Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy discusses his efforts to address gang violence. Plus, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White joins us to recap the "grocery march" protesting food deserts east of the Anacostia River.
Guest Host: Jennifer Golbeck
Most parents who today spend weekends shuttling kids from soccer to play dates to birthday parties are giving their children very different childhoods from their own. Just a few decades ago, most kids spent a great deal of time playing on their own, largely unsupervised. But from ultrasafe playgrounds to helicopter parenting, today’s kids may be missing out on the freedom, risks and failure that once helped them to navigate the world later as adults. A new article in The Atlantic explores what today’s parenting trends mean for kids’ development.
- Hanna Rosin National Correspondent, the Atlantic; author, "The End of Men"
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MS. JENNIFER GOLBECKA new playground in the UK upends modern parenting norms and safety trends. Instead of rubber flooring, colorful slides and ultra safe climbing equipment, it's got old tires, a fire pit and a creek and minimal adult supervision. The idea isn't really new. Until just a few decades ago, kids spent much of their free time on their own, often in environments very much like that UK playground.
MS. JENNIFER GOLBECKAnd parents were a peripheral presence. A new article in the Atlantic explores the dramatic shift in parenting today, including what might be lost when we don't allow kids the freedom to risk and fail. Joining us to discuss is Hanna Rosin. She's a national correspondent for the Atlantic magazine and author of the book "The End of Men." Hanna, it's good to have you here.
MS. HANNA ROSINIt's great to be here.
GOLBECKSo this is an issue I think we're going to get a lot of audience interest in. Tell us a little bit about the playground known as The Land.
ROSINIt is so cool. It's basically...it looks like a junkyard. I mean, you look there and you think, oh this is some corner of the world that somebody forgot. It's got piles of old tires and wooden pallets and a creek and this sort of funny looking rope swing. And then the weirdest thing is that there are fires, like, kids make fires. That's one of the things they do is learn -- that's what freaks people out the most.
ROSINBut, you know, in the -- the other interesting thing, which is so different from what I'm used to in playgrounds here, no parents. I never saw parents. I was there for a couple of days. My child was the only one whose parent was present.
GOLBECKWow. So is there anyone there supervising the kids?
ROSINYeah, they're called play workers. And they're trained...
GOLBECKThat's a great name.
ROSINExactly, who wouldn't want that job? It is an actual government job in the UK. You are trained as a play worker.
ROSINAnd so there's a couple of them and they describe their job as loitering with intent, which means they hang around, you know, make sure nothing really dangerous is happening.
GOLBECKNo one starts each other on fire?
ROSINExactly, but they're trying not to intervene. They don't do that thing that parents do where they, like, oh they jump in when they see something is about to happen. As long as it's not, like, really bad or dangerous they don't jump in.
GOLBECKSo you've spent a lot of time talking about playgrounds in this piece that you've written because in many ways they symbolize how parenting has changed over time. Tell us about that.
ROSINIt's a preoccupation with safety which has infected playground and lots of other areas of life. So you can track how much playgrounds have changed since I was a kid, you know, since the '70s and '80s. So they've basically been homogenized and they've been concerned with -- you know, they've been concerned with keeping kids safe much more than letting them take risks or having them be independent or do things that are cool.
ROSINAnd it turns out that kids need to feel like they're taking risks or doing dangerous -- they don't need to do dangerous things. They need to feel like they're doing dangerous things.
GOLBECKRight. So you jump off the monkey bars and there's no way you'll probably hurt yourself, but it feels really exciting.
ROSINRight. Exactly. And the weird thing is it hasn't made much of a difference. I mean, that was the surprise to me is that all that rubber flooring and this lower equipment and the sturdy slides, like we still have a ton of injuries in playgrounds just as we did in the '70s.
GOLBECKYou can join the conversation as well. How much freedom did you have as a kid? Do you think children are too sheltered today? You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at email@example.com. There's a playground here in D.C. that's gotten some attention for its equipment, the Beauvoir playground in Northwest. Describe that playground for us and what makes it different.
