ACTUAL WARNING: “Playing outside…can truly disrupt sleep schedules and lead to long term health effects.”

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Readers yyedriaids
— Pay heed this important warning!

Hi Lenore,

I hope all is well! I wanted to circle back on a story idea I sent your way about helping your kids adjust their sleep schedules during the summer…Kids of all ages think of summer as an amazing time to stay up late, sleep in and spend their days playing outside or laying on the beach or the couch; however, these actions can truly disrupt sleep schedules and lead to long-term health effects.

Well of course! Everything presents a danger to children and a challenge for the vigilant parent. Children have no resilience and must spend each moment in supervised, organized, calibrated conditions. Because if not, all bets are off — forever. Thanks for letting your kids stay up to catch fireflies, mom. Now they’ve got long term health problems. Happy?

Oh, if only an expert could explain how to avoid a lifetime of sorrow and regret brought on by summer freedom!

Hey! What luck! The press release goes on to recommend one — a person who can help hapless parents avoid the horrors visited upon kids who spend the summer playing outside or reading books.

Thank goodness for all this new insight!

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How I dislike summer with its imperfect sleep schedule!

How I dislike summer with its imperfect sleep schedule!

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83 Responses to ACTUAL WARNING: “Playing outside…can truly disrupt sleep schedules and lead to long term health effects.”

  1. BL July 1, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    If they sleep late in the summer, they’ll never be up for morning goose-stepping when school starts again.

  2. Havva July 1, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    “…and spend their days playing outside or laying on the beach or the couch”

    What a range of behaviors to lump together. News flash to whoever wrote this: Spending most of your day playing outside has distinctly different long term health impacts than spending most of your day laying on a couch.

  3. SOA July 1, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I do keep the kids regular bedtime most of the summer. Because they are grumpy if I don’t and mine never sleep in so might as well put them to bed on time. If they slept in I would be happy to let them stay up later. they are up at 7 am no matter what so then I make them go to bed at 8.

    As long as they are getting enough total sleep it does not matter when it happens as long as you are ready to get them back on their regular schedule for when school starts.

  4. Montreal Dad July 1, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Wait, wait, I think you hit publish on this a bit to soon. Who wrote this crazy thing?! What weird snake oil were they selling? Any idea why they sent it *to*you* of all people?!??! What’s the story here?

  5. Havva July 1, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    @Montreal Dad, I’d actually like to play a guessing game as to what they are selling…

    My thoughts on possibilities….
    1) Summer school/camp programs since sitting in a posture chair under florescent lighting wasn’t on the list of ‘horrible’ summer activities that might lead to long term health impacts.
    2) Posture chairs, blackboards, workbooks, and possibly florescent lights so you can mimic school in your basement.
    3) Lots of parenting advice to make living an ordinary life seem so fraught with danger that you couldn’t possibly navigate it without professional assistance.
    4) Since the truth is even kids who don’t have the summer off (year round school/daycare) wind up staying up late, (I blame the sun): power over the sun.

    [I think the bit starting with “Hey! What luck!” indicates #3]

  6. Brooks July 1, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Well, I might have paid more attention had they said lying instead of laying.

    I’m always tickled when I see dire warnings about the long-term effects of anything (other than drugs, etc). I once read a doctor saying that having a single cigarette in one’s youth would lead to lifelong health problems. Give me a break.

  7. En Passant July 1, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Kids of all ages think of summer as an amazing time to stay up late, sleep in and spend their days playing outside or laying on the beach or the couch; however, these actions can truly disrupt sleep schedules and lead to long-term health effects.

    Science! It’s not just stupid questions looking for answers. It’s also stupid answers looking for questions.

  8. Mark Davis July 1, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    The sarcasm is strong with this one. And well-deserved, too. What a ridiculous notion.

  9. Beth July 1, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    There was all kinds of drama in my city recently because the city-wide fireworks (on June 27, so that smaller communities could have theirs on the 4th) were going to start at 10pm, not the usual 9:30pm. 10pm was apparently just too darn late for kids, while 9:30 was just fine. Cripes, it’s awesome fireworks and one night on a weekend in the summer.

    I did keep my kids on somewhat of a schedule during the summer when they were little, but with a later bedtime. It was the same most nights, depending on things like fireflies, 4th of July, nighttime kick the can, etc., but later than school-night bedtime.

  10. Reziac July 1, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Of course it disrupts sleep cycles… kids who play outdoors no longer sleep til noon on weekends!

  11. Cynthia812 July 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    People like this not only miss the big picture, I’m not sure they know it exists.

  12. Jason Harrison July 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Warning: freedom from rigid schedules may lead to independent decision making and spontaneous activities. Also independence.

    Warning: attending post sundown firework displays may lead to long term sleepiness, emotional swings, and immune system suppression. Also happy experiences and memories.

    Warning: freedom to self-select summer reading books may kead to exposure to topics and viewpoints outside of the common core. Also may prevent reading level regression.

