Children and their right to roam

We older folks know that children have much less freedom to roam than we did when we were young.  That’s true in Britain as well as here in the USA.  The above map shows four generations of Thomas children, who live in Sheffield in the north of England, and how each has a smaller free range than the one before.

    • In 1919, George, the great-grandfather of the family, was allowed to walk six miles by himself to go fishing at Rother Valley.
    • In 1950, Jack, the grandfather, was allowed to walk one mile by himself to go play in the woods nearby.  Like his father, he walked to school.
    • In 1979, Vicky, the mother, could walk by herself to the swimming pool, half a mile away.
    • In 2007, Ed, the son, was only able to walk to the end of the street on his own – a mere 300 yards.  He was driven to school, and even to a place where he could ride his bike safely.

via Strange Maps.

One reason is that parents are more fearful nowadays of traffic accidents and kidnapers.  Maybe another is that they don’t know their neighbors as well as earlier generations did.   Ed has a lot more interesting things he can do right in his living room than George did.  But Natural England says children need exposure to the natural living world, not just monitors and screens.

I think it is too bad that children today have so little freedom and so little opportunity to learn self-reliance.  But I don’t know what I would do if I were a parent.  The world really does seem more threatening than it did when I was a child.

Click on The Great Indoors, or Childhood’s End? for background by Frank Jacobs on his Strange Maps web log.

Click on How children lost the right to roam in four generations for more background from The Daily Mail of Britain.

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