Times in Trail: Is an over-protective society doing more harm than good?

"Isn’t one of the first lessons we teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street?"

Is this what times have come to?

News this week from Trail and abroad reminds us we live in a world where we’re more concerned about everything little thing that might happen rather than what could realistically happen.

When the City of Trail admitted it had no choice but to build a fence around Lower Sunningdale Park to keep kids safe from passing cars and the neighbourhood safe from errant soccer balls it was another one of those head-scratching moments.

Granted there is always a danger kids will dart out in traffic scurrying after a ball but have we come to the point where we must coral all kids in a park to make sure they don’t injure themselves.

Isn’t one of the first lessons we teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street?

I worry more about texting teens stepping into traffic rather than soccer-playing youth running in front of a car.

We have speed limits around play areas, we have adults supervising play, and we have parents on the sidelines yet that’s not good enough to keep kids safe while playing soccer.

So, because of the legal ramifications, the city will send some staff to the park, spend some money installing a fence around what used to be an easily accessible park and basically enclose the area to protect the kids and neighborhood.

It makes you wonder if we shouldn’t just build domed stadiums everywhere so kids are kept in a contained area safe from traffic, ultra-violet rays, and the potential of satellite debris landing on them.

Sounds over the top? Perhaps.

Earlier this week, in Washington, D.C., parents of six-and-10-year-old children were in the spotlight for having the nerve to “allow” their children to walk alone to the park and then home all by themselves.

It was the second time in two months the kids have been picked up by police but instead of taking them to their home; the cops took them to a child protection agency and notified the parents.

Now the parents are under scrutiny.

“Child Protective Services (CPS) has succeeded in making me terrified of letting my children out,” said mother Danielle Meitiv. “Nothing that has happened so far has convinced me that children don’t need independence and freedom, except that they’ll be harassed by police and CPS.”

I understand we live in a world where we must watch out for one another. We keep an eye on our neighbours’ property if they’re away, we notice if something strange is happening in our neighborhood, we want to make sure all children are safe. I greatly appreciate that there are other sets of eyes watching out for the children.

That protectiveness is definitely a by-product of what we are inundated with every day through the media – murders, child abductions, home invasions. If you turn on the news you would think that it happens in every community on a daily basis.

That’s when rational thinking takes a back seat to hysteria.

Much like in the soccer ball issue in Sunningdale or the unaccompanied children in Washington, authorities have a duty and responsibility to investigate if a complaint is lodged.

But certainly common sense has to come into play at some point.

I’m sure the majority of people reading this column have done stupid things when they were kids. Things that would be considered dangerous by today’s standards.

The old monkey bars or merry-go-round in the playground were always good for a few bumps and bruises. But it didn’t deter kids from playing on them for decades.

I grew up on a farm in rural Ontario and there’s no need to tell you how often my parents would have been reprimanded because of the simple, daily things I did. I played alone by a creek. I swung from a rope in the rafters in the hayloft. I walked in between cows everyday.

And that was all before I was 10.  And I lived to tell about it.

I’m not denying there are inherent dangers in today’s world. But that doesn’t mean our children are more irresponsible. It means, perhaps, parents have become over-protective.

Parents have no problem giving a 10-year-old unfretted access to the Internet and their own cell phone. They let them spend hours staring at the TV or video monitor.

We are reminded daily how unhealthy our kids have become. Yet some parents still feed them chips and pop.

But we don’t trust them enough to be careful crossing the street?

I don’t know which parent is more irresponsible.

The one allowing their kids to sit stagnant in front of the screen for hours or the one allowing them to walk to the park by themselves?

It should be an easy answer but in today’s world nothing is that black and white anymore.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.