  13. Warren July 1, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    My kids spent most of the summer each year at the lake. Sleep when you are tired, eat when you are hungry, and have fun. The week before returning to school, we started getting back to a schedule. Never had a problem.

  14. Andrea July 1, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    So, in other words, being a kid (i.e., playing outside or laying on the couch or beach) can lead to long-term health effects.

    Okay then.

  15. Warren July 1, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    The only reliable science on this is about how increased hours of daylight mess with your system. People that find themselves in a survival situation in the extreme north can die because of the 24 hours of daylight. It screws with their systems so bad, that they do not get the REM sleep they need, and eventually make bad decisions leading to their deaths. The RAF call it death by a thousand naps.

  16. lollipoplover July 1, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    When did summer freedom=hedonism?

    My kids swim, outside, every day. They play, outside, for most of the day. They sleep like babies and go to bed rather early (by 9pm most nights) because they are exhausted from physical activity. they get up early no matter what.

    I’m more worried about reapplying sunscreen with how much time they spend outside, not their sleep schedules.
    And I think keeping kids on strict schedules all year long is the result of controlling parents who want to micromanage every detail of childhood, which isn’t realistic, given that children should have say in how they choose their free play.

    Summer is awesome. Kids need a break from school to recharge their batteries and lazy days at beaches and lakes are very much learning experiences. Way to get all Debbie Downer about “disrupted routines”.

  17. Diana Green July 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Can’t you hear the chorus of little children’s voices, boo-hooing, echoing Robert L. Stevenson:
    “I have to go to sleep by DAY”!

  18. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Meh. If we react with horror every time someone tries to sell us something, we’d never have any fun.

    There’s a kernel of truth buried in the BS. If you drop schedule completely, the tendency is to get a lot less sleep. Once you do that, you get into a sleep-debt state that can produce health effects. (But mostly just makes you get a grumpy.disposition.)

    The real danger from playing outside is that bright shiny thing in the sky. It burns! It burns!

  19. Anna July 1, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    I think this attitude is common now. My son was having a blast the last two weeks, playing spontaneously with the neighbor kids who would come by looking for him pretty much every day, in one of our yards or on the sidewalk in between. Alas, the mom has informed me their family schedule is being disrupted and we should only have scheduled play-dates from now on.

    When I was a kid I LOVED the length and idleness of summer and the luxurious feeling that it would go on almost forever. I understand parents wanting to encourage older kids to do something productive with themselves, but under ten I can’t think what they could be doing more wholesome and beneficial than running around playing outside with other kids.

  20. Anna July 1, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    ” If you drop schedule completely, the tendency is to get a lot less sleep. Once you do that, you get into a sleep-debt state that can produce health effects.” That’s true, but I think especially with kids, hefty doses of outdoor activity and sun are going to ensure a healthy does of sleep too. Or that’s what I find with my son, anyway – a couple of hours outside pretty much guarantees that nap happens.

  21. Dee July 1, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    My comment to this emailer: “Have you *met* Lenore Skenazy or looked at anything she’s ever written?”

  22. caiti July 1, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    As someone who experiences debilitating depression on cloudy days and throughout the winter, I’d argue quite the opposite– I can only speak for myself but Ive finally become aware that being forced to spend the day under florescent lights (instead of sunshine or at least a sun-mimicking lamp) is likely to bring on illness. I fantasize about sending my son to his free range type summer camp (shout out to liberty lake day camp!) year long instead of public school, I bet it would be far more beneficial.

  23. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    “When I was a kid I LOVED the length and idleness of summer and the luxurious feeling that it would go on almost forever. I understand parents wanting to encourage older kids to do something productive with themselves, but under ten I can’t think what they could be doing more wholesome and beneficial than running around playing outside with other kids.”

    But something has changed. Once upon a time, kids could stay up late in the summertime and then get all the sleep they needed before waking up, because they stayed home in the summertime, and their caregiver was mom.

    Nowadays, mom has to go to work in the morning, which means getting the kids up, and dressed, and transferred to the daily caregiver.

    Anyway, it’s absolutely possible that something can have both beneficial properties and potentially harmful ones, at the same time.

    (And, of course, if I’m trying to sell you structured play opportunities for your kids, the LAST thing I want you thinking about is “can’t I just let my kids play, unstructured, for free?”

  24. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    “I think especially with kids, hefty doses of outdoor activity and sun are going to ensure a healthy does of sleep too.”
    My daughter wouldn’t go to sleep if anyone else was still awake, either at naptime or bedtime. She lost her daytime nap permanently when she started school, at 4. For at least 8 years after that, if I wanted her to go to sleep, I had to shut off the TV and do something quiet for 5-10 minutes. Once I figured that out, it worked reliably.

    The invention of the DVR saved my daughter’s health! I could record a show and start watching it 10 minutes later, after she was asleep.
    Yes, I suppose I could have just watched less TV, too… why do you mention it?

