Playing hide-and-seek online
Research has shown that there is less and less space for urban children to play outside. An increase in inhabitants and visitors has given rise to a construction boom at the expense of parks and playgrounds. Safety also plays a part: concerned parents are keeping their children indoors for fear of something happening to them. Children themselves indicate that they are afraid of bullies and 'older' children in the street. They assess most local playgrounds as boring and more suited to smaller children. Furthermore, the busy calendars of both parents and children leave little time for spontaneous play. Outside activities are limited to sports clubs, out-of-school care facilities and family outings at the weekend. The nature of 'play' itself has also changed. Outside play has partly been supplanted by digital screens and computer games, and playing together now means playing online. Only recently, a 10-year-old boy was heard to say in the TV programme De Wereld Draait Door that 'it's much better to play hide-and-seek online, as you don't have to get up and don't have to go outside'. This made us think.
Together with Consulting Kids, we visited three primary schools in Wittevrouwen and Voordorp and nominated children from groups 7 and 8 (10 to 12-year-olds) to become 'junior advisers' for the day. We asked them what needed to change in order for children to go and play outside again. For us as university researchers, this was a unique chance to engage children in a different way: this time, the children were the experts. Our approach of outlining the problem on the basis of a 'children's story' was something the children really identified with. At the same time, the children didn't shy away from asking some tough questions, such as: how much time should you spend playing outside each day? Are children themselves to blame for the decline in outside play? Why are computer games so addictive?