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REMEMBER 'Go outside and play'?


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Being that this is a music website, I try to keep my postings music-related.

But since one of my pet-peeves is how over the years, yuppies have squeezed all the fun out of childhood, this recent op-ed from the L.A. Times is too good and close to my heart for me not to share with you. Would love to hear people's reactions, and maybe from some of you old-timers like myself, your memories of what your childhood was like.

Remember 'go outside and play?'

Overbearing parents have taken the fun out of childhood and turned it into a grind.

By Rosa Brooks Los Angeles Times May 15, 2008

Can you forgive her?

In March, Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother, gave her 9-year-old son, Izzy, a MetroCard, a subway map, a $20 bill and some quarters for pay phones. Then she let him make his own way home from Bloomingdale's department store -- by subway and bus.

Izzy survived unscathed. He wasn't abducted by a perverted stranger or pushed under an oncoming train by a homicidal maniac. He didn't even get lost. According to Skenazy, who wrote about it in a New York Sun column, he arrived home "ecstatic with independence."

His mother wasn't so lucky. Her column generated as much outrage as if she'd suggested that mothers make extra cash by hiring their kids out as child prostitutes.

But it also reinvigorated an important debate about children, safety and independence.

Reader, if you're much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called "going out to play"?

For younger readers, I'll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house -- as long as they were over age 4 or so -- went to the door, opened it, and ... went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they "played."

"Play," incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

All in all, "going out to play" worked out well for kids. As the American Academy of Pediatrics' Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg testified to Congress in 2006, "Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles. ... Play helps children develop new competencies ... and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges." But here's the catch: Those benefits aren't realized when some helpful adult is hovering over kids the whole time.

Thirty years ago, the "going out to play" culture coexisted with other culturally sanctioned forms of independence for even very young children: Kids as young as 6 used to walk to school on their own, for instance, or take public buses or -- gulp -- subways. And if they lived on a school bus route, their mommies did not consider it necessary to escort them to the bus stop every morning and wait there with them.

But today, for most middle-class American children, "going out to play" has gone the way of the dodo, the typewriter and the eight-track tape. From 1981 to 1997, for instance, University of Michigan time-use studies show that 3- to 5-year-olds lost an average of 501 minutes of unstructured playtime each week; 6- to 8-year-olds lost an average of 228 minutes. (On the other hand, kids now do more organized activities and have more homework, the lucky devils!) And forget about walking to school alone. Today's kids don't walk much at all (adding to the childhood obesity problem).

Increasingly, American children are in a lose-lose situation. They're forced, prematurely, to do all the un-fun kinds of things adults do (Be over-scheduled! Have no downtime! Study! Work!). But they don't get any of the privileges of adult life: autonomy, the ability to make their own choices, use their own judgment, maybe even get interestingly lost now and then.

Somehow, we've managed to turn childhood into a long, hard slog. Is it any wonder our kids take their pleasures where they can find them, by escaping to "Grand Theft Auto IV" or the alluring, parent-free world of MySpace?

But, but, but, you say, all the same, Skenazy should never have let her 9-year-old son take the subway! In New York, for God's sake! A cesspit of crack addicts, muggers and pedophiles!

Well, no. We parents have sold ourselves a bill of goods when it comes to child safety. Forget the television fear-mongering: Your child stands about the same chance of being struck by lightning as of being the victim of what the Department of Justice calls a "stereotypical kidnapping." And unless you live in Baghdad, your child stands a much, much greater chance of being killed in a car accident than of being seriously harmed while wandering unsupervised around your neighborhood.

Skenazy responded to the firestorm generated by her column by starting a new website -- freerangekids.wordpress.com -- dedicated to giving "our kids the freedom we had." She explains: "We believe in safe kids. ... We do NOT believe that every time school-age children go outside, they need a security detail."

Next time I take my kids to New York, I'm asking Skenazy to baby-sit.

Edited by Strider
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I well remember at age 9 or 10 taking buses and tubes all over London and my mum didn't think anything of it.

Nowadays my sister wouldn't let her 9 year old son even walk to school alone.

Sad.

Great article. Thanks.

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We used to go outside in the neighborhood around 3:30 and come home at dusk. I walked to school from 3rd grade on (usually with other kids); in middle school my friends and I took public transportation to the shopping centers and spent the day shopping on our own.

