Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The safety elves strike again

The Express, with its customary sense of understatement, brings us the sad news that kids these days are being prevented from skipping and playing conkers by bloody health and safety madness gone mad, in FOR SAFETY'S SAKE, SKIP THE PLAYGROUND GAMES. Just in case you were in any doubt about why kids these days might not be playing the same games as people did in the sixties and seventies, or were inclined to view it as some kind of multi-faceted issue to do with social changes and an expansion of competing entertainment choices over several decades, the author of the piece can disavow you of your silly notion that things might be 'a little bit more complicated than that' straight away:

PLAYGROUND games are vanishing – because of health and safety rules.
The world is much easier when you know exactly who's to blame, isn't it? Now you don't have to waste your time thinking about it, because a journalist has announced it. Of course, I know what you cynics are thinking; "Pah! Journalists?! Most of them are just basic office drones who are merely required to reformat Reuters articles and pull quotes out of reports and arrange them in such a way as to reinforce their readers' existing prejudices", but don't get hasty, son, because Katherine Fenech is about to drop some science on you clowns. You ready?

Over three-quarters of girls no longer use a skipping rope, compared to 94 per cent of their mothers for whom it was a playtime pleasure.

And just over a third of boys ever play conkers, while 83 per cent of their fathers would have tried their hands.
Statistics for apple-scrumping, riding a penny-farthing and dying of The Plague are not shown, but I'm sure they're in there somewhere. Still, you can't fuck with science, and lord knows I've tried. So, which venerable old institution conducted the painstaking research that led us to the inescapable conclusion that bad health and safety men done gone stole all our fun?

While computer games and other indoor entertainment are partly to blame, many mothers and fathers believe the “cotton wool culture” we live in is also at fault, a study shows.

More than 4,000 parents were surveyed by the makers of children’s juice drink Fruit Shoot for “Big Mothered Britain” – a report on restrictions faced by youngsters.
So it's Fruit Shoot, citing what parents reckon. Not entirely sure that parents are completely objective in this, given that alternative explanations to sinister H&S bogeymen include 'shit parenting', but there you go. It would be interesting to see how many of these parents had kids who are desperate to ditch the football, online Call Of Duty deathmatches and texting each other porn in favour of taking up more rewarding pastimes like hopscotch and hoop-rolling, but were actively prevented from doing so by Government killjoys.

Call me a cynic, I just can't help the nagging feeling that some of the "80 per cent of parents [who] thought too much officialdom was affecting children’s fun" might have been basing that off what they've read in the papers rather than their own experience. It would also be interesting to see how the actual questions in the "Big Mothered Britain" report were phrased, but for some reason the good folks over at Fruit Shoot seem to have given their pioneering research to the papers in some kind of press release form rather than publishing it in scientific journals (you can see the same story in today's Telegraph and inevitably the Daily Mail).

Still, I can't possibly think of any reason why ROBINSON'S FRUIT SHOOT OOH YUMMY FRUIT SHOOT BUY IT TODAY AND ENJOY THE SHOOTY FRUITY TASTE would have for asking leading questions that might provide newsworthy results for the press, and therefore I do believe it's safe to conclude that elf'n'safety Nazis must be the main reason.


  1. I'm really not surprised. About six months ago the Express published a story about 'vanishing British icons' including the disappearance of Tango in favour of 'politically correct smoothies'. It's source for the story? A Tango press release.

  2. So the parents, who are presumably responsible for their children, don't allow them to play games because of health and safety?

  3. The lives of children have been drastically changed, over the last 50 years, by the amount of traffic on the roads. Perhaps that what the parents meant by "safety concerns".