  25. theresa hall July 1, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    if the kids wear themselves out playing I’m pretty when bedtime comes they will be in dreamland in no time. as for stay up past bedtime once in while won’t hurt much. of the problem of letting kids wear themselves out is the curse of the busybody. this person even though they know the child isn’t mute or deaf if they can’t see parents calls 911 which causes cops to have rescue the kid from playtime when they could be stopping a crook. oh what horrible thing it is when you might have talk to someone in the real world.

  26. SOA July 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Dude its not the working moms that are why kids don’t sleep in. I am a SAHM and I would pay money for them to sleep in just on weekends or every once in awhile to like 10. Never has happened. Best I have gotten was almost 9 once. Usually 8 am is the latest they will sleep and sometimes they are up from 6 am. I try to make the rule don’t get out of bed till 7 am.

    I was able to sleep in as a kid. I enjoyed it. If mine stay up till midnight they still wake their butts up at 7am sharp asking for breakfast and then act grumpy the rest of the day since they did not get all the sleep they needed.

    If we run around all day long and get exercise all day long they still wake up at 7am.

  27. anonymous mom July 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Abundant research has indicated that what really disrupts the sleep cycles of teens and older kids is the unnatural school schedules we force on them. Staying up later and sleeping in seem to be the natural sleep rhythm of tweens and teens. So it’s not so much that the school schedule disrupts their sleep pattern, but allows them to fall into a more natural sleep pattern that will then be disrupted when school starts up.

    I’m an early-to-rise person myself, but I don’t really see much value in forcing kids to get up to start school at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., especially as more and more workers do not work regular 9-5 jobs, making it hard to argue that in doing so we’re preparing them for the workforce.

  28. anonymous mom July 1, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    @SOA, how old are your kids? My little ones are still in the phase where they wake up the same time (somewhere between 6:45 and 7:45) no matter what time we put them to bed, and often a later bed times means they are up EARLIER. But for the last year or so, my 11yo has actually been sleeping later when he’s up later. If we let him stay up until 11 or 12, he’ll sleep in until 9 or 10. It’s glorious. If only we could get all the kids to do that! Because, I’m with you: I would LOVE for my kids to sleep in. I like to have a couple of hours before they are up in the morning to get stuff done, and I don’t love having to wake up at 5 a.m. for that to happen.

  29. lollipoplover July 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    “Alas, the mom has informed me their family schedule is being disrupted and we should only have scheduled play-dates from now on.”

    Run,run,run from parents like this. My kids are back and forth from various houses in the neighborhood all day long. We families of kids with loose summer schedules stick together. Last night I drove 3 extra kids to a swim meet because the mom’s train was running late. We go back and forth with *favors* and trading kids all summer long. Same with pet sitting/house sitting for vacations.

    Only scheduled playdates? RIP spontaneous fun of childhood.
    I’ll take my unscheduled, random aged/gender kid mix all summer long. Variety is the spice of life. Kids need to get bored and should not be constantly entertained with Love Boat cruise director activity schedules on the hour. Go make mud pies. Or slip and slide.

  30. Paul July 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    The kids’ bedtime has changed a bit. The youngest (20 months) is no longer content with going down at 7:00, and that’s fine by me as she’s also sleeping later in the morning. Yes, we’re putting the older kids to bed a bit later, but considering that “putting them to bed” does not equal “the time they fall asleep,” it’s not really a material difference.

    This is another reason I hate daylight savings time. It’s a bit rough trying to put kids to bed when it’s still so light out. That and the later sunrise in the morning is a pain when you’re trying to get out and run, but that’s for another conversation.

  31. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    I think a lot of commenters are incorrectly latching on to “playing outside” as what is being warned against, when it’s actually “unstructured” playing that is claimed to be “harmful” (well, potentially harmful).

    That said, I think it’s true that some people thrive in a less-structured environment, some people thrive in a more-structured environment, some people thrive either way. Most adults are stuck with/trapped in a very structured environment, because of work. We know that the unstructured time in the summer has an effect on children… they need time to re-adjust when each new school year starts. If you come from a background that places a high value of education, this is a bigger issue. If you come from a background that doesn’t place a high value of education, it isn’t.

  32. EricS July 1, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    Who ever wrote that either hates kids, or is a complete moron. There is no other logical, reasonable or valid explanation.

  33. EricS July 1, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    James Pollack, ADJUSTMENT is a key factor in all our lives. Let me ask you, we’re you structured growing up? Many of us weren’t. We learned to adapt. Experience by trial and error. To much structure, and you breed children to be too independent. They don’t know how to adapt, because everything is done for them. How do you think they will fair in adulthood worn that mind set? 30 years old and still reliant on parents. And expect things done for them.

    Like I’ve always said, don’t fix what isn’t broke. With all the “fixing” many parents doing today, it’s all falling apart. Not just within the family, but in society as a whole. Think ‘1984’.

  34. BL July 1, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    “some people thrive in a more-structured environment”

    You misspelled “sheeple”.

  35. Anna July 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    “I think a lot of commenters are incorrectly latching on to “playing outside” as what is being warned against, when it’s actually “unstructured” playing that is claimed to be “harmful” (well, potentially harmful).”

