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Where's the Line Between Safe and Sheltered?

Avoiding injury is critical, but so is finding a balance.

Recently, while I was out with a few mom friends, an interesting subject came up. Sparked by news coverage of a school in Toronto that had banned students from using “hard” balls at recess, we began to question when the work of trying to keep our kids safe turns the corner and, instead, leads to sheltering them entirely.

It seems that recess was getting a bit out of control at this particular elementary school and the decision was made to enforce a long forgotten rule which banned the use of hard balls, such as soccer and footballs, during recess. Many parents and students were outraged and the story became a bit of a media sensation.

So, just how much danger were the students in before the ban? News reports referred to a small area and large number of children at play so, without a doubt, the chances of a child getting hit were probably pretty good.

Does this mean that they were in constant danger of major injury from a flying ball? I’d say probably not. Could better supervision and some basic safety precautions have made for a better situation? In my opinion, I would think they would have.

I guess that brings me to the point of our group’s conversation. How safe is too safe? As parents we do everything that we can to make sure our children are healthy, happy and safe but, at what point are we simply taking that too far? 

Most of us have all laughed at the email that seems to go around every few months joking about how most children born in the 1960’s and 70’s survived despite the fact that we didn’t have bike helmets, mouth guards and car seats.

Does that mean that these everyday safety precautions are foolish? Absolutely not. We survived and we were lucky to do so but, if these precautions were available back then, I’m sure that our parents would have taken full advantage of them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can or should try to shelter our children from every bump or bruise that they may get. Bruises happen, bumps happen and, in most cases, a few trips to the emergency room for broken bones and stitches happen too. 

Let’s face the facts. If it isn’t a wayward ball that injures our child it is simply going to be something else. When kids are active they trip, they fall and, every so often, they crash into one another.

Yes, sitting on the couch all day watching TV or playing video games is probably a lot safer than tossing around a football but it certainly is not healthier. The more active kids are the better overall health they are likely to be in and, at the same time, the more bumps and bruises they are going to get. 

Are there times when those bumps and bruises are more serious? Yes, of course.  Undeniably, the most serious injuries take place when and where no one expects them. Most of the time, however, they simply can not be prevented.

Am I suggesting that we, as parents, throw caution to the wind and let our kids do whatever they want? Of course not. What I do believe is that we need to teach our children to be safe and cautious but, at the same time, allow them to enjoy themselves and stay active. 

Life is full of mishaps and, just like adults, children need to understand that, sometimes, you simply can’t stop them from happening.

That is, after all, why they are called accidents, right?

Brian Crounse January 13, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I'd like to note that the "we survived without (seatbelts, etc.)" sentiment is flawed logic; anyone that DIDN'T survive isn't around to point that out. It's called selection bias- if you ask only survivors if they survived, there's no surprise that the apparent survival rate is 100%!

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