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Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the think-of-the-children's-thinking dept.

Education 493

Hugh Pickens writes "John Tierney writes that the old 10-foot-high jungle gyms and slides disappeared from most American playgrounds across the country in recent decades because of parental concerns, federal guidelines, new safety standards set by manufacturers and — the most frequently cited factor — fear of lawsuits. But today some researchers question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone. 'Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,' says professor Ellen Sandseter. 'Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.' After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play, although fear of litigation led New York City officials to remove seesaws, merry-go-rounds and the ropes that young Tarzans used to swing from one platform to another."

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493 comments

This "safety net problem" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837756)

is far broader than our playgrounds.

Re:This "safety net problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837786)

Arguably, the playgrounds are one of the most insidious instances of this problem, as this is where children first interact in a controlled risk environment with their peers.

Adventure Playground (5, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838152)

"C. Th. SÃrensen, a Danish landscape architect, noticed that children preferred to play everywhere but in the playgrounds that he built. In 1931, he imagined "A junk playground in which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality." Why not give children in the city the same chances for play as those in the country? His initial ideas started the adventure playground movement.

The first adventure playground opened in Emdrup, Denmark in 1943, during World War II. In 1946, Lady Allen of Hurtwood visited Emdrup from England and was impressed with "junk playgrounds." She brought the idea to London. These "junk playgrounds" became known as "adventure playgrounds." "
http://adventureplaygrounds.hampshire.edu/history.html [hampshire.edu]

"The Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina was opened 31 years ago in 1979. It is a wonderfully unique outdoor facility where staff encourage children to play and build creatively. Come climb on the many unusual kid designed and built forts, boats, and towers. Ride the zip line or hammer, saw, and paint. By providing these low risk activities Adventure Playground creates opportunities for children to learn cooperation, meet physical challenges and gain self confidence. Pictures of a fort building project. The concept for Adventure Playgrounds originated in Europe after World War II, where a playground designer studied children playing in the "normal" asphalt and cement playgrounds. He found that they preferred playing in dirt and lumber from the post war rubble. He realized that children had the most fun designing and building their own equipment and manipulating their environment. The formula for Adventure Playgrounds includes Earth, fire, water, and lots of creative materials."
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/contentdisplay.aspx?id=8656 [berkeley.ca.us]

And here's a song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQtwb3lQ_c0 [youtube.com]

Re:This "safety net problem" (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838142)

The "safety net problem" is far bigger than that, indeed. Mostly, it's due to parents who would love to pack their kids in cotton boxes 'til they turn 18. Oddly, the same parents then kick their kids out as soon as they're 18, unprepared and unfit to survive in a world they have never seen.

Parents, your job is to prepare your kids for the life when they're fully responsible for their actions. It doesn't say anything about them not having had a single cut or bruised knee in their time 'til then. Bones heal. Scars heal. And you'd be surprised what damage children can sustain, where you witness it and you're sure they have to be dead, only to notice the child is wiggling his limbs, dusts himself off and climbs back onto the tree. Kids have tremendous healing ability, unparalleled any time later in their life. In other words, childhood is the perfect time to learn what is possible with your body and what is not. Your chances to survive stupid stunts will never be higher.

The problem is also a psychological one. If you keep your kids locked away 'til they are 18, you not only limit their development and their ability to judge their own abilities, you also prepare them for a life of missed chances. They will look back at their childhood and realize that they "lost" 18 years of their life. Also, their social development will suffer. They will not be able to interact sensibly with peers, and they will not be prepared for the dealings of social life and interactions. In short, they will be the tool in whatever company they will work in.

That's called bad parenting. Not having a child that has a skinned knee every now and then. Bad parenting is simply not preparing your child for the life after you're no longer responsible for them.

Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837760)

It's common sense

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837888)

Common sense goes out the window when there's a gallon of hormones flooding your system telling you that this child in particular is the single most important thing in the universe. Everything from over childproofing to being against a public healthcare options to over prescribing antibiotics to giving up freedoms for perceived safety can be traced back to the psychological changes that occur when people become parents.

As a new parent myself I can feel the invasion of these lines of thinking, and it is only through conscious, concerned effort that I maintain my pre-parent sense of right and wrong.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837906)

And this is exactly why parents should have no say in laws concerning children.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838034)

Not every parent loses the ability to think clearly when confronted with the idea of "think of the children". Not all people are created the same, and as can be mathematically proven, half of the people are below the average intelligence. Maybe there should be instead an intelligence test given before being able to vote?

