I want my kids off screens and out doors! Not only would I prefer mother nature to ‘World of Warcraft’ to be entertaining my children but I want freedom for them. Freedom to roam away from home, freedom to explore the world and play games of their own making; freedom to take risks and freedom to gather the sort of precious memories that childhood can be made of.
At a talk by Sue Palmer, author of ‘Toxic Childhood’, a hall full of adults were asked to recall a favourite childhood memory of play. When asked whether we were outdoors, every single hand was raised. When asked whether we were without adult supervision, again every hand was raised. When asked if we had any manufactured toy (aside from a bicycle which she described as a means of escaping adult supervision) not a single hand was raised. Finally, when asked if our children regularly had this kind of freedom, very few of us were able to raise our hands. I am saddened to think that many of our generation of children are being cheated of those play experiences that we had chosen to be our best.
I remember when my mother needed a break she shunted us outside. Even when we protested, we usually ended up having a fine time and she was able to recharge. Left to our own devices, not everything that went on would have pleased our parents, but we gained a great deal. We knew that if we were bored, it was up to us to create our own diversions. We dreamed up the most amazing games, and yes they were sometimes inspired by the programmes we watched on the television, but in adapting them we made them ours. We learned what happens if you don’t test a tree branch before giving it your whole weight and we learned what happens if you disable the brakes before a downhill bike race. We worked out how to make things fair, taught the only-child to share, and tested the limits of friendship. We looked out for the little ones, mostly, and knew the taste and smell of the earth because hey, it was a dare.
How often now do screens take the place of the big outdoors, to give parents a break, and occupy children? How easy with our busy roads and papers full of child-abuse, to feel safer with our children within our own four walls or fences. But what are we denying our children by logging them on rather than shunting them out? And is the world wide web so very much safer than the outside world?