin isn't alone.

Don't you remember how you used to disappear with your friends for hours at a time? Exploring, building, hiding, playing, making up songs and dances, fighting, tossing a ball, always playing in the street, coming up with strict hierarchical kid societies, disappearing into nature? That happened. Why can't it happen for your children? It's different today, right? Turns out, it's not different, we just think it's different.

Supervision that Hurts

All that supervised time, from play dates, organized sports, and parent-accompanied park visits, is making our children more anxious, unable to solve problems and issues, ignorant of true risk, physically untested, and creates overall less capable adults. Kids take greater risks later because they never took the small risks that taught them acceptable risk taking. All that careful, hovering parenting created a nation of anxiety-laden people.

"Failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent," Rosin writes, mirroring my own feelings. I would love to give my child more free time, less supervised play dates and more spontaneous gatherings, but the condemnation you face from other parents can be incredibly stifling. Haven't you wanted to just let your kids go, but the thought of someone calling authorities because you let kids walk to the park and play alone--no one wants to deal with that. Because what if? What if something terrible happened? What if our kids made a stupid choice? It would be your fault, right? We're ignoring all the amazing things that could happen, like children growing into capable and secure adults, because we're scared.

We're scared of things that rarely happen, like abductions, negating the vast good that allowing kids the freedom to make choices can yield. Abductions make the news because they are so rare, not because they happen all the time. All the risk you see in the media, all the terrible things that could happen, is that enough of a reason to put our kids into hermetically sealed jars where their bones and souls grow weak from disuse?

It's Time to Reclaim our Kids' Childhoods--by Letting Them Go

We should make a pact: get to know our neighbors, let our kids out to play, show them the safe way to walk to school and let them walk. Let our kids make mistakes, do dumb things, so they learn not to do dumb things. We have to let them go so they can grow. Do you think you can?

Go read Hanna's article!


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