ROSINThat's the first awesome playground we've had in Washington. It is very close to my house and I'm so happy to have it. It is just -- you -- all -- I have children ages 13 to 5, I have three. And all of them -- there's equipment there that they all like to play on and that's really hard for them to master. It has a rope swing. Everything's kind of natural. You can climb to high places. It looks very different than any other playground I've seen in D.C.
GOLBECKAnd is it frequented? Are there a lot of kids going there?
ROSINBillions. It's just packed on the weekends. Apparently, after my story came out and I mentioned it, people from Beauvoir have told me that in fact the Beauvoir parents, some of them are worried about their kids getting hurt on the playground, which I guess is a natural worry. That's how we think these days. But it's packed on the weekends.
GOLBECKWe have a poll up right now on whether or not kids are overprotected. You can take the poll by going to kojoshow.org and you'll see it right there. Hanna, your memories of your own childhood are very different from the way you're raising your own kids. Where did you grow up and what was your experience with parental supervision?
ROSINI grew up in Queens, which is in New York. And I -- my mom just wasn't a part of my play life. Like, I was out on the streets. She didn't make play dates for me. I just kind of ran into people and we played. We used to play in the ball field and we'd play handball. It just -- it never occurred to me that my mother would arrange or have anything to do with my free time. Like, she was around but it was just mine. So there was something I think called child culture.
ROSINAnd one of the interesting things is when after writing the story is how much nostalgia has flowed my way. People just remembering, oh when I was a kid, this and that happened or I used to do this or this was really cool. You know, that's a lot of the reaction that I've gotten to the story.
GOLBECKAnd that was totally my reaction. And since I have a microphone I'm going to talk about it. I was reading about your experience and I had a similar and yet totally opposite experience. I grew up, you know, out in rural Illinois. I played in the woods all the time. I did all sorts of crazy things kind of by myself. And I don't have kids of my own but as my friends have started having kids and I know people who do, it's been a complete shock to me that there's all these play dates and things.
GOLBECKLike, I kind of thought it was a joke for a while because it was so different. And so it was interesting for me to kind of reminisce back. But this kind of nostalgia that I'm sharing now, that really is a lot of the response that you've gotten on this piece.
ROSINYeah, and I think it's because it's not that parents set out to say, I'm going to be a safety nut. It's not like that. It's just we got pulled on this wave. It's kind of, you know, out there in the culture that we should worry about safety and we should protect our children from any possibility that they would be physically hurt or emotional hurt or their feelings would be hurt. So we're all swept on that wave and suddenly if you get people to sort of think back on what their own childhood were like, that kind of opens a space for us to reconsider our assumptions, let's say, about childhood, to just think a slightly different way about what it means to be a good parent.
GOLBECKSo before I move on to the next substantive question, I have a story here about your childhood jail that you created that maybe I could get you to share with us.
ROSINYou know, I purposely told the story about my childhood that wasn't a lovely enlightening rainbow and unicorns kind of story because I wanted people to understand that I wasn't purely saying the '70s were awesome, because I actually don't want us to go back to the '70s. I was about nine years old and my friend Kim and I played cops and robbers a lot through the garages in our Queens apartment building. And so we locked up a bunch of younger kids.
ROSINNow locked up means we put them behind, like, a very low -- you could just walk over it very easily. And then Kim and I sort of forgot about them and went to go get pizza, because in those days, you know, nine or ten you could walk down to the pizza store by yourself. And we got back and they were pretty upset. But the weird thing is that none of them left.
GOLBECKThey were still there.
ROSINYes. And none of the parents came to intervene. There wasn't any meeting in the neighborhood. Nobody called my mother. And so what I take from that is that there was a kind of respect for the rules of child culture. Like, if we said they had to stay in jail, nobody called their mom. They just stayed in jail until we got back. And there were consequences for that. They were upset. But, you know, nothing happened. We just, like, said okay, you guys can go home now and they went home.
