The Youth Independence Crisis: Let Kids PLAY

I read an article about the more recognized youth mental health crisis, which is accompanied by a trauma crisis and all fall under a bigger umbrella of a epidemic decline of independence. The title alone was so blind it suggests the author didn’t even try to Google on the topic, stating “nobody knows why”. At the end, the article blames social media and smartphones primarily despite the evidence blatantly pointing towards one overarching cause: suppression of childhood autonomy, which is expressed as free play.

“One thing we know for sure about anxiety and depression is that they correlate strongly with people’s sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. Those who believe they are in charge of their own fate are much less likely to become anxious or depressed than are those who believe their are victims of circumstances beyond their control…the data indicate that young people’s sense of control over their own destinies has declined continuously.” – p. 16

“Twenge and her colleagues analyzed the results of many studies that had assessed locus of control with groups of college students and children age 9-14 from 1960 to 2002. They found for both age groups that over this period, average scores shifted dramatically, away from the internal toward the external end of the scale, so much so, in fact, that the average young person in 2002 was more external (more prone to lack of personal control) than were 80 percent of young people in the 1960s.” – p. 16-17

“Free play is nature’s means of teaching children they are not helpless. In play, away from adults, children really do have control and can practice asserting it. In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates…In school, by contrast, children cannot make their own decisions; their job is to do as they are told…children who felt most pressured by their parents to achieve in school and were most frequently shuttled from one extracurricular activity to another were the most likely to feel anxious or depressed.” – p. 18

“research psychologists… conducted a study of happiness and unhappiness in public school students grades 6th through 12th…participants filled out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness by far occurred when children were at school, and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school and conversing or playing with friends.” – p. 18-19

Free to Learn by Dr. Peter Gray, published 2013


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