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (3, Interesting)

2names (531755) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838082)

Far *greater* than half of the world's population are below average intelligence. If you do not understand the previous sentence, then I say to you - albeit very slowly - you are in the lower portion.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838012)

Actually it's a worse factor then that, Children break limbs every now and then, that is a natural part of growing up usually. The bigger issue is the movement of responsibility, 50 years ago it was, child breaks his arm, parent or parent's insurance pays for it, kid goes a few weeks/months in a cast cries grows up a bit and get's their friends to sign their new cast. Now there are too many people who see every injury that happens off their property as a goldmine, adults/kids it doesn't matter. Broke his arm on a playground you say, well the city owns this playground so that means the city owes us for all of his treatments, oh and $10,000 for pain and suffering that poor kid, oh dont' forget emotional distress, someone might be making fun of his cast, possible stunted development, yes mam we should be able to pay for his college education by the time we get through with this.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838118)

being against a public healthcare options

I'm curious: How does having the choice to ensure that your kid gets health care using a government program rather than private insurance trigger the "protect my kid at all costs" response?

I mean, I understand all the rest of those, but the public healthcare thing just doesn't make any sense.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

mdf356 (774923) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838164)

I've noted quite the dynamic tension between my wife any myself when it comes to kids safety. I want them to have fun and I'm not worried about much of anything; she's a worrywort. I suspect this is essentially natural and that where we meet is a good place. But our laws and playgrounds are too much mommy-fear and not enough daddy-fun now.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838194)

Common sense goes out the window when there's money to be lost in a lawsuit.

Fixed that for you. Parents aren't to blame, they're universally overprotective. In the US where we let our lawyers run wild, you have "no running" recesses.

Think back to your own childhood. I remember my mother fretting about some things that -still- seem absolutely absurd now. She wasn't alone. Yet the playground equipment was reasonably risky. I remember being afraid of some playground equipment, not because I was forbidden from playing on it, but because I had been injured numerous times on it.

All of those medeval torture device playground equipment seem to have been gradually replaced when people realized if a kid got a chipped tooth in a public park, they might be sued. That's also the reason many schools have done away with recesses, much to the frustration of teachers who have to deal with all that youthful energy coming out during math class instead of on the playground. Parents often want recess back too. They're more worried about childhood obesity than broken bones.

Re:Umm...yeah no shit. I could have told you this. (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838148)

Common sense is not so common. In fact, its so uncommon to easily proclaim, it doesn't exist. Likewise, people who appeal to, "common sense", probably don't have any.

What's the most dangerous thing on the playground? (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837776)

It's not the equipment, the sandpit, or the tether-ball. It's the other children. Now, if we could only remove the children then we'd have safe playgrounds.

Re:What's the most dangerous thing on the playgrou (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837916)

That or the other crazy parents. I have been taken to task for letting my oldest (almost 3) play on all the equipment. He has fallen, spun around till he puked, and even gotten a little banged up, but he is no worse for wear. Hell it's not like he is jumping off the garage roof like I did when I was little, that was fun though.

Re:What's the most dangerous thing on the playgrou (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838104)

It's not the equipment, the sandpit, or the tether-ball. It's the other children. Now, if we could only remove the children then we'd have safe playgrounds.

I guess that depends on the playground. Some kids fear the bully but other kids fear the drug pusher. Location Location Location

Learning (2)

zget (2395308) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837778)

It's mostly fear of lawsuits, and that's what's stupid. I did some pretty incredibly stupid shit as kid, but I'm glad I did them and I, nor anyone else really, ever got that seriously injured. But it teaches you to be careful. If todays kids never get to experience that, how are they supposed to be responsible adults? It's the same with women. If the girl didn't have some fun when she was a teenager, she will regret it later and try it when shes 30-40 years old, and usually married. That's why you should be able to experience stupid things when it's allowed and ok, so that you can learn from it.

Re:Learning (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837794)

Fear of lawsuits isn't stupid. It's quite sensible.
Lawsuits are stupid.

