Survival expert Ray Mears is urging more modern parents to let their children play outside saying it is tantamount to child abuse to keep them indoors.
The 53-year-old appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain to debate the issue, as figures have revealed 75% of children spend less time outside than prison inmates.
Ray told presenters Ben Shephard and Ranvir Singh that children need to be allowed to go outside and explore the world by themselves for a young age.
He said: “It’s important for children to be outside and run around. They need guidance on how to be outside. Nature equips children to explore the world and learn. Parents have to let that happen.”
He added that parents who wrap their children up in cotton wool too much could find they then go “off the rails” as teenagers when they do start being given some freedom.
He said this is because they are “fearless” and feel they “need to rebel” against the tight control their parents had on them, whereas children who are allowed to play and learn by themselves outside become more worldly.
Ray said how much children can play outside will depend on their age and where they live.
He said they will benefit from being taught about safety by their parents and then being given the freedom to put what they have learnt into action.
“Parents have to trust they will follow the advice they have given them,” he said.
However, mother-of-two and blogger Emily Leary said parents couldn’t follow Ray’s advice as “the world isn’t safe enough.”
She said she’s all for her six and nine-year-old children being outdoors – as long as she is with them.
“I do see the value of them playing outside but I want to be there,” she said. “Not to hold their hand but to be nearby. It’s not ‘helicopter parenting’ but ‘scaffolding’ them. You can tell then ‘you can climb that tree but not that one as it’s crazy.'”
She added: “I think if I wasn’t there they would make more mistakes.”
The topic got GMB viewers talking on Twitter, with some saying they agreed with Ray and thought children today should be given more freedom and encouraged to step away from screens and play outside.
Others felt Emily was right and that times have changed and it’s no longer safe for children to play out in the tree and explore nature alone like they used to.
A recent study found a fifth of the children aged 5-12 don’t play outside at all on an average day.
When questioned, their parents said they had often played out in the streets themselves when they were young, but felt it was no longer safe for their children to do so.