And from 3rd grade on we trick or treated without adults in a ~2 mile radius.

I'm just as guilty with the activities and such; in fact, I've been debating not doing activities for the kids in the fall (due to gas and scheduling) and the feedback I'm getting on that from other parents is that they feel the activities keep their kids from getting bored and therefore out of trouble. :( I don't understand that if they have alternatives for them to do (like ride bikes, play on swingsets etc.); but I guess this is a different concern with tween/teen parents vs elementary aged kids.

I am making a conscious effort not to be a helicopter parent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent and to teach my kids to be self reliant/self directed.

The demographics of millenials are very interesting; you can see the link between heavy parent involvement/heavy scheduling and lack of free play; you can also see empathy, community involvement and multicultural appreciation with millenials:

Millenials: http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm

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The way kids live these days just pisses me off! I know I'm still practically a kid myself, but I think my generation were the last to experience this 'play stuff'.

When I was little, we played with Lego and Barbies, there were very little of these electronic toys. Kids had mock teaparties and dug holes in the sandpit or rode tricycles down the driveway. Most of all, we didn't have the internet. When I was in primary school, it was not common to have a computer, and this was only ten years ago. Nowadays, the average 5 year old can do all sorts of things on the computer, including accessing the web. Then they go play a dog simulation game on their DS, rather than going outside and playing with their real dog. Maybe followed by watching some DVDs which will turn their brains to mush.

I think that the next generation will be different though. When me and my friends become parents, I don't think we'll take this kind of shit. There is no way I am going to let my kids grow up without knowing how to use a skipping rope. Nor will I give them pocket money unless they do something. If we live close to their school, I'm not going to drive them in bullet-proof glass, they can ride a bike. I'm not saying nothing can happen, because I admit that I get nervous when I'm on my own sometimes too, but that's not going to stop me from catching buses and walking.

I apologise for the rant, but I really had to get that off my chest. Anyway, I though you'd appreciate the opinion of a youth.

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This is a bit off-topic since the article seems to be dealing with city life but I recently saw an episode of Exploring North Carolina on our local PBS affiliate that focused on the subject of how many of today's children are afraid of nature. This wasn't just one person's standpoint as several people were interviewed who said it is an alarming statistic. There is even a retreat kids can attend up in the NC mountains where they are encouraged to reconnect with nature. Here's a program description from WUNC's website:

http://www.unctv.org/exploringNC/episode410.html

Episode 410

Logos vs. Leaves

What makes a child explore, grow and blossom? When and where do they learn to take chances? Have they learned to fear the wrong things? Have we taught them to feel safer in gated communities, and in lighted shopping malls?

Today, children can play games with virtual friends, in virtual forests, on a computer. Conversations take place on a cell phone, and friends are seen in Facebook, and not in a tree house. Children know more corporate logos than leaves, more product jingles than bird sounds, and catch more computer viruses than fish.

Exploring North Carolina examines American children's need for more time in wild, wide open spaces and with educators, scientists, and children as our guide, the episode demonstrates why children may be better off knowing more leaves than logos.

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This is a bit off-topic since the article seems to be dealing with city life but I recently saw an episode of Exploring North Carolina on our local PBS affiliate that focused on the subject of how many of today's children are afraid of nature. This wasn't just one person's standpoint as several people were interviewed who said it is an alarming statistic. There is even a retreat kids can attend up in the NC mountains where they are encouraged to reconnect with nature. Here's a program description from WUNC's website:

http://www.unctv.org/exploringNC/episode410.html

Episode 410

Logos vs. Leaves

What makes a child explore, grow and blossom? When and where do they learn to take chances? Have they learned to fear the wrong things? Have we taught them to feel safer in gated communities, and in lighted shopping malls?

Today, children can play games with virtual friends, in virtual forests, on a computer. Conversations take place on a cell phone, and friends are seen in Facebook, and not in a tree house. Children know more corporate logos than leaves, more product jingles than bird sounds, and catch more computer viruses than fish.

Exploring North Carolina examines American children's need for more time in wild, wide open spaces and with educators, scientists, and children as our guide, the episode demonstrates why children may be better off knowing more leaves than logos.

reminds me of a time we went for a picnic with friends who brought their 18 month old who screamed anytime they put her down to walk in the grass...she was completely freaked out by it.

