Why are we so afraid to let our kids play outside, when we know that such activity is vital for their physical and mental health? Our fears are so extreme that in a few cases, parents have been arrested for allowing their children to play outside unattended. My mother would have been sent to jail on an almost daily basis.
Until recently, it was common for kids to come home from school, grab a snack, and head outside to play in the neighborhood. This was true for me growing up in suburban Minneapolis, and also for my parents who grew up in L.A. and Detroit. Even in the nation's city of cities -- New York -- children once played in the streets after school. There were games like stickball, hopscotch, and a wild version of tag called Ringoleavio. Author Bill Bryson jests about parenting styles from his childhood: "I knew kids who were pushed out the door at 8 in the morning, and not allowed back until 5 unless they were on fire or actively bleeding."
I believe this dramatic change in parenting stems from fears of what I've dubbed the Three A's -- Animals, Abduction, and Accidents. But our fears greatly exaggerate the risk of playing outside, and have the unattended side effect of increasing the chances of our kids developing serious health threats. Consider the facts:
Animal Attacks: As their natural territories shrink, top predators are living closer to our urban centers (not far from…