    I understand that’s their point, but I think it’s dead wrong. I think unstructured play is essential to childhood, regardless of personality type – at least for healthy, normal children. (I’m sure there are conditions that might be an exception, such as autism – perhaps.)

    As Peter Gray points out in his book (thanks Lenore for recommending it!) what’s so important about unstructured play is that play is when children set their own goals and pursue them, as opposed to working toward goals we adults set out for them, whether diligently or resentfully, depending on the kid’s personality.

    Kids already spend their days most of the year learning the lessons we set for them in school. We shouldn’t take over their playtime too. When we substitute adult-directed, structured recreation like sports teams and lessons for play, we take away the most important and beneficial aspects of play: learning to persevere in pursuit of a goal, to conquer fears, to figure out the best means to an end, to get along with others, to persuade others, etc.

  36. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    “James Pollack, ADJUSTMENT is a key factor in all our lives.”
    And some people are better at it than other people are. I don’t generally feel a need to attack other people for making different choices (for themselves, or for their children).

    Whoever is behind this email wants to sell something. He sends out this email, and some people say “oh, good Lord, no!”… they’re not buying what he’s selling. Some people say “Oh, this is just what I was looking for!” (at least, he (or possibly she) hopes so.) I decline to judge somebody, just because they’re on one side or the other.

    “Let me ask you, we’re you structured growing up?”
    No, and yes, depending on how you want to look at it.

    “Many of us weren’t. We learned to adapt. Experience by trial and error. To much structure, and you breed children to be too independent.”
    I assume you meant “dependent” here.

    “They don’t know how to adapt, because everything is done for them. How do you think they will fair in adulthood worn that mind set?”
    I think they’ll fare just fine, most of them.

    “Like I’ve always said, don’t fix what isn’t broke.”
    There have been people who prefer a structured, regimented life for as long as there has been any such thing. There have been people who prefer a less-structured, spur-of-the-moment existence. Too much of either is probably harmful. Neither is a new invention. There has always been, and will always be, people who favor a strict approach to child-rearing complaining about the “lazy” parents who just let their kids run around all day. There has always been, and will always be, people who favor a laissez-faire approach to child-rearing complainging about the “crazy” parents who want their children toeing the line at all times.
    I’d bet we all know someone whose parents gave them too much freedom, and we also know someone whose parents gave them too little.

    A counter-argument:
    Freedom isn’t free. Children should have some, to the degree that they show they can use it responsibly. Giving them freedom they haven’t earned does them no service. Giving them freedom they aren’t prepared for does them no service. Every child has a “right amount” of freedom (more correctly, a range of “right amount”). Too much regimentation, and you strangle their creativity. Too little, and you get the effect you’re afraid of… 30 years old, unable to provide for themselves, still dependent on parents or others.

  37. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    ““some people thrive in a more-structured environment”
    You misspelled “sheeple”.
    I think this word is applicable to people who cannot stand to have other people who think differently than they do. I don’t recommend more structure for the sake of more structure. I simply note that some people seem to need and/or want more than they have.

  38. Elin July 1, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    What is summer without a little fun and some enjoyment of the light and warmth? I live in northern Sweden close to the Arctic circle so it is light all night and most people are up later at night so why not the kids? I remember that some of the most glorious times I had as a child was when we were in our cabin in the woods and we were allowed to run free and stay up until we were so tired we almost fell down on the floor. I remember the crisp night air, picking flowers and hearing birds start their morning routine. I remember running around and the adults only catching the most tired kid and demand it went to bed. We often kept away from them to not be caught but most accepted going to bed once caught and I remember sleeping so soundly from being up so late and from the fresh air. If I can even give my daughter a fraction of this I will.

    Tonight we went to a car meet where people bring their veteran (or near veteran) cars. We have a pick-nick and look at cars and my husband tells me and our daughter about the different cars. After it is over we walk back enjoying the summer evening. Our daughter often falls asleep on the way back but not tonight so it was after 9 before she fell asleep. She is going to day care tomorrow and she might be tired but that is not the end of the world, having to never do anything out of the ordinary would be though.

  39. Anna July 1, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    Lollipoplover: “Run,run,run from parents like this.” I agree – is there a more awkward social situation than the playdate, from an adult point of view? But the sad part is, the kids were doing great together until now; it was quite idyllic. Also, they’re the only other kids on the block.

  40. SKL July 1, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    What about the effects on the parents, is what I’d like to know. 😛 I would like us to be on a regular schedule because none of us do well on a chaotic one. But I’m not about to be militant about it in the summer.

    So … what “long term effects” are they talking about? Do they have evidence that chasing fireflies and sleeping in the morning after causes health problems?

  41. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    ” I think unstructured play is essential to childhood, regardless of personality type – at least for healthy, normal children.”

