Hate to Say I Told You So…

Well, no I don’t. Secretly, I think we all love it. So, here’s a great article from CNN of all places (the network some dub the Child-Napping Network), all about how we have to get kids playing outside more, and schools have to give them more run-around time, too, instead of just more test prep. Otherwise the kids are going to end up with all the things I don’t like to dwell on: Obesity, heart disease, etc. The article dubbed kids’ sit-around lifestyle “A Coronary Time Bomb.”

And get this: One reason so few kids are outside, according to CNN, is…the cable news cycle, scaring parents into keeping their kids cooped up inside.

Hmm. Well, we take our Free-Range promoting stories where we can get ’em. — Lenore

28 Responses

  1. While I was sitting in the dr’s office yesterday morning, there was a story on their in-house medical news TV thing (because I love being advertised to while I’m sitting in the dr’s office, really!) talking about the fact that a large percentage of children are vitamin D deficient these days. Gee, I wonder how that could happen. Not only are the kids kept cooped up inside because the big bad world is dangerous, but when we DO let the prisoners out for a little PT, the _first_ thing we do is slather them with sunscreen so the little dears don’t even get the benefit of being in the sun. Not that I’m a sunscreen hater — sunburns suck. But give the kids at least 15 minutes to soak up some rays before covering them in goop!

  2. Is there really a childhood obesity epidemic? Because I would say that among the young girls I see, at least in the middle-class suburbs, far more look anorexic than look obese (and most just look average). I keep hearing about an obesity epidemic, but what is the actual mean weight of kids today compared to two or three decades ago?

    I think one of the main reasons kids don’t get out to run around enough in school is that they don’t let the kids out if “weather” doesn’t permit. What would not be considered too cold to play a generation ago is considered too cold to play now. A little rain in the Spring never hurt us, but now they have indoor recess (which mostly involves free play, which is good, but doesn’t burn many calories). Overall, however, my daughter seems to expend no less energy than I did as a child. She has two recesses a day in school, P.E. twice a week (just like I did), and usually plays on the street or in yards with friends when she gets home. I keep hearing this stuff, but I can’t say, fortunately, that I actually see a lot of it. I don’t really know any kids whose parents let them just sit at home watching TV or playing video games from school out to sundown.

  3. How timely. I just finished reading this CNN story and have had endless converstations with school staff about this very topic. Outside time is so vital, especially for my three VERY active kids that I have to actually make sure they get to the local park to zoom around at least four days a week. We all participate in team sports as well, but without this release my kids would be climbing the walls.

  4. I personally think that is a huge step in the right direction. Let’s hope for some momentum!

  5. @Sky

    I would love to say I don’t see it, but I do. I help out in my children’s classes at school and in both of their classes (Kindergarten and first grade) there are two little kids who are what I would consider obese. It is so sad.

    We live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, but my kids are the only ones outside playing. We rarely see other kids.

    I wonder if daycares are also contributing. Kid’s in daycare’s or dayhomes don’t seem to get outside that much either.

  6. sky,

    I’m quite impressed that your daughter has two recesses in school. Around here one is the norm and if a child “misbehaves” the recess “privilege” is the first thing to go. That has always confused me – let’s take the child who doesn’t sit still in class and don’t follow directions and have him or her sit in the classroom doing nothing productive at all instead of going outside to use some of that abundant energy. Strange logic.

  7. Hmm, reading this CNN article is kind of like getting dietary advice from your heroin dealer.

  8. I read this earlier and thought that they are fine ones to talk.
    It is very timely, though — People’s cover this week is “Vanished Without A Trace.” Sigh…

  9. There is only a short sentence in the article about parents being afraid to let their kids play outside because they think the world is dangerous from watching cable news.
    Up until September 1963 the evening news was only 15 minutes long. Walter Cronkite expanded it to 30 to give more background details so that the public could have a better understanding of the issues. Later the separation of what is news vs what is entertainment got blurred and put more focus on the sensational. Today a news department only needs a police scanner to get their stories. Either that or hitch a ride with an ambulance chasing lawyer. 24 hour news does not give us more details or perspective but only repeats the same story every half hour. What passes for opposing viewpoints is usually a rigged confrontation such as last week’s thinly disguised plug for a safety device.
    The network news casters like to cry Wolf Blitzer or Fox so we say Nancy Grace as they scare us to boost ratings.