GOLBECKIt sounded a little bit like a nine-year-old version of the Stanford Prison Experiment.
ROSINRight. That's exactly what it was except, you know, we forgot about them. We weren't like intentionally...
GOLBECKYeah, you weren't abusing them...
GOLBECK...beyond the base level of locking them up.
GOLBECKSo these changes we're talking about have happened in a very short period of time. You note that what was just a few decades ago, it would've been considered paranoid to walk your third grader to school. And now someone might call Child Protective Services on you if you don't walk your child to school.
ROSINWell, that's what's really weird, you know. I think a lot of people my age started to think that maybe we were making up our memories because it's only one generation. And so that's why I wanted to look up the actual statistics. And it turns out the actual statistics bear out our memories. You know, something like 80 or 90 percent of third graders walked to school by themselves. No third grader walks to school by themselves now. It's a tiny number so you have to ask yourself, what is that? What are we afraid of and why did these habits change so rapidly?
GOLBECKDo you have insights to answer those questions?
ROSINYeah, I think when people say the world is a more dangerous place they are talking about something pretty narrow, stranger danger. You know, there's sort of a moral panic that a stranger is going to abduct your child. That's one of the things that comes up. When the fact is, a stranger is no more likely to abduct your child now than they were in the '70s. It's not actually a real thing that's increased.
ROSINYou know, what has increased is a sense of neighborhood disintegration. So moms are now not home, they're working. There's a lot more divorce than there was in the '70s. There's a lot less of a sense that, you know, the person at the dry cleaner or the person down the block knows your child and is looking out for your child. So the world is different but it's not necessarily more dangerous.
GOLBECKI have this experience where I was probably 11 and my friend and I would ride our bike. And there was a story we could get to about three miles away that had a payphone outside of it. And we thought it was great to, like, prank call these 800 numbers. I had no idea who the woman was who worked at the convenient store but she knew who I was. And she called my parents and I got in quite a bit of trouble for that. So that's getting to this neighborhood thing I think. Even if you didn't know the adults, the adults kind of knew who everyone was?
ROSINYeah, and now the rule is, don't talk to strangers. That came around the '70s. You know, everyone tells their kids, don't talk to strangers. And in a funny way, by telling your kids that, you're making it worse. Like, you're making it impossible for any adult to watch out for your child or for a community to form in whatever ways it can because children grow up thinking of the public space as a dangerous place.
ROSINPlaygrounds are dangerous, the streets are dangerous. You know, the public place is dangerous. And the only place that's okay is the privacy of your own home. That's where you're safe.
GOLBECKYeah. We have a lot of people calling. You can also join the conversation. Did you go outside to play unsupervised when you were a kid? Do you let your children do that today? Call us at 1-800-433-8850 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's start taking some calls. We have James in Leesburg, Va. James, you're on the air. Go ahead.
JAMESHi. Thank you for taking my call. I think she probably answered the question that I have. But I grew up in Africa, I'm an immigrant. And playing as a child is completely different than here. Now I have two kids of my own. And I wanted to ask her, is it because of the prevalence of sexual predators now, because of social media and not -- you know, it's like everywhere you go you hear the news.
JAMESDoes she think there's a reason why parents are now extremely overprotective? Because it's like your kid is part of a soccer team and you're even scared of what the coach is going to be doing to your kid. Now that I have two kids I think about it all the time. Those are the things that are one of the reasons why parents are now extremely overprotective of their kids.
GOLBECKThanks for the call, James. So is this something where there are more predators now or is it something that we're able to hear about more with social media and the news and kind of the news fixating on social media as maybe a place this is happening?
ROSINThe latter. I mean, there are no more sexual abductions than there were in the '70s. There really are not and yet it's this fear that's in all of our heads that we really can't get around. We did it on the internet too, by the way. When kids started going on the internet, you know, the initial reaction was, well, they're going to be preyed on by sexual predators, you know.
