Adults were three times more likely to play out when they were young, than children are today… released by Play England:
71 per cent of adults played outside in the street or area close to their homes every day when they were children, compared to only 21 per cent of children today.
There has been a decrease over the past thirty years in children’s access to the streets and outdoor areas near their homes. Increasingly their independent mobility is restricted by traffic and fear, which in turn causes them to spend much of their time indoors or at organised activities. The combination of an increase in vehicles on the roads, increased parental anxiety, and restrictions on children’s mobility in the form of child curfews and anti-social behaviour orders has reduced children’s outdoor play opportunities.
The qualitative research reported included focus groups with young people aged between eight and 18. From which comes this scary piece of news:
Ten of the participants said that they never played outside on the streets and areas near their home.
That’s ten out of 64 participants. And in the light of my recent note about the importance of unstructured time, this point is noteworthy:
In all the groups, children and young people said that having the freedom to choose what to do, and where to spend time, particularly in contrast to time spent in school, was very important. Even the youngest children talked about having this freedom and time away from parents and adult supervision.
This is all about England, but it sounds not too dissimilar from the ol’ U.S. of A. While I’m tempted to launch into a lengthy piece that starts with “When I was a boy… ” – I’ll instead just add my hearty “hear, hear!”
I don’t have anything beyond intuition to back this up… but I believe that Front Porch Forum works to reverse this unsettling trend. That is, a neighborhood with a thriving online FPF forum becomes a friendlier, more neighborly place, where parents get to know their neighbors over time and thus become more comfortable turning their kids out to play. Maybe I’m wrong… but it’s just this kind of thing that motivates us to make FPF work for more and more communities.