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Yeah, it's pretty sad nowadays. I actually find myself feeling surprised if I do see kids outside playing or riding their bikes. Mainly kids today are on the internet, playing video games, or like the article said, being carted all over by their parents for scheduled activities. I look back with fondness at my childhood, and all the playing we did. We got home from school, and played, all day/evening. Rode bikes, played baseball and football, played army and cowboys/indians, reenacted scenes from our favorite movies/tv shows (Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, GI Joe). At dusk we'd come in for dinner, take a bath, and watch TV.

Good times.

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Yeah, it's pretty sad nowadays. I actually find myself feeling surprised if I do see kids outside playing or riding their bikes. Mainly kids today are on the internet, playing video games, or like the article said, being carted all over by their parents for scheduled activities. I look back with fondness at my childhood, and all the playing we did. We got home from school, and played, all day/evening. Rode bikes, played baseball and football, played army and cowboys/indians, reenacted scenes from our favorite movies/tv shows (Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, GI Joe). At dusk we'd come in for dinner, take a bath, and watch TV.

Good times.

We did "Little House on the Prairie" :)

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We have been fortunate to live in an area where kids can still be kids. Sadly, that is changing. I'm not really sure why. I think the parents of this new generation are applying a little too much paranoia.

I accept that the world has changed and there are many more things to be concerned about as a parent than there was when we were kids but, the lack of social interaction between children these day's is quite alarming to me. I also have to point a finger at the parents. Most people these day's are stuck in they're own little worlds and hardly take the time to get to know they're neighbours let alone the neighbourhood. Street smarts are an important component to any healthy upbringing. When kids play together, they are learning about themselves and the world around them. It's OK if they fall and skin a knee. They will learn to wash it off and get back into the action. That's life

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I remember the days of old when we'd get up at the buttcrack of dawn, get into our fatigues, grab our guns and head for the woods to build forts and play war. I can still remember the excitement each time brought and how much fun it was to use your imagination.

Shit, we'd play street hockey for 10hrs, grab some dinner, head to the castle sized playground and play jailbreak until it was too dark to see. Then we'd play manhunt or ding-dong-ditch or shoot some hoops under the streetlight.

It was like that everyday, year round for a short time. And I'd give everything I own to go back to those days.

Edit to Add: I find it down right retarded (for lack of a better word) when I see parents giving their 10yr olds cell phones. Where the fuck is the trust?

Edited by bigstickbonzo
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I well remember at age 9 or 10 taking buses and tubes all over London and my mum didn't think anything of it.

Same here but in San Francisco. We were independant kids back then.

B)

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Great article, Strider, and I have to say it's really lovely to see you here! I really do feel sorry for kids today because, not only are they being deprived of the fun we got to have, they are being denied the possibility of developing the very skills they need to survive in the complicated world they inhabit. As a result, they are thus far more endangered than they would be if they were given a little independence! We live in a very paranoid adult neighborhood (despite the fact that we live in one of the top 10 safest cities in the US), so I'm actually seeing this happen all around me. A shame.

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hahar. If I never got hooked on basketball, I probably would have been a pale, SNES playing, comicbook reading twerp and momsy would have been glad. I got huge treetrunk legs and a swarthy mediterranean tan from constant biking to bball courts and experienced life and such, even then we somehow got a basket for the backyard.

That was the 90's....I thought that now cellphones areas common as dirt, kids would be out all the time because there'd be instant comm.

I'm a 20-something geezer, cause I once used public payphones.

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From sun up to sun down i just played baseball all fucking day. than we found out the other sex will play with your wiener for free, and the players started to drop like flies. I wish i could be in 8th grade again with my bike. fcuk this work and girlfreind shit.

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Interesting to read all of your reactions...and hello back at you, Allison!

When I was around 9 or so, and living in Costa Mesa, me and my friend would get

up early and bicycle our way along the Santa Ana River to Huntington Beach, surf

and swim all day and bike back at dusk.

During baseball season, we would catch a bus to the Big A to watch the California

Angels, especially on days when Nolan Ryan was pitching.

There were also the wilds of Irvine to explore for hours on end(before all the

development that it has now).

I remember one time, when I was 7, when all of us neighborhood kids were running

around the block and I climbed up a side fence and jumped down and my foot landed

square on a nail stuck in a board hidden by the tall grass. Blood was everywhere,

but my parents didn't panic and just took me to the doctor's the next day to have

a tetnus shot.