ROSINIt wasn't that common. It's certainly very uncommon now, now that everybody's online and kids can kind of find their own network. So I think it's just a fear that parents have that doesn't have much basis in reality. The only person who's likely to abduct you is your father when your parents are getting divorced. That's -- literally that's the person most likely to abduct a child.
GOLBECKSo let's take a call from Brian in Centerville, Va. Brian, you're on the air. Go ahead.
BRIANThank you so much for taking my call. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I'm kind of a unique perspective 'cause me and my wife are actually pregnant with our first child. So we have a lot of these talks...
BRIANThank you. Appreciate it. And we've been trying for a couple years, too, so it's really exciting. But we've had this kind of worry about -- well, this is probably more my worry and not hers, but of how when we raise our kid we -- very much, you know, give them the freedom. Let them take risks, let them skin their knees. Let them realize they can pick themselves back up. We love that style of parenting. And it is in contrast, I think, to what you're talking about as far as, you know, this overwhelming feeling of needing, you know, security and safety and keeping an eye on your kids 24/7.
BRIANMy sister, God bless her, is a very -- keeps a close eye on her kids. And she's about eight years my senior. And I guess my worry -- my question is, giving this environment where I'm going to be a parent and I want to have -- give my kids this freedom, I want them to play out in the street and, you know, not have to, like, worry about every two seconds. How's that -- like I'm worried about looking -- being looked upon as being negligent to my kids I guess. There's a perceived negligence like, oh what, you're going to let your kids do this?
BRIANI mean, there's my family friends I know who are going to have certain opinions, especially my family, you know, and -- because they've been -- my mom was a little -- slightly a little more protective of me. And I guess -- I don't know -- I guess what's your understanding of how -- is there a way to kind of trump this kind of idea of this -- of being looked upon as negligent parent. I really just want my kids to run free and kind of some of the opportunities I had to go out in the woods when I was a kid, you know, and fall down in that creek that was probably sewage-filled.
BRIANBut it was a great experience and, I don't know, I just worry about that, that level of negligence I'll be...
GOLBECKOkay, Brian. Let's hear Hanna's response on this.
ROSINYou're awesome. I hope you stick to that. That would be really, really great. It would be helpful. I think you're right that social pressure's the biggest problem. There are lots of reports of, you know, the police being called when they see a child walking to school alone. If you Google that, you'll see places all over the country where people say, oh my gosh, I let my child walk by themselves. And this is what happened to me.
ROSINI would say that we can do this slowly. It's not about neglecting your child or going back to the '70s. It's about re-conceiving our role as parents. It's not just protecting our children but giving them opportunities to expand and know themselves. So think what is the job of a parent? A job of a parent is, you know, to keep an eye on your child but also to say build their character. You know, give them opportunities to learn about themselves and learn things on their own. So it's just like shifting the job description a little bit. That's what I would hope for.
GOLBECKYeah, and I do want to put a flag in here. We're covering a story right now about a child abduction here in D.C. Ralisha -- we're going to have an update on that at 2:00. But as you point out, she was abducted by someone she knows. It's also not the case that kids aren't getting hurt. Just that they're not getting hurt any less when their parents are monitoring them than they were when they were kind of out free range roaming.
ROSINAnd also it's our worst nightmare. I mean, I think that's part of the reason why abductions resonate. They have since the turn of the century. They particularly -- when the sexual part got added in the '70s -- you know, I write about the case where -- when we started talking about sexual predators was a case of a boy who was abducted in New York. Now we had no information about who had abducted him, but this idea that it had been a sexual predator just kind of came up in the news.
ROSINAnd then suddenly there were all these stories about sexual predators being everywhere. But like we actually didn't know that. Yet the single case, like the case that's happening in D.C., you know, it's just a -- it's such a heartbreak. Like it makes everyone panic. And if you're a human being you can't help yourself. It's really, really hard.
