I have been reading an article on the Guardian, in which the author, Libby Brooks, talks about her experience working on a city farm. She links this experience with the changing nature of childhood in the UK. She states that children are increasingly excluded from natural environments, so much so that there are “sizable tranche of the adult population with no experience of tree climbing” and cites Mayer Hillman who argued, in his 1990 report, that the area in which a typical nine-year old was able to play, unsupervised had shrunk to one ninth its size.
She goes on to site historical research, including:
It can of course be argued that from the 17th century the trend in the middle classes has been to subject children to greater control and surveillance. As young people were excluded from the workplace and corralled into schoolrooms, their essential vulnerability was emphasised, along with the need to isolate them from the temptations of the adult world.
She also cites Richard Louv’s work:
which … links the norm of the indoor child to an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other aspects of mental ill health, as well as obesity and asthma.
Perhaps Postman (1982) was right, and childhood is disappearing. However, perhaps the reasons are more nuanced than just the media. The work cited by Libby Brooks suggests that the media saturated environment is one part of the reason that children’s experiences are principally indoor. An interesting study would chart the cycle that leads to this indoor life. Does it start with children wanting to use media, or does it start with parents telling children to stay indoors? Or, more subtly, is it an intersection of parental control/fears, failure to accurately assess risks, a peer group in which valued cultural practices and activities, an element of Bourdieu’s (cf. 1977; 1998) theory of cultural capital, are entirely screen based and an environment of easy entertainment meted out by television, computer games and the internet.
Is this the world our grandparents left us?