This week the subject is ‘Why ____________ matters to me’. Today I’m going to fill in that blank with ‘Children’s Freedom’.
I was lucky enough to have been a child in the 1960’s. I walked to school by myself at the age of 6, had unlimited freedom to play outside with my friends in the surrounding East London streets after school, and was given a front door key and left to my own devices during the school holidays after the age of 9. No harm ever came to me, and I grew up extremely street-wise. I look back on my childhood with affection. My friends and I roamed far and wide, our parents had no idea what we were getting up to, and as long as we were back at a certain time, then we were allowed out again the next evening to get up to whatever we could get up to without being caught. We often came back with scraped knees or dirty clothes, but on the whole we had a whale of a time. My husband tells me he was instructed to simply ‘Come home when it gets dark’.
Compare this with my granddaughters’ experience of childhood. One girl is 11, and the other one is 9. When school ends for the day they have to be escorted across the playground to an after-school club, which is located on the school grounds. There they are supervised inside the building until their mother comes to collect them at 5pm after work. Then after dinner the youngest one goes to Brownies or has friends home to play in the garden. The 11 year old is only just being allowed out. She can cycle on the pavement outside with her friends, but is also allowed down to the play park a few streets away. She carries a mobile phone on her at all times, and often complains to me when I see her that she is embarrassed by her mother continually making sure she is okay by sending her text after text or calling her when she is out with her friends.
Is this the norm nowadays? My granddaughters live in a quiet country village where there is a low crime rate; it’s nothing like an inner London suburb. They have both been made quite fearful, which is a terrible shame. Their childhood is being ruined by what might happen. They are encouraged to sit indoors and play games on their iPads or watch TV. I think they have seen every single children’s DVD that has ever been made. If they are not watching TV then they are texting friends on their phones that they should be outside playing with face-to-face.
How can children that are cossetted so much ever grow up streetwise? Heaven forbid they have to make a decision on their own if they are out of sight of their parents and their mobile phones have no signal! The 11 year old is not even allowed to undertake a 10 minute walk to her local library, and is actively discouraged by her mother from doing so.
How will it be for my great-grandchildren? Will they be housebound until they’re over the age of consent if they’re not in school or college? What is happening to today’s children?
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