Thursday, January 21, 2010

Risk as a part of life

I'd like to pre-amble here before I get to my point.
Today's children are pampered, protected and cushioned from any danger whatsoever. That is the priority of parents and authorities who abhor any injury or death by misadventure that might befall the innocent child.
It is a valid concern, it is a morally righteous concern and it would be foolish to dismiss this concern as a case of over protection.
And yet, and yet and yet...
Children still get injured and children still die by misadventure.

We fence of construction sites that were once playgrounds for curious and mischievious children.
We make playgrounds and play equipment that is safe with rubber padding.
 We make safety helmets compulsory for cyclists
We make safety belts compulsory in cars
We have banned fireworks that were once freely available to any child
We place fences around swimming pools to protect children from accidental drownings.
We place safety locks on doors, electrical appliances and switches to prevent accidental electrocution
We place barriers on the internet to prevent children from accessing pornography

And yet, and yet and yet...
Children still get injured and children still die by misadventure.

The list of child protection measures is inexhaustible but the idea is there, it's never too safe for children.

And so, this week, we wring our hands in despair at the news this week that five young adults have died in a car accident. What a waste of life. Where can we put the blame? Alcohol? Certainly a factor leading up to the accident. Powerful cars, certainly a factor. But what triggers such foolish and reckless behavior?

What I feel is missing is the perception of what it feels like to be suddenly a young adult. Protected from all risk until suddenly at the age of 18, all is permissible. Risk is something that teenagers enjoy. Teenagers don't feel vulnerable to the vagaries of life, they don't feel mortal yet, and life ahead seems excruciatingly long and tedious. So far, they might have dabbled in drugs but that's more illegal than dangerous in their eyes.
But what about real danger? What about real excitement? What about driving in a car recklessly at excessive speed and surviving? Now that is a buzz.
It's ironic that the older we get and the closer we get to death, the more we fear it. No such fear for the teenager. Danger is something they have been sheltered from and danger is what they crave.
You can protect children all you like but once they reach the magic age, look out. 


Jeannie said...

It's true.

When I was young, kids were expected to be kids. If you did something stupid, you paid the price - so you learned to be somewhat careful and cautious as you did that thing you were daring to do. You started slow and worked up. Funny thing is, very few of us got badly injured and even fewer died. We got bumps and bruises and cuts and sprains and gained a heck of a lot of wisdom about how the world works.

Now kids aren't allowed to do squat and then, when they are free, they have no practice at taking risks. They go whole hog rather than gradually working into it. And then bad things happen because they don't have a clue.

Alice in Wonderland said...

I still believe that it is mostly the fault of the parents. We have second and third generations of kids growing up not knowing right from wrong because of the way they were brought up. They learn from copying their peers, and if the don't learn at an early age, then they will be spoilt forever. Parents have an awful lot to answer too!

Lexcen said...
As this latest tragedy indicates, it's the Police who don't get the message and not the teenagers involved in risky activity.