The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.
Modern-day parenting pressures and expectations are leading to the death knell for children enjoying spontaneous play, according to a new study from the University of Essex.
While parents have always felt some responsibility for their children’s development, the heightened intensity of parenting in recent years now means parents are expected to spend more time exhaustively watching, noticing, and responding to their children’s desires and behaviors.
This, the research suggests, is leaving less time for children to play independently, where they learn for themselves the risks and dangers of outdoor play.
According to the study published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, parents are worried this lack of spontaneous play means their children are not as developed and well-rounded as they could be, coupled with the fact children’s play is increasingly more sedentary due to technology.
“Until around the 1990s, parents were not expected to endlessly entertain and monitor their children in the same way they are today, so children had greater freedom to play independently,” explained the study’s author Dr John Day. “But since those children have become parents themselves, society has changed, so there is a heightened feeling of responsibility for their children’s development.”
This generational shift was noticed by Dr Day, from Essex’s School of Health and Social Care, when conducting in-depth interviews with 28 UK residents born between 1950 and 1994 about their physical activity history and how family members influenced these experiences.
The research found that the rise in structured physical activity for children happened at the same time as, and possibly caused, a decline in children playing spontaneously.
“Society today positions parents as the sole engineers in their children’s development which represents an unrealistic burden that brings with it unjust pressure and expectation,” added Dr Day.
To help address this trend, Dr Day says there needs to be a culture shift where health policymakers ensure children are encouraged to learn about the risks of physically active play, independent of adult supervision.