Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/3/2009 (4860 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It seems like the simplest of notions: a kid, or a bunch of kids, outside, running around, shouting, laughing... in other words, playing.
These days, however, life's a lot more complicated for the short-stuff set.
"Unstructured, unsupervised play, for the sake of play, has disappeared," evolutionary psychologist Don Fulgosi says in the new CTV/W-FIVE documentary Lost Adventures of Childhood, which airs tonight at 7 on CTV. "Kids now don't go out to play; they go on a 'play date.' Can you imagine?"
The central premise of this revealing, hour-long investigation is that within the short span of a single generation, the basic, innocent idea of free-for-all play has been erased from most kids' lives. Parents -- out of fear of predators and an increasingly violent society, and inspired by a need to over-prepare their offspring for an ever-more-competitive world -- have instead chosen to regulate, supervise, schedule and manage every moment of their children's lives.
How this will affect the next generation of adults remains a bit of a mystery, but it certainly gives today's parents a feeling of safety and control that they seem desperately to need.
"Wherever you go now, people are afraid," says Carl Honore, author of a timely book titled Under Pressure. "Especially parents, who are absolutely marinated in fear about their kids if they're out of their sight for a moment."
Lost Adventures of Childhood takes a look at the lives of several 21st-century children, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and across the pond in the U.K., and finds a common experience in the youngsters' complicated lives -- a feeling of being overburdened, a lack of free time and a ceaseless sense of pressure from parents who expect much and fear even more.
"With all the sound and fury that surrounds modern childhood, something has been lost," says Honore. "That's the simple, magical, soaring pleasure of being a child at play. That has been almost edited out of the modern experience -- we see free play now as either dangerous or a waste of time because it can't be measured."
Producer/director Scott Harper and his crew visit with a family in Ancaster, Ont. that seems to embody the concerns expressed by Lost Adventures' resident experts. The parents insist that their two young daughters carry Blackberry devices, outfitted with GPS tracking software, with them at all times; when the girls head off to school in the morning, Dad sits at home, in front of his computer, monitoring their every move.
Despite always knowing where his children are, he seems paralyzed by his insecurity.
Another family in the film -- again, parents and two daughters, but this time in New York -- adheres to a schedule so overfilled with activities that the girls literally don't have a moment to themselves. When they aren't in school, the girls are at baseball practice or soccer practice or hockey games; weekend days begin long before sunup and don't end until well into the evening.
"The hardest part, for me, probably, would be doing the homework in the car," says the older girl, "because I do get a little bit nauseous."
It all seems like too much, and one observer thinks we've ventured into dangerous territory.
"This is not nostalgia," says Psychology Today editor Hara Estroff Marano. "This is not a desire for some glorious childhood past. People don't understand the value of play, and that is a very serious problem that will have very serious consequences."
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Brand-name comedy: Comedy network's ongoing Saturday-night standup series features an across-the-pond treat this week -- Russell Brand in New York City (tonight at 10, Comedy). Black-clad, Brit-accented and with an attitude that's more goth than goofy, Brand brings a refreshing, occasionally borderline-rude and decidedly pop-culture-rooted style of humour.
During one bit, Brand recalls his three-month ordeal while filming a co-starring role in the big-screen comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall: "You're thinking, 'Hawaii -- that's lovely.' Yeah, it is -- for a week. Not for three months -- everyone's a bit relentlessly upbeat, aren't they? (insert hula-dance moves here) It's like being beaten over the head with a (expletive) rainbow."
Lost Adventures of Childhood
Tonight at 7
Russell Brand in New York City
Tonight at 10
After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.