  10. I disagree, Dot. There are three paragraphs about it and it’s very clear and to the point:

    “But what about parents who are afraid to send their kids out to play? Pate says that statistics show that kids are safer than they’ve ever been, despite the lurid headlines on cable news.

    Unless parents live in an awful neighborhood, they should encourage their kids to play outside with others and take common-sense safety precautions, he says.

    “I do worry that with the 24-hour news cycle and the tendency to expose everyone to very unfortunate incidents that occur in one place, that some parents become hypersensitive to safety concerns,” he says.”

    I often think the reason ‘weather’ is cited is the dreaded ‘they will fall and hurt themselves and thus we will be sued.” I recall my mother having to write notes to allow me to stay IN during recess because I was getting over a cold or something and she didn’t want me trying to stay warm, too. It usually was only for a day, maybe two. Otherwise, OUTSIDE you went, period. If you were misbehaving, you were kept in for a portion of recess – five of the fifteen minutes, maybe. You didn’t get to help choose the games and had to come in late because you were in trouble, but you didn’t miss it completely. Maybe we need to return to these times.

  11. yea, i am thankful that i moved to a place where its wonderful to be outside. I send him to a school that has an abundance of outdoor activities including a school garden.

    free range life for me and my kiddo… thats the plan!

  12. I recently observed to a coworker that parents shadow their kids on the playground and never let them wander more than a couple of feet away. I assumed it was because they were afraid that their kid would hurt themselves on the playground equipment. But my coworker told me he does the same thing because he’s afraid someone will snatch his daughter from the playground. I was completely shocked because such a thing had never occurred to me–but I don’t have cable TV and he does. I shared the story with a second coworker and she told me that not only does she shadow her daughter at the playground, her husband stations himself at the entrance specifically to foil a potential kidnapping. She is also a fan of cable news.

    This just bums me out on so many levels. For one thing, now I know why I’m getting the stink eye from other parents when I let my 2 1/2 year old son climb the jungle gym by himself. I also feel badly for children who are being raised with the message that at any minute they could be snatched away–talk about the bogeyman.

  13. My grandson’s daycare/preschool goes outside everyday, often for loooong walks. They too have a school garden. Heck, they even have a school cat! There is a K-5 school in the upper floors of the building, and they too do long stretches of outside, experiential learning. I see the classes walking around with notebooks or clipboards everyday. Makes me soooo happy! And not many overweight kids at that school, as opposed to every other school I’ve been involved with, and that’s quite a few.

    I once worked with a woman who would put whatever she and her grown kids were having for dinner into a blender for the 9 month old great granddaughter she was raising. She’d say, ‘she doesn’t want yucky ol’ baby food! She wants a bacon burger or a pork chop like the rest of us!” The poor little thing, at 9 months old, weighed 45 pounds and was too fat to sit up by herself.

  14. A bit off topic but this was awesome. Cracked knows their stuff, espicially #2 and 3:

    http://www.cracked.com/article/195_7-things-good-parents-do-that-screw-kids-up-life/

  15. Joette, I have to agree about the sunscreen. I’ve heard about that from my pediatrician. It’s amazing how a fear of one problem so often leads to another. Balancing the issues works so much better.

    My poor daughter gets in trouble at school sometimes for enjoying the outdoors so much. She knows now that getting all muddy is only for at home. Can’t blame the teacher for not wanting to deal with the mess, honestly, but was my daughter ever disappointed! She was also told by the school nurse to quit using the monkey bars after having a blister pop on her hands. I told her keep going once it was healed, and the skin would toughen up.

    We don’t watch much news, and I take all of it with a grain of salt. It really helps to remember the stories come from across the entire nation, and they’re only news because they’re unusual.

  16. Er…
    “I once worked with a woman who would put whatever she and her grown kids were having for dinner into a blender for the 9 month old great granddaughter she was raising. She’d say, ’she doesn’t want yucky ol’ baby food! She wants a bacon burger or a pork chop like the rest of us!”

    Uh?
    I’m really confused here. What’s wrong with feeding babies mashed table food? Even BABYCENTER and PARENTING magazines, those great enemies of free-range parenting, say it’s ok.

    It’s now not considered a good idea to start babies on solids at 2 months, the way doctors used to suggest… you’re supposed to wait until 6 months.

