The current generation is arguably the safest generation ever to be raised.
The child mortality rate has been on a steady decline in Canada. This may be due,in part, to the great improvements in child safety measures over the past few generations.
Advancements in car safety, such as the widespread use of seat belts and car seats have helped save countless lives. The acknowledgement and accommodation for severe allergies, as well as advancements in medical care have helped to decrease the number of preventable deaths.
Most importantly is the dissemination of general knowledge regarding standard safety measures. But, in this fever to protect children, have we gone too far? Have we accidentally deprived these children of experiences essential to their development?
One manifestation of this is the replacement of old, tall playgrounds for new ‘safer’ playgrounds. These new edited playgrounds seem to be designed more for the parents than their children.
The way that kids are allowed to play has been shaped by parental concern, federal guidelines and, most importantly, the fear of lawsuits.
This method of preventing children from injuring themselves on the playground may be more effective than anticipated because the equipment does not make children feel like playing on it at all.
Measures like reducing the height of playgrounds makes it easier for toddlers to use, but will discourage older children.
The unchallenging equipment and the volume of younger children on the playground may cause the older children to find some other, potentially dangerous, source of entertainment or to give up on play entirely.
The safer playgrounds may actually not be keeping kids any safer.
To entertain themselves, children will find new way to challenge themselves on the playground equipment. The safer the playground, the more you will see children trying to climb in unintended places or racing up slides instead of riding down them.
I remember being chided by a stranger for climbing “too high” on a playground when I was 12 years old and told that I had to “come down immediately.”
Most people would probably link the fear of heights with people who had suffered bad falls during their childhood. As it turns out, the opposite is true. A child who gets hurt in a fall before the age of nine is less likely to develop a fear of heights as a teenager.
The softer surfacing added to modern playgrounds, such as bark mulch and rubber tiles, intended to cushion falls, may lead children to be careless.
When parents and children overrate the safety of their environment, they will take more risks and sometimes they will over evaluate how much protection the playground can provide.
Parks and schools have even taken to chopping the lower branches off of trees so that they cannot be climbed.
Even when parents cannot be there to supervise, the adult world has taken measures to limit children’s play and exploration.
The most fun that I had playing as a child were the moments I could do so unsupervised. I could get away with playing British Bulldog, climbing as high as I wanted, jumping off anything I pleased without being scolded for playing too dangerously.
It seems that it is getting progressively harder for children to find these moments of unsupervised time.
Parents are being more vigilant at home, teachers and monitors are keeping an eye on kids at school. Many kids no longer walk to and from school alone because it is too dangerous. At the beach, you will see 10-year-olds being tucked into life jackets, in the park there will be eight-year-olds in strollers.
Without the chance to make mistakes independently, children will be deprived of valuable lessons about safety that they will require when their parents are no longer able to protect them.
Bronte Miner is a student at Maple Ridge secondary.