I just finished reading a book called 'Stolen Focus' by Johann Hari, about the various ways modern life makes it difficult for us to focus. Apart from social media manipulation, poor diet, and poor sleep, he identifies the way children have been raised since the 1990s as something that increases anxiety and erodes focus.

Here are a few excerpts I found interesting:

"A few years ago I was sitting drinking coffee at sunset in a small village at the edge of a forest in Cauca, in the south-west of Colombia. A few thousand people live here, growing the caffeinated drinks we glug globally to keep ourselves alert. I watched them as we slowly unwound for the day.The adults had put tables and chairs out on the street, and they were chatting in the shadow of a lush green mountain. I looked on as they wandered from table to table, when I noticed something I rarely see in the Western World anymore. All across the village, children were playing freely, without adults watching over them. Some had a hoop they were rolling along the ground in a group. Some were chasing each other around the edge of the forest, and daring each other to run, only to dash out again thirty seconds later, shrieking and laughing. Even very small children-- they seemed to be three or four-- were running around just with other kids to look out for them. Occasionally one of them would fall and run back to their mother. The rest only returned home when their parents called them at eight in the evening, and the streets would finally empty."

"It occurred to me that this is what childhood looked like for my parents, in very different places-- an Alpine Swiss village, and a working-class Scottish tenement. They ran around freely without their parents for most of the day from when they were quite small, and only returned to eat and sleep. This is, in fact, what childhood looked like for all of my ancestors, so far as I can tell, going back thousands of years. There are periods some children didn't live like this, when they were forced to work in factories, for example, or the living nightmare of chattel slavery-- but in the long human history these are extreme exceptions."



"Today, I don't know any children who live like that. In the past thirty years there have been huge changes in childhood. By 2003, in the US only 10 percent of children spent any time playing freely outdoors on a regular basis. Childhood now happens, overwhelmingly, behind closed doors, and when they do get to play, they are supervised by grown-ups, or it takes place on screens. The way children spend their time at school has also changed dramatically. The school systems in the US and Britain have been redesigned by politicians so that teachers are forced to spend the majority of their time preparing and drilling children for tests. In the US, only 73 % of elementary schools have any form of recess. Free play and enquiry have fallen off a cliff."

"In the 1960s, in a suburb of Chicago, a five-year-old girl walked out of her house, alone. It was a fifteen minute walk to Lenore's school, and every day she did it by herself. When she got to the road near school, she was helped to cross safely by another child, a ten-year-old boy wearing a yellow sash across his chest, whose job was to stop the cars and shepherd the smaller kids across the tarmac. At the end of each school day, Lenore would walk out of the gates, again without an adult, and she would wander the neighbourhood with her friends, or try to spot four-leaf-clovers, which she collected. There was often a kickball game which started spontaneously, and sometimes she would join in. By the time she was nine years old, when she felt like it, she would get on her bike and ride a few miles to the library to pick out books, and then curl up reading them somewhere quiet. At other times, she'd knock on her friends' doors to see if they wanted to play. If Joel was home, they'd play Batman, and if Betsy was home, the would play The Princess and The Witch. Lenore always insisted on being the Witch. Finally, when she was hungry or it started to get dark, she went home."

"To many of us, this scene now seems jarring, or even shocking. Across the US over the past decade, there have been many instances where people have seen children as old as nine walking unaccompanied in the street an they've called the police to report it as a case of parental negligence. But in the 1960s, this was the norm all over the world. Almost all children's lives looked something like this. Being a kid meant you went out into your neighbourhood and you wandered around, found other kids, and made up your own games. Adults had only a vague idea where you were. A parent who kept their child indoors all the time, or walked them to school, or stood over them while they played, and intervened in their games, would have been regarded as crazy."

"By the time Lenore had grown up and had her own children, in New York City in the 1990s, everything had changed. She was expected to walk her own children to school and wait while they went through the gates, and then pick them up at the end of the dat. Nobody let their kids play unsupervised, ever. Children stayed in the home all the time, unless there was an adult to watch over them..."



"Lenore suspected the is a way this is harming kids.... She started to seek out the leading scientists who have studied these questions....They taugh her that when children play they learn their most important lessons--the ones they use for the rest of their life."

"Picture again that scene on Lenore's street as a child in Chicago, or what I saw in Colombia. What skills are kids learning there, as they play freely with each other? For starters, if you're a kid and you're on your own with other kids, 'You figure out how to make something happen,' Lenore says. You must use your creativity to create a game. You must then convince other children that your game is the best to play. Then 'you figure out how to read people enough so that the game keeps going.'. You have to learn to negotiate when it's your turn and when it's their turn-- so you have to learn about other people's needs and desires, and how to meet them. You learn how to cope with being disappointed, or frustrated. You learn all this 'through being excluded, through coming up with a new game, through getting lost, through climbing the tree, and then somebody says, "Climb higher!" and you can't decide if you will or you won't.Then you do, an it's exhillirating, and then you climb a little higher the next time-- or you climb a little higher and it's so scary that you cry... And yet: now you're on top. These are all crucial forms of attention."

