Youth provision, children and their “freedoms”

The contrast was striking. It was 12:30am in the morning. Croatia is really hot over the summer and therefore a late night walk is usually a relief. It was midnight and the outdoor sport courts were full of children. Kids were playing (with some parental supervision) beach volleyball, football and basketball. Of course, I did join in! Some would say that this leaving children out so late in the night is rather naive. So was it irresponsible parenting? Personally, I don’t think so.

In Britain, I often feel that we lost the ability to “spontaneously” organise various youth projects and activities. It might be too simplistic way of looking at this issue, however I did wonder during the summer whether a similar arrangement would be acceptable in the UK. I understand that it is a lot easier to allow kids to play late at night if/ when you are on holidays in a resort. It is easier to do it in a country, which overall is safe. I am also aware that in some countries, you have to enjoy sport late in the evening as it is simply too hot during the day. Noise, anti-social behaviour, causing neighbourhood nuisance. Would these be the first things, which would spring to our minds? Would we be brave enough to remove any unnecessary obstacles and hurdles, which could prevent us from organising such activities?

It was equally interesting to see that kids, who wanted to join in, had to make an effort to talk to whoever was playing. It requires a bit of courage and relatively good communication skills. This also means that a new member can’t simply rely on a “supervisor”. They had to make the first step.

I am aware that the issue of youth provision, particularly today when I would argue, bringing up children is different and possibly harder that it was when I was growing up, is not easy, however, I wonder whether we are doing a bit of disservice to our children by trying to organise a lot (too much?) for them. Although as always in life, it is important to find the right balance, assess risks before making any decisions, I would be keen to ensure that our children have a bit of space to express themselves and to be creative, also while playing sport.

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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  • Paul Reynolds 23rd Aug '21 - 6:31pm

    Good, sensible article, Michal. It is the UK and the US which are the oddball exceptions in the world today. Many over-60s in the UK will talk about how they used to walk the 20 minute journey to and from school on their own, and organise themselves to play with friends in the park without adult supervision, for hours on end; all at 7-10 years of age. But it is not a generational shift as often claimed. It is a shift in the UK and the US with a few countries (eg France) partially following. The rest of the world is largely still giving freedom and choices to children, much to the benefit of their maturity, immune systems and social skills. But in the national headline news just yesterday there was a story of the arrest of a mother for allowing her child to play in the park very near her house, with adults present but not the mum. The girl is 11 years of age. Exactly who benefits from the extremist micromanagement and over-supervision of children in the UK ? It is certainly not the children, who can grow up unprepared for the adult world. Defining an optimal balance is difficult, but that doesn’t mean the law should not be reviewed in the light of (more sensible) international experience.

  • David Rogers 24th Aug '21 - 1:44pm

    Well said – both the author and the one comment before this!

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