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Is It Time To Bring Risk Back Into Our Kids' Playgrounds?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by hbarcat, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    There is a growing movement to allow a certain amount of controlled risk to kids' playgrounds. The justification is the belief that shielding children from risk hinders their development of critical judgement skills in an adult world that is full of risk.

    This story is from NPR:

    Is It Time To Bring Risk Back Into Our Kids' Playgrounds?

    Here are two more articles on the same subject from the NYT and The Atlantic:

    In Britain’s Playgrounds, ‘Bringing in Risk’ to Build Resilience

    The Overprotected Kid
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
    Ironbar, mbelue, Oddly and 1 other person like this.
  2. saabfender

    saabfender SUSPENDED

    Jan 10, 2018
    We live in an insanely litigious society. I don't need some ambulance chaser socking it to my local school district to the tune of a few hundred thou. Schools have to be safe as legally necessary. There's time for adventures and falling out of trees at home.
    hbarcat and blue4 like this.
  3. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    What I find funny is people who wax nostalgic for bygone safety regulations, or lack thereof.

    "We didn't need no bicycle helmets, and we were OK..."

    Yeah, those of us who didn't die from traumatic brain injuries.
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Monkey bars over asphalt. Yes!
    12BitSlab and Oddly like this.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    It's funny, I was skeptical of this; I've had my doubts about whether all the increased safety measures were driven by likelihood of accidents, or just the possibility of them. So I went googling, and this popped up:


    Which shows a drop in accidental deaths by nearly 2/3 over thirty years. I might still question whether it's due to bike helmets and less steep slides on playgrounds. The data doesn't show how many of these accidental deaths are due to car crashes or other accidents that have nothing to do with specifically child protection. Still, it does look like efforts to prevent deaths are working.

    But within reason, I approve of the thinking @hbarcat is citing. I do think there's a benefit to getting some cuts and bruises and learning to deal with it. Within reason.
  6. Oddly

    Oddly Unofficial TalkBass Cartographer! Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    I think it's a great idea...that place @Frank Tuesday linked seems like a great way to go.

    On the issue of tool usage, I think it's almost a lost art.
    My two kids, (26 and 22 now) both got shown how to change plugs, car tyres, cook, sew, build a swing, read maps, make a campfire, put up a tent, all sorts of little projects like that.
    They regularly tell me of situations where they've been able to do these things to the amazement of others their age...
    These days it seems things like these are seen as some sort of specialist hobbyist skills.

    Of course, @saabfender makes a great point.
    Ambulance-chasers and the insurance companies/courts that award stupid pay-offs, thus enabling them, have made the world a much less fun place.
    hbarcat likes this.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I figured it would turn into a lawyer shame thread. Most of the stupid/greedy lawsuits come from litigants, not lawyers. One of the things I do as a practicing attorney is answer questions on Avvo. I see people trying to sue for stupid things all the times. Daily, there is the following:

    - I found a ___ in my fast food restaurant meal. How can I sue?
    - I was hit in a car accident but not injured. Can I sue?
    - My boss at work doesn't like me and says mean things to me. Can I sue?
    - I was accused of commiting a crime and didn't do it. Can I sue?

    Etc. Every time, the lawyers answer by telling them not to bring a frivolous lawsuit. Is there too much litigation? #$&-_# yes. Are greedy unethical lawyers the prime cause? No.
  8. PWRL


