Monday, July 16, 2012

Free range -v- house arrest

I was flicking through a National Trust magazine today and read an article about the fact that children today do not have the freedom that adults enjoyed in their own childhood to spend time in nature.  As a child growing up in the 1960s I enjoyed probably the same freedoms that my parents and grandparents did when they were the same age.  I could walk to friends' houses, I could walk to school or take public transport by myself.  My brother who was an avid train spotter spent hours roaming round the country involved in this hobby, I could go out walking a dog by myself, roaming through fields and woods, jump streams and sometimes fall in them, camp out with friends, lie on my back at night and look up at the stars..  Now, the National Trust argues, the "radius of activity" (the distance children are allowed to venture from home on their own or with friends) has decreased by 90% and as a consequence perhaps they quote another statistic which is that 11 - 15 year olds in the UK spend 50% of their time in front of a screen.  It makes it sound as if this is something bad - as if our free range childhoods have now been replaced by house arrest,.  And yet when I think about it technology has made my children's lives much safer than when I was their age - and as a parent I'm more able to keep track of them.  They have mobile phones, they can call and let me know where they are, how they are coming home, what time I should expect them.  I think it's sad that fewer than 10% of UK children regularly play in wild places, compared with 50% when I was young, especially when information about wild places is now so much more accessible, for example a couple of months ago I walked the Via Gotthardo in Switzerland with a friend using just the apps on my mobile phone to guide me.  I think that technology should be able to help us to give our children more of a free range existence than ever before, but it appears that all it is doing is keeping our children at home.

Untitled photo by Habeebee, 2011

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