More importantly, and rare today, they didn't sue the parents of the house where

I injured myself.

I was 10 years old when I first saw Led Zeppelin. Now that I have godsons and nephews

and nieces, I take them to concerts when I can, and I let them invite any of their friends

if they want.

You'd be amazed at the reaction of some of these parents...one of my godson's friends

is 14 and his parents still won't let him go to a rock concert.

I know other kids that are 9-10 years old and don't know how to ride a bike. What kind

of childhood is that? You can use a blackberry or cellphone but can't ride a bicycle?

My childhood wasn't perfect, but it sure seems like heaven compared to what I see childhood

is like today.

Edited by Strider
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I think it's a combination of the paranoid projection authorataritive types convey and the accepting masses of hysterical suburban type parents that create this.

I for one have never bought into the fear. I also have no children and am glad of it.

What would I do if I was a parent? I would instill my values of non-paranoia and let them play, OUTSIDE!

We live in an extremely weak society.

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I remember the days of old when we'd get up at the buttcrack of dawn, get into our fatigues, grab our guns and head for the woods to build forts and play war. I can still remember the excitement each time brought and how much fun it was to use your imagination.

Shit, we'd play street hockey for 10hrs, grab some dinner, head to the castle sized playground and play jailbreak until it was too dark to see. Then we'd play manhunt or ding-dong-ditch or shoot some hoops under the streetlight.

It was like that everyday, year round for a short time. And I'd give everything I own to go back to those days.

Edit to Add: I find it down right retarded (for lack of a better word) when I see parents giving their 10yr olds cell phones. Where the fuck is the trust?

I'm jealous, I wish I had gotten to this. I wish I could go back to those days too, man I really hate how everyone has to talk via MSN and SMS. What happened to the secret treehouse or something that you used to go and meet up at? Reminds me of the film 'Stand By Me'.

If there weren't any other reason, I would have kids just so I can raise them properly, outside. I only got a mobile phone last year and I could live without it, I don't see why you would need one until high school anyway.

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I'm kinda of anti-cellphone myself and still don't take it into clubs, theatres, etc. unless I know there's an instance where someone needs to reach me. Still, my mind was changed about their convenience when I saw a story on CNN a few years ago about a canoeist that had their life saved because they had their cellphone on them. If my child was in a life threatening situation I would feel the same way too.

Back to the discussion at hand, I also recently saw a piece on another locally oriented PBS show called Folkways about a naturalist that runs a camp in Western NC called Turtle Island. If you're interested in that sort of thing, it is very well worth checking out. If we are ever reduced to no electricity folks like Eustace Conway (who runs the camp) will already be prepared since he's been living outdoors and without electricity for the vast majority of his life.

eustace.jpg

Eustace

Turtle Island Preserve

Edited by Jahfin
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I remember the days of old when we'd get up at the buttcrack of dawn, get into our fatigues, grab our guns and head for the woods to build forts and play war. I can still remember the excitement each time brought and how much fun it was to use your imagination.

Shit, we'd play street hockey for 10hrs, grab some dinner, head to the castle sized playground and play jailbreak until it was too dark to see. Then we'd play manhunt or ding-dong-ditch or shoot some hoops under the streetlight.

It was like that everyday, year round for a short time. And I'd give everything I own to go back to those days.

Edit to Add: I find it down right retarded (for lack of a better word) when I see parents giving their 10yr olds cell phones. Where the fuck is the trust?

Yep, me and my brother would get up at 5 AM and catch the bus to Lake Merced in San Fran and we'd stay ALL DAY!! I went by myself at times and stayed all day without a bite to eat as that's how much I loved to fish.

After school I'd play baseball til dinner and then go back and play til you couldn't see the ball anymore.

My Mother used to let me stay fishing by myself at Fisherman's Wharf in SF and I was only about 7 and I would ride the bus home by myself.

If I could go back to 1959 (I was 9) when we found out the great fishing at the old ferry slips at the Ferry Building in San Fran then that would be heaven for me.

Too bad the world now is so full of freaks who only think with ther dicks. <_<

B)

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What a great topic. That fear of nature thing is maybe the worst aspect of this, that's awful!

