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Thread: How children lost the right to roam in four generations

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    KiwiHopeful's Avatar
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    Default How children lost the right to roam in four generations

    Another reason we're heading to NZ:

    How children lost the right to roam in four generations

    When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

    It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

    Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

    He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

    Even if he wanted to play outdoors, none of his friends strays from their home or garden unsupervised.

    The contrast between Edward and George's childhoods is highlighted in a report which warns that the mental health of 21st-century children is at risk because they are missing out on the exposure to the natural world enjoyed by past generations.

    The report says the change in attitudes is reflected in four generations of the Thomas family in Sheffield.

    The oldest member, George, was allowed to roam for six miles from home unaccompanied when he was eight.

    His home was tiny and crowded and he spent most of his time outside, playing games and making dens.

    Mr Thomas, who went on to become a carpenter, has never lost some of the habits picked up as a child and, aged 88, is still a keen walker.

    His son-in-law, Jack Hattersley, 63, was also given freedom to roam.

    He was aged eight in 1950, and was allowed to walk for about one mile on his own to the local woods. Again, he walked to school and never travelled by car.

    By 1979, when his daughter Vicky Grant was eight, there were signs that children's independence was being eroded.

    "I was able to go out quite freely - I'd ride my bike around the estate, play with friends in the park and walk to the swimming pool and to school," said Mrs Grant, 36.

    "There was a lot less traffic then - and families had only one car. People didn't make all these short journeys."

    Today, her son Edward spends little time on his own outside his garden in their quiet suburban street. She takes him by car to school to ensure she gets to her part-time job as a medical librarian on time.

    While he enjoys piano lessons, cubs, skiing lessons, regular holidays and the trampoline, slide and climbing frame in the garden, his mother is concerned he may be missing out.

    She said: "He can go out in the crescent but he doesn't tend to go out because the other children don't. We put a bike in the car and go off to the country where we can all cycle together.

    "It's not just about time. Traffic is an important consideration, as is the fear of abduction, but I'm not sure whether that's real or perceived."

    She added: "Over four generations our family is poles apart in terms of affluence. But I'm not sure our lives are any richer."

    The report's author, Dr William Bird, the health adviser to Natural England and the organiser of a conference on nature and health on Monday, believes children's long-term mental health is at risk.

    He has compiled evidence that people are healthier and better adjusted if they get out into the countryside, parks or gardens.

    Stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, he says. Even filling a home with flowers and plants can improve concentration and lower stress.

    "If children haven't had contact with nature, they never develop a relationship with natural environment and they are unable to use it to cope with stress," he said.

    "Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature were at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment.

    "They need time playing in the countryside, in parks and in gardens where they can explore, dig up the ground and build dens."

    The report, published by Natural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, also found that children's behaviour and school work improve if their playground has grassy areas, ponds and trees.

    It also found evidence that hospital patients need fewer painkillers after surgery if they have views of nature from their bed.
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    It's sad to think that instead of improving society is getting worse. I agree that this is one of many good reasons to make the move to NZ - however what is stopping NZ from becoming the same in the next 20 years?
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    When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

    It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.
    Oh how well I remember this. When I was a kid (around 10 years old) I used to live way out in the country and, if I missed the school bus, I had to walk 5 miles home with very few houses along the way. It never really worried me and never worried my parents unduly when I arrived home very late. Of course, there weren't any mobiles around at the time so I couldn't contact them to let them know where I was and that I'd be late. I also used to cycle along that route quite a lot without incident.

    I wouldn't say that bad stuff never happened in those days, but, today, you'd never dream of letting your kids wander around like that on their own in built-up areas, let alone in empty countryside. Things definitely have changed for the worse.
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    It's not just about time. Traffic is an important consideration, as is the fear of abduction, but I'm not sure whether that's real or perceived."

    She added: "Over four generations our family is poles apart in terms of affluence. But I'm not sure our lives are any richer."
    Quite ironic ... the wealthier we have become, the more out of tune with what really matters we become. When I was a kid, my family was definitely less well off than I and my kids are today, but I see the same thing. When we lived in the small cities I grew up in, we rode our bikes all over the place, tramped through the woods like they belonged to us, and generally ran wild--we were 'free range' children I guess! I can't see my own boys doing that here, and thus our move to NZ!
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    GordonUK is offline Junior Member
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    Default A compelling argument

    Like so many other people (not just those in this forum) I see the true 'rights' of children - i.e. the right to BE children - being eroded constantly by so many factors. We are the wealthiest generation the UK has ever seen: my own adult experience as a 'middle class' parent compared with my upbringing on a council estate as part of a working class family is fairly representative of the changes in 'wealthiness' that our society has undergone. Personally, I would happily go back to just having enough money to eat reasonably well, be adequately clothed, have a house in good repair and have a little extra disposable income for the occasional treat (which really would feel like a treat, like it did when I was little) if the pay-off was true quality of life, particularly for my child. In other words, I'd rather have less money and more confidence that my little girl could wander safely, play in the street, walk to school, go out with her friends, camp in the woods, etc, etc than the other way around, which is what I currently have.
    Is New Zealand my answer??

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    Quote Originally Posted by GordonUK View Post
    Is New Zealand my answer??
    In respect of this subject, probably yes. Although I'm not naive or arrogant enough to suggest that kids are 100% safe here, 100% of the time, it does seem in general that kids are safer and also more 'valued' here - rather than an inconvenience, it's 'these are our people of the future, let's respect them and give them a chance to grow up as decent human beings'. Now, while I would never let my 7 year old daughter go off on her own, she is allowed to have a wander around a nearby toy-shop or walk a little way down the road to call for her friend - something I would never have allowed her to do in the UK for various reasons.

    HTH

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    Well, I have to say from my own experience, things have changed mightly for children in Bermuda as well. I grew up...in the country...don't laugh...on the beach and it was very idylic, we rode our bikes all over the neighborhood and went swimming and fishing, catching tadpoles, exploring everywhere. Now adays there just isn't much room in Bermuda, I don't even like walking down the road with my son for fear that he will get run over. We are certaianly a wealthier generation by far, but there's just no space anywhere anymore for children to be children unless they are fenced off in our own backyards...which are tiny as well! One of my main motivating factors for moving to NZ is to try and give Lucas some of the freedom that I enjoyed as a child with a wealth of opportunities to play a variety of sports and explore...

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    Quote Originally Posted by KiwiHopeful View Post
    Quite ironic ... the wealthier we have become, the more out of tune with what really matters we become.
    This is just how I see it. Other things have got in the way of seeing and appreciating the everyday things around us. Acquiring wealth and possessions seem to have taken priority over appreciating the everyday things around us. Many people prefer it like this, but, as above, we do lose sight of what's really important in life. Our happiness is measured by what we can gather to us rather than enjoying what exists naturally (and usually freely) around us.

    As an example, in the aftermath of the cyclone here, it's the people who had the least and, therefore, had the least to lose, who've been able to smile and remain cheerful while everyone else is wringing their hands and bemoaning the fact that several of their cars were swept away and their luxury villas containing their myriad possessions have been ruined or destroyed. Hubster volunteered to drive 2 hours away from Muscat to help distribute emergency food and water in the villages, which are almost cut off from civilisation now. The people had very little to begin with and what little they did have has been lost, including their homes. He said all they had was the food supplies and a couple of torches to see their way around. Yet, he said, they were cheerful, full of smiles and friendliness. There's something to be said for the simple life - the less you have, the less you have to lose or the less someone can steal off you. I bet they sleep well at night without the burden of their possessions wearing them down.
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