Re:Learning (2)

ZamesC (611197) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837886)

>> It's the same with women. If the girl didn't have some fun when she was a teenager, she will regret it later and try it when shes 30-40 years old, and usually married. Interesting that you apply that only to women.... Do you: a) find it inconceivable that a man NOT screw around as a teenager or b) feel that such a man would nevertheless NOT regret it later or c) Think it's OK for a married 40 yo man to play around ??

Re:Learning (2)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838070)

Personally, as the ex husband of a woman who acted this way; I would say that it has more to do with that daughters are more likely to be sheltered due to their perceived fragility.

Re:Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838168)

I think her point is that men usually do screw around as teenagers, and that nobody considers it very wrong.

Re:Learning (1)

smelch (1988698) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838190)

I believe it is a reference to the double standard. Guys are championed for their sexual prowess while girls are considered sluts when they get around. Combine it with the fact that guys don't screw around in their 30's and 40's because they never did before, they usually do it for other reasons. Most of which is ego-stroking. Globally, women are much more sexually restricted than men and the consequences of their sexual activity before marriage is much more severe.

Re:Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837924)

But it teaches you to be careful. If todays kids never get to experience that, how are they supposed to be responsible adults? It's the same with women. If the girl didn't have some fun when she was a teenager, she will regret it later and try it when shes 30-40 years old, and usually married.

So sayeth the cuckold.

risk/reward (4, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837784)

The whole risk=reward philosophy is just a way for people who are comfortable and have never needed to take any risks to push others to do so, so they can leech off them. Tell people that something will make them a man and they'll run into the middle of a battlefield.

A society's advance is measured by risk reduction, so stuff can be achieved without a large proportion of people being harmed in the process.

Re:risk/reward (5, Funny)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837826)

so stuff can be achieved without a large proportion of people being harmed in the process.

You obviously don't work in Aperture Labs do you?

Re:risk/reward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837846)

risk reduction is different from risk aversion. It's better to know about risk and work to mitigate it, than to avoid the problem (and progress) entirely, due to fear.

Re:risk/reward (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837938)

risk reduction is different from risk aversion. It's better to know about risk and work to mitigate it, than to avoid the problem (and progress) entirely, due to fear.

Indeed. It seems like the modern american gestalt is to increase risk due to excessive risk aversion. Like preventing minor yearly brush fires causes lots of brush to build up and ultimately result in massive forest fires every half decade or so.

Re:risk/reward (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837912)

A society's advance is measured by risk reduction, so stuff can be achieved without a large proportion of people being harmed in the process.

Says who?

By removing the risk of physical injury in these cases, you add the risk of psychological "injuries". A child locked in an empty padded cell is perfectly safe but the adult resulting from such an upbringing will be a broken mess.

Granted, that's an extreme. However, to some degree w're already seeing this in today's society: people ruled by abstract fears, nobody taking responsiblity, everybody blaming/sueing somebody else and so on.

Re:risk/reward (1)

deisama (1745478) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837984)

It isn't just physical harm that people are afraid of.
Whether its asking out a pretty girl, trying to start your own business, asking for a raise, or simply presenting an unorthodox idea, there are all kinds of important risks in the real world.
If we all tried to play it safe, never took a chance, than our society would simply stagnate.

Ultimately its the people who aren't afraid to take a chance that will lead us, and if we're doing something to reduce the risktakers in the name of being safe, than I fear for our future.

Re:risk/reward (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838040)

Well, I'm glad there was one pro-safety post on this thread, just to keep things interesting. But how does your argument apply to a playground?

Re:risk/reward (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838044)

Unfortunately, we don't have all of the data, nor do we have the capacity to properly put it together and determine what risks and rewards, exactly, are at stake. Perhaps it is riskier to avoid mild risks in the short term, which help train you to deal with greater risks in the long term?

A society's advance is measured by risk reduction, so stuff can be achieved without a large proportion of people being harmed in the process.

Each generation coddles the next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837800)

I wonder what the kids born in the 2000s will be like when they grow up? A new counter-culture, if Gen Y is any indication.

Re:Each generation coddles the next (0)

zget (2395308) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838134)

Don't worry, it's just Americans. Most of Europe and Asia will still turn out just fine, though I guess we will get it here in Europe in no time too.

No climbing! (1)

hyperion2010 (1587241) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837804)

Better'd cut down all the trees too, just to be safe. Wouldn't want a kid climbing one of those and falling out!

Re:No climbing! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837840)

It sounds absurd, but I have heard of property owners being told to remove all the branches below a certain height so that kids couldn't get into the tree in the first place.

