Every morning,Leanne Brickland and he sister would bicycle to school with the same words ringing in their ears:“watch out crossing the road.Don't speak to strangers”.“Mum would stand at the top of the steps and call that out,”says Brickland,now a primary-school teachet and mother of four from Rotorua,New Zealand.Substitute boxers and thongs for undies(內衣),and the nagging fears that haunt parents haven't really changed.What has altered,dramatically,is the confidence we once had in our children's ability to fling themselves at life without a grown-up holding their hands
Worry-ridden Parents and Stifled Kids
By today'sstandards,the childhood freedoms Brickland took for granted practically verge on parental neglect.Her mother worked,so she and her sister had a key to let themselves in after school and were expected todo their homework and put on the potatoes for dinner.At the family's beach house near Wellington,the two girls,from the age of five or six,would disappear for hours to play in the lakes and sands.
A generation later,Brickland's children are growing up in a world more indulged yet more accustomed to peril.The techno-minded generation of PlayStation kids who can conquer entire armies and rocket through spacecan't even be trusted to cross the street alone.“I worry about the road.I worry about strangers.In some ways I think they're missing out,but I like to be able to see them, to know where they are and what they'redoing.”
Call it smother love,indulged-kid syndrome,parental neurosis(神經癥).Even though today's children have the universe at their fingertips thanks to the Internet,their physical boundaries are shrinking at a rapid pace.According to British social scientist Mayer Hillman,a child's play zone has contracted so radically that we're producing the human equivalent of henhouse chickens-plump from lack of exercise and without the flexibility and initiative of freerange kids of the past.The spirit of our times is no longer the resourceful adventurer Tom Sawyer but rather the worry-ridden dad and his stifled only child in Finding Nemo.
In short,child rearing has become an exercise in risk minimization,represented by stories such as the father who refused to allow his daughter on a school picnic to the beach for fear she might drown.While it's natural for a parent to want to protect their children from danger,you have to wonder;Have we gone too far?
Parents Wrap Kids up in Cotton Wool
A study conducted by Paul Tranter,a lecturer in geography at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra,showed that while Australian and New Zealand children had similar smounts of unsupervised freedom,it was far less than German of English kids.For example,only a third of ten-year-olds in Australia and New Zealand were allowed to visit places other than school alone,compared to 80 percent in Germany.
Girls were even more restricted than boys,with parents fearing assault or molestation(騷擾),while traffic dangers were seen as the greatest threat to boys.Bike ownership has doubled in a generation,but“independent mobility”---the ability to roam and explore unsupervised---has radically declined.In Auckland,for example,many primary schools have done away with bicycle racks because the streets are considered too unsafe.And in Christchurch,New Zealand's most bike-friendly city,the number of pupils cycling to school has fallenfrom more than 90 percent in the late 1970s to less than 20 percent.Safely strapped into the family 4x4,children are instead driven from home to the school gate,then off to ballet,soccer or swimming lessons--rarely straying from watchful adult eyes.
In the U.S.Journal of Physical Education,Recreation&Dance,New Jersey assistant principal and hockey coach Bobbie Schultz writes that playing in the street after school with neighbourhood kids--creating their own rules,making their own decisions and settling disputes--was where the real learning took place.“The street was one of the greatest sources of my life skills,”she says.“I don't see‘on-the-street play’anymore.I see adult-organized activities.Parents don't realize what an integral part of character development their children are missing.”