At Let Grow we challenge the idea that kids today are somehow more physically, emotionally and psychologically fragile than any generation before them. Our projects help the culture see for itself how capable our kids can be once we stop overprotecting them.
After all, this is a culture that has taken swings off of playgrounds because kids may fall, and “Huck Finn” off of reading lists, because kids might not recover from reading it. A culture that jails parents who let their kids play outside unsupervised, and tells parents not to let their kids trick or treat without an adult chaperon till age 13. A culture that won’t let kids bring chemicals, microbes, flammable material or “organic matter” to the science fair, because they’re just too dangerous. In all these cases, kids are shortchanged by adults who assume they were the last generation able to deal with falling off a swing, or trick or treating sans motorcade. This is not just unfair, it’s insulting.
HOW WE INTEND TO END THE CULTURE OF OVER-PROTECTION
In The Schools:
Popularize the Let Grow Project: Teachers tell the kids to go home and ask their parents if they can do ONE THING that they feel ready to do (e.g., walk the dog, make dinner, run an errand). One successful independent venture can change both generations. (See articles here and here.)
Keep the Schools Open Till 6 with After-School Free Play: Let kids play almost as their parents did, making their own fun, solving their own spats and occupying themselves without adult direction. (See article here.)
Help “Let Grow” Families find each other: Use site as a clearing house where parents who want to Let Grow can find others in their neighborhood, so they can send the kids out on their own, but together.
Encourage support for parents to provide their children with free, unsupervised time. Community leaders declare “Our kids have the right to some unsupervised time and parents have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.” (See article here and here.)
In The Media:
Create videos, blogs, etc., chronicling the adverse effects of overprotection.
Get media exposure. Run contests on social media that reach kids directly.
Bring diverse viewpoints into schools.
Show principals and counselors evidence of why kids don’t need to be treated as if they’re extremely delicate, help them further educate parents.
Examine social programs to see which work and which create hypersensitivity.
Sponsor research into the effects of overprotection and the upside of free play, free time and “beneficial risk.”
Scientifically determine how much physical and emotional protection is truly necessary and how much is pointless.
Study the effect of lawsuit mentality and insurance industry overreach.
In a year’s time, we’d like Let Grow to be not just the name of our group but a phrase that people start to use when they recognize an example of overprotection overkill and how easy it would be to push back. Just as “designated driver” gave people a word that changed the way they act, “Let Grow!” can make Americans aware of a trend they’d vaguely noticed but hadn’t put their finger on: Excessive, counter-productive safety.
Once aware, they can chip away at it, especially with our research, curricula and media showing that coddling does kids and society no favors. Meanwhile, we will evaluate laws that purport to “protect our precious children” with a gimlet eye: Do these really protect kids? At what cost? What may be the unintended consequences? For instance, the Rhode Island legislature considered a bill that would have made it a crime for a school bus to let any kid under 7th grade off the bus without an adult waiting there to walk them home. That same state also considered a bill forbidding recess when it’s under 32 degrees.
Eventually we will be awarding research grants, sponsoring contests, crafting curricula, giving lectures, appearing in the media, convening conferences, and joining with all the parents, community leaders, business leaders, inventors, teachers, principals and kids who believe that today’s kids are stronger and smarter than our culture gives them credit for. Instead of treating them as fragile, we will celebrate their capacity for growth and resilience, thereby raising a generation of can-do young people, ready to explore and innovate, rather than crawling into a safe space.