If you were to pose this question to a member of the baby boom generation, they would probably blink, puzzled, not sure what the question could mean. “Of course children should be allowed to play outdoors,” they would mutter, not even seeing the question as something of merit.
However, in the 21st century, this question has become more loaded than ever. In fact, the issue has become so loaded that we now live in a world where parents can be reported to child services for letting their kids play out in their own backyard. This is a world away from how we, the modern parents of young kids, grew up– for the most part, playing outdoors was an essential, something that we all did, and something our parents would never have been lambasted for. We were allowed to walk within reasonable distances and were trusted with our own keys from a young age; again, things that Generation Z have next to no chance of experiencing.
Alas, times change, and so the question becomes ever-more loaded as the years go by.
Those who outright disagree with kids being allowed to play outdoors have the following reasons:
- Children get kidnapped if they are not being supervised at all times. Why expose them to the risk?
- Kids are at danger from potential road traffic accidents if they are allowed out alone (even if they are only in suburban neighborhoods).
- Kids can get lost and become distressed.
- Parents should supervise children at all times, as that is your responsibility as a parent.
- Kids get dirty when they play outside, and this can make them sick. As a parent, it’s your duty to protect your child at all times to ensure that they are in good health.
Those who do advocate kids being allowed to play outdoors tend to respond with the following:
- Children can and do get kidnapped, but this can happen even when they are being supervised. All it takes is a moment of distraction.
- Kids are at far higher risk of experiencing a road traffic accident when they are in a car than when they are out walking or playing outdoors; car accidents are incredibly common, and if you live near a commercial estate, truck accidents can be the most deadly. Despite these cold, hard statistics about the danger of driving a vehicle, the naysayers do not have an issue with children being transported in cars– where they are actually less safe than if they’re just out walking on a sidewalk. Provided children are taught to respect the road, walking and/or playing outdoors is actually safer than driving.
- Most kids today are equipped with a cellphone and will know to call for help if they are lost. Kids can also be given strict boundaries about where they can and can’t go.
- While children of a certain age should be supervised at all times, there is a certain point at which it is actually necessary for your kids to be comfortable being out in public alone. This age should be determined by the family, taking into account the child in question.
- Kids are supposed to get dirty; it helps to build their immune systems for later life.
There’s no doubt that both sides of the argument feel very passionate about where they stand on the issue, so there is one burning question that all modern parents need to figure out an answer to…
Who’s Right — The Naysayers or The Advocates?
This, of course, is the key question– and sadly, it’s a question it’s impossible to answer in a generalized way. You have to make the right decision for you and your family. Below you’ll find a few useful tips and guides to help make the decision you make as safe as possible; there is no intent here to influence your choice, just a desire to make either choice as positive as possible.
If your children have a cellphone, you can activate a GPS app on their phone so you can always track where they are and ensure that they are staying within allowed limits.
The health consequences
There is a variety of health benefits when children are allowed to play outdoors. If you’re not comfortable allowing this, then you will need to take additional provisions to ensure that these health benefits are achieved in other ways.
Teach your children ‘stranger danger’
It’s likely your children will already have experienced this, but there’s no harm in the occasional refresher lesson to ensure they remember what they have learned. Here’s a good video to show them:
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Watch their Vitamin D levels
If you are not allowing your kids to play outdoors, then be very careful of their Vitamin D levels. The human body needs some degree of sunlight exposure to be able to obtain Vitamin D; an indoor lifestyle has been blamed for a resurgence of rickets in recent years. To maintain good Vitamin D levels, your kids need to be exposed to sunlight for around 10 minutes per day; you can use sunblock during this time, too, so there’s no risk of burning.
Don’t be distracted when your kids are out
It’s not necessary to watch over your kids like a hawk after a certain age, but it’s wise not to be too distracted while you know they are out. Keep an eye on them (or their GPS monitor) to ensure everything is proceeding as it should.
Ultimately, the choice as to whether or not you allow your kids to play outside is a very personal one. It’s vital to remember that you only have to make the right choice for you; don’t be put off by the so-called “mommy shamers”, who seem to delight on judging other parents for their decision. Do what you think is right and what you are confident your kids can handle, keeping the tips above in mind