Ultra safe playgrounds not so safe

By Anne Collier

This story in Australia isn’t about technology, but consider children’s online safety as you read, ok? News.com.au reports that playground equipment has become so safe as to increase harm to children. How can that be? Super-safe playgrounds keep children from learning calculated risk-taking. “Playground injuries were often a result of children being poorly coordinated because they did not know how to negotiate risks,” Prue Walsh, early childhood specialist and play space consultant, said in a speech at a Melbourne conference on early childhood development. But of course she wasn’t saying that playgrounds need to be dangerous. She suggested “longer and bigger slides built into embankments … smooth boulders for balancing, shallow ponds for exploring and plenty of vegetation to provide nooks and crannies for children to crawl around.” By learning how to assess and overcome risk, they learn resilience – what protects them when caring adults aren’t around (e.g., through the rest of their lives!). I was particularly interested to see this because I’ve been using Global Kids’ organization’s Barry Joseph’s playground metaphor in talks for years (go to the 8th paragraph down here). See also “The new-media monsters we’ve created for our kids,” about what UK researcher and Prof. Sonia Livingstone said about trying to remove all risk from children’s experiences online or offline, and this about possible lessons in risk assessment about human drama from hawk drama.

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