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Education

Submission + - Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "John Tierney writes that the old 10-foot-high jungle gyms and slides disappeared from most American playgrounds across the country in recent decades because of parental concerns, federal guidelines, new safety standards set by manufacturers and — the most frequently cited factor — fear of lawsuits but today some researchers question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone. “Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” says professor Ellen Sandseter. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.” After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play and although fear of litigation led New York City officials to remove seesaws, merry-go-rounds and the ropes that young Tarzans used to swing from one platform to another. Sandseter says that by gradually exposing themselves to more and more dangers on the playground, children are using the same habituation techniques developed by therapists to help adults conquer phobias. “Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”"

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