    Sep 15, 2006
    I can see it. The article does refer to "limited risk" situations, which I think is a probably a pretty good idea. Not that I would suggest it for a playground but rock climbing with safety ropes is an example of limited risk adventure. You still get the rush when you fall, you just don't have to die or be maimed for your mistake. You do, however, still get to learn from it, which is the important part.
    When I was a kid, there was an abandoned farm across from the school, with a rotten barn, half-collapsed buildings, rusty nails, garbage and two enormous (considering what they were made of ) and crumbling stone and brick silos. Inside them was a tall shaft of rusty ladder rungs set with old mortar into the wall, which my friends and I very smartly and thoughtfully climbed to the top. At the bottom were large chunks of broken concrete in case we fell. There was a great view at the top, but what we eventually learned was that we were idiots and could have died or been paralyzed at the bottom while rabid raccoons chewed our faces off. Not a very limited risk situation, nor was crawling through drain pipe culverts, one of our previous pastimes. I could go on. However, we were motivated by not only the thrill of the experience, but the results of it, as well. We felt older and wiser having survived something important. We felt just a little bit more grown. I expect that ancient children felt that way after having participated in a first hunt, or something similar.
    I think there's room to get the benefits from risk-taking, while at the same time teaching about the consequences of risks, especially dangerous risks. There are already things like ropes courses which teach very similar things, so it's not as if it's impossible or ever overly-complicated. We naturally wanted to explore things and get into risky behavior. It was a natural inclination to build a ramp for a bike or take a skateboard down a long hill. It wasn't all about being stupid. We were stupid at the top of the hill and smarter when we got to the bottom. There are plenty of sports and pastimes which use limited risk. Skateboarding is one of them. Taking a skateboard into a half pipe with several feet of vert is a risky thing to do, but you do it with safety gear on.
    I don't know about the fire on the playground, though.
    hbarcat likes this.
  9. I played risk all the time as a kid. Nobody likes the guy who always holes up in Australia.
    GIBrat51, two fingers, Gazman and 2 others like this.
  10. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    That's the type of thing that sounds good on paper, until it's your kid that fails his monkey bars risk assessment and ends up in a wheelchair or dies.. I fell off the monkey bars while upside down and somehow avoided injury. I continued to do stupid risky things well into my 20s. So IME that theory is inconclusive at best. Maybe I didn't do that specific stupid thing anymore, but I still did dumb things on that same piece of equipment all the time. I think part of the problem people have is they remember how much fun we had as kids, but they forget all the times we we almost seriously hurt in completely preventable ways. Until discussions like this come up we forget about the kids who did actually get seriously hurt.

    Imagine that your kid was paralyzed or killed on a piece of school equipment that you knew was dangerous from your own personal experience. Would you be calmly discussing how that little bit of risk assessment training the kids arguably get was worth the cost?

    To me keeping that stuff on the playground ignores everything we learned about risk from our own childhoods, and everything we've learned about financial liability as adults.

    JMO of course, but it seems like a large cost for a small and debatable gain.
    bolophonic, petrus61 and hbarcat like this.
  11. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Ah, another child-rearing fad. Granted, I think that kids are too sheltered, but without any scientific justification for believing it. Mainly I think that kids just have too little outdoor physical activity of any kind.
    Homework. At the age when I was playing with firecrackers and riding around on my bike with no helmet, my kids were doing homework. ;)

    Here's what a quick Google search turned up:


    0 to 1 year:

    Developmental and genetic conditions that were present at birth
    Conditions due to premature birth (short gestation)
    Health problems of the mother during pregnancy

    1 to 4 years:

    Accidents (unintentional injuries)
    Developmental and genetic conditions that were present at birth

    5 to 14 years:

    Accidents (unintentional injuries)

    Death among children and adolescents: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

    The most common causes of pediatric injury are:

    Motor vehicle accidents
    Suffocation (being unable to breathe)

    Falls are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries for children ages 0 to 19.

    What causes pediatric injury?
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  12. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    I landed on my head doing that, aged four. Blood everywhere. In theory, no long term damage, as far as I know. But, I suppose, it could have also killed me.
  13. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    It's very icy here today. I wish I could phone in to work and indicate the pavements are too icy, after I've done a risk assessment, and work from home.
  14. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    You have to take the bad with the good. I never wore a bicycle helmet or any kind of padding for anything. My siblings and I were allowed to engage in hazardous activities that I wouldn't let my own child do. I remember several incidents where I could easily have gotten seriously hurt or killed and it was probably just luck that we all made it to adulthood with only minimal scarring.

    The truth is, my siblings and I all learned to push ourselves to certain limits and now know how to take risks that are reasonable given the circumstances. I'm certain that we all benefited from being allowed to take risks as children and I'm confident in knowing the extent of my own abilities.