    As do I. But not unlimited unstructured play. There’s a time to put toys away, and get chores done. Summertime, enerally, provides a lot more opportunities to do fun things, which is great. It doesn’t completely absolve us of doing things that need to be done. Someone still has to feed the dog. Someone has to make dinner, and wash the dishes, and all the other things in life (somebody has to go to work, probably)

    ” When we substitute adult-directed, structured recreation like sports teams and lessons for play, we take away the most important and beneficial aspects of play: learning to persevere in pursuit of a goal, to conquer fears, to figure out the best means to an end, to get along with others, to persuade others, etc.”
    I think you’re overgeneralizing. My daughter was in activities of her own choosing; they were an opportunity, not an obligation. We’d get the park and recreation district catalog, and she’d pick out everything that looked interesting, then we’d talk about what it really was (a paragraph in a book doesn’t tell the whole story). She’d join the summer reading program at the library… she was a reader, anyway, the only thing that changed was that she kept a record to earn prizes. When she was in grade school, she went to a licensed daycare; after grade school, she didn’t.
    I mean, if you put your kids on the soccer team because all the other parents are doing it, or you push your little tomboy to cheerleader camp because of your own frustrated dreams of being a cheerleader, that’s probably harmful. Saying “no, your play time ends at 8:00 because it’s time for bed” probably doesn’t.

  42. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    “Do they have evidence that chasing fireflies and sleeping in the morning after causes health problems?”

    It does for the fireflies.

  43. Havva July 1, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    @ James:
    “A counter-argument:
    …. Every child has a “right amount” of freedom (more correctly, a range of “right amount”). ….”

    That isn’t really the counter argument here, that is the main argument here.

    The strident opposition to concern mongering comes from the observation that at this moment in history, in notable swaths of the English speaking world, have become fear driven. As a result there has been a sea change in what people find acceptable childhood freedom.

    “Experts” like the one advertising here get published on other blogs. Then it gets passed around some communities like wisdom from on high, rather than the advertisement that it is.

    Of course you didn’t believe it at all when I described my neighborhood, and the toxic worries of my neighbors. So I’m not surprised you don’t understand why anyone is arguing to change things. You apparently live in a free range paradise.

    Yes balance is key, the right amount of freedom is key. And sometimes mountains need moved to get people to accept that any amount of freedom is right. To get them to quit warning parents of dire consequences over every little freedom… silly little freedoms like staying up late in the summer.

  44. Anna July 1, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    “But not unlimited unstructured play.”

    If you ask me, you’re fighting a straw man. Have you seen any of the statistics on how dramatically the number of minutes children spend in free play daily declines every year?

    “There’s a time to put toys away, and get chores done. Summertime, enerally, provides a lot more opportunities to do fun things, which is great. It doesn’t completely absolve us of doing things that need to be done.”

    Yes, and I had chores in summer. When they were done, I was free to play my own way. I think you’re setting up a false antithesis. Appropriate freedom is not what spoils kids. What could be more appropriate than playing freely with other kids? I’ve taught college students of the current generation, who had far less freedom than mine – they were supervised non-stop and taken to simulating, educational activities up the wazoo – but I assure you, they were certainly NOT less spoiled than my generation.

    And I don’t think the problem of excessive screentime is unrelated. If you won’t give your kids freedom in any other form, they’ll take virtual freedom instead. Who can blame them?

  45. M July 1, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    As a homeschooler, I let my kids do what felt comfortable and natural for them. If you let them sleep when they are sleepy, and wake up naturally, you don’t need to be concerned with “schedules”.

    Letting your kids stay up late once in a while to chase fireflies, watch fireworks, or catch a movie is not going to cause “long-term health affects”. But constant worrying a fretting WILL cause long term health affects. So don’t stress the small stuff.

  46. anonymous mom July 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    @Anna, if anything, I think we’re seeing young people have both less unstructured free time AND less chores and responsibilities. The two are not in any way in opposition. I would bet that if we tracked the number of minutes kids spent a day doing chores and the number of minutes a day they spent in unsupervised, unstructured play, we’d see them fall at about the same rate. My parents had lots of chores AND lots of unsupervised free time. I had a moderate amount of chores and an moderate amount of unsupervised free time. Many of my kids’ friends have no chores and very little unsupervised free time.

  47. Anna July 1, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    “I think we’re seeing young people have both less unstructured free time AND less chores and responsibilities.” I agree, absolutely. Basically, we’re letting our kids do less and less self-actualizing, human activities.

  48. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    “the observation that at this moment in history, in notable swaths of the English speaking world, have become fear driven. As a result there has been a sea change in what people find acceptable childhood freedom.”

    I don’t believe either of these premises to be true.
    At this moment in history, as in all other moments in history, there are people who think other people are giving kids too much freedom, and there are people who think other people are giving their kids too little. There have been people making their decisions based on fear (and fear-mongering) for, approximately, ever.

    “You apparently live in a free range paradise.”
    It’s called “the suburbs.” The actual risks to children are few, and the opportunities for them are many. YMMV.

