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Postcards from Scotland

Tim Gill: Giving children the freedom to grow and learn

The last speaker of the day was Tim Gill, author of No Fear: Raising children in a risk averse society and previous director of Children?s Play Council. Tim started his presentation by getting the audience to think about favourite childood places and whether they were out of site for adults. For most the audience (aged over 35) the answer was a resounding ?yes?. Tim argued that increasingly children are prevented from having the types of freedoms we were granted when we were young. Indeed he argues that young people are often demonised for behaving like children ? eg playing in the street, chalking pavements and so on.

Tim argued that modern society often over-protects children and that this is not in their best interests. Too often it is an overreaction to the urge to avoid risk when some risk is inevitable. Life after all cannot be made completely safe and so children have to learn to manage risks. Tim also pointed out that when we over-protect children they miss a vital part of growing up. Sometimes this was a physical over-protection (for instance through inhibiting play) but sometimes it was about managing children?s friendships or feelings so that they did not experience anger, or dislike. Tim attributed the fear of allowing children out to play to a number of factors. Fear of paedophiles, traffic and accidents. He pointed out that one of the worst aspects of the modern media is that it encourages us to see the world through the lens of the most badly effected or victimised. This means that we take something like the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, an incredibly rare event, and then think it is likely to happen to our children.

Tim also pointed out that the obsession with protective coverings in playgrounds, and the elimination of equipment which may injure children, did not happen as the result of fear of law suits or government intervention: it was the result of Esther Ranzen?s campaign in her TV programme That?s Life.

More information on Tim?s ideas can be found on http://www.rethinkingchildhood.com/

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