Children and play

childTwo things recently caught my eye and both are about children.

The first is a programme, on Channel 4 in the UK  tonight called Boys and Girls Alone and places two groups of 8 year olds in a “world” where they make all the decisions and run their own lives without adults. The second is a report released by the Childrens’ Society, again in the UK, called a Good Childhood, which looks a what young people value and think about their experiences.

At one level they seem unconnected but there is one telling thing that draws them together.

The children in the above programme are not only allowed to direct their day, and their play, as they wish without constraint, something I would argue constitutes bad play, but they are in this situation because they have been subject to a form of play by the adults who have a duty of care towards them. It is a play of power and a play of frivolity and it’s not even original programming. We have seen the scenes of inevitable confusion, bullying, childish enjoyment and so on all before in two previous programmes by Channel 4 – Boys alone and Girls alone. Original titles.

In the report, A Good Childhood, the most important factor in a good childhood – as defined by the children themselves – is a stable and structured family life and a good relationship between parents who define clear values.

Parents who disappear, who think that their children are fair game (and I use the world advisedly) for a social experiment are hardly providing stability and security.

As we become more playful with media we can easily become attracted by the opportunities for play with the people it captures. When those people are children we need to be very sure we have something valid to say, investigate or discuss – regardless of whether a”top american child pyscholoist” has evaluated their mental well-being or not.


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