Although I am still a fairly new teacher, when you take into account my scouting experience and my work as a classroom assistant, I have been working with children for about 20 years now in a variety of settings and roles; this has given me an interesting insight into how children’s lives have changed over this period.
I have found myself experiencing a growing unease about the lives many young people live today. As well as spending the majority of their leisure time in (often solitary) indoor pursuits like computer games or surfing the internet (not that there is anything wrong with these activities per se you understand :-p) and little time engaging in outdoor pursuits like we did “when I were a lad”, I also feel that many children are ‘overregulated’; that is to say they seem to spend far less time outwith the supervision of adults now than they ever did. I find myself thinking that perhaps today’s children are missing out on the huge informal learning experiences that we took for granted when we were allowed a far greater freedom than today’s children seem to be offered.
Okay, sometimes we got ourselves into scrapes, or picked up the odd injury or twelve, and perhaps we got up to some mischief, but on the other hand we learned to evaluate risks, to formulate plans, to debate and to negotiate and of course a multitude of social skills. In short, we learnt what it was to be independent. Are today’s young people offered the same opportunities? It doesn’t seem so.
Whilst it may once have been the norm for children to be away playing with their friends all day only to reappear at mealtimes and dusk, a similar attitude today would find you being targeted as a bad parent. As a result, children are rarely allowed ‘off the leash’ as it were, and even if they are there is usually a mobile phone allowing communication but also location tagging should the parent desire. But is it necessarily the case that we are just ‘looking out’ for children, or have they become what Britney would call ‘overprotected’?
It was from this mindset that I came across the following article in yesterday’s Sunday Mail today (don’t ask!). I found it fascinating, and thoroughly applaud the philosophy behind it. Outdoors in all weathers – when did that become a revolutionary idea? The quote from Adam Ingram on the website is fantastic: ” There is a cotton-wool culture that has developed in Scotland and encouraging young people to get out and reconnect with the natural world can only enrich their lives”.
I hope it is a real success, and am also hopeful that being in the south side of Glasgow I might be able to swing a wee day-visit to see exactly what goes on after the holidays are over.
Have a read and see what you think.
Sunday Mail article 26th July