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Free-Range Kids: Eat Your Germs!

Today’s post is about the problem of “helicopter parents”, who bubble wrap their kids in the hope of isolating them from all possible perils, be they physical or emotional.

It is also about how this epidemic of hyper-parenting may be directly contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.

The post was prompted by an article written by Shannon Proudfoot (CanWest News Sevice), who writes about a new book by Gever Tulley titled 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). Shannon quotes Tulley as saying, “We create a false impression in our minds that children are in peril all the time and everywhere, when in fact, according to the most recent studies, this is the safest time in history for children. There couldn’t be a better time to be running around playing.

In her article, Shannon mentions other efforts that are calling hyper-parents to their senses like The Dangerous Book for Boys, Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone or the Free-Range-Kids movement.

To me the real paradox is how these very same hyper-vigilant hyper-parents often don’t think twice about the very real and much more probable peril that comes from keeping their kids off the streets (and in front of TV screens). Indeed, these parents appear far more concerned about the highly improbable chances of their kids becoming drug addicts on the local play ground than worrying about the much more probable chances of their kids become junk-food and sugar-pop addicts from the foods they feed them.

Indeed, it appears that the fear of “germs” exceeds by several orders of magnitude any valid concerns about obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, or any of the other very real dangers of inactivity and crappy diets to which they happily expose their kids everyday.

Clearly parents appear far more concerned about the chances that their kids will fall into the hands of pedophiles lurking on FaceBook than from the much more likely damage from watching 1000s of junkfood ads on TV.

I guess if we were all far less concerned about the possibility of our kids scraping their knees, breaking a limb, or falling off a fence and actually encouraged them to confidently ignore the “five second rule”, we’d probably end up with a generation of far stronger and healthier kids than the bubble-wrapped, hyper-coddled generation of over-scheduled wimpy progeny we have now.

So let those kids range free and make sure they eat their germs!

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. You are hilarious Dr Sharma!

    Very well written!

    The subject of today’s blog has been a long time discussion I have witnessed between parents….That is very interseting to know how this parental behaviour can contribute to child obesity….

    This reminded me of another subject about “Helminthic” therapy that is currently being studied as a treatment for several autoimmune diseases including Celiac disease, Multiple sclerosis, Asthma, etc.
    The idea is centered on Hygiene Hypothesis that states a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents and parasites increase suseptibility to allergic diseaes by modyfying the immune system. In another word, some scientists belive that T regulator cells can only become fully effective if they are stimulated by exposure to microorganisms and parasites that have low levels of pathogenicity, and which have coexisted with human beings throughout our evolutionary history.
    I cannot agree more with you when you say “let those kids range free and make sure they eat their germs!”

    P.S. lovely picture for the topics 

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  2. Almost a rant – such passion!

    In my day, I took hardly any notice of my parents, and I think it was mutual. There were perverts around in those days – I knew the word perve before I knew what it meant, but I certainly knew who they were in my town. Of course, the net poses a greater danger. But surely the danger is spending hours on the net so you get the time to find the perve.

    But parents nowadays stuff their children with all this awful food. Buying 2-litre bottles of pop and sacks of crisps and inviting the children to enjoy themselves as they watch telly, surf the net, or whatever other backside-based activity they are engaged in.

    Children should be outside with their friends, in the dirt, learning to be streetwise, learning courage, and knowing that if they don’t get home on time they will be given a wigging.

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  3. love your article and your passion. Couldn’t agree more !!!

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  4. Your responders are equally funny!! Great thing!

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  5. what a turnaround nowadays, we were much concerned about our children playing outside and being snatched, now it’s concerning that our children are being groomed from sitting inside on computers!

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