GOLBECKYeah, and I've had these discussions with friends who have kids and are talking all about the stranger abduction, sexual abduction. And I've tried to kind of say, you know, it's not that common. And they say, I will do whatever I can do to make sure that doesn't happen, even if that means I watch her every second. And that's kind of, I think, feeding into this trend that you've covered.
GOLBECKLet's take a call from Carol in Fairfax. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead.
CAROLHi, how are you?
GOLBECKGood. How are you?
CAROLGood. Well, I was just calling because I think this idea of a less safe, more natural playground is a great idea. My parents never knew where we were. There were seven of us, we lived in the woods. We would be miles from home. My parents never knew where we were. We had a big brass bell they'd ring and we'd all come home. And I kind of applied the same thing to my five kids raising them. It's get out there, play, you know. They didn't do technology. We didn't even have cable until about three years ago. My kids are all grown.
CAROLAnd I think parents worry too much. And the man who was speaking before, there is a lot of pressure from other parents. My girlfriend and I had the belief of benign neglect with your kids because they have got to have conflict in order to learn how to deal with conflict. They've got to have scrapes and bruises. It's good for them. You know, you just shouldn't worry about those things, I don't think. They're just a natural part of growing up.
CAROLAnd kids are so protected these days and so entertained. They don't even know how to entertain themselves anymore because parents are so busy hovering over them, keeping them entertained. You know, I just...
GOLBECKSo parental peer pressure to entertain your kids and protect them from everything.
CAROLTo entertain and protect them and not -- even -- I can't even tell you how many parents came to me if my kids are conflicts with another kid. And they want to get right in the middle and mediate. And to be like, you know, you've got to leave them alone and let them figure it out.
GOLBECKYeah, let's get Hanna's take on this.
ROSINMaybe the way to convince the parents is to tell them that they're consequences for all this worrying. Like, they think of it as just a pure positive. But there are actually negative things that come out of it. You know, people talk about the generation of poor millennials, everyone beats on the poor millennials, but there is a sense in which, you know, they leave home and are kind of adrift, you know.
ROSINYou hear about it in cases of increased depression or, you know, there's been lots and lots of stories about that, about how they're having trouble finding themselves and kind of, you know, knowing how to center themselves. And I think this does have to do with it. The sense that there's always going to be someone to intervene. You know, that there aren't rough things that are going to happen that you're going to have to deal with absolutely by yourself.
ROSINOr even the sense of like exploring on your own. That one is really, really hard for parents. But that fear and thrill, which has been in fairytales forever, is something that kids need in order to grow up, basically.
GOLBECKAnd we're both professors and this is something that I think I see manifesting in 18-year-olds who are coming to campus for the first time. I don't have a long enough career there to compare it to how it was before, but I do see a lot of them who seem like they've never really developed these skills of managing crises when they come up. Like, they expect someone's going to step in and fix it.
ROSINYeah, and then you hear these horrible stories, which I can't even believe, where, like, parents will call the college about grades.
ROSINOr parents will even call the first employer, you know. So you really don't want people to get used to that.
GOLBECKRight. We're going to take a quick break. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Jen Golbeck, sitting in for Kojo. We'll continue our conversation with Hanna Rosin about kids and play in a moment. Stay with us.
GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck, from the University of Maryland, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. I'm talking with Hanna Rosin about kids and play. You can join the conversation, too. What do you think kids gain from being allowed to fail? If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. On the line right now, we have James Siegal. He's executive vice president of KaBOOM. And I'd like to get some comments from him. So, James, you're on the air.
MR. JAMES SIEGALHi, Jen. Thanks very much. And…
GOLBECKThanks for calling in.
SIEGALKaBOOM, we're best known for the playgrounds that we build in partnership with low-income communities across the country. And our goal is to insure that all kids get the play that they need to thrive. And I think we have a lot to agree on with Hanna. First of all, how important play is in kids' lives, from the perspective of physical development, social and emotional growth, cognitive and creative development as well.
