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It All Used to Be Better? Different Generations on Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space


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There is much speculation about children's changing space–time behaviour, yet little is actually known about it. The study reported on here, which was based on oral histories, statistical and archive research, and observations in Amsterdam, compared children's use of space during the 1950s and early 1960s with that of today. The public space of the street used to be a child space, but in two of the three streets studied it has been transformed into an adult space. Conversely, private home space—traditionally the domain of adults—has become a child space. Over time, children's geographies have become more diverse. In addition to the traditional childhood of outdoor children, we distinguish indoor children and children of the backseat generation. These two new types are characterized by a decrease in playing outdoors and an increase in adult supervision. Although this may be regarded as a loss, new children's activities have emerged, outdoors as well as indoors. Contemporary cities can be exciting places for children, but it is clear that inequality by class has become more manifest. Both new geographical childhoods have resulted in a decrease in children's agency, which may have a negative impact on segregation patterns.
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It All Used to be Better? Different
Generations on Continuity and
Change in Urban Children’s Daily
Use of Space
University of Amsterdam/AMIDSt, Nw. Prinsengracht 130, 1018 VZ Amsterdam,
The Netherlands. E-mail:
BSTRACT There is much speculation about children’s changing spacetime behaviour, yet
little is actually known about it. The study reported on here, which was based on oral histories,
statistical and archive research, and observations in Amsterdam, compared children’s use of
space during the 1950s and early 1960s with that of today. The public space of the street used to
be a child space, but in two of the three streets studied it has been transformed into an adult
space. Conversely, private home space—traditionally the domain of adults—has become a
child space. Over time, children’s geographies have become more diverse. In addition to the
traditional childhood of outdoor children, we distinguish indoor children and children of
the backseat generation. These two new types are characterized by a decrease in playing
outdoors and an increase in adult supervision. Although this may be regarded as a loss,
new children’s activities have emerged, outdoors as well as indoors. Contemporary cities
can be exciting places for children, but it is clear that inequality by class has become more
manifest. Both new geographical childhoods have resulted in a decrease in children’s
agency, which may have a negative impact on segregation patterns.
1. Introduction
Children’s studies is one of the fastest growing fields in the social sciences. Over the last
decade, this new interest in children’s lives has been reflected in geography (Matthews,
2003). Today, children’s geographies are broadly documented and the space-specific char-
acter of ‘childhood’ is widely discussed. Neighbourhoods differ in the way they accommo-
date children’s life, especially when it comes to the possibilities for outdoor play. Space
matters, particularly in children’s daily lives (Holloway and Valentine, 2000). There is
both academic and popular concern that contemporary cities pose many problems in/
for children’s lives (Bartlett, 1999). Pollution, safety problems, a lack of play and green
spaces, and ill-considered social environments are a few of the problems frequently men-
tioned (Berg and Medrichs, 1980; Spek and Noyon, 1993; Huttenmoser and Degen-
Zimmerman, 1995; Davis and Jones, 1996; Bjorklid, 1997; Faber Taylor et al., 1998;
Kong, 2000). Urban conditions are often depicted as being detrimental to children
Children’s Geographies, Vol. 3, No. 3, 275 290, December 2005
ISSN 1473-3285 print; ISSN 1473-3277 online/05/030275-16 # 2005 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/14733280500352912
(Chawla, 2002; Christensen and O’Brien, 2003). Notions about the negative aspects of
cities are regularly coupled with comments that ‘it all used to be better’. The question
is whether that is true.
Recognition that childhood is a social construction has contributed to the flourishing of
geographical studies, but detailed historical geographies about the changing nature of chil-
dren’s daily lives are scarce. This is a result of the more complicated character of doing
research about past childhood, the lack of historical data about daily life and the methodo-
logical problems related to adults’ memories of childhood. Only a few historical studies,
such as those by Gastor (1991), Hillman et al. (1990) and Pooley et al. (2005), have
focused on children’s mobility, their shrinking territory and their decreasing freedom of
movement. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative material, Valentine and McHen-
drick (1997) assume a drastic reduction in outdoor play over the generations, but conclude
that there is need to explore more fully the different contexts and the different roles played
by parents. Although it is clear that things have changed—considerably in some cases—
there is a need for more detailed historical geographical studies on children’s uses of space
and time. An historical view may help us to contextualize contemporary childhood and
thus to avoid romanticizing the past. There is an overall tendency in society to assume
that things were better in the past. But as scientists we have to ask: in what respects
were things better, what are the new elements and what definitely belongs to the past?
