Do today’s parents give their kids the same “right to roam” that they had, as children? Many experts say no, according to a story by Fox News that features Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley:
Every successive generation strays less and less from the house, says David Crossley, the president of a local non-profit called Houston Tomorrow.
He illustrates the point with a map, depicting four generations of one family, and how far each was allowed to roam alone at age eight, starting with the great-grandfather.
“He was allowed to go as much as six miles, to go fishing down in this valley here,” Crossley says, pointing to a spot on the map.
The grandfather had a one-mile radius and the mother could go just half a mile to the local swimming pool.
And the son?
“Ed, who’s 8, is only allowed to walk on his own to the end of the street,” Crossley said. “Three hundred yards.”
Why? Perhaps parents perceive more peril these days. But the true threat to children isn’t “stranger danger,” Crossley insists. It’s being hurt or killed in a car crash.
“If a kid gets kidnapped, it’s on television and we know,” he said. “And it becomes a huge story and we worry. And we think it’s common. But it’s not any more common.”
When we keep a tight leash on our kids, says Crossley, they don’t get to explore, they miss out on exposure to nature and their immune systems don’t develop as much, as a result.
And there may not be a whole lot to do besides watch TV or play videogames in their restricted geographic circle.
“In many neighborhoods, there’s not a Little League, or Boy Scouts,” said Dr. Robert Sanborn with Children at Risk. “So some of the things that made it easier for us, as kids, to get out and about are lacking in some neighborhoods.”
David Crossley says that lack of activity, that lack of exposure, helps explains a range of childhood maladies from asthma to obesity.
“We’ve got to find ways to get kids back outdoors,” he said. “Doctors are now saying this generation of kids actually may not outlive their parents.”