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children freedoms

41 replies

thespeckswings · 20/04/2021 17:30

To think the analysis referred to in this article is inadequate. It is true that freedoms for children are a thing of the past and that this is not great. But to think that we need to focus on the reasons why and do something about them and that should have been the focus of this research.

First sexual exploitation and manipulation and grooming of minors on the internet is a huge problem which needs to be sorted out and it is difficult to justify saying to a parent "just sent them out to have an adventure" when the problems are so stark. Secondly, teen gang violence in some areas nowadays is far beyond what it was when I was young. Thirdly the advice we get from police is to know where our dc are and what they are doing. And traffic.

And then the article makes a connection with mental health about children not getting outside enough. In my experience, the children not getting out are those who are gaming or watching tv or not doing other activities and not interracting with anyone including familiies. This is the core problem isn't it? If parents are taking dc out, dc get a lot of time outside but parents keep an eye, organiising social things and activities, where the children play freely but while still on the parents' radar, is this really going to definitely lead to MH problems just because the child isn't doing it on their own before the age of 11?

The children I know who had protective parents started to be very independent at around 14 and went on to be independent, happy, successful adults.

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SmokedDuck · 21/04/2021 12:48

Preventing children from doing relatively non-risky things because there is any risk at all will lead to very unhealthy scenarios. This is the kind of thing that is the biggest argument against restricting children.

films from the 70s about "stranger danger" notwithstanding, the risk of a child being kidnapped is similar to the risk of a child, without a heart condition, having a heart attack. There are many more significant risks in everyday like that people do not worry about (being in the car is number 1.)

This should be a clue that there is something else going on psychologically in people's decision making. It is really about an increased and inaccurate sense of risk caused by the media -or what I suspect is that it is an attempt to try and gain a feeling of control, we live in a society that has a lot of myths around the idea that if you do the right thing, you will be ok - conversely if you are not ok, you did not do the right thing.

These things are not evidence based however, they are about a weird social consensus that amounts to superstition.

But this keeping kids in creates some really substantial risks, obesity being one, lack of certain social skills another, and anxiety another.

LadyOfLittleLeisure · 21/04/2021 13:49


Leaving independence too late risks safety too. A child who is more naive than their peers may be more susceptible to being conned which could be dangerous I am not sure that being away from parents = savvy and that conversely that parents knowing where the dc are and that an adult can see them = not savvy necessarily though. Savvy parents can teach their kids to be savvy, and children who have not had vast amounts of freedom are not necessarily going to be naive, surely.

I also agree with the pp that there is a huge difference between parents stepping in and intervening in play, and an adult keeping a watchful eye but giving the kids freedom of action. Also, not all children want that kind of freedom until they are older.

Also this is referring to a study. Is there any bonafide research about allowing children out of sight being good for mental health?

Professor Peter Gray (you can do a Google or YouTube search) has done lots of research on the benefits of playing without a parent watching over.
thespeckswings · 21/04/2021 18:44

@ladyoflittleleisure I found Gray last night - his articles in PsychologyToday made some really interesting and good points about how 50 or so years ago, holidays were longer, breaktimes were longer, school day was shorter - children had far more free time for exploration. But I couldn't see actual research about benefits of playing without a parent watching over. Could you link?

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thespeckswings · 21/04/2021 18:54

In relation to Gray he said that the risks today were no worse than 50 years ago, and I cannot see how he came to that conclusion, though. Even before you factor in how many morally void adults are involved in dark web sites, and how many children will be affected by those activities, I live in the country and the sheer size and speed of farm vehicles and the use of chemicals and the speed of cars on nearby roads today is nothing like what it was like 50 years ago.

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LadyOfLittleLeisure · 21/04/2021 18:57

@thespeckswings I'll try to find it after I've put the kids to bed for you :) I read it ages ago so not sure I'll find it again

JudgeJ · 21/04/2021 19:08


I was a child in the 60s/70s I think we can have a very idealistic view of how freedom was for children then. We were always supervised. We never had that ...go out and not come back for hours thing. Speaking to a lot of my friends l realise l am one of the few who didn't have any incident of sexual abuse as child..from neighbours flashing to others dropping the hand to far more serious ongoing stuff. Also a lot, especially boys suffered huge ongoing bullying that no one ever knew about. I was brought up on a farm and we never got to walk to the shops as too far or roam the streets with friends but we all grew up very independent without the massive baggage some were carrying due to this ' wonderful freedom"
My own DC grew up in the 90s and l followed the same pattern and they also are independent, ready for most challenges in life. My advise from this stance in life is supervise your children while letting them have lots of fun.

Growing up in the mid 50s I am probably one of the last of the children who were 'out all day'! We walked miles, in our heads, the reality is that we were never more than about 300 yards from home, we went round in circles! As well as the huge increase in traffic, much of where we hung out in our dens has been built on.
thespeckswings · 21/04/2021 21:38


But this keeping kids in creates some really substantial risks, obesity being one, lack of certain social skills another, and anxiety another you are confusing two ideas here - parents who want a responsible adult to be around still organise outings, let kids explore and do adventurous play for hours, organise social events, and out of the many families i knew growing up where an adult was always nearby, no one grew up with the problems you are thinking of. the problems you are referring to is when children spend too much time on the computer, or where things aren't organised by parents?

