This is a post that has nothing to do with physics or other sciences, for once. I just report here my thoughts as a father upon allowing my 11-years-old son to go spend a day to the beach alone with his friends. Is it too early ? Is it about time ?
Perhaps I should qualify my description of the whole business, since the data above are of course wholly insufficient to answer the question. Filippo (on the left in the picture below, taken last year in Klagenfurt) today left our home in Venice a bit before noon, walked 10' to the boat station, got in a boat directed to the Lido of Venice (a half-hour trip), arrived there and proceeded by feet to the beach, who is on the other side of the island, a mile away. At the beach he will probably find some of his friends, play with them, hang together. Later today he will come back home with the same means, again alone.
Now, while there are no cars in Venice, there is car circulation in Lido, and this is a concern for a kid who never before had to worry by himself about when and how passing on the other side of a street. But other apprehensive parents might find scary the very fact of allowing a 11 years old kid to wander around alone, cars or not. There are many dangers in today's society for a young kid. Or are there ?
In Italy we have been brainwashed to feel less and less secure. Criminal activity has not increased significantly since I was a kid 30 years ago; only its reporting has! We feel less secure because inhabitants are increasingly of foreign origin (mostly chinese, eastern europeans, africans, latin americans), and we are brought to believe that they are "different" from us, and thus inherently dangerous to our way of life, our habits, our traditions, our jobs; at a different level, a clear attempt at making citizens feel threatened in their belongings and safety is also in place. There is a clear agenda.
When I was a kid, I used to go from one place to another in Venice by myself already at a very young age -seven or eight years. I was not alone in being allowed that kind of freedom: it was generally considered safe. Things have not changed in Venice since then so much: Venice is special and certainly overall less dangerous than other towns because of the lack of cars, but one might still envision dangers like drowning in a canal or getting raped by a pedophile. Drug dealing is not frequent but not inexistent either; theft is endemic. So what has changed is mostly our way of looking at things. I fight that, and I coherently decide that my own kid can, at the age of 11, go wherever he likes, after being instructed by my wife and I (and okay, I also have to use some diplomacy with my wife to bring her on my side on this topic!).
I think kids nowadays are pampered too much by their parents. Until they get big enough to raise their voice against dad they are deprived of the possibility to become autonomous, to feel responsible, to learn from trial and error on their own skin. This contributes to a general underdevelopment in their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and their good judgement. Not Filippo - I am going to give him the freedom he needs to grow and become a responsible adult. Time will tell if I have made the correct choice!
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