Are parents too overprotective?

Photo credit: Xavier Donat / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

This week, The Atlantic published a very interesting story titled “The Overprotected Kid.” The story talks about how we, as parents, protect our kids in ways that were unheard of with previous generations, and is even foreign to how most of us grew up.

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.

This is true. I can remember spending hours outside during the summer with no cell phone or even regular check in times, (and I thought my parents were strict.) Now, if my kids are gone longer than I expect, I find myself fearing the worst.

When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?

The age of information has undoubtedly led to our (sometimes) unsubstantied fears. On almost a daily basis, mass media are reminding us of some tragedy or terrible event that causes our levels of fear and caution to rise. The overprotection of our children feels at times like someone who is afraid to fly on an airplane. The fear is real, and there is sound reasoning behind it, but the chances of something bad actually happening are so slim, we risk it anyway. But we don’t do this with our kids, do we?

Even rubber surfacing doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference in the real world. David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University, analyzed U.K. injury statistics and found that as in the U.S., there was no clear trend over time. “The advent of all these special surfaces for playgrounds has contributed very little, if anything at all, to the safety of children,”

I recommend that you go and read the whole story over at The Atlantic, it’s a really interesting perspective. Do you feel like we are overprotecting our children? Instead of the desired effect, do you think that it’s possible that our overprotection is actually having a negative effect?

If a mother is afraid that her child might be abducted, her ironclad rule should not be Don’t talk to strangers. It should be Don’t talk to your father.

Interesting. Read the article then start a discussion here.


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