Letter From The CEO: March 2016

Mar 2, 2016, 14:04 PM by

In the past three generations, the range that our children can “roam” from our homes has shrunk from miles to feet. And at the same time our children's body mass index as well as expected life span have gone in the wrong direction: Kids are unhealthier, they get less activity, and they are expected to live shorter lives than their parents. These are all facts that you can look up and see for yourselves.

We need to ask why this is happening.

Part of it is because of technology. Computer games are cool, and you can talk to your friends online while you play. It is a community experience. I played with G.I. Joes, and my son plays Call of Duty. His game is cooler than my G.I. Joes. However, I used my imagination, and my friends had to be present to play as well.

Here is something I want you to imagine. Close your eyes and think about playing as a kid. What did it involve? My bet is that you thought about being outdoors with kids of different ages and genders, and a bike was likely involved. What you didn’t picture was parents being there, or referees. It was uncontrolled, and it was probably in the park, your neighborhood or some local woods or fields. Today, we call that being a “free range kid.”

Why do we even have a name for that? This should just be called, "being a kid and playing outside."

Another reason we have penned our kids in is because of the supposed rise in physical and sexual abuse of children. The world is full of pedophiles, right? Wrong! A national study of child abuse and neglect authored by the Department of Health and Human Services showed there had been a significant drop in the amount of abuse that is sexual or physical in nature.

Let me be clear, I do not mean to diminish this issue in any way. As a society, we need to root this problem out and punish anyone who abuses children or covers up this crime. Congrats to the Academy Awards for selecting “Spotlight” as the best picture of the year. However, this does not change the fact that during the past 20 years, according to the Health and Human Services report, there has been a 26% decline in child abuse.

So once again I ask, why have we penned in our kids? We can track their phones, we can call them at any time of the day or night, we can set up an alert to show if they cross a preset boundary, and they can call for help instantly. We have all these tools to ensure they are safe.

The truth of the matter is that we pen them in because we have bought into the myth that our kids are in more danger than at any other time in history. We believe this because we get instant alerts about any bad thing that occurs, we get to see victims live on TV, and most media outlets go with the policy of “If it bleeds, it leads.”

So we keep our kids locked up in our homes and only let them roam to the end of the block because we have been conned into being constantly afraid. So now our kids have a lack of exercise, a lack of socialization and an inability to think for themselves. Do you trust your kids to cross a busy street by themselves? If you don’t, then you need to fix that this weekend; that’s on you. They count on us for every decision, and that is a real problem.

My advice is to loosen the reins a bit and shove your kids outside to find adventures with their friends. Make them ride their bikes to wherever they are going.

PS. Have them do their chores before they get the privilege of going out to play.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley