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Postcards from Scotland

Don't climb that tree, it's too risky

Think about your favorite place to play when you were young - was it indoors or outdoors? Now, think about whether this play place was in view of adults or out of sight of them? Tim Gill asked this question to an audience at our Flourishing event earlier year. Overwhelmingly the audience responded to outdoors and out of sight. Though this is adults' experience of childhood, how does this translate to young people today?

An article in today's Daily Record shows that fewer young people have the chance of outdoor adventure and play because parents are nervous about exposing them to risk, and are too concerned with what neighbors will say.

A recent survey of 1030 young people aged 7-16, and 1031 adults, revealed that 70 per cent of adults had their biggest adventures outdoors in nature, while only 29 per cent of young people today have this type of adventure: and these are confined to playgrounds, their homes or theme parks.

The most worrying statistic is that half of 7-12 year olds have been stopped climbing trees, 21 percent have been banned from playing with conkers, and 17 per cent have not been allowed to chase each other.

Professor Paddy O'Donnell from Glasgow University says that unstructured play, in the outdoor environment, is vital for development and denying young people this opportunity will have serious consequences. He says that we are increasingly living in a world where there is too much structured play and control over young peoples activities.  O'Donnell says that this does not help to build confidence, and he reports that 18, 19 and 20 year olds are much less confident than they were say 15 years ago: this translates into young adults being less good at making decisions on their own.

The article highlights the role of parents in letting go and allowing young people the freedom to play, and to recognise that a 'fear free environment is neither natural nor healthy'  Frank Ferudi further supports this by saying that parents need 'to overcome fears and develop children's independence'.  Stopping children from climbing trees, or playing away from parents ,may work at allaying adults' fears but will seriously undermine the young person's ability to assess risk and make decisions on their own.  To read the article click here.  To read more about Tim Gill's work click here  

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