UCL News


Don't fall into the parent trap

12 September 2006

Trying to keep our kids safe has become an obsession of this generation - but we may be doing them more harm than good.

For some, every waking moment is focused on their children's needs, be that ferrying them to hobbies or accompanying them on umpteen outdoor activities.

This apparently self-sacrificing behaviour is usually rooted in fear. In the past we let children play outdoors from the age of six or younger, and they travelled in a pack.

Now, we have TV revealing the terrifying scale of worldwide calamities, so it's hardly surprisingly we've decided that the world out there is too dangerous for our kids. …

The most obvious result is in kids not being allowed to explore the world by themselves, but in response to that, parents are under self-inflicted pressure to recreate a fear-free environment for kids. …

Professor John Adams [UCL Geography] has been involved in many studies on urban risk and he advises parents to dole out freedom as if it were a licence.

"At 17 you can get a licence to drive," he said. "Perhaps it would help if they could look at other privileges in the same way, such as giving them a licence to play out in the front garden at four, to go to the park at seven, go for the bus by themselves at 11. All of these activities give children confidence and reassure parents that they can manage."

"Children need to be trusted, to be given freedom to discover the world for themselves. We all learn from our mistakes."

Joan McFadden, 'Scottish Daily Record'