Car seats. Safety belts. Bicycle helmets. Rubberized mats beneath playground equipment. Peanut warning labels on foods. Hand sanitizer.
These things were not part of my growing up years. When I look around at all of the safety measures today, I think it's a wonder I survived to become an adult. I'm not suggesting that we put children in harm's way on purpose, but how long will it be until all under 18 persons are swarthed in bubble wrap 24/7?
A mom writing an op-ed piece in Newsweek is wondering the same sorts of things in We Protect Kids from Everything but Fear. She marvels at the youngsters visiting her own kids who cannot believe their eyes when they see fruit roll-ups and real potato chips. She's a self-labeled social deviant because she wants to allow her daughter to walk home from school. Her children don't wear long sleeved swimsuits or have summer tutors to keep things fresh. She speaks of mothers who seem to fear everything on behalf of their children, trying to shelter them from every possible emotional and environmental hardship. She wonders "what's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids? Yes, these very kids we want to be so self-sufficient, responsible, confident, happy and creative (not to mention not food-obsessed). They're growing up thinking these weirdly weenie views are healthy and normal."
But kids will be kids, to an extent. I think my favourite part of the article was this quote: And then there's playground panic. I had to laugh when an Australian study recently found that playground injuries continue to rise despite safety improvements. One of the suspected reasons: the safe new play structures are so boring that kids are taking more risks in order to have fun.
Are we, as a society, on some sort of runaway train here when it comes to protecting our youth? Again, I understand the desire to protect children, but at some point, enough is enough. For example, we know that lower speed limits prevent more highway deaths (and conserve energy)...but you don't see advocates for having people drive 25 mph on the Interstates. We have to create a balance...some acceptance around the inherent risks associated with Life. Even the lives of children.