-jcr

Re:No climbing! (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838122)

As long as the tree was not too big around for some grip, we could shinny up the trunk to where the branches started. Coming down could be a little rough, but lack of branches never stopped us from getting up the tree.

Unless the sap was sticky. I would not climb a tree with sticky sap.

In other words (5, Insightful)

FrkyD (545855) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837808)

Generations are being deprived of the chance to learn to deal with the process of overcoming their fears?
In a society whose political and media culture centers around obscuring debate by preying on fear?
Whodathunk?

Re:In other words (1)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837920)

Well said. At least they'll develop the healthy fear of being sued and the drive to sue which will come in handy for finantial survival.

No evidence (5, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837822)

Like most of Tierney's articles, this one is iconoclastic but has no evidence to back it up. The "study" he cites is just one psychologist's opinion, with no actual data behind it.

Speaking for myself, I do think I'm more well-adjusted psychologically as a result of all the dangerous stuff I did as a little kid, but given the medical bills and the permanent scars, I can't honestly say it was worth it overall.

Re:No evidence (1, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837960)

As a latchkey kid who got his 'do stupid things with friends' out of his system before his teenage years, I'd have to say that's preferable than the alternative. Playing, climbing, jumping, and biking with friends as a young kid made me into a socially and psychologically well rounded person, not to mention helping me to be well above average with most physical tasks. I'd say a few trips to the ER (actually only 1 in my case) was worth saving a lifetime of therapy to deal with social and psychological problems later.

Re:No evidence (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838068)

Thing is, it's not like every kid who's coddled by a hyperprotective society ends up schizophrenic as an adult, just like not every kid who plays on a steel-bar jungle gym ends up paraplegic.

Which is a bigger problem? I dunno, but at least we have some statistics on childhood playground injuries. The folks who argue that the psychological damage is a big deal are bringing *zero* data to the table.

Yes they can (4, Interesting)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837832)

At the park nearest my house they recently put in a new playground. Thankfully it still has some "unsafe" equipment. My oldest (almost 3) wanted to swing on the big swings a couple of weeks ago. So I put him on and started pushing him. Eventually he wanted me to get on the swing next to him. When we were both swinging he fell of and did a nice face plant from falling forward off the swing. He had a few little scrapes and a mouth full of sand, he cried a bit but I told him he was ok. He then went and got right back on the swing. He has also fallen off slides and rope things (a cargo net like structure) and still goes back. There is an older "safe" playground at this park but he never want to go there.

Re:Yes they can (4, Interesting)

clong83 (1468431) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838022)

I took my one year old nephew to a playground in my neighborhood, and as soon as I set him down he crawled up to the very top of the biggest slide and flung himself down it headfirst. Nobody was there to catch him and he did a nice faceplant in the sand at the bottom. He was fine. Cried for a minute, had a bunch of sand in his nose, but then calmed down and crawled back up and did it again (with me waiting to catch him this time). From then on, he was a little bit more cautious and wouldn't go down unless I was there waiting.

Think of the children! (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837842)

I'm tired of these stupid arguments that our kiddies need to be overly protected.

If a kid learns that falling off a high place hurts, he'll be less likely to do so in the future. Its how people learn. Sure I'm not saying let kids play in a forest alone or something, but playing in a proper environment is how they learn skills (+social skills), and most importantly how they can become healthy instead of spending the day on the sofa in safety playing CoD or whatever.

Re:Think of the children! (1)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837982)

I spent most of my youth playing in the forest with friends, often miles from the nearest adult. I pity the kids who are afraid of going into dark places alone.

Re:Think of the children! TOSS them over board (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837994)

lol your idea you have to have limits on it of course cause kids sometimes dont know when what they do is too much risk.YA i done some crazy stuff as a kid but i look back going maybe i was more lucky then i thought

Re:Think of the children! (3, Interesting)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838080)

I take it you were never were in Boy Scouts. When I was young there was nothing better then chasing each other through the forest, often with big sticks, climbing pine trees and dropping stuff on others. Truth is kids are probably less likely to get hurt in a forest than in an urban landscape since forests tend to be squish compared to concrete and asphalt.

Re:Think of the children! (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838198)

but playing in a proper environment is how they learn skills

The definition of "proper environment" is what is at issue. The majority believe it was fine the way it was. If you are a morally bankrupt parent of a child injured on a playground, you soon break company with the majority when you realize you can make a buck.