    Yet, I have no doubt that those risks did carry the possibility of death or dismemberment. With my daughter, we were far more protective and shielded her from most hazards to proactively keep her from getting hurt. I'm pretty sure that this is the main reason why she now has such a difficult time trying new things or taking the initiative in any activity as an adult. The fact is, I'm just not wise enough to know where to draw the line. Probably somewhere between my own experience growing up and my daughter's very different upbringing.
    Oddly likes this.
  15. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    The article says these playgrounds require that parents sign liability wavers, plus the playground is constantly monitored by trained attendants.

    I look at risk as a case by case basis. For example, I rode a bike without a helmet and and climbed to the tops of 50' and taller trees with no thought to what happened if I fell. The whole idea was to make sure I didn't fall. But even as a kid, I considered a skateboard to be too much of a risk to ever get one, even though all of my friends had one. To me, it was sheer stupidity to ride something that had no brakes and was responsible for so many broken wrists and arms and countless road rashes among my friends. Forget that.

    Swimming is an extremely risky behavior. Nearly 4,000 Americans drown every year with about 1/5 being children under 14. My parents got us in the water very early but kept us under strict supervision. We were all competent swimmers by the time we were 5 years old and after that we were allowed to swim anywhere on the lake where we spent our summers. When I was 18, I was certified in advanced water rescue. When I was in my 30's, I swam across 4 miles of Lake Superior from the mainland to Madeline Island against 3-5' waves just for the fun of it. I believe this kind of swimming confidence isn't possible when children are kept out of the water until later and then forced to wear life vests in waist deep water and limited to swimming pools. But, like I said earlier, I almost drowned on at least one occasion and my sister came very close to drowning once when she was 4 years old. What amount of risk is it okay to accept in order to gain what level of confidence in ability as an adult? I don't know.

    Then there is fire. I started to have campfires with my granddaughter last summer when she was 4 years old and her mother and I let her help with the fire. But only under very close supervision and instruction. We want her to know how to safely control fire by herself by the time she's a teenager and it won't happen if we wait until she's 12 before she's allowed to get near it.
    PWRL likes this.
  16. BtaylorTheRogue


    Nov 14, 2016
    Government mandated playgrounds (schools?) No.
    Optional playgrounds and parks? A+ 100 emoji absolutely yes sirree
    Oddly likes this.
  17. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    I was more of a 'learn by doing' type growing up. I wanted to know how close I could get to that fire before it burned me.
    Not so much as a thrill seeker, pushing life to it's limits, but I had to know for myself the safe parameters for something like fire.
    After losing a few pair of shoes, some hair, and some eyebrows as a youth, I found out.
    For someone who was told not to get too close, and given strict rules of what was and was not allowable around the fire, I suppose they turned out just fine like I did.
    I'm not so sure either approach is incorrect.
    Seems more like on a case by case basis what is going to work.

    Take heights for example, which I am terrified of.
    We had some crazy playground toys when I was in school, but I never climbed to the top of them or hung off the sides or top. Not my thing. Same with trees.
    I had buddies who loved climbing playground equipment, trees, etc.
    I never fell out of a tree as I had no desire to find out how to be safe 25+ feet off the ground. Some of my buddies fell a time or two, they figured it out.

    hrodbert696 likes this.
  18. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    Now overlay a plot of the release dates of video games consoles (and gaming computers) : Atari, Binatone, Vectrex, ZX81, Sepctrum 48k, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, NES, Sega Megadrive, SNES, Playstation, N64, Xbox etc.

    Kids are much less likely to have a fatal accident, if they never get off the couch - and since online gaming took off, they don't even have to risk crossing the road, to get to Player 2's house.
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  19. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    No doubt also a factor. But for instance, I also just found this chart:

    Which seems to parallel the childhood fatal injury graph almost exactly. It also reinforces my hunch that it may not really be all about safer monkey bars and bike helmets, but DUI laws and seat belts, or maybe just a more safety-conscious and risk-averse culture overall.
    hbarcat likes this.

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