Free play and children's mental health


The growing crisis in children's mental health in the UK is widely recognised.

A 2016 report from Public Health England estimated that 695 000 children in England aged 5–16 years (ie, 10% of all children in England) had a clinically significant mental health illness. The conditions reported included anxiety, depression, conduct disorders, self-harm, and suicidal feelings. As the report described in some detail, such conditions are “a leading cause of health-related disabilities in [children and young people] and can have adverse and long-lasting effects”, including drug abuse, criminality, and a life expectancy of 16–25 years less than the general population.
David Whitebread Published: November 2017

LINK TO FULL ARTICLE :http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(17)30092-5/fulltext

Children's freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Peter Gray Ph.D. Freedom to Learn

In a recent survey of over a thousand parents in the UK, 43% believed that children under the age of 14 shouldn’t be allowed outside unsupervised, and half of those believed they shouldn’t be allowed such freedom until at least 16 years of age.

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