Re:Think of the children! (1)

Lord Crc (151920) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838214)

If a kid learns that falling off a high place hurts, he'll be less likely to do so in the future. Its how people learn.

Indeed. A good playground should contain elements where the kids can evaluate the risk of doing something, but protect them from serious injuries if they misjudge. A kid should be able to get banged up a bit, but not die or lose a limb.

A good playground should also protect the kids from dangers they cannot readily evaluate. For example the cords from their hoodies have a tendency to get stuck in wedges and can end up strangling them.

These issues involve not only a good design of the playground elements and the playground itself, but also routine inspections and maintenance.

Moving the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837844)

The only thing that will happen is that children will get bored at the playground and move risky play to other locations which are even more unsafe. In the long run injuries may increase, but because the children get injured someplace else there's less risk of a lawsuit.

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy (5, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837862)

On a similar note, the Atlantic recently ran this article about how
coddling children robs them of an important part of childhood. [theatlantic.com]

When a parent says something like that they want their child to "just be a kid for one more year," that's just selfishness on their part. It isn't about letting the kid enjoy childhood, its about the parent holding their child's development back in order for the parent to take pleasure in the kid's innocence.

Re:How to Land Your Kid in Therapy (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837970)

Could someone hand that guy a "dammit, couldn't you have told my parents 30 years ago" insightful mod?

It's not just playgrounds. (4, Insightful)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837876)

Other than the fear of scraped knees, there's the fear of razor blades in apples, rapists among school teachers, traces of peanuts, bacteria in public places, cancer from cellphones, etc... so many irrational fairs, it seems children can only be safe if they're locked in their room.... provided that doesn't lead them to playing "violent" video games.

What astounds me about all this, though, is that the exploding children obesity problem, which is the direct result of eating too much junk food and not promoting youth sports, NEVER seems to be "feared" among parents. How can we encourage children to be active if anything "active" thay they would think about doing (running, playing tag, climbing trees, skateboarding, etc...) is seen in a negative light?

Re:It's not just playgrounds. (1)

donnyspi (701349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837992)

Peanut allergies are a very real thing. That said, I don't agree with schools banning PB&J from the cafeteria because 1 kid has an allergy. There are other ways to handle that kind of thing, like teach the kid to stay away from peanuts.

Re:It's not just playgrounds. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837998)

Because it's easier for parents to drop their kids in front of the idiot box babysitter and berate them if they "eat too much". Else they'd have to be parenting. Imagine that!

Re:It's not just playgrounds. (1)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838026)

It's *easy* to yell and scream and do things to "protect" a child from scraped knees, cell phones, peanuts, etc and it has the added benefit of making parents feel like they've actively done something to protect their kids. It's also easy to give children junk food rather than proper meals, and to let them sit in front of a TV instead of taking them to sports teams, or better yet, go out for a run with them. Laziness is the problem. And friend, have we got a lot of it.

Re:It's not just playgrounds. (3, Insightful)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838124)

How can we encourage children to be active if anything "active" thay they would think about doing (running, playing tag, climbing trees, skateboarding, etc...) is seen in a negative light?

I just Google+ friended you for that statement. There are so many activities, such as the great examples you gave, that the author could rewrite this study substituting for the word 'playground.' One of the bees in my bonnet these days is how diving boards are being phased out at public swimming pools.

It started with phasing out high-dives. Now low-dives are also an endangered animal. New public pools are built shallow with water slides instead of diving boards. From the first to the 10,000th time a kid slides down a waterslide, they've developed exactly zero skills at doing anything. It's passive entertainment. There's no sense of performance or challenge. With a diving board, there are a whole host of dynamics a child can attempt to master. Our society is taking that structure away from children in so many areas.

If you watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics, you might have seen the Chinese divers dominate in all categories. American children might have seen that and said, "Mommy, I want to become a diver and win a gold medal at the Olympics." To which an honest parent would have to say, "Unfortunately, you live in America and aren't permitted to engage in that activity. Perhaps if we move to a dangerous country like China you'll have that option in life."