"One of Lenore's intellectual mentors, Dr Isabel Behncke, told me that the scientific evidence so far says that 'there are three main areas of child development where free-play has a major impact.'"

"'One is creativity and imagination--it is how you learn to think about problems and solve them. The second is 'social bonds'--its how you learn to interact with other people and socialize. And the third is 'aliveness' it's how you learn to experience joy and pleasure. What is learned during play is not a trivial add-on to becoming a functioning human being, it is the core of it. To be a person who can pay attention fully, you need a base of free-play."



"But suddenly we have been taking this out of kid's lives. Today when kids do get to play, it is mainly under adult supervision, who set rules and tell them what to do. On lenore's street when she was a kid, everyone played softball and policed the rules themselves. Today, they go to organized activities where adults intervene all the time and to tell them what the rules are. Free play has turned into supervised play, and so-- like processed food--has been drained of most of its value."

"This means that now, as a kid, Lenore said, 'you're not getting that chance to develop these skills--because you're in a car being driven to a game where somebody tells you what position you're playing, and when to catch the ball, and when it's your time to hit, and who's bringing the snack, and you can't bring grapes because they have to be cut into quarters and it's your mom's job to do that... That's a very different childhood, because you haven't experienced the give-and-take of life that's going to prepare you for adulthood.' As a result, kids are not having the problems and exhilaration of getting there on their own. One day, Barbara Sarnecka, an associate professor of cognitive sciences at the University of California, told lenore that today 'adults are saying: 'Here's the environment. I've already mapped it. Stop exploring" But that's the opposite of what childhood is.'"
 

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LostintheCycle

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Thank you for posting these excerpts, these are interesting to read. And I wholly agree, look at how fucked up we all are.
Unfortunately this sort of thing I think can only be solved by time. Without a concerted effort at reformation, the essential reasons why, which include people being crammed together in cities, perceived urban dangers, will continue to be present. The anxiety our parents have given us will be given also to our children inevitably. The system perpetuates this for so long as it can.
 
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Absolutely.
Thankfully in the US there is a grassroots push to legally protect childrens freeplay
Has been making solid progress in many states.
I got some article saved in Pocket, if I can find it, I will send it. It was from Quora and was about [sic] "wtf happened that kids back then weren't pussies", I recall posting it here before Tbh, but search is *quite help* /s XD
*Here:


text-only:

Are Japanese toddlers as independent as Netflix's Old Enough portrays them?
Profile photo for Ithamar Paraguassu Ramos
Ithamar Paraguassu Ramos
Webcomics, Comic book and children´s book AUthor (1996–present)Updated Jan 2
yes, and the craziest thing is that Americans used to be too.
main-qimg-712b0bed304f16ba0dc1627f268f965d-lq

That thing you saw in films abouts 50s to 70s with small children hanging around in nearby woods, and working witth tools to build their own toys is not fantasy or fictions.
main-qimg-6c429c77b0c84019ea632bdf237785ea-lq

Untill the early 80s, tools for cgildren arent made of plastic.
They were just functional tools, just smaller, and those are view as cheap toys.

And those dont even enter in the lists of dangerous toys, they gave crazy stuff to kids play in the old times.
main-qimg-8db9586624b597148810784f2d3f9bce-lq

And the 80s, children around 9 - 11 were views as responsible enough to go home and stay there by themselves until the parents got home after work.

This thing to treat children as incapable is very recent.
Is a thing just from American Millenials and Zoomers only.
Most countrys find USa a bit creepy for that.

I was talking with a person who ask me if 13 years old kids need babysitters and I said that in may time that was the age of babysitters.
With 5 and 6, my parents called a 12 yo neighbor to look at us while they go out.
And at 13 my classmates were babysitters.
That series of books from "the babysitters club" its not fantasy, girls that age were babysitters.
main-qimg-8a87e323ba41cda2def0d3726bb97e5e-lq

In older generations we had very few people raised like incapable children and helicopter parents are very rare.

And to say the truth that happens in the majority of countries in the world.

This "protection" Americans being suffering in the last decades is actually abuse, and is clearly that the last generations create a great number of non functional adults, that show clear signs of abuse.

And wen I say "Americans" i like to let clear that we become the exception, most countries in the world kids are raised to be independent as possible.
main-qimg-93d400278b55e73266dec73535cc8873-lq

The irony is that we see a lot of people saying how safer the old time are, but with modern projected neigborhoods and harsher safety laws on all kinds of product, we have places with a safety that dont even existed in none place of the world in the 50s and 60s.
main-qimg-9c1d15b8e5ec498819301b93b18c797b-pjlq

I remember very well when the media started to profit with the fear of parents, making everybody paranoic with a wave of histories of children being harmed.
And never stopped, a case that happens in the other side of the country they maker a fuss that people feel is something that happens every day in every place.

The sad part in our times, is that there was a weird conception that raising children to be independent is equal to unsafe.
Or that to make independent children you need to make then unsafe for some reason.
I personally had a problem with this odd conception, because the reality is exactly the opposite: Being independent is to be more prepared and be safer.