There are two other horrible things about this trend. First, these children are going to grow up in fear and paranoia, convinced the world is a nasty, ugly, dangerous place, instead of a friendly, beautiful, rewarding place, with some nastiness, ugliness, and dangers in it.

Second, they are not going to know how to pick themselves up after an encounter with nastiness, convinced as they will have been that they are so very special, mommy and daddy will make sure nothing bad ever happens to them. Which of course is complete hogwash, since that's impossible.

I do think there's some hope, the Harry Potter books pull no punches about things, and show independent, intelligent, courageous children growing up.

I'm a geezer, and remember the "old times." I walked over a mile each way to school, starting in about third grade, by myself or with friends. On weekends and in summer we'd get up in the morning, hop on our bikes, and be gone all day long, sometimes ending up miles away. If we had to call home, we had to find a pay phone or a friend's house. Home for dinner, then out some more after that on summer evenings, going frog or snipe hunting, in the dark.

I attended my first rock concert at age 13. Dropped off by my clueless folks in downtown Oakland. DOWNTOWN OAKLAND! Hey, guess what, I survived, in fact didn't think a thing of it. (Maybe if they'd known we were encountering stuff like vodka and marijuana, things would've changed, but, they didn't.) (Whew.)

And now for the dark side... in fact a friend and I did have an encounter with a neighborhood pedophile on one of our summer rambles, while hanging out in the drainage canal looking for guppies, out of view of the road. It was frightening and ugly, he exposed himself and scared us into exposing ourselves, and did a little bit of touching, then ran off. Not as bad as it might have been, but the guy should certainly have been put away.

I mention this experience for one reason, to point out that it did not even enter my mind to not get on my bike with my friend the very next day and go out exploring our neighborhood as ususal. All day, away from home. We just avoided the drainage ditch.

It's not my argument that kids should run around encountering pedophiles as part of growing up, but it is true that it's possible to encounter bad things and keep on keepin' on, and that's a good lesson for a kid to learn. Nowadays their parents fearful motivations and constant hovering is probably doing more psychic damage to kids than that encounter did to me.

Also, I think nowadays the kids would run straight home and report what happened, and the guy would've be found and caught. Back then we didn't talk of such things, and we sure as heck didn't have cell phones on us. The world is actually a better place to tell a kid to

go out and play now than it ever was.

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Really good article, thanks for posting. Seems it was the same here in the UK, as everywhere else. I have wonderful memories of a childhood spent playing outside. Got home from school, got changed then out playing...break for tea, and then out again 'til dusk. We use to roam free, no worries. We had been told not to go with strangers but it wasn't an issue that blighted our fun.

I remember great gang games like Block 123 (maybe some more of the UK members here recall this?) and us girls used to love getting a big skipping rope out and reciting rhymes whilst skipping for what seemed like hours.

Very happy, carefree days :)

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I attended my first rock concert at age 13.

Dropped off by my clueless folks in downtown Oakland.

DOWNTOWN OAKLAND!

A great area. I know it well.

105th & Edes by the Coliseum.

:unsure:

B)

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Thanks for posting that article. It was very interesting for me because I grew up riding the NYC subways with impunity during the 60's and 70's. I was taught/learned to be street smart at a young age - I always carried "mug money" (although I was never mugged), sat next to women with children on the subway, didn't make eye contact with strangers, avoided isolated and uncrowded areas, never cut through a park with trees or overgrown foliage, etc. I started to go alone to the Village and to concerts before I was 12 years old and I never encountered any problems. I was lucky but I also think that I survived unscathed because I always had my wits about me. I also think that, at least back then, concerts were some of the safest places to be because the streets were always crowded and the venues were filled with thousands of other kids.

My husband had what I would describe as an idyllic childhood. He grew up in a "picture pretty" suburban town, riding his bike everywhere (including swim clubs and tennis clubs), building tree forts in the then-undeveloped woods, skating on frozen ponds in the winter, fishing in those same ponds in the summer, etc. He really had the best of both worlds because, when small town life seemed too stifling, he took the train into the city.

When we were away this weekend, my husband and I were discussing how we think that, given our own experiences and the experiences of our friends, life in 70's NYC was not as dangerous as the media now portray it. Who knows? Perhaps it was but we just saw it that way because we were not harmed and also because we now remember it through the rose-colored glasses of childhood.

Edited by MadScreamingGallery
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