How can we increase freedom to play?
Only one in three children are allowed out to the shops or to walk to school alone, according to a Newsround survey of over 1000 six to twelve year olds out a couple of weeks ago. One in four never go out without an adult.
Michael Murpurgo, the children’s author, is filmed on the Newsround site talking about many of the key issues – traffic, families moving round so they don’t know their neighbourhoods so well, and people just not having as much time for children as they used to.
Will Self was on Any Questions on Saturday 14th April saying – in answer to the last question – the same thing: children should be playing out.
Tim Gill did a lovely piece a few weeks ago about The outdoor child: doomed to extinction? looking at all the reasons, and another more recently summarising the evidence for why children don’t play out. These seem to boil down to:
- attitudes of adults (family members, teachers, police, etc) have changed;
- the inside world is more attractive; and
- there are many more barriers in and around where we live, most notably traffic
Since then I’ve made a point of, every evening, just counting how many kids i see out without parents as I cycle the three miles home. Try it, it really opens your eyes.
For me the wildy differing amounts of freedom to play children have are summed up by reading through the quotes from the 11 year olds – children at the top of primary school or just starting at secondary school – posted on the Newsround site:
“My mum gives me the right amount of freedom. I’m allowed to go to the shops on my own, but I have to take my phone with me. I walk to school alone too, it make me feel grown up that my mum trusts me.”
Zack, 11, Derbyshire, England
“I don’t think kids have enough freedom because parents are scared that something bad will happen to their kids but they underestimate the amount we know about safety.”
Katy, 11, Wetherby, England
“I walk to school by myself, but I have to phone my mum when I get there.”
Zizi, 11, London, England
“I have so much freedom. I’m only 11 and I’m allowed four miles away on my own. I love having so much freedom!”
Katherine, 11, Preston, England
“I have a reasonable amount of freedom. The only reason my parents don’t let me out is for my own good.”
Emily, 11, England
“I’m allowed to go places like the cinema on my own if my parents drop me off. But they won’t let me go to the park with my friends which is soooo annoying.”
Aj, 11, London, England
“I don’t think kids are given enough freedom but in some ways you can see where grown-ups are coming from. They’re only trying to keep us safe. But on the other hand we will get used to being kept inside the ‘safety bubble’ they are creating.”
Amy, 11, Shrewsbury, England
“I have no freedom. I go to school with my parents and I’m not allowed to go to the shops alone. But times have changed. There are more criminals now who kidnap and things, it’s for our own good.”
Hubbab, 11, London, England
“I’m allowed to go into town but I have boundaries. I have a set part of town I can go to but have to take my phone and be back for a certain time. I think I have enough freedom, however, I have only had this freedom very recently.”
Katie, 11, Worcestershire, England
“Well, my parents let me out but not too far. To be honest I don’t REALLY like going out by myself so I choose not to.”
Izzy, 11, London, England
Daisy, 11, Lancashire, England
ref: Newsround 40th Anniversary survey http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/17602643
Did you know that April 24th 2012 is the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass? That was the spark that marked the turning point of the adult ‘right to roam’ movement. What will it take to ensure children and young people can once again have their right to roam?
I know I and many others are enjoying the Nature DeficitDisorder v Free Range Childhood v playborhood v rewilding children debate around the right metaphors to build the campaigns around. I’m also enjoying finding all the parent, grandparent, playworker and school blogs that support this issue – please do keep sharing them.
So next steps to take action – what at the local and national levels can we DO that will make real, tangible differences to children’s freedom? What should our MPs and councillors be asking for?
I am pulling together the Play England response to the National Trust’s Outdoor Nation consultation, and will be taking a steer from our members of course, and also from the debates and discussions here on Love Outdoor Play website, Facebook and Twitter.
So let me know what you think we should be saying – what should we be calling for above all else? What change in policy will do more than any other to increase children’s freedom to play?