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Tuesday 5 June 2007

Kids in captivity [Slim]

The BBC rightly brings to our attention the depressing situation regarding our childrens freedom.
BBC NEWS | Education | Analysis: Rearing children in captivity
I had an extremely free upbringing, we lived close to a large unused bit of wasteland and spent all day there with the local kids from miles around building stuff, breaking stuff, jumping over stuff on our bikes and an awful lot of doing bugger all but being with our mates. I used to cycle to school too, hell I used to cycle everywhere, to the shops, to me mates house, it was my way of getting about.
Yet my kids aren't allowed any of those freedoms, their limits are the garden gate, everywhere else they must go accompanied. We only cycle on off road paths, never on the road, and never ever do they do it alone.
What's changed? The bbc's firming pointing the finger at over protective parents, they report less kids go missing now than in the 70's, and road safety's very much improved now than back then, meaning far less child fatalities on the road. Are they missing the point entirely? Are these figures showing how safe the country is a result of our newly over protective ways? If, as they say, only 9% of kids walk to school now rather than 80% in the 70's, this is going to skew the safety figures enormously. My back of the fag packet bollocks maths show that if theres half the fatalities on a fifth of the walkers our letting our kids walk to school would result in many more deaths than in the past, right?
There must be a catalist to this change, there's a reason why we're doing it. We're bombarded with child safety reminders daily, we're bombarded with images of missing kids, we're told about child sex offenders in our own neighbourhoods and we're told that more kids used to die when they walked to school.
What are we supposed to do when presented with these figures? I'd love to give my kids the freedoms I had, but can I do it with a clear conscience? I don't think so.


  1. Turning that on its head, if you accept that we're going to give kids less freedoms than we had - what is the effect of this? I had a remarkably free childhood. I used to go playing in local bushland, creeks and even the sea completely without adult supervision including riding down monster rapids during the rainy season and holding your breath as you went through the tunnel underneath the dual carriage way and bashed your way past submerged shopping trolleys and the like...
    The point I'm making might be illustrated by a zoo animal upbringing. If we rear an animal in captivity we often deem that it cannot possibly survive in the wild. Closer to home, cats are a good example. If you raise one in a house and then you leave the door open when it's an adult, there's a damn goood chance the stupid thing will walk straight out onto the road and get itself squished. You raise a cat where it's not kept inside and that generally doesn't happen.
    I'm not suggesting it's quite the same for us but if you take away all those little dangers and things to deal with by themselves, so that parents are always there to do this and that for them, aren't we basically breeding a generation of domesticated humans that have never had to think for themselves or might freeze up and be utterly incapable of dealing with a real emergency later on in life because they never had those formative low-level brushes when they were children?

  2. I was pretty much the same as a kid, but probably not until I was in p5 really. God when I got my Raleigh Chopper the sense of liberation. I nearly died when the wheel nut came off as I pedalled down a hill while being overtaken by a bus. cie la vie.
    To the point, as a parent I live in a state of constant fucking fear.
    I fear my kids being abducted by a nutter peado (no matter how remote)
    I fear my kids being hit by drunk/high drivers (I live in a built up area, even though it's a 20 zone that deters motorists not a jot)
    I fear being branded a paedo myself when helping a kid on an obstacle in the park, when that kid is playing with mine.
    Walking the kids is a nightmare of worry on the pavement, as they play alongside I'm constantly on at them to stay close *on* the pavement. Never on the road. The boys were on skateboards and scooters this week out front of the house. Complete panic, me n wifey patrolling the street like wardens.
    Eldest played footie with neighbours grandkid, I stood alongside the garden in case the ball went over the road. I missed it once and sure as shit my boy stepped out. A car had just went passed 3 secs before.
    Incidents like that only re-inforce worry and stress.
    There *is* no right answer here I'm afraid, we've been having blazing arguements here about the wee madeline case. My da says bad luck, I say neglect.
    It's all about choices, salve your own conscience as best you can and just let them know why you're doing it I guess. We've been doing "stranger danger" with the kids a fair bit, god it's depressing. Parenthood is meant to be fun ffs, where's my receipt.

  3. My Mum used to kick me out the door in the morning and not expect me back till lunch and then back out again till dinner. I had no limits on how far i could go, in fact if I could cycle it and be back in time for lunch/dinner that was fine.
    I swam in the sea, built dens, played with bows and arrows (home made out of bailing twine of course) get into fights etc. Some of the kids I know now do little more than watch tv, so sad.
    I don't have kids yet so can't really comment on how I'll react if I ever do have kids. But one of the main reasons for moving to the middle of nowhere in Wales was to start a family. Both myself and my wife want to be able to give our children the same freedom we both had.

  4. Well when I was a kid I had *no* freedom like you describe. I grew up in Zambia, in the capital city Lusaka.
    While we lived in a nice neighbourhood we were surrounded by shanty towns full of poor people who would have liked nothing better than to rob a white kid of everything down to his underpants, and probably the kid himself. :)
    So myself and my siblings stayed in our yard (fortified with high walls etc) and were driven everywhere to after-school activities, friends houses etc. I don't think this life-style negatively impacted me in any way, it was just the way things were. I never felt myself being trapped, but rather safe, loved, and protected.
    We moved back to Ireland when I was 12, to the countryside, and I was then able to ride around the area on my bike or go to the shops by myself etc. It was a nice change but it certainly wasn't something that I had been longing for.

  5. Yes and look how you turned out :-)

  6. When I was a bairn we used to go out after Whack-a-day, roam the hills and forests and moors for miles around and come back for tea. We climbed trees, dammed rivers, built dens, sledged, did ludicrously dangerous things with skateboards. We got cut, bruised, had limbs broken but we all survived.
    At the risk of being told I don't really have any right to comment since I have no kids, my gut feeling is that kids could (and should) be allowed all of this today, but that parents have been bombarded by mass media over-reactions, similar to the Madeleine McCann coverage, to such an extent that they believe that abduction is the norm rather than an extremely remote possibility.
    To state it callously, I believe that parents are often more protecting themselves than their kids. They simply couldn't live with the guilt if the one in a million worst-case scenario ever happened.

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