SIEGALAnd also that kids need challenge in their lives. And I liked what Hanna had to say about expanding their horizons and getting to know themselves and things like that. And the third is that we both love the Beauvoir playground here in D.C. I was there with my three kids this past weekend and had a blast. And I think the reality of it, though, is that most kids don't get the opportunity to experience things like Beauvoir. And in the communities that we serve, safety is a real concern. It's not just a perceived risk.
SIEGALAnd we want to make sure that first and foremost we focus on parents and adults in general providing love and care for kids. And providing a safe space for them to play. Because play enables adults and kids to form connections that are important for their growth. And so I think that the focus on play and giving kids challenge is terrific. And I would just not want to lose out on the importance of adults and parents in providing that environment for kids to thrive in.
GOLBECKAnd this raises an issue where a lot of what we're talking about are kids who have access to spaces that they can play in. And that isn't always the case. Right? There are communities where kids don't have playgrounds they can go to of whatever variety. There's not necessarily a place for them to go play.
ROSINHovering is definitely an upper-class luxury.
ROSINEverything I'm talking about applies mostly to one class. Like everything else in America, play is plagued by a great social divide. So I think the problems in the places where KaBOOM builds playgrounds -- and I love KaBOOM's work -- are actually the opposite, you know. It's where you have stressed-out parents who don't have the time to kind of engage or supervise. And so you want to encourage that, rather than what I'm talking about, which is get out of the way.
GOLBECKRight. James Siegal, thanks very much for calling in.
GOLBECKHanna, one statistic sounds counterintuitive. In most households both parents today work. And kids are now very overscheduled. Yet, both mothers and fathers today spend a lot more time with their kids. But it wasn't that surprising when you thought about it.
ROSINWell, initially -- I read that statistic so many times. It didn't make sense to me. Like, how is it possible that mothers of my generation spend more time with their children than mothers of my mother's generation? It seemed crazy. And yet it shows up in all of the time-use studies. But then I thought about it and I realized that I, you know, take a typical Saturday or Sunday. I did not spend any time with my mother. I was out on the street, you know, playing in the garages, hanging out with my friends, going to the handball courts.
ROSINI was not hanging out with my mother. Whereas now, my children spend all their weekend time with me, practically. I'm taking them places or we're hanging out or we're all going places together. It's just a different way of living.
GOLBECKI've had this issue. I go to Fairfax to see my boyfriend on Saturdays sometimes. I live in Silver Spring. And there's all this traffic. And I'm like why is there all this traffic. He's like, "Well, this is all the parents, like, taking their kids to soccer practice or to this or to that," which is not something that I was familiar with encountering. Let's take a call from Paul, in Rockville, Md. Paul, you're on the air. Go ahead.
PAULHi, thanks for taking my call. A lot of what I was going to say has been said. I was raised where we would leave on a Saturday morning on our bikes at, whatever, 8:00 o'clock, and Mom would say, "Okay. See you when you get home," which would be dark. And no big deal. And now I've raised three successful -- one's a college, rising senior, the other two are already out of college. And we, I think, struck a medium between helicopter and satellite.
PAULBecause you have to be somewhere in between. And another gentlemen said it's okay if you scratch your knee. I've told my students and my kids for years, I will let you scratch your knee, but I will not let you fall off a cliff. And that's what you have to define. But the main point I want to make is just that part of the perceived threat, I think, is a function of 24-hour news cycle.
PAULAnd then the thing that you just mentioned about class is germane as well because most of the folks who are into this helicopter mentality are the ones who have 24-hour news cycles, whether it's listening to NPR to and from work or whether it's putting on Fox at home or CNN at home or something like that. It's that all of this stuff from the digital age is constantly in front of us.
