Skip to comments.How children lost the right to roam in four generations
Posted on 06/22/2007 11:43:38 AM PDT by fgoodwin
How children lost the right to roam in four generations
By DAVID DERBYSHIRE
Last updated at 01:03am on 15th June 2007
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.
I roamed everywhere when I was a kid. My kids didn’t get to do that.
It happened in one generation.
I roam on FR...
I remember heading out to the woods to build forts with my friends. I was about 8 years old. My daughter is 9. I am terrified if she is out of sight for even a few minutes without adult supervision.
You think that the media has something to do with your fear?
It's my understanding that crimes like child kidnapping etc are no higher today then in the past. Just nationally reported these days.
Being born in 64 I had a great deal of freedom as a kid. Up until is was about 8 years old we lived in one of those patches of private property in the middle of some state land. When I was 6 I got bit by a small massasauga rattlesnake when I was looking under rocks and logs.
When we did move to town it was just a tiny village where all the kids ran wild. From town I walked the 4 miles down the old railroad bed to the lake for fishing. When I was about 10, myself and a few of the other kids my age would go camping in the woods outside town by ourselves.
Probably we do know more about crimes against children because of the media reports, but I really suspect there are more people who would commit such crimes than there were in past also. It strikes me that their behavior is fueled by the ready availability of child pornography. Certainly there is a connection between the two right here in our (otherwise very crime-free) little town. The police do a regular sting operation that lures child predators here. Many of those apprehended have been regarded as respectable citizens, but most have been found to have been accessing child porn on their computers.
People drive into their garages, go inside from the garage, and rarely stray outside after that. And if they do, the only place for them to go is their fenced-off back yards.
As a result, many subdivision-dwellers don't know their neighbors.
And, of course, there's the "ninny state" effect at work, too. Parents want to protect their kids from all sorts of monsters -- some that are real, of course, but many that are not.
Todays y'ut doesn't WANT to roam; would rather sit inside and become big flat fannys with two blood-shot eyeballs...
I have in my neighborhood 8 convicted sexual predators. There have been two drive-by shootings since I have lived here. No way do I allow my kids out.The perception is pretty much based on reality here.
My youth up till age 12 was spent in New Orleans. Used to roam the west bank river levee with my friends from Algiers to Belle Chase. We’d also ride our bikes to the ferry and hit the French Quarter for the day. A couple of eleven year olds on Bourbon street was quite an educational experience in the early 70’s.
Yes, there’s a lot of truth in what you said. Another reason might be that people are having fewer kids these days, and “helicopter-ing” over them a lot more.
My interpretation is that they were always pervs. Now they are busted pervs thanks to the internet.
Remember that many of the cases of child molestation by priests/preachers etc occurred during times that we remember as being 'safe'. Turns out they were not so much safe as covered up. Respectable citizens indeed.
You don't know as their was no way to find out at the time.
Remember that frightened people are easy to manipulate. Their are groups of people that like you scared all the time.
My great grandmother once told me about a child rapist / murderer caught near where she lived in northern michigan in the early part of the last century. She made a cryptic comment about some of the local fathers taking him on a tour of the steel mill in the middle of the night and he never came back to town.
In comparison to my mom I am more overprotective. My kids aren't embarrassed by it, since I don't go around announcing it to their friends.
Honestly, I don’t want to know my particular neighbors. We have a chain link fence in our backyard. My next door neighbor is always asking, “Why aren’t you out more?” Just because I’m not out on his schedule does not mean I’m not out.
The towns folks caught him and set him on fire.
He came back in the dreams of their children"....One two Freddys comin for you..three four better shut your door...five six grab a crucifix...seven eight gonna stay up late...nine ten never sleep again.."