Is 'Zero-risk' Space Really Good for Children?"

发表时间:2019/3/13   来源:《青年生活》2018年第12期   作者:Wang Meimei
[导读] There is a trend towards risk-free activities for children as parents are become more concerned about dangers and harms in children’s space and their parenting styles tend to become very risk-adverse

        Abstract There is a trend towards risk-free activities for children as parents are become more concerned about dangers and harms in children’s space and their parenting styles tend to become very risk-adverse . However, many people are becoming worried about the harm of “cotton wool culture” insulating children from all possible dangers and harms. This essay attempts to discuss whether “zero-risk” space is really good for children by evaluating the benefits of risk in children’s play and also the harms of risk-aversion for children.

        Key words  zero-risk space; children development; outdoor education

        What is risk?
        Risks are defined pragmatically as perceptions of dangers and uncertainties that may have negative outcomes but which may also be undertaken with positive consequences (Madge and Barker, 2007). Risks have to be differentiated from hazards. Risk is about the probability, likelihood or chance of an adverse outcome and can be judge (Ball et al., 2008). Fundamentally speaking, risks are perceptions of hazards and dangers. The subjectivity of perceptions means they could be accurate but sometime they might be inaccurate either being overestimated or underestimated.

        The trend towards risk-aversion
        Risk behavior could directly or indirectly lead to harms on the health or even life of children. Thus, parents out of the purpose of protecting their children try very means to eliminate risks from children’s space. The parents’ anxieties to a large extent are ascribed to the media saturation and sensationalism. Joyner (2011) suggests that the fast speed of informational transmission on media makes every tragedy become national news. Parents thus lose their sense of reality and tend to perceive the world much more dangerous than it really is. The same view is presented by Madge and Barker (2007) who state that but people’s perception of risks could be influenced by external factors and the media should be blamed for exaggerating risk and whipping up public anxiety. The messages of media are very powerful and often effective in inducing public concern. They suggest that the media have a great influence on the promotion and implementation of regulation of reducing risk.

        The growing fear of parents has resulted in the trend towards overprotective parenting. Children are protected by their parents from trying new activities which are assumed dangerous such as climbing, taking at adventurous play and so on and many sports are discouraged. An America-based survey reports the harm of cotton wool culture on children with more than half of parents don’t allow their children to engage in sporting activities such as rugby, hockey and swimming in case of the possible injury (Edwards, 2014). In addition, schools are advised to cancel outdoor activities which have risky elements for fear that they will bear legal responsibilities in case of some accidents happening to students.
(Clare, 2004). 

        Harms of zero-risk space
        Many parents over protect their children by trying to eliminate all risks in their space. This attempt of parents means well, but most often result in negative outcomes. There is evidence documenting that zero-risk space could hinder the children’s physical, mental and social development. The trend of risk-aversion parenting style can harm the physical development of children by reducing their chance of participation in physical activities. The number of obese children has been growing significantly, and children now have a cardiovascular fitness 15 percent lower than the generation of their parents at the same age (Edwards, 2014).

        In addition to physical harm, over-protection hinders the development of learning ability, decreases their confidence, and stunts their growth (Agosoni, 2000). Parents hope their children live happily in safe environment. But over-protection could in fact lead to opposite effect that children suffer disorders. A space of zero risk not only deprives children of the joy of playing, but also robs them of confidence that could be earned by taking risk and succeeding (Joyner, 2011). Regulation and requirements intended to protect children may lead to over-restrictive limitations on children and deprive their right to play, experiment, and explore (Kennedy, 2009).

        Agasoni, L. 2000. Side effects of overprotective parenting. [Online] available at:                                   [Accessed: 6 December 2017]
Ball, D. et al. 2008. Managing risk in play provision: implementation guide. [Online] available at: [Accessed: 6 December 2017]
Edwards, A. 2014. Cotton wool culture. 18 February 2014. DailyMail. [Online] available at:  [Accessed: 6 December 2017]
Kennedy, A. 2009. I’m not scared! Risk and challenge in children’s programs. National Childcare Accreditation Council, 3, 9-11.
Madge, N and Barker, J. 2007.Risk and childhood. The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce. [Online] available at:  [Accessed: 6 December 2017]

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