Seth

Re:It's not just playgrounds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838140)

You child isn't safe locked in his room! When my daughter was born last year I learned that is a miracle the human race has survived as long as it has. Apparently blankets, stuffed animals, mobiles, cats, sleeping on your stomach, sleeping on your parents chest, sucking your thumb, crib bumpers (apparently you are supposed to let your baby crawl at top speed head first into the crib rails?), and even the bloody finish in your crib will kill you as an infant. If you dress them in the wrong PJs they will die! If you use the wrong laundry detergent they will die! If you nurse your child in a non-approved position she will die! If feed your baby formula she will die! If you don't feed her formula, she will die! I kid you not, these are the things that either myself or my sister-in-laws were told as pregnant woman, many of them coming directly from the doctor or hospital.

And just think, our parents played with lawn darts as kids and we didn't have car seats.

When a first time parents is repeatedly being told by credible sources that their children are going to die if they do or do not something, it is easy to get sucked into the FUD.

When parents complain about bruises ... (4, Informative)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837880)

I work with children, and sometimes they get sent home with bruises and scraped knees just because they were playing so vigorously. Most of the children I've seen will cry for a little bit, accept a bandage, then will be eager to do the same thing again.

Parents though, well, some of them will assume that the supervisors were negligent or abusive. Not all of them, not even many of them, since they tend to know how their kids play. But it is the ones that wrap their child in a protective coccoon that you have to be petrified of. Even those parents aren't so bad once they get to know you, to trust you, but a lot of them don't even bother.

The unfortunate truth is that those overly protective parents count for a lot because the consequences are many. Lawsuits is the often cited one, but losing your job or your license is an even bigger and more real concern. So all of the children suffer.

Re:When parents complain about bruises ... (2)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837978)

The unfortunate truth is that those overly protective parents count for a lot because the consequences are many.

This. And the fact that more and more we are entrusting our children to be constantly supervised by others instead of taking care of them ourselves. If it's not your kid, you're generally twice as worried about them getting hurt in your care because not only is the kid hurt, but you're also worried about the parent going off the deep-end.

Re:When parents complain about bruises ... (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838166)

You should see the bruises my oldest gets all on his own. If social services saw them I would probably be hauled off since they would probably think I beat the child. Last year he was running through a park and something caught his eye so he wasn't looking where he was going. He plowed right into a metal pole at a full speed run. It looked exactly like the old cartoons with arms and legs out and his body against the pole. He falls on things, falls off of things, trips, jumps, and tosses thing, he is your average 3 year old.

Climbing Trees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837898)

My 5 year old son climbed a tree the other day. I stood at the bottom and watched as he inched his way up a cedar. It takes great control to be able to watch and not say anything. To let them assess the relative risk and take care getting up and down. They can do it. It will definitely exercise your heart.

I let my children climb up on the counters. There is one rule though. If you climb up, you get to climb down. Both of my children have fallen. Both are still willing to climb. Both show respect for where they are when they are climbing. Both have demonstrate the ability to assess when they shouldn't climb.

In Canada (5, Interesting)

Rev. DeFiLEZ (203323) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837930)

My 3.5 year old broke her arm at the playground, and I was very proud of her. We made the whole thing, including the hospital trip all part of the fun.

It does seem that the playgrounds are becoming less fun, but I let my kid do all sorts of stupid things, so the way I see it, as an adult she'll be at an advantage over her peers.

Re:In Canada (5, Insightful)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838078)

To be fair, parents in the U.S. who have to pay $5,000 cash because their kid broke their arm might be less in a party mood.
Gotta love our canadian healthcare. :-) That being said, I strongly agree with your parenting approach and would do the same.

Safety is relative. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837934)

Walking on the sidewalk is risky - you could get hit by an errant car. If you try to make anything perfectly safe, you will FAIL. The trick is to identify a reasonable amount of risk and allow that. I agree that playgrounds should have rubber padding, but I see no reason to eliminate the ability to hang from a metal bar.

What a load of crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36837936)

So, children with conditions that prevent them from climbing are just plain screwed? I always hate this kind of logic. Kids will make a challenge out of anything, and I'd rather have playgrounds that let kids *PLAY* rather than tackle challenges that I don't yet approve of as a parent. By this strange logic, we should build gauntlets of near certain death to make super kids.

Re:What a load of crap (2)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838234)

I'd rather have playgrounds that let kids *PLAY* rather than tackle challenges that I don't yet approve of as a parent.

So, do some of that parent shit and don't let them. Don't fuck up the playground for the kids that need greater challenges.