  49. Liz July 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    When I was an infant, I didn’t fall asleep until 11pm and slept until 11am. I have never been a morning person, and I married a man who isn’t a morning person either. Not surprisingly, our son is up all night and sleeps until at least 12noon every day. My mother-in-law was very concerned, and told us to “get him up earlier, because when he has to go to school it’ll be much harder to get him to adjust!” He’s 7 months old. We plan to homeschool. But I guess letting him sleep in a natural way for him is just downright dangerous and rebellious!

  50. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    “If you ask me, you’re fighting a straw man.”
    Not at all. Here you have an ad that says that giving children unlimited freedom in summertime can be bad for them. This is vaguely true, in the sense that almost anything CAN be bad for them, if you’re willing to twist and weasel sufficiently. His actual claim is that letting children stay up all night and sleep in may disrupt their sleep schedules. Well, duh. Of course it can. It doesn’t say “oh God no, don’t let your kids play outside”. It doesn’t say “OMG if you don’t schedule every minute of their day they’re going to DIE a HORRIBLE DEATH and it will be YOUR FAULT!” It doesn’t even say “you know, letting your kids stay up late once in a while is totally a problem.”

    ” Have you seen any of the statistics on how dramatically the number of minutes children spend in free play daily declines every year?”
    No. Nor do I have any confidence that this could be even remotely accurately measured.

    “Appropriate freedom is not what spoils kids.”
    I already claimed this thesis. Also “both too much AND too little is bad for them”.

    “What could be more appropriate than playing freely with other kids?”
    Any number of things, depending on the child(ren) involved, the situation, including time and place, and other pressing needs.

    “I’ve taught college students of the current generation”
    I was a college instructor for just over a decade. I disagree with your characterization that follows. Some kids had super-structured upbringings, and some did not. Some had a background where the whole family does everything together, some had “everybody does their own thing” The pattern you describe was typical for some, but nowhere near all.

    The range of entertainment options has skyrocketed over the last century. Once, if you wanted to hear music, you had to first find someone who could make it. Now, a typical household probably has half-a-dozen different devices each capable of producing music on demand. In my youth, we had TV. 5 channels to choose from! These kids today are spoiled! Spoiled I say! The computer I had to work with (and I got ahold of one about 5 years ahead of my peers) was ridiculous. 32K of RAM, 170k on a floppy disk, no hard disk at all, single-color screen with only text and block characters.
    Our kids will be fine. Other kids’ parents will make horrible, awful choices in the upbringing of their children, the vast majority of which will not harm them at all because “made a different decision than I did” and “horrible, awful choices” turn out not to be the same thing, after all.

  51. Marcello1099 July 1, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    What brain-dead moron wrote this article? Either on drugs or needs them.

  52. DaveS July 1, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    Seems to me that the being bright outside naturally suggests that its not time for sleep yet.

    Around here its been getting dark a bit after 9PM. Our two year old, who we had been putting to bed at 8, has recently taken to pointing to the window and saying ‘its not sleep time’ which is fine by me since it expands the time we all have for evening outdoor fun.

    Completely has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
    Love the small town I just moved to. The people here don’t seem to have the ‘worst first’ infection.

    In the past three days I’ve seen a number of kids as young as 5 or 6 riding bikes on their own as well as kids on their own in nearby parks.
    Just a few minutes ago two little girls (aged 5 and 8) dropped by with some welcome treats, no parents in sight.

  53. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    “Seems to me that the being bright outside naturally suggests that its not time for sleep yet.”

    I think this logic has occurred to every child who wants to stay up later since ever. Just throw a blanket over the cage, like you would for a parrot.

    Seriously, the problem is that the amount of sleep a person needs does vary with season for most people, but not as much as the actual change in daylight. Meaning, if daylight goes from 12 hours (at the equinox), to 18 hours (at the solstice), you probably don’t need 12 hours at the equinox, but you probably need more than 6 at the solstice.

    I don’t know about you other parents, but I’ve noticed amongst the children I’ve been around (not just my own), that if you miss scheduled bedtime, they’ll get a “second wind” and won’t be ready to go to sleep for several more hours. Anyone else?

  54. Emily July 1, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    @James Pollock–Of course giving kids unlimited freedom in the summertime is bad for them. Heck, giving anyone unlimited anything at any time is bad for them. For example, I just had a small piece of dark chocolate after dinner. The rest of the chocolate is sitting on my bookshelf for later. I’m an adult, so I can self-regulate like that, because I know that, much as I like chocolate, too much isn’t good for me, and it’ll make me feel sick to my stomach, so it’s better to be enjoyed a little at a time, than all at once. The thing is, though, the author of this article is thinking in extremes, as is the “scheduled playdates only” mother who lives up the street from Lollipoplover and her mom. I was one of the first generation of bubble-wrapped kids, but I was nowhere near as overprotected as some kids are these days, and so, my brother and I were allowed to play outside on summer evenings (albeit in the yard, and not in the streets), but we had to come inside when the streetlights came on. That was the rule for pretty much all the other kids we knew as well–in fact, for a few years, my brother and I believed that that was the purpose of the streetlights; for the government to tell all the kids (or, all below some age cut-off, like maybe high school) when to come inside for the night. We also had to pick up after ourselves, take out the garbage, keep our bicycles covered at night, and when it rained, maintain proper hygiene, and follow a handful of other basic rules of safety and civility. Again, most other kids we knew followed the same rules. We also participated in a handful of extra-curricular activities and summer camps over the years; we just didn’t have every moment of our lives scheduled. So, it’s not as if everyone who grew up before this generation had total freedom–it’s been such a gradual shift, brought on by many small changes that people didn’t complain about at the time, and now kids are living lives where free play is an anomaly that “disrupts their schedules.” I think that most people here would say that the solution to that is more free play, not less. Again, this wouldn’t mean total freedom–there’d still be chores, and curfews, and expectations of fulfilling commitments (for example, no fair quitting dance two weeks before the big recital), but there’d also be time to ride bikes, climb trees, play street hockey, and do all the things that kids used to do before life revolved around Safety and Educational Opportunities.

