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Finding the Balance Between Fun and Safe

by Beth Divine 12 Aug 2018

We live in an overly controlled world. Too much safety and limitation has been imposed on us – supposedly for our own good – and it has resulted in making us much less safe for two reasons

The first reason is that we can no longer – apparently – cope with dangerous situations. It used to be that from the moment we could walk, we were encouraged to push ourselves and our fears to the limit. This meant that children developed physically and mentally, learning how to climb into trouble – and then get themselves out, realising along the way that sometimes they would fall or scrape themselves. And that to do this was okay. There was no shame or stigma about having scabby knees or a chipped milk tooth – hell, the teeth are going to fall out before too long, and you’d know how to look after the new ones because of the injury to the baby ones…

Nowadays, the slightest scrape or bruise on a child is seen as a sign of poor parenting, negligence or even abuse. Teachers can no longer push children to run a bit further, climb a bit higher or expand their comfort zone just a little more. This means that children are growing up with an unrealistic belief that nothing will hurt them, ever. This can make them reckless (see below) or overly cautious, unwillingly to try anything new as it might hurt, or because it scares them. Children can also get into more trouble at school because when they are angry and lash out, they will do so with full force, instead of moderating their movements as a child who knows how to control their body would be able to do. Knowing that being hit hurts, can help a child to learn that hitting another person is hurting them the same way: they can learn to moderate their responses. Also, because they have not automatically succeeded at everything in life, they will be more likely to be empathetic and reasonable than someone who has never had to try or work for anything in their life.

Growing recklessness is another result of an overly coddled childhood. People are brave and thrive on challenge. In former times, these challenges were fulfilled by competitive races, the urging to run faster, jump higher and so on. Yes, some children couldn’t make it and dropped out of races, perhaps feeling frustrated and insecure, but usually able – thanks to their youth – to learn that while they might not be physical, they might well find their strengths elsewhere… There was no shame in failing, only in refusing to try. This all led to people feeling stifled and frustrated, and this in turn led to the invention of sanctioned adrenaline-boosters like bungee-jumping, sky-diving and white-water rafting – and also less legal pursuits like base-jumping and tomb-stoning, as well as various trespassing activities by which youth got their kicks.

It is hard to say why society has changed in such a way, removing challenge and the pursuit of excellence from their children, the fact remains that it has. The result is that now children are prosecuted for climbing trees, gun and knife ownership globally has spiked, and legislation to remove people’s freedoms in the name of their security threatens to further make life devoid of joy. Life can be dangerous. Let us embrace that, and live.