Let children learn by taking risks, says RoSPA

The Telegraph, UK – June 06, 2007
By Sarah Womack

Let children learn by taking risks, says RoSPA

Have your say: Should we let children climb trees?

Britain's safety charity suggested yesterday it would be better for the occasional child to fall out of a tree and break their wrist than develop repetitive strain injury from playing computer games.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said parents were too risk-averse, particularly after the abduction of Madeleine McCann in Portugal, and youngsters should be allowed to bruise and cut themselves.

Peter Cornall, the head of leisure safety at the society, said children would learn "valuable life-long lessons" by scraping knees, grazing elbows and bumping heads - not least how they would avoid hurting themselves in future - whereas they would learn little from getting RSI from playing games day in, day out on a PC.

Around 21,000 children a year under the age of 15 break their wrists while playing outside, excluding those injured playing sport.

As yet, no significant research has been carried out in Britain into the risks of RSI among children who spend hours on computers doing homework or playing games, but doctors report an increasing number of children with computer-related injuries. Children are increasingly unfit as a result of being immobile for long periods on a PC.

Mr Cornall's comments came after a study by the Children's Society found 43 per cent of adults thought children should not be allowed out with their friends until they were 14 or over.

RoSPA called for the introduction of specially made "wild" areas where children could wander around and take risks.

"We need to ask whether it is better for a child to break a wrist falling out of a tree, or to get a repetitive strain wrist injury at a young age from using a computer or video games console," Mr Cornell said.

"When children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons - what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over or fall from."

RoSPA, which holds its International Play Safety Conference at Loughborough University on Thursday, wants to encourage parents to talk to their children about risks and how to cope with them.

Last year nearly half a million people in Britain were estimated to suffer from some form of RSI.

Chris Dalton, 31, a graphic designer from Coventry, said: "I wouldn't encourage my kids to climb trees because they could do more harm to themselves than a broken wrist."

Tony Wilkens, 37, of Kingstanding, Birmingham, said: "Surely Rospa is meant to be preventing accidents not arguing which bones are acceptable to break or which injury is good for them."

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