  55. Tamara July 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    Beth: where I live the fireworks are at midnight! Midnight, can you believe that? It’s just not dark enough here until then so the fireworks are always June 30h at midnight. Canada Day! Literally everyone and their kid and their dog goes, no one has complained it’s too late although you just can’t argue with the it’s not dark enough factor! It’s held at a park and it’s amazing to see all these kids running around playing in the park and playground at night!!

    I’ve found that since we abolished bedtimes around my house, my kids both go to bed much much later and sleep until they are not tired anymore, usually waking up around noon. They have been so much less grumpy, no bedtime fights, and they are getting along with each other so much better as well.

  56. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    “So, it’s not as if everyone who grew up before this generation had total freedom”
    No, it’s as if some kids who grew up before this generation had lots and lots of freedom, while at the same time some other kids did not have total freedom. In fact, many kids of my generation had LOTS more freedom MUCH earlier, because… mom was at work when school let out.

    “it’s been such a gradual shift, brought on by many small changes that people didn’t complain about at the time, and now kids are living lives where free play is an anomaly that “disrupts their schedules.””
    No, SOME kids have highly regimented lives. Just like before. Some other kids do not have highly-regimented lives. Just like before.

    “I think that most people here would say that the solution to that is more free play, not less.”
    I think most people here would say that, too… which doesn’t make it right. I think it depends on the child(ren) involved, their history and psyche, their cultural influences, their environment. I made decisions about my child, you make decisions about your child(ren), and other people make the decision for their child(ren). Not everybody has to come to the same answer.

    It’s similar to the question “when should you teach a child to read?”
    There’s an argument for “as soon as possible… children who read earlier read more, and have more academic success later.”
    There’s an argument for “Wait until they start school. Then they’ll be learning with everyone else, and won’t be bored sitting in class “learning” something they already know how to do.”
    But the RIGHT answer is… it depends on the child. When the child is ready to start learning to read, they will… with or without your help.

    So… if a child has a highly regimented life, and is thriving… the parent has made a correct decision. If the child has a lot of freedom, and is thriving… the parent has made a correct choice. Heck, it’s probably true that most kids would thrive either way… creativity and imagination seem to find away to break through and express themselves, no matter how hostile or welcoming the environment is.

    Q: But… what if the parent has made a choice different from the one I would have made, and the child is thriving. I want to complain that they’re doing it “wrong”! Can’t I do that anyway?
    A: Sure you can. But I won’t agree with you. Give that the full weight of consideration it deserves (probably not much, if any) and proceed as you see fit.

  57. James Pollock July 1, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    “Beth: where I live the fireworks are at midnight!”

    Where I live, the fireworks started about a week ago, and will continue for most of another week.

    The “official” ones start about 10, but lots of volunteers will go earlier and some later, terrifying the pet animals for pretty much the entire night.

    I went through a phase of home-made fireworks, which came to an end about the time the guy decided to make a boom by filling a big Hefty garbage bag with oxy-acetlyene mix, and touching it off.
    (For comparison, back when I was in Jr. High, I took metal shop class and, one of the highlights of 8th-grade metal shop over 7th-grade metal shop was that you could learn out to weld. To show why there was so much safety training involved in learning to weld, the teacher gave us a demonstration. An ordinary balloon is filled with acetylene gas, and then touched off. It makes a big fireball. Next a balloon is filled with about 2cc of oxy-acetylene gas… the balloon is about the size of a nickel. When that gets touched off, you get a bang that rattles the walls.

  58. Tsu Dho Nimh July 1, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    No wonder I’m so screwed up!

    During the long Montana summer days we would get up at dawn (4AM) and be running around the outdoors like maniacs until too dark to see (9 or 10PM) and then play under the street light (only 5 in the whole town and we had one of them!) for another hour or so.

    Because it was LIGHT!!!

    =====
    But, “summer as an amazing time to stay up late, sleep in and spend their days playing outside or laying on the beach or the couch;” does break the habit of getting up early and will cause some problems when school starts.

