The Atlantic has an excellent article called The Overprotected Kid, which I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few days. The article focuses on playgrounds – nowadays typically boring, predictable, and safe – but in passing raises a whole lot of questions on how childhood has changed in the last few decades.
One line struck me in particular: “When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.” While these numbers may be extreme, they do highlight a trend – children today spend far less time unsupervised than in the past.
There are lots of reasons for this – a pervasive fear of strangers, overworked parents wanting to maximize time with their kids, a culture which emphasizes keeping kids busy and striving to realize their potential – but the bottom line is, the author claims, kids today are missing out on vital social skills and critical opportunities for personal growth.
Today’s overprotected kids are not challenged in a real way. They don’t explore, they don’t face their fears, they don’t gain a sense of competence and mastery, and they don’t learn how to negotiate with others and resolve conflict.
I have been blessed to live in a small community, and from a very young age my kids have spent lots of time on their own – hanging with other kids, climbing trees, building forts. They may not log as many hours of screen time as they’d like, but I believe they are far better equipped to deal with the challenges of adulthood than so many of their peers – whose well-intentioned parents have deprived them of the challenges they need to grow.
Have you read The Overprotected Kid? What do you think?