  17. Relevant article: Let Kids Outdoors

  18. Sky, the prevalence of obesity has increased from around 5% of children to more like 15% in the last 25 years. Here’s a link to the data from the Centers for Disease Control:
    http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/prevalence.html

    It’s very much class- and race-affected (i.e. poor black kids are more likely to be fat), so if you see mainly upper-middle-class white girls, that might be why you see mainly thin ones.

  19. I wish sometimes I could cut TV out the picture… how much time would we have then to do things that are really important.

    Sigh. Then I’d have a revolution on my hands🙂

    Fortunately we are now in a place that allows at least some freedom for playing outdoors without fear.

  20. Li, two thoughts:

    1. Most of them probably don’t tell their kids explicitly why they’re not allowed to go more than 5 feet from Mom. After all, that might *scare* their children! So they don’t even give their kids the tools to avoid risks because they don’t want to scare their children.

    2. They wouldn’t do this if they had more than one kid, I’m sure

  21. My kids are in several activity groups:

    1. My son’s old Cub Scouts group in a parochial school: a handful of overweight kids; no one really obese. Solidly middle class with some upper middle class thrown in.

    2. His new Boy Scouts troop: lower middle class/middle class: about 5 in 10 overweight.

    3. My kids’ religious club; mostly upper middle class: probably 1/3 of the kids mildly overweight, with a couple obese kids.

    4. Church, with more lower-middle class kids: mostly overweight–only a handful not, and a couple very obese kids.

    5. All homeschooled 4-H club; mostly upper-middleclass by education but not by income: only a couple of mildly overweight kids.

    6. All homeschooled Girl Scouts troop; same as 4-H club: almost no overweight kids.

    7. Pre-professional ballet school; middle class to decidedly upperclass: almost no overweight kids in lower levels and none at all in advanced levels–but the pre-professional division starts at 15 hours/week and goes up from there. No anorexics, though: these kids are all muscle.

    8. Neighborhood kids: mostly upper-middleclass: the kids of Freerangers tend to be thin. The ones whose parents require a phone call and parental escort and then must play inside or in a fenced yard are overweight, almost without fail. The ones that run up and down the street and from house to house playing aren’t.

    Just anecdotal observation.

  22. Say it loud and repeat it often Lenore, I TOLD YOU SO.
    We free rangers are going to win this fight.

  23. Sky: I’ve noticed the same trend of REALLY skinny teenagers, girls in particular. I graduated high school in 2003; my friends and I have discussed how we don’t remember ANY of us being that thin. But I feel like if there were an anorexia epidemic that’s that significant, we’d … be talking about it more? This sounds naive to say, but I feel like such a thing would be hard to hide when it’s almost everyone. Furthermore, the girls I teach all strike me as very confident, grounded girls … and they eat junk like crazy.

    I mentioned this to one of the teachers I work with and he offered what sounded to be a plausible hypothesis: he thinks that present generations of kids may be given coffee and caffinated beverages a lot younger than previous generations. I never had coffee growing up and my parents kept my brother’s intake to a minimum (he acquired a taste for it from my grandmother’s spoiling). Also any time we drank soda, my parents made sure to give us the caffine-free kind.

  24. There is research to suggest that some children that have been deemed hyperactive are simply in need of more exercise. Imagine that!

  25. I agree with Dave, and I think the pendulum is starting to swing back in our favor. On a number of occasions recently I’ve seen younger – between 6 and 11 years – children out without parents, either on their way to school or coming from the store. Granted that it’s something I keep an eye out for, but still I think this is an increase over what I’ve seen in my area in the last number of years.

    On a completely unrelated note, has anyone else noticed that the level of grammar and spelling among posters on this site is better than average? This is the only place I come to online (actually, in the real world too, since the newspapers are so bad now) where I’m not constantly gritting my teeth over incorrect spelling and/or grammar.

  26. @Gail, I’ve had the same thought (about the grammar and spelling) and that’s one reason I love browsing and reading here.

    In general, I find it very refreshing to see “you are” spelled that way, instead of “u r”. Is it really that hard to type 4 more letters?

  27. What kills me is that most of the parents of these obese children seen nothing wrong. I had one fellow class mother react as if it was tantamount to child abuse to deny my daughters twinkies as an after school snack.

  28. This reminds me of advice I once read on one of those parenting websites that aims to fill expecting moms’ heads with all the frightening things that happen if parents don’t do everything right:

    “You might be concerned about all the drugs you took before you knew you were pregnant, but don’t be too anxious because worrying can be harmful to your baby.”

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