Often those "protected" children end being raised to be victims, the opposite to be protected or to be safer..

> says similar things as OP does
 
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AnHero

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It still is the norm all over the world, at least outside of North America.
Well, yes, he's saying that in the 1960s, North America was also included in that norm, hence in the 1960s it was the norm 'all over the world', and now it it no long the norm 'all over the world', because North America, one of the countries in the world, no longer subscribes to that norm.
 

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Parents harassed by the police for letting their children walk a few blocks unattended.
I think some_porcupine's observation about tools being toys for use in free play is very important. When we observe animals playing, even though they are doing it for fun, its very clearly also practicing skills they use for survival (kittens play hunting).

1689935372343.png

The kind of toys being made for free play nowadays.
 
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Children used to develop into free, independent adults. Now they develop into smart veal.
 
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old.reddit.com/r/NoStupidQuestions/comments/155m31k/why_did_the_90s_feel_like_the_wild_west_where_we/
Epic twitter user says nothing "Youll never guess..." buzzfeed ass clickbait just to drive replies on their tweet to feed their own narcissism and self-importance.
one take was, 90s in America were communistic
idk (doubt)
maybe, *again*, "sincerity", be it true one or fake
 
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I find it ironic how now with a phone and GPS in every kids pockets parents still don't feel safe to let them out and about farther than the neighborhood. Albeit the phone is a double edged sword, as it's easy for kids to get addicted when you don't limit there screentime, robbing them of the will to play.
 
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one take was, 90s in America were communistic
idk (doubt)
maybe, *again*, "sincerity", be it true one or fake
Could be some truth to it, my mother especially is really paranoid about the outside on my smallest sister soo she sometimes asks me to accompany her outside. When i am there other adults sometimes let their kids out too and when i am supervising them i let them do things they wouldn't be allowed to if they were with their own parents. They let their kids as long as a 12+ kid is there and a 12 year old kid obviously doesn't have the paranoia or knowledge of how dangerous things might be.
Spesific to Turkey there are far more stray dogs than there used to be, kidnappings do happen thanks to insane immigration rates and police is far less trustfull soo i get them being cautious about the outside but they are really defensive about things inside too. A kid might get a burn from hot water or get bitten by a bee, those or normal but they act like she must live her life without getting a scar at all.
 
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And wen I say "Americans" i like to let clear that we become the exception, most countries in the world kids are raised to be independent as possible.
I think more than America, it's the Western world. I was raised indoors as well, either playing at home alone or at my friends' houses. But that might be because due to family history and other stuff, I had a very fearful mother. She's relaxed a bit probably 'cause I'm an adult now and she's getting old as well, but still, I'm always anticipating that she'll be paranoid about stuff happening to me if not straight up refuse when I want to do things on my own. Of course it doesn't happen anymore, but I think she was so paranoid when I was growing up that it basically became ingrained in me that if I want to have an actual life, it must be in secret and that she must never know. Even if now I'm in my 20s, and technically I don't need her approval for anything. The fear and the sense that I have to keep my life secret, even living in the same house, is still here.

When I was 8, for a while we lived in a residence where there were other kids playing outside. I played with them once and we, like every other kid, messed around. I remember something with a basin of water, my LPS toys, and one of these fluffy roll thingies we used for painting. It was fun but I couldn't go far. My mother called these kids little rascals, bad influences, and never allowed me to play outside with them again. She also always insisted on supervising me when I was outside, and I could never play on the street. I didn't go to school or return alone until I was 10-11. I remember once having panicked because I had to get the horse I'd be riding in a further pasture, and the teenagers that were accompanying me were basically leaving me alone. Now looking back I had simply been imprinted with my mother's fears. It's a miracle I managed to be somewhat independent with the upbringing I got, and even, as I said, there is still that sense I must keep my independence secret. And I feel horrible guilt when I know how badly she gets anxious about me. When I went to Kazakhstan last year, she immediately picked up smoking again (continued for months after, which made me feel like absolute trash because it felt like by doing this, I had basically hurt her) and even called my father "in case something happens to me".

Other parents have pointed out that she never let me go to school on my own when I was perfectly able to do so, like at 8, and judged her for being so much on my back and never quite letting me "free". She always replied "two words, Estelle Mouzin". There had been many child disappearances but for some reason Estelle was her go-to case. She had been kidnapped in 2003 and, it was revealed a couple years ago, also murdered by child serial killer Michel Fourniret. Also, when I went to Kazakhstan, my mother's boss wasn't worried one bit about me. "She'll do just fine", he had told her, and it was true. I did just fine.

If I ever have kids, I want to raise them like this, more free-range. I don't care if some call me a daredevil or whatever, I just don't want my kids to grow up with the idea that they cannot be independent or that they're constantly under attack or that the world is dangerous. I want them to be brave and to trust their gut, as well as a few rules such as don't get into a car with a stranger, and the obvious like that are just common sense at this point.
 
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