The Amsterdam study reported on in this paper intends to make a modest contribution to
our knowledge of the changing nature of children’s daily lives in urban contexts. This his-
torical study is the product of an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including students,
comprising sociologists, anthropologists, historical educationalists and geographers. We
were all strongly motivated by the almost complete absence of historical data on children’s
daily lives in the Netherlands (Karsten et al., 2001). In this paper, the focus is on issues of
children’s daily spacetime behaviour and particularly on the changing relationship
between indoor and outdoor spaces, and the related freedom of movement in three differ-
ent streets in Amsterdam. In 2003, we talked to children and parents living in these
particular streets and with adults who used to live there in the 1950s and early 1960s.
We used the rich material we collected to derive space time patterns that typify
diverse geographical childhoods (Bouw and Karsten, 2004).
2. Changing Urban Context
With over 700,000 inhabitants, Amsterdam is the largest city in The Netherlands. There
are almost 102,000 children aged between 0 and 12 living in the city, representing 14%
of its total population. Many of the inhabitants of Amsterdam originate from other parts
of the world. Children (0 12) with a Dutch background make up around 36% of the
city’s population of children (O þ S Amsterdam).
There are many historical indicators to illustrate the changing socio-spatial conditions
with which children growing up in cities have to deal. Here, the focus is on three of them,
namely the increase in children’s space indoors at home, the decrease in space outside and
the sharp decrease in the number of children. The average number of persons living in each
house in Amsterdam fell from 3.75 in 1950 to 1.98 in 2000; thus, the average number of
residential square metres per person has increased considerably over recent decades. It
used to be very common for a family with several children to have only a three-room apart-
ment: the parents would sleep in the living room or an alcove, the daughters in one of the
bedrooms and the sons in the other.
Thus, home space was limited. Outside, however, the streets were almost empty and this
situation has now changed considerably. The loss of outdoor space is mainly a result of the
276 L. Karsten
space lost to parked cars and motorized traffic, particularly between 1950 and 1975. Par-
allel with the rapid increase in the number of cars in that period, there was a rapid decrease
in the number of children (Table 1).
Nowadays there are more than twice as many cars than children in Amsterdam, and
most of these cars park in residential streets where children are ‘supposed’ to play.
The changing availability of space—that is, from outside to inside—was studied in more
detail in thethree streets we covered in our historical study, namely Wognumerstraat,
Bankastraat and Van Breestraat. These three streets were chosen because each is rep-
resentative of a type of neighbourhood built in Amsterdam before World War II
(map X).
Wognumerstraat is in Nieuwendam, a lower-class white neighbourhood in North
Amsterdam with semi-detached rented housing and spacious green back gardens typical
of the urban villages built in the 1920s. Purmerplein, at the centre of the neighbourhood,
is a square surrounded by small shops. In the middle of this square is a space used for
skateboarding; nearby, there is a playground. The neighbourhood is bordered by
Nieuwendammerdijk (a dyke) and the river IJ. The status of Nieuwendam has not
changed much over the years: it is home to working-class families with a low level of
education. Today, many older residents continue to live here, but over the last decade
new families with children have settled here (Buijs, 2003).
Table 1. Number of cars and number of children in Amsterdam
1950 1975 2000
Number of cars 16,143 192,436 227,540
Number of children (aged 012) 186,245 113,139 102,742
Source: De Graaf, 2003
Figure 1. The three Amsterdam streets studied.
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 277
Bankastraat is in the Indische Buurt, in East Amsterdam. It used to have roughly the
same status as Nieuwendam, but is now a multicultural neighbourhood. Residents are
migrant families, students and older people with a Dutch background (Reijndorp,
2004). It is a rather crowded street overlooked by four-storey buildings of rented apart-
ments. The pavements are narrow and often littered, and the road is lined with cars. In
the middle is a primary school with a limited amount of public space in which to play.
