In the Playborhood.com article, Playborhood Survey I: Kids Aren’t Playing Much, and Parents Aren’t Happy About It, I show that parents report that kids are playing in their neighborhoods very little, and even less if one considers play that is “unsupervised by adults.” In fact, only 15.6% of children outside the Bay Area engage in unsupervised play three or more times per week.
Well, the Palo Alto / Menlo Park (PAMP) area has even far slimmer numbers for unsupervised play. See the figure below. Only 6.4% of parents in this area (defined as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Mountain View, Los Altos Hills, and north Los Altos) report that their kids play unsupervised three or more times per week. That means that PAMP area kids are about 40% as likely to play unsupervised as kids outside the Bay Area.
Before discussing reasons for this, I should note that the average age of children of respondent parents in the entire sample is about 5-1/2. So, a fairly common reason parents cited in comments for not letting their kids play unsupervised is that their kids are too young. However, this reason does not affect the relative frequency of unsupervised play between the PAMP area and outside the Bay Area because the average age for these two groups is about the same as the overall survey average of 5-1/2.
The upshot of these data points is that, as I say in the title of this article, we hover a lot more than parents outside the Bay Area. Why? Well, the survey results, including comments, don’t provide any good explanation.
I’ll speculate, and you readers can, too, in your comments. Perhaps, because we’re more affluent than the rest of the US, we live more structured, high-achievement lives, so we project that lifestyle on to our kids, too. Structure does not come naturally to kids, so we end up forcing it on our kids.
I’m not a fan of highly structured lives for kids, so I wonder sometimes if the PAMP area is a good place to grow up. The common answer from parents here is that, of course it is, because we have such great public schools here and such great weather and so much culture in the Bay Area.
Well, I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, in a mediocre school district, with crappy weather and far less culture than the Bay Area has, but I wouldn’t trade my childhood with that of the kids here for anything. We had way more fun than I see kids having here, and I still made it into Stanford.
I’ll discuss this issue of whether this really is a good place to grow up in a later article.