Interesting presentation on TED re: Child Safety (3, Informative)

dr_canak (593415) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837950)

Came across this TED presentation last year:

http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html [ted.com]

Definitely an interesting take on this whole issue of child safety regulations. The book (written by the presenter in the video above, Gever Tully) entitled "50 Dangerous Things (You should let your kids do)" is a really nice read.

jeff

Re:Interesting presentation on TED re: Child Safet (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838172)

I've received that book for Christmas last year, most people saw it and were like, "why would you want that?" Then started flipping through the pages intrigued and almost immediately found something they did when they were a kid, be it chemistry or whatever.

I also have the book Free Range Kids which is also anti-coddling. Good stuff.

Stop pussyfying our youth (4, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837966)

Treating kids like pussies turns them into pussies.

Re:Stop pussyfying our youth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838042)

Even the gay and trans ones?

Oblig George Carlin (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837986)

"The kid who swallows too many marbles doesn't live to have kids of his own."

Just as applicable now as it was then.

now sure what they are talking about (2)

vonshavingcream (2291296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36837988)

they just built a brand new playground buy us. they did add a really nice rubbery type of padding on the ground, but they have a 15ft high slide and a really cool rock wall and crazy jungle gym type things. plenty of places for kids to fall to their "death", just like when I was a kid. you know what ... that playground is always packed. Not like "geeze there are so many people I can't move" packed, but there are always people there with the kids. It's a really cool place.

Re:now sure what they are talking about (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838222)

Well the old playground at the park by my house was one of the safe ones, the new one has all the unsafe things. Guess which ones the neighborhood kids play at? HINT: It is the one with the tire swing, ropes, cargo net like thing, and self powered spinning things.

Absolutely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838002)

we must protect our children from being overprotected!

Wussies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838004)

Just another reason NYC kids are growing up to be wussies.

I believe that we are getting soft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838018)

With too much padding in safety equipment, and the lack of old-school jungle gyms, etc, I believe that kids (and adults) aren't developing the bone strength that us old timers have (OK, I'm in my late 30's). That, or they're not getting enough calcium.

Talk about risky behavior.... (3, Funny)

pyneiii (2109686) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838020)

"After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia..." Did anyone else picture a weird guy in a lab coat with a clipboard standing around a jungle gym?

Jungle Gyms (1)

Synn (6288) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838030)

Playgrounds shouldn't be risk free, but to be honest, jungle gyms were death machines. Those things probably broke more bones in the 70's and 80's than the Japanese and Italian mafia combined did.

Re:Jungle Gyms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838146)

I hurt myself more frequently in trees than in jungle gyms--if I had some reasonably good jungle gyms, I might have spent less time climbing in trees.

Yes. Yes it can. We're sadly a nation of wimps (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838046)

I know someone is gonna mod me down for this but frankly I think we've turned into a nation of pussies. We don't allow kids to fall off bikes, break their arms, or generally be kids. Parents neurotically try to be friends to their kids instead of parents. When I was growing up my mother made us go cut the switch [wikipedia.org] that she would then use on us. We never talked back to her after that. Kids today seem ..... entitled.

Same chickenshits who want security from the gov't (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838060)

Don't bitch about things like this if you think the government should be providing health care, upping minimum wage laws, and otherwise telling everyone how to live.

Because it's the same damn mentality:

WAAAH I'M A PUSSY AND NEED SOMEBODY ELSE TO TAKE CARE OF ME AND MAKE SURE NOTHING BAD EVER HAPPENS!!!!!

IMHO (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838084)

Try to prevent reduce any permanent damage (e.g. remove sharp edges or constructions in which you easily get caught), but give the children the possibility to fall down onto a safe ground (sand) so that they feel and learn to estimate whats going on. Its better that they learn gradually how painful something is than they learn this spontaneously at some point when they are too old.

In that sense, i would put up many things which have a more or less save falling height. Put some higher things but make the access in a way that only better trained climbers can get up. (e.g. make a 5+ climbing wall in the ground, which gets down to a 2 above 2m)

This is why I often roll my eyes at (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838094)

the supposed effects of Nanny-statism. It's the American culture of personal fear and litigiousness that produces some of the most severe anti-social effects on society. Keep the kids indoors hopped-up on gory, fear-mongering crap coming out of the TV.

