Christian Long

Gever Tulley: 5 Dangerous Things for Kids

In TED Talks on April 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Extra Credit reflection by JENNA K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Gever Tulley: 5 Dangerous Things for Kids

When I saw the summary for this video I thought to myself, “I’m going to email this to my parents to show them that I’m not the only one who thinks they should be less repressive.”

Unfortunately, this video turned out to be mostly targeted at parents of younger children – you see, I’ve already discovered the mysteries of fire and knives and so on. But, while Tulley was discussing how parents should allow their children to explore their environments with less regulation when they’re younger, why can’t that same principle be applied to adolescents such as myself?

Tulley said, “As the boundaries of what [adults] determine as the safety zone grow ever smaller, [they] cut off [their] children from valuable opportunities to learn how to interact with the world around them.” As children grow older, these “safety zones” are applied to different aspects of life – maybe to fire for a five year old child and parties for a fifteen year old teenager.

From my experience, it seems as the dangers of the world become more serious, parents shrink their “safety zones.” When you’re young the most dangerous things you can encounter are fire, sharp objects, and heights. While hazardous, these things can be regulated less strictly because they won’t do as much damage. You can let your kid use scissors, but you make sure they don’t run with them. As you get older you are typically introduced to things like sex, drugs, and drinking. These can be a lot more harmful than a slight burn on the finger. When parents realize that their children are interacting in potentially harmful environments, they tend to shrink their “safety zones.”

But, just as with the kid carrying scissors, parents should be comfortable with being less cautious with their children once they have explained and discussed the dangers of certain things and the precautions kids should take when involved with them. As surprising as it may sound, there are teenagers out there that can comprehend the dangers parents and teachers are constantly warning us about. Yes, likewise, there are many out there who are not as comprehensive and think they know a lot more about the world than they actually do. But, in my experience, teenagers do understand that sex can lead to STDs and pregnancies, drinking can lead to bad decisions and accidents, and drugs can lead to addictions and damage to the human being. Sometimes the problem is that teenagers believe they are invincible and these things won’t happen to them, sometimes they aren’t informed of the dangers of what they’re doing, and sometimes they’re just too shielded. By “too shielded” I mean that sometimes kids aren’t allowed to explore outside a strict “safety zone” and all of a sudden they find themselves in an environment they don’t know how to handle.

Let’s go back to a five year old kid discovering fire.

At first, he wasn’t even allowed near the flame. Later, after he learned “stop, drop, and roll” he wasn’t allowed to throw stuff in the flame to see what would happen, but he was allowed to sit close and watch it. Even later, there’s a camp fire and he’s allowed to throw stuff in there that you’ve taught him is safe to throw in. Even later, there’s a lit candle stick on the dinner table and he knows that he can run his hand through the flame quickly without being burned.

The same comfort with fire can be acquired with everything else, all one has to do is be allowed to slowly observe and understand it. But if adults are constantly shrinking “safety zones” and tightening restrictions, how are kids going to experience the world on their own?

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