Thursday, October 26, 2017

Risk

Lenore Skenazy, who got in trouble for letting her "nine-year-old take the subway alone," contends that "If you don’t let children take risks, you are damaging them."
.... In 1971, 80 per cent of eight-year-olds walked to school alone in Britain. By 2006, it was down to 12 per cent of seven- to ten-year-olds. ....

When we keep our kids constantly supervised by an adult, we think we are keeping them safe. But in fact we are doing the opposite. Kids need some independence — and even a little risk.

A study on risky play published in Evolutionary Psychology found that kids ‘dose’ themselves with the level of risk they can handle. The thrill they feel when climbing ever higher on the monkey bars, for example, is their reward for being brave. The more they tiptoe to the edge of their comfort level, the braver they become. Facing your fears has what psychologists call an ‘anti-phobic effect’.

Children deprived of these opportunities can end up more anxious. They haven’t been able to build up their bravery, organise their own games or solve their own spats. They have never got lost and had to find their way home, scared and then triumphant. Their coping skills are stunted.

That could be why today’s students are having a harder time than earlier generations at getting along on their own. From 2011 to 2016, the number of undergraduates in America reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ jumped from 50 to 62 per cent. Having been protected from so many risks and discomforts, children remain hypersensitive to them on the cusp of adulthood. Hence, perhaps, the demand for ‘safe spaces’. It’s not that these students are not safe. But it may feel that way, because something is making them anxious and no one is stopping it — the way adults always have, until now. ....