March 2, 2013

Does fear of lawsuits account for the wussification of kids' lives these days?

Occasionally when I discuss the changes that I've looked into with others, especially if they're parents, they agree that sadly their kids don't get to enjoy a wholesome exciting childhood like we did -- but that it just goes to show you how pervasive the fear of lawsuits is.

That could possibly account for why playgrounds nowadays look unbelievably infantilized and come with graphic warning stickers plastered all over. Yet you see the same changes where only the child's parents themselves could be held liable.

We used to climb trees on our own property back in the '80s, and if you're on the look-out while walking around your neighborhood, you may even see signs (ruins?) of that time -- thin wooden steps nailed up the side of a tree trunk, a rope leading up 20 feet that used to support a tire swing, the same rope for climbing, with knots every couple feet, or those homemade treehouses that never looked too sturdy.

Today all of that stuff goes unused, and so do regular old tree branches. You don't even see kids playing out on the front lawn or in the driveway. Since the parents would have no one to blame but themselves for any accidents that happened there, the fear of lawsuits plays no role. Parents just don't want their kids to have a life, and when we've got one good explanation that covers all cases like that, we can ignore explanations that shift blame away from the parents themselves, like those that blame a litigious culture, the government, or whoever else.

8 comments:

  1. I was born in the mid-80s, so perhaps I evaded that. My only recollection of my parents being unhappy about tree-climbing is when I'd get sap all over me from evergreens (particularly if it was on Sunday and I messed up my nice church stuff). But evergreens were also very tall and had lots of branches so you could more easily get to the top. On the other hand, we never had a treehouse.

    There was a story a little while back about an Iraq veteran who came home and decided to build a treehouse for his kids to make up for lost time. The local authorities told him he was violating zoning laws.

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  2. Children may be sheltered today, but teens are as prone as ever to engage in potentially dangerous activities such as skateboarding and BMX'ing.

    Peter

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  3. Anonymous10:10 PM

    "but teens are as prone as ever to engage in potentially dangerous activities such as skateboarding and BMX'ing."

    If this is true, its happened very recently, like within the last 1-2 years.

    Don't confuse genuinely dangerous behavior with the phony masculine posturing that's become more and more.

    I do remember skateboarding as a teen but it was far from dangerous at all. We stayed mostly in front of someone's house, or just went around town. And this was in '97-'98. Its gotten a lot tamer since then.

    -Curtis

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  4. One thing I've noticed is how many snow cancellations they have now compared to when I was a kid in the Cincinnati area. They'll cancel it before anything falls, and we'll only end up getting a half-inch, maybe. We had a couple snow days a year in the late 80s/early 90s, and a few delays, but nothing like they have now.

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  5. I was in elementary school in the Columbus suburbs at that time, and I don't remember many snow days either. And we never got heat cancellations. I seem to remember at least one of those in the mid-'90s in the DC suburbs.

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  6. Yeah no heat cancellations here either, or in Myrtle Beach where I was for my later school years. And definitely no snow days there!

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  7. "On the other hand, we never had a treehouse."

    Most kids didn't, but occasionally you'd see a group of planks for the floor. Probably just enough to support one or two little kids. There's still one of those rickety things up in front of a house that I walk by every now and then, though again never in use.

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  8. Skateboarders, at least the ones in middle and high school, are some of the most OCD about safety. They all wear helmets now, most also wear elbow / knee pads. And it's not because their parents are forcing the unwilling.

    I frequently overhear them talking about how they're not going to be stupid and skate without a helmet, and bro, you should've seen this dude who fell off and tore part of his scalp off.

    What about the girl on-lookers, who you might think would want to see boys taking risks and being daring? Just a few days ago there was a 13 year-old skater chick talking to her uncle or something about the skaters nearby.

    She kept pointing out how the one guy without a helmet was a "dumb. ASS" -- in that superior tone of voice. "See? stu. PID." Can't even rely on the girls to egg the boys on anymore.

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