Is slashdot too old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838096)

When did Slashdot become so behind?
Everything is regurgitated LifeHacker and Gizmodo.

Miss my 2005 Slashdot.

Definitely can be "too safe" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838126)

There have been two playgrounds that I remember fondly, each of which had it's own risks. The first was a collection of slides and other things around a 15ft tall truncated scalable pyramid. How no one went rolling down that thing astounds me, but we loved it, then one day we got to watch them tearing the whole thing up.

The second one was at my elementary school. They had this whole setup that I didn't realize until a decade later was in the shape of a sailing ship. Dragon figurehead, triangular tire swings representing sails, a three level tire pyramid for a mast, and an aft was in the shape of the standard high rear, with a slide in place of the captain's cabin. There were also rope swings, wire bridges, and enough random stuff you could make up hundreds of games.

For the risks: well, i admit to having jumped off the second level of the aft portion a few times, and you could easily fall through the inner second level of the tire pyramid to the level below, and just the general mayhem that kids can cause.

That one has been replaced by a prefabricated collection of metal and plastic, i'm sure it's durable, but everything's locked in place, can't hide anywhere, and it doesn't have as much character/versatility as the old set. I miss the old one.

It's all about the Lawyers (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838132)

When I was a kid if some kid fell off the monkey bars and hurt him or her self no one even though of suing the city. It was accepted that the parents knew the risks and dangers of the playground equipment and as long as an accident didn't happen because of failure to maintain the playground legal action was the last thing anyone thought of. Today, you see so many legal sharks advertising on TV. We've been brainwashed that if we have an accident it's ALWAYS someone else's fault and we HAVE to sue them.

When my twin daughters were about 8 years old we built them a tree house with a pulley slide between trees. This was a bit higher than the usual monkey bars, but any fall would be on grass not concrete. They loved climbing the ladder to the tree house and hanging from the pulley sled as it rolled down the wire to the lower tree, then jumping off at the end of the ride. No one ever got hurt either. The tree house didn't last long, the tree was torn down by Hurricane Wilma.

One thing I learned from kids ... (3, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838162)

I was on the swings one day with a bunch of children, then noticed that they were all swinging higher a few of them were flipping their heads back for the thrill of it. So I decided to try it, and it was scary. Especially the vertigo from flipping my head back.

It made me realise how safe I, as an adult tend to act and how it takes all of the thrills out of life.

psycho bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838174)

Don't listen to this pitch from the health care profiteers.
They get 2k for every stitch, 5k for a tooth, and 10k for a cast.

Kids love danger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36838184)

I remember when I was 9 years old and hanging off the roof of the "second story" of a play structure house. Me and my friends would be terrified of letting go and falling down to the sand, but eventually we all made attempts. No one was ever injured, and it was a good 8 foot drop. The thrill and accomplishment of dropping off the roof of the house and surviving without injury was a great feeling. There was this other kid who always ate sand too... I don't know what happened to him.

I need to find that book (1)

MDillenbeck (1739920) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838192)

I read a book about a year ago where they stated one of the original purposes of playground equipment was to help children learn risk-assessment. In other words, it wasn't meant to be 100% safe for all the kids - it was so kids could learn what risks they found acceptable and that sometimes when you fail there are moderately painful consequences. Now I have read stories about merry-go-round type playground equipment that didn't have the proper safety covering on them that caught a girls long hair and caused her injury - incidents like those are good reasons for lawsuits. However, when a child risks going down a slide face first and knocks out a tooth, then the parents and child should take personal responsibility for unsafe and risky use of the equipment. (Personally, I'm glad I had "dangerous" playground equipment when growing up - its so boring to be a kid now... no wonder so many stay inside playing video games.)

Case in point - City Museum (5, Interesting)

turtle graphics (1083489) | more than 2 years ago | (#36838204)

The City Museum in St. Louis is a crazy, dangerous, and incredibly fun "playground" in an old industrial building. Most people who go there think it's incredibly fun. Some people who go there get seriously injured (often by exhibiting stupidity they should have learned to avoid on the playground).

The musem's founder, Bob Cassilly, says that $1 of every $12 admission ticket goes to pay insurance, and he has posted a 'wall of shame' listing all the lawyers who have sued the museum.

There's an excellent and relevant article in the WSJ about it: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304159304575183463721620890.html?KEYWORDS=city+museum [wsj.com]

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