Where I live kids have a lot of space and wildness to play in, but adults are usually in sight - say, 100m away but in sight - mostly ignored by dc - is that a problem do you think?

It is really about an increased and inaccurate sense of risk caused by the media do you think that what I wrote about dark web sites is made up be the media? Because the documentary I saw was mostly made up of specialist police interviews.

we live in a society that has a lot of myths around the idea that if you do the right thing, you will be ok - conversely if you are not ok, you did not do the right thing we live in a society where some people may have this belief system but it isn't the cultural norm or considered healthy in our society - it is the opposite of what psychologists such as Dorothy Rowe says.

films from the 70s about "stranger danger" notwithstanding, the risk of a child being kidnapped... the advice about abduction isn't based on 1970s films, it is advice from the police and similar organisations, and advice is given by psychologists about what to say and do with children to mitigate risks. The risks are not just to do with kidnapping, it is also to do with manipulation/grooming/abuse of a child when they are not being supervised. i agree that this is not ideal for children but it isn't fiction based or media driven.

You say These things are not evidence based however - is what you are saying evidence based, and if so can you link?

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Stompythedinosaur · 22/04/2021 00:22

There may be fewer articles about the benefits of playing without adult supervision, but there are lots about the benefits of opportunities for dc to gain a sense of mastery, and playing without supervision is a route towards that. There's also a body of articles about the negative impact of hovering/helicopter parenting.

But, I fully appreciate that if you live in an area with no suitable play spaces for dc and high traffic risk or other negative environmental factors it may be impossible for dc to play out.

I'm less convinced of the "paedophile lurking round every corner" perceived risks. I work involves working with a lot of exploited children, and the things that make dc vulnerable to this aren't a few hours playing out, it is a combination of lack of supervision (not independent play for specific periods) as well as not having emotional needs met in other areas of their lives.

thespeckswings · 22/04/2021 21:08

Thank you @Stompythedinosaur but I cannot access either article, can you link actual articles?

This thread wasn't really about my dc, it was more irritation that many parents feel caught between a rock and a hard place about this - wanting and valuing their child's independence and autonomy but being surrounded by significant risk (which I do think are real risks rather than imaginary risks). And I think also lacking easily accessible informed guidance about age appropriate freedoms, unless I am just being dense.

Without having read the articles, though, I do also think that there is a huge difference between helicopter parenting and parents knowing that there is an adult knowing whereabouts of their primary aged dc?

I left home early and am very pro autonomy and independence, but the research I have read so far indicates that children who do best are taught good emotional intelligence and other skills through childhood, have emotional support from someone, are encouraged and supported to achieve their potential, who have someone who believes in them. In relation to independence, to prepare the child increasingly by telling them about risks and talking about situations they are likely to come across. I have seen a lot supporting helping a child to think for themselves, to solve problems, to make choices, to help them be resilienct, to help bully proof them, to go with them first time they travel alone for older children. I haven't yet seen anything about sending primary children to the park on their own, genuinely.

I agree with the risk factors in your last paragraph, but in relation to numbers of paedophiles but in relation to numbers of adults involved in sexual exploitation of minors, do you via your work get statistics and input from police? I have had more experience of this than I wanted over the last 10 years, and have been horrified by the numbers. Possibly I am unlucky where I am. I know a local police person socially who has confirmed that vigilance is really important. We went out today to a local town, and not one single primary aged child was alone.

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thespeckswings · 22/04/2021 21:18

I just googled helicopter parenting and it does seen to be all to do with the relationship style with the child, not to do with whether they go to the park on their own or play without being watched - ie watched as distinct from supervised and micromanaged.

The article talked about not taking charge of the child's learning and success and says "So what do we do? We do perhaps the most difficult thing a parent can do—we let our children fail once in a while. By not allowing them to fail, we prevent them from learning how to flexibly deal with problems, and perhaps even how to deal with difficult emotions (Perez-Edgar, 2019)"

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thespeckswings · 22/04/2021 21:19

Sorry about all the mistakes - it was a long day!

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thespeckswings · 22/04/2021 21:25

Gray was mentioned upthread - this is an article about some of what he says about child self directed play in case anyone is interested

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Tinyspiky · 22/04/2021 21:31

My child games, plays sports, plays out and spends time with family. So doesn't really fit with your theory. They're not mutually exclusive.
He also played out from age 7 and had a ball. I did/do always know where he is. Now aged 13 he's at more danger in his room online than he is out his bike with his mates. I think it's incredibly sad that so many people won't or can't for whatever reasons give their kids freedom.

thespeckswings · 22/04/2021 21:39

tinyspiky you say your dc played out at 7, but you always knew where he was - so you could see him? if so that is the same as what i said?

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Tinyspiky · 22/04/2021 22:01

Not necessarily, he would sometimes play outside his friends in the next street or they would all play on the communal green at the end of our streets (there's quite a few of them at school together who are also neighbours) and the parents were all friends/in touch so yes I knew where he was.

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