    So a bit of moderation on the sleep in and stay up late might be reasonable

  59. Warren July 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    Can someone tell me where to find Lenore’s site? This one seems to be James’ site. Dude you really need to get a life. At the time of my comment 13/58 were James’. And that is just on this article.

  60. Barry Lederman July 1, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    Does this mean that when they switch the clock for standard vs daylight saving time ; that they are causing a sleep disruption? A chronic, long term lasting problem?

  61. Beth July 1, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    Warren, I’m with you. Very close to leaving this site, hate to say.

  62. caiti July 1, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

    Yay Warren! Ps I frequently think your comments are awesome and always look forward to reading them!

  63. Anna July 1, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

    Yes, perhaps we need some signs here about not feeding the wildlife (or does that belong on the previous thread?). . .

  64. Beth July 2, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    I’m sure we are playing into exactly what James wants.

    Troll: One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers.

  65. Dexie July 2, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    When I was little it was called. “Going out to play”” Parents wake up your getting brainwashed by “CULTURAL MARXISM”…

  66. James Pollock July 2, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    “I’m sure we are playing into exactly what James wants.”
    Probably.

    “Troll: One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers.”
    And what is the argument I should be listening to? (Besides the fact that you’re attacking me, not vice versa).

  67. Warren July 2, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    caiti,
    Thanks.

    Beth,
    You are bang on with him being a troll. In the comments on the next story he is trying to manipulate the comments by stating things not in evidence. Typical tactics.

  68. Papilio July 2, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Guys, if everyone makes it clear right away that they’re talking to James, the rest of us can easily skip his and those comments.

  69. Andre L. July 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    I, and many researches, think that summer breaks are generally too long. Children would better benefit of having more breaks during the year, each one lasting just one or two weeks.

  70. Rochelle A. July 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    OF course it leads to long term health affects…those little rascals will grow up to have LOWER bp, LOWER body fat, HIGHER self esteem, HIGHER creativity, LESS inflammation and be HAPPY.

  71. James Pollock July 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    “You are bang on with him being a troll. In the comments on the next story he is trying to manipulate the comments by stating things not in evidence. Typical tactics.”

    Of course, you had to back off this claim in that next story because you were clearly and obviously wrong. Just thought I’d point that out here as well as there.

  72. Warren July 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    James,
    No I don’t have to back off. You are a little troll. Because you still tried to sideline the story with the keys in the ignition and the car idling comment.

    You lose. Play again. Actually just go away.

  73. James Pollock July 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    “No I don’t have to back off.”
    Then why did you?
    http://www.freerangekids.com/this-must-end-no-more-harassment-for-leaving-kids-in-the-car-a-minute-or-two/#comment-374708

    Answer: Because you were wrong, in spectacularly confrontational but amusingly wrong fashion.

  74. Tamara July 2, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    Dude, warren did not back off, he admitted to a single error.

  75. James Pollock July 2, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    “warren did not back off, he admitted to a single error.”

    The same one he referred to here. I’m sure it was just an oversight that he forgot to pop over here and do the same.

  76. Warren July 2, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Thank you Tamara.

  77. BL July 2, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    “OF course it leads to long term health affects…those little rascals will grow up to have LOWER bp, LOWER body fat, HIGHER self esteem, HIGHER creativity, LESS inflammation and be HAPPY.”

    So there’s no upside for TPTB.

  78. Earth Waratah July 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    That would explain my life without coffee.

  79. Yonassan Gershom July 3, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Ah, so that explains it! all those summers playing free-range outside in the woods in the 1950s must be why now, at age 67, I have a hard time sleeping sometimes LOL! I permanently disrupted my sleep schedule by being outside in God’s creation! Of course, we didn’t have computers to keep us up all night back then…

  80. Puzzled July 4, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    BL – TPTB are actually getting concerned about this. They worry about the impact on the military.

  81. Patty July 7, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Michelle Obama should weigh in on this! Her motto to Kids: Get moving! –So She could add: Go outside and Play!

  82. BMS July 7, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    I’m a horrible mother then.

    Other than a week of resident camp, the odd week of some day camp, and summer school for the 8th grader who thought he could blow off Algebra with no consequences, I have scheduled nothing for my 13 and 14 year old kids this summer. Most days they will probably sleep until noon, get up and make themselves breakfast/lunch, hang around, play video games, work on their go cart, go biking, hang with friends, and stay up late watching movies. I don’t worry about them being home on their own. If they’re sleeping until noon, and husband gets home at 3:30-4pm, they’re not unsupervised for long. They know how to cook, they know to let us know via text if they’re going somewhere, and their friends know that they will face the Wrath Of Mom if they trash the house. They’re 10,000 percent happier when they are not scheduled to death all summer. Sure, the first week or two of school is an adjustment – it always is. I crack the whip when I get home so that dishes, laundry, and other chores get done. In fact, I get more chores out of them when they are following their own desired rhythm, versus being forced into an early to bed, early to rise mode for an arbitrary reason.

  83. Dirk July 8, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    What press release? This post never says where it came from. Is this satire or actual reporting?