PAULWhether it's an abduction in Texas or Massachusetts or here, everyone in the whole country is going to hear about it. And that's something that we didn't have when we were growing up. And that's about it. Thanks for taking my call.
GOLBECKThanks very much, Paul. Hanna, do you want to comment on Paul?
ROSINYeah, two responses. I think his approach is the right approach. In other words to strike a balance. Not to go back to the '70s when a lot of people felt neglected, but to do something, as he puts it, between helicopter and hovering. Take advantage of the new closeness with our children, but use it for a different effect. And the second thing I would say is that maybe it's just a matter of being aware of our assumptions and challenging them.
ROSINSo, you know, we all have this 24-hour news cycle. It's in our heads, you know. Like we said, there's an abduction story now in D.C. We're going to hear about it all the time. Then don't immediately assume that your child is in danger. Sort of let there be a little pause…
ROSIN…between what you're reading and how you behave in life.
GOLBECKSo we have a couple calls regarding schools in particular. And I'd like to start with Jill, from McLean. Jill, you're on the air. Go ahead.
JILLHi. And thank, Hanna, for your article. I wanted to tell you a little bit about my children went to a school -- my daughter's still enrolled. My son is in public school now -- called the Eastern Ridge School. It's a small school in northern Virginia. And we actually -- the children have enormous amounts of unstructured play during the day. And there's a loose part shade garden and there's tires and a mud pit.
JILLAnd the families are kind of going against the grain, especially in the hyper-competitive Fairfax County. And you won't find worksheets and things like that. And we have a saying called there's no bad weather, only bad clothing. So it's a really exciting place to have our kids. It's also sometimes hard with, you know, the community around us.
JILLAnd, you know, we have these open houses and parents come and they say, really? They do this? And they, you know, they work with drills and things like that? So your article was a breath of fresh air. And we're hoping that more people will come on board and see the good stuff we're doing.
GOLBECKThanks for calling, Jill. And we also have an email from Rusty, who says, "I wanted to let you know about a new adventure playground in the USA, woo-hoo. It's the Hands On Nature Anarchy Zone at the Ithaca Children's Garden, in Ithaca, N.Y. We're starting our third year. It's a quarter acre natural landscape, lots of loose parts and tools, with trained play workers and a tool shed. Kids can dig in the mud, build forts, climb trees, make mud pies, etcetera, all free, unstructured play." So it sounds like there is, both from Jill's call and what Rusty's saying, a movement maybe coming together?
ROSINYeah, and it -- like the Beauvoir playground, like these two examples -- I wish my kids went to that Virginia school. That's place sounds great.
GOLBECKIt sounds great.
ROSINExactly. But I think it has to do with the DIY movement and environmentalism. You know, there's a way in which what I'm saying speaks naturally to trends that are out there anyway. You know, loose parts, build things our self, we don't want anything prefab. You know, I think these are all values generally, in our culture that we respect. And so there's a way in which you can make the turn fairly easily, at least when it comes to play.
GOLBECKWe still have a bunch of calls we're going to take, but if you'd like to get in towards the end of our conversation here, you can. You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850. I'd like to give you the results of our poll so far. Looking at whether or not kids are overprotected and what people think. The one question that has a very strong result is the question, "Are kids overprotected today?"
GOLBECK3 percent say yes, and that's a good thing. 5 percent say no. 6 percent say they're not sure. And 87 percent say yes, and that's a bad thing. So it sounds like you're getting a kind of positive response to the point that you're making.
ROSINThat's great. I'm popular today.
GOLBECKSo not necessarily a counter point, but something to go along with the other side of this is a call that we have from Steven, in Rockville, Md. Steven, you're on the air. Go ahead.
