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