There are play spaces for children (a soccer square and a playground) at both ends of
the street. When we began our study, a large renovation project had just been started:
some housing blocks have now been demolished to make way for new, owner-occupied
housing (Stroo, 2003).
Van Breestraat is in the Museumkwartier (South Amsterdam), which is and always has
been one of Amsterdam’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. Although this street too is rather
crowded, large trees, several private benches and decorated pots of flowers create a friend-
lier atmosphere than is the case in Bankastraat. The dwellings (mainly two-storey apart-
ments) are owner-occupied and quite large. Play space is practically absent, apart from
two small squares not meant for playing but in actual use as spaces to play soccer.
Vondelpark is within walking distance, but it is separated from Van Breestraat by a
busy road (Koninginneweg) (Bos, 2003).
Using the figures that were available at the street scale, we indeed established a sharp
decrease in the number of children in all three streets. At the time of the research, children
made up around 14% of the total population of the streets, which is comparable to the
figure for the city as a whole. There were 45 children in Wognumerstraat, 60 in
Bankastraat and 96 in Van Breestraat. Van Breestraat is about twice as long as Wognumer-
straat and about four times as long as Bankastraat. The child density in Van Breestraat is
therefore less than these figures suggest. In 2003, there were more cars (sometimes far
more) than children in all three streets. Parking possibilities, however, are arranged differ-
ently: while in Van Breestraat and Bankastraat all cars have to be parked parallel to the
kerb, in Wognumerstraat some small parking lots have been constructed to keep parts
of the street free of cars.
In 1950 only a small minority of the children in Amsterdam had a migrant status, but in
2003 different backgrounds are obvious, although the number varies considerably from
street to street (Table 2).
Children’s life in Wognumerstraat and Van Breestraat is largely dominated by
Amsterdam children with a Dutch background, in complete contrast to the situation in
Bankastraat. In Van Breestraat, the category ‘Other immigrants predominantly includes
children whose parents originate from countries such as the USA, the UK or Germany,
while in Bankastraat this category largely consists of children from countries such as
the former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Table 2. Number of children according to ethnicity per street
2003 Wognumerstraat Bankastraat Van Breestraat
Surinamese/Antillean 1 4 2
Turkish/Moroccan 2 35 0
Other immigrants 8 20 22
Dutch 34 1 72
Total (012) 45 60 96
Source: O & S, Amsterdam)
278 L. Karsten
3. Methods
In a methodological sense, we opted to focus upon the same streets to which all data and
stories of the present and the past are related. Findings about the past were gathered pri-
marily by methods of oral history. We held extensive interviews with ‘former children’—
that is, adults who were brought up in a particular street, mostly in the 1950s and early
1960s—and ‘older neighbours’, that is persons who have a long history of living in a par-
ticular street and who knew about different periods in the past and the present situation.
The big challenge of oral history is to help interviewees to recall all the different aspects
of their childhood. It is well known that people tend to remember the nice things (‘It never
seemed to rain’), forget ages (‘I must’ve been about ten’) and need some help to be space
specific. To prevent our study from becoming a nostalgic search of memories (Jones,
2003), we worked with topic lists in order not to forget important issues, continually
tried to relate ages to experiences in the past (‘Were you still at primary school then?’)
and worked with maps to focus on the spatial dimension of childhood. Sometimes we con-
fronted interviewees with the experiences others had come up with. Consequently, we put
great effort into performing archive research and statistical analyses of historical data
(de Graaff, 2003). This allowed us to compare the ‘facts’ extracted from the interview
data (e.g. ‘There were hardly any cars’) with historical sources, such as statistics (the
number of cars in that period), and to derive generalities and trends.
An insight into contemporary childhood was obtained by carrying out the same exten-
sive interviews with the children and parents presently living in each of the streets studied.
The children and parents were interviewed separately at home. Parents not only reflected
on their children’s childhood, but also often compared it to their own childhood (Philo,
2003). Although this added to our knowledge, we had to pay special attention to the differ-
ent growing-up contexts they referred to. Interviewing the children had its own compli-
cations (Punch, 2002). While some children did tell a lot themselves, others needed
encouragement. We asked all the children (and their parents’) permission to be inter-
viewed. Some children preferred to be interviewed in pairs (mainly with a friend),
while others asked to show us around their home and neighbourhood. These walks
turned into fruitful and pleasant expeditions. We followed the children through their
home territory and outside it, asking questions and listening to their stories and even
playing with them. However difficult it is to really give children a voice, we felt a great
commitment to the children we interviewed and hope that this is evidenced by this
report (Table 3).
