Why Don’t Parents Let Their Kids Have Any Freedom? Q and A With Chasing Childhood Director Margaret Munzer Loeb
Why are today’s kids allowed to do only a fraction of the activities their parents enjoyed? Just 10 percent walk to school. Tree forts have vanished. A 2018 study found kids play outside just half as much as their parents did. What gives?
These are the mysteries examined in the new documentary, Chasing Childhood, which is playing at the DOC NYC festival through November 19. The film—a cautionary tale—follows a family that pressured their daughter to succeed in school and college. But it also focuses on my non-profit, Let Grow, which promotes childhood independence. One of our (free!) school initiatives is the “Let Grow Project,” a homework assignment that boils down to this: “Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents.” A middle-school boy who pushes for the chance to take the train to visit his dad provides the film’s emotional peak.
I’m interviewed in the movie, but now that it’s out I get to turn the tables and interview its co-director and executive producer, Margaret Munzer Loeb.
LS: What would you say your film is about?
ML: It’s about the unintended consequences of over-protecting, over-pressuring, over-scheduling kids, and the loss of free play and autonomy, and how that is impacting their childhood, as well as how they become functioning adults.
LS: What prompted you to make it?
ML: [Co-director Eden Wurmfeld and I] were somehow raising our own kids with less autonomy than we had had growing up in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, and we wondered why our parents felt so relaxed. By age 10, I was taking two public buses to school, but I didn’t feel comfortable le
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