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How To Make Kids Spend Even MORE Time on Phones?

The following note was passed along to us by a dad whose kids attend a public school in Texas. It says:

Parents we need your help in keeping our children safe at the playground after hours and on the weekends.

It is important that children are supervised at all times.

We have had reports of children climbing on the outside of the play equipment which is really unsafe. Some children are trying to sit on top of the big slide.  This is completely unacceptable behavior.

We are reminding our children again today the same playground expectations apply in the afternoon, evening, and on weekends.  They need to play safely and follow the expectations so they do not get hurt.   If you are at the playground and notice unsafe behavior please remind them to play safely.  Thank you for your help.

Signed, the Overlords of Overprotection. Well, not really. I suppose it was signed by the principal or superintendent. But as our secret source asks:

Did these people not climb trees as kids? I grew up in the 80s and 90s and loved climbing trees. Kids want to climb on stuff. We are primates!

Ah, but now we are primates with law degrees and an overactive sense of doom.

“Do not get hurt.” “Play safely.” “Keep our children safe.” “Unsafe behavior.” “Really unsafe.” In just 119 words, the school manages to use the word “safe” five times, suggesting the playground is  hellscape of danger. As hellscapes require an ever-present boo-boo squad, that’s what parents are requested to become.

So — two thoughts.

1 – This is why I try not to blame “helicopter parents” for hovering. They live in a culture that sees a climb up the slide as Free Solo 2. This kind of LSD-level distortion is reinforced through propaganda like this school note. It simultaneously inflates the possibility of danger AND the job of parent into something new and all encompassing. In 2024 America, your child is unsafe anytime their heinie hits the mulch chips, so you must be with them lest that horror occur. Have a nice life! Bring snacks! And if you’re not there, the school will receive “reports.”

2 – There’s an alternative to outdoor play that does not require a parent giving up all their free time. In this alternate world, kids can hang out with friends, talk, joke, climb, slide, ride, and play to their hearts’ content. Heck, they can fly, and turn into dragons, and meet real people from across the world. And it fits in their pocket! Every minute they are prohibited from playing in the real world is another minute they can be on a screen. If kids’ real-world playtime is limited to parents’ real-world free time, phones become their default playground.

And it’s default (ha ha) of policies like this.

Obviously the school is worried about risk and lawsuits. And yet, it was just last week that polite, careful CANADA woke up from its own safety coma. After years of things like decommissioning beloved toboggan hills, requiring helmets on the playground, and investigating parents who let their kids under-age-12 walk around unsupervised, the Canadian Paediatric Society announced that, actually, kids NEED “risky play.”

Why? Because their mental and physical health has been plummeting all the years they’ve been getting “safer.”

So if a culture is trying to err on the side of safety, it cannot ignore the downside of not allowing kids to play on the local playground without a security detail.

2 Responses to How To Make Kids Spend Even MORE Time on Phones?

  1. Lyle F. Bogart, DPT February 9, 2024 at 3:34 pm #

    This is kind of rich coming from Texas, a state which reveres contact sports such as american football. Pee wee football includes hitting and tackling even as young as 5-6 years. Then there’s gymnastics which many parents are hasty to get their kids into at very early ages. I’ve been a physical therapist for nearly 20 years and have raised two kids in a free-range manner. The majority of youth injuries I have treated come from kids involved in sport where they are supervised by “qualified” adults. It’s the rare case I see where a kid was “just playing” and was injured enough to require my services. I’ve lead an adventuresome life with loads of risk-taking and have a few scars to show for it. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. So far, my kids have avoided serious injuries–oh, a sprain or a bruise here and there–but they are not risk-averse and have learned how to assess risk.
    Let the kids play. Let them get some bumps and bruises. Let them find out who they are and what they’re made of. They will enjoy the world a great deal more.

  2. Mark Headley February 9, 2024 at 5:32 pm #

    The school’s note leaves me irate. Bravo Lenore, your source, Lyle! I broke my nose playing flag football in gym class. Never outside school. I strongly disagree the school has any business instructing how kids’ play outside of school. I can’t imagine how this would be stoked by fears of litigation. I also don’t have the impression that lawyers are more apt to be litigious with schools. Do they helicopter more? Are there such data or just the stereotype? Speaking for myself, when potential clients consulted me about bringing a lawsuit, I typically advised them they’d likely be best off NOT litigating; or settling ASAP to save on legal fees. I’m well aware how taxing, vexing, expensive, disturbing litigation can be. In my own life, I’ve always let potential claims go w/ no litigation. As aggressive as I’ll be when this ethically, justly serves the client. Not schools, etc. like this running autocratically amok.