We worked most intensively in Bankastraat, as it seemed to us to be the most complex
street. We carried out 99 interviews in total, each of which was fully taped and transcribed.
Each interview was complemented with a short questionnaire concerning such features as
Table 3. Number of interviews per category and per street
Wognumerstraat Bankastraat Van Breestraat
Children 11 13 10
Parents 7 9 6
Former children 4 8 4
Older neighbours 5 3 5
Professionals 4 7 3
Total 31 40 28
Source: Bouw and Karsten, 2004
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 279
age, gender, family size, parents’ profession, membership of clubs, housing conditions,
etc. To complete the fieldwork, we made 21 specific observations in the three streets
and their immediate environs, which led to additional informative talks with residents,
including children. These talks were particularly helpful in obtaining an insight into the
lives of the families that did not want to be interviewed, as was the case with some
migrant families in Bankastraat.
The respondents were identified by various means. Observational work required spend-
ing much time in the streets studied, and ‘being there’ helped enormously in gaining the
trust of parents and children alike. During the observations we became acquainted with
residents; we sometimes asked them to participate when we saw them walking with
their children, and this had a snowball effect. We also approached families and former
children suggested by professionals working in the neighbourhood, teachers at local
primary schools and people in the researchers’ own network. Making contact with
former children turned out to be less complicated than expected. For example, older resi-
dents remembered many names and even addresses of families who used to live nearby.
4. The Striking Similarity of Children’s Geographies in the 1950s and Early 1960s
One of the difficulties of oral research is that people do not remember all the details, and
they are especially good at remembering the big events and the happy endings. Although
that may become a bias, it is striking that many memories are pretty much the same. The
very general conclusion from the interviews can best be summarized by what one of the
former children told us, namely that playing meant playing outside. Weather conditions
seemed to be of minor importance. All our respondents mentioned the dominance of
playing outdoors, as well as the existence of large, mixed-age groups and the wide
variety of outdoor activities (which comprised more than only ‘playing’ in the limited
sense of the word). The absolute dominance of playing outside was reported in all three
streets, including the middle-class milieu of Van Breestraat, as one woman (1954) who
grew up in this street told us:
We played in the street a lot, often right in front of our house and on parking spaces,
which were not fully used at that time. And we also went further away. I remember
when the Hilton Hotel was being built. We used the sand and other building materials
to construct our own things. And later, when the hotel was open to the public, we tried
to reach the stairs when the porter was not paying much attention, and then from
upstairs we could look through the skylight and see the cooks working in the
kitchen ... When they were in a good mood, they gave us biscuits and things.
The broad character of playing outdoors, as expressed in the above quote, was also made
clear by comments made with reference to adults, shops and businesses in the neighbour-
hood. Interviewees often referred to the occupations of the fathers, for example ‘the boys
of Desmet from the cinema’, ‘Kees from the hostel’ and ‘the baker’s daughters’.Many
shops and small businesses closed their doors in the 1970s, but before then they functioned
as ‘good old places’ for the children in the neighbourhood (Oldenburgh, 1989). Children’s
involvement in activities such as shopping gave them the chance to get to know the shop-
keepers and the other customers, and to have intergenerational contacts.
The freedom of movement and the rather large territory described by the former chil-
dren is striking. Walking to school alone, but more often with siblings and friends, was
a very common practice. Many respondents reported that they had been escorted and
instructed by their mother only on the first day of their school career (at the age of four
or five). The interviewees told us stories about big groups of children crossing the
280 L. Karsten
neighbourhood four times a day. Sometimes, usually on Wednesday afternoons (no
school), the children explored other neighbourhoods, mostly on foot, because cycling
was a luxury not all of them could enjoy. It is interesting to note that the freedom of move-
ment mentioned was accompanied by frequent comments about the control exercised by
various people, such as neighbours, family members, older siblings and even the police:
There was a lot of supervision. When we played in the street, there was always
someone hanging out of the window. Not my mother, but others, yes. They were
checking to see whether we were getting up to mischief. And if they thought some-
thing was up, they’d shout at us. Yes, there was strong supervision in the street, also
from the police. Sometimes we really tried to challenge the police. Once we set fire to
an old car, and I remember the excitement I felt. In my imagination the policeman,
who we all knew rather well, would come round the corner on his bike any second
... (woman, 1951, Bankastraat)
Children used the outdoor space of the street for many different activities, and urban public
space was regularly appropriated for their own games. They built tents and even huts on
the pavements and defended these against intruders of all ages. Playing in the street with
few toys or other means generally demanded a high level of creativity.
In contrast to the outdoor space of the street, the private space inside the home was
hardly used as a space to play. Instead, home space was frequently mentioned as a
place to be cleaned and kept properly. Some former children reported that they preferred
not to be at home much, because being there meant an increased chance that they would be
asked to help with household chores. Others admitted that they simply did not have the
chance to spend much time at home. The generally small home was where parents—or
rather mothers—exercised firm control. Families played board games or engaged in
another ‘calm and dirt-free’ pastime only occasionally (usually on a Sunday). Thus,
there were not many possibilities inside, and the former children emphasized that
playing outside ‘all the time’ also had something to do with a restriction of choice
related to poverty:
Our house was very small. We didn’t have windows at the back, only on the street
side. I can’t remember playing inside much of the time. We had to go outside.
When we came home from school, we had some tea and something to eat, and
then we were supposed to go outside and stay there till at least six o’clock. We
didn’t have a key and we weren’t allowed to call out before six. (woman, Bankastraat,
In Wognumerstraat and Bankastraat, the rather big families did not have much space, time
or money to accommodate their children’s playing needs. They were not allowed to play in
the bedrooms, most of which were not heated and contained only beds. There was only
limited space for each person and there were few toys to play with. Adventure had to
be created by the children themselves, and that could only be done outdoors. At the
time, parental authority was self-evident and part of a broader hierarchical society
(de Swaan, 1979). Rules about where to play and what to do were clear and non-negotiable,
although in South Amsterdam, the use of space at home was to some extent negotiable. Also
in this middle-class neighbourhood, however, being quiet was considered to be a ‘natural’
condition for being tolerated indoors.
In The Netherlands, the first decades after World War II were characterized by strong
‘pillarization’, that is the vertical division of society along religious, ideological, and pol-
itical lines. There were Catholic, Protestant, Socialist and—though much smaller—
Communist ‘pillars’. Daily life was to a great extent organized in and by the pillars and
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 281
in rather strict separation. Each child went to the school of the pillar to which his or her
parents belonged, which meant that some children had to pass the neighbourhood
school in order to reach the school they attended. This strict segregation also applied to
membership of clubs. Children’s clubs used to be related to, or organized by, the
church or another institution related to one of the pillars. Such memberships, however,
were not as common as they now are. Some former children referred to the dreams
they had had of joining the scouts, a music class, etc., but only a few had succeeded. Gen-
erally, a child had to be much older than is the case today in order to join a club, and not all
clubs were considered adequate:
I had to wait until I was ten before I was allowed to join a soccer club. I really wanted
to join the Volewijkers, but we were Catholics and my parents didn’t want to even
think about that. So I went to RKVVV, a Roman Catholic club, while many of my
friends with whom I played in the neighbourhood went to the Volewijkers. That
was a quite a disappointment. (man, Wognumerstraat, 1949)
Different schools and different clubs resulted in segregated worlds. After school, however,
when it was time to play in the streets, the segregated character of children’s daily lives
faded away:
I joined a steady group of children, who all lived in our street or one of the streets
nearby. When we came out of school, out of our different schools, we used to
meet on a small square nearby and played together: Catholics, Protestants, also Com-
munist children, it didn’t matter to us. (woman, Bankastraat, 1955)
It was in the public space of the street that children of different pillars played together (and
quarrelled and even fought) and, if necessary, defended their street against ‘outsiders
(Wirdt, 2004)—children from nearby streets who, for various reasons, ‘had’ to be fought.
In such situations, the territory of the street was, at least temporarily, valued more highly
than the religious background. This was closely related to the fact that all children played
outdoors every day and claimed their street as their own—and common—territory. The
street was a meeting place for all. The different backgrounds did not matter much to
the children themselves. It did matter to some parents, however, although it was com-
monly understood that they would not (and in fact, could not) prevent their children
from contact with other pillars. To a certain degree, the outdoors belonged to the children.
To summarize the main features of children’s space time behaviour in the 1950s and
early 1960s, all interviewees were very clear about the dominance of playing outside, often
in large groups, and about performing a wide variety of activities. Public space was con-
structed as the ‘natural’ place for children, while home space was primarily constructed as
an adult place with stringent rules about housework. Playing outdoors was characterized
by much freedom of movement in large territories, although the interviewees frequently
referred to various forms of control exercised by various people. In addition, schools
and clubs had a segregated character according to the pillar of the parents of the children
attending them. On the level of the street, however, the integrated and intergenerational
use of space—both harmonious and disharmonious—was striking. Childhood cultures
in different neighbourhoods were quite similar, although in Van Breestraat there were
more opportunities to play inside and more frequent negotiations with respect to children’s
behaviour than was the case in North or East Amsterdam.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the relation between inside and outside space started to
change, slowly at first, but rapidly from the 1970s onwards. I have mentioned the decrease
in the average number of persons per home and the consequent increase in space at home.
The importance to children of the home as a place to spend their free time became greater
282 L. Karsten
with the increase in mean income levels and the subsequent rise in consumer goods,
including toys. The arrival of the television and the car were very influential events.
Right from the beginning, the ‘box’ was very popular. It was ‘magic’ enjoyed in large
groups of neighbour children:
Yes, I remember that first period very well. The Vellingas had a television, but they
lived all the way out at Stadionkade. I’d walk to their home when there was a chil-
dren’s programme on, on a Wednesday or Saturday. There were often more than
10 children there, and we all got lemonade and cookies and so on. It was quite a
happening. (man, Van Breestraat, 1949)
In the 1960s, children’s programmes were on only twice a week, and for only 45 minutes
at a time. The first televisions strengthened the feeling of being part of the neighbourhood
community. Houses with a television served as a meeting point for groups of friends and
acquaintances. Later, when almost every family had its own television set, watching the
box became an individualized activity, albeit within the context of family life. At the
same time that television ownership and use became more general, the ownership of
cars expanded further. The first cars in each street were considered something special,
something to be proud of, and because there were so few of them, they did not take up
much space. Former children told us that car drivers would hoot at them and they
would jump out of the way. As soon as the car had passed, they would continue
playing on the street. But, again, the situation changed as the number of cars increased
and the dangerous character of motorized traffic became clear. As one respondent
(1949) recalled about South Amsterdam:
My old street changed a lot thanks to the cars. I witnessed the first cars coming into
our street. It all happened rather fast. Then they put trafc lights up on Willemsparkweg,
and when the light was green cars used to accelerate so that they wouldn’t miss it.
That caused many accidents, sometimes even a death, or they hit someone on the
Statistics confirmed this: there were a growing number of traffic accidents involving
cars and children from the 1960s onwards, particularly in prosperous South Amsterdam
where the cars arrived earlier and in larger numbers than in the other two streets (de
Graaff, 2003).
5. Growing Diversity: The Childhoods of Today
Changing post-war spatial, social and cultural conditions—only partially mentioned
above—have had consequences for children’s space time behaviour, although the
impact has been unequal and diverse. First and foremost, playing outside has lost its
dominant character. In line with the literature, we conclude that today’s children
play outside less frequently and for less time, have a far more restricted home range
and are subject to far more interference from their parents. Concerns about children’s
increasingly eroded position in public space are rightly expressed, but the differences
among children are large.
While children’s time-space behaviour in the 1950s and 1960s can be roughly charac-
terized by one type—namely ‘outdoor childhood’, with children playing outside almost
every day—nowadays geographical childhood can be classified into at least three differ-
ent types: namely, outdoor children, indoor children and children of the ‘backseat’
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 283
Outdoor Children
Outdoor children who play outside almost every day still exist, even in Amsterