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Kids may not ALWAYS need adult supervision

Vincent P Gutschick

Let children play on their own, say three researchers of long note – neuroscientist Peter Gray at Boston College, anthropologist David Lancy from Utah State, and David Bjorklund at Florida Atlantic University – in the Journal of Pediatrics. They link the rising incidence of mental health disorders and suicides among children with lack of independent play away from the supervision of adults.

I see this anecdotally. I grew up riding my bike miles from home at age 8 or 10, playing baseball with just friends, riding the “el” downtown in Chicago to go to the Crerar Library. Yes, there were children with obvious problems, but Gray and his colleagues detail how there are more problems now.

Children’s activities are heavily structured now, as soccer moms can tell you. Time away from supervised group activities is often time at home “on screen,” physically inactive and lacking direct personal contact. Societal norms reinforce this. Parents who let their children out and about on their own may even have the police called on them. Children are not developing independence and resourcefulness on their own; classes can do little here.

The fix for the situation is incremental, they note, starting with backing off all our preventive admonitions – “Get off that fence, you might fall.” It will be an interesting journey, if it indeed starts.

This has been an outreach activity of the Las Cruces Academy, viewable at GreatSchools.org.

Vince grew up in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn. He has enjoyed a long career in science, starting in chemistry and physics and moving through plant physiology, ecology, remote sensing, and agronomy.
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  • KRWG explores the world of science every week with Vince Gutschick, Chair of the Board, Las Cruces Academy lascrucesacademy.org and New Mexico State University Professor Emeritus, Biology.