STEVENThank you, very much. Just quickly, I've been involved in playgrounds and building them for 30 years, having been risk manager for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Loudoun County Public Schools, done pro bono work with churches and schools in the area in building their playground. First thing is we have to build the playgrounds by the instructions and regulations set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
STEVENSo they have a whole wrath of regulations. Second, is the tremendous amount of litigation that recreation and playgrounds bring to local governments, schools, states. And I have, over the years, been in many, many court suits that if little Johnny or little Jane is hurt on the playground, the parents are going to sue. And it costs $5,000 just to start to defend a case. So that's one the things we have to work out, that I'm glad all these people say, "Oh, yes, please build me this natural playground like I had when I was a kid." But if their children get hurt, they will sue. And…
GOLBECKSteven, I'm glad you brought this up because Hanna you actually raise an interesting point in your article, about how it really was lawsuits in the '70s -- and you cite one in particular -- that spurred this change to safer, maybe more boring, less creative playgrounds.
ROSINYeah, the caller just described the cycle that happened that led to the boring playgrounds. The one thing I would take issue with -- and he knows what he's talking about much more than I do, and he has much more experience -- you don't actually have to follow those recommendations. They're not laws. They're just recommendations.
ROSINSo why did the Beauvoir, you know, it takes a lot of work to push back against this culture of parents suing. And not everyone can do it, but you can do it. It's not illegal to do it. It's just that, you know, we get infected in our heads, oh, my God, lawsuits and the parents are going to sue. So it's like it requires a whole cultural shift on the part of parents and institutions, which a few managed to do.
GOLBECKLet's take a call from Daniel, in Rockville, Md. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead.
DANIELHi. Thanks for taking the call. Hanna, great article. I'm a 34-year-old, so I just missed the millennial cut off. I have two very young children. Another way to look at evidence of the trend you describe in the article is the culture, the literature. I remember growing up with the movies that created, that told of an oppositional dynamic between children and parents, parents being somewhat skeptical of kids and kids always yearning to separate from parents.
DANIELI just wonder if we'll see evidence of all of this in the lack of that kind of narrative anymore. How can there be that traditional oppositional kind of narrative when parents are immersed in every facet of kids' lives and making a whole host of things easier for them and more comfortable for them? You'll lose that "Breakfast Club" type of parents stink type of narrative, for lack of a better term. Thanks for taking the call.
ROSINI think it's a matter of shifting slightly in the other direction. Like I said, I think the closeness between parents and children has yielded a lot of really good and positive results, particularly for little kids. But I always laugh when, you know, people say my kid is bored in school, or, you know, my kid's mad at me. It's like isn't that how it's supposed to be? You know, you've got to give kids a little space to rebel against you and rebel against institutions and find them boring and annoying. You know, not always to find them lovely and pleasant. That's part of finding your own identity.
GOLBECKSo in the minute that we have left, I just wanted to step back and take a slightly different perspective on this. We kind of see a cycle, right? During World War II and after there were concerns about mothers going to work and then that gave rise to the latchkey kids, which was a big concern in -- I think for a long time, but certainly in the '70s and '80s. And now we're maybe looking back on that phenomenon of unsupervised with some nostalgia. So can you just give us a kind of quick perspective of how this fits in the grander scheme of trends?
ROSINYeah, we ride the waves in childhood. I think we go through extremes. You know, there's Dr. Spock then telling people to…
ROSIN…you know be freer. And then before that it's like you have to have a tight hold or refrigerator moms. I mean, I think if you look back at the decades we tend to wave between over parenting, under parenting. The other thing that we do is criticize ourselves, you know.
ROSINWhich is what I'm doing and which is what we're doing now. That is also typical of every age where parents turn the mirror on themselves and say this is what we're doing wrong. And that's going to produce kids who are, you know, whatever, attached, sissies, whatever is the language of the era, we worry about the kids becoming that.
GOLBECKRight. This has been a fascinating conversation. Apologies to all of the callers that we couldn't get to. I've been talking with Hanna Rosin. She's a national correspondent for the Atlantic Magazine, author of the article, "The Overprotected Kid," and the book, "The End of Men." I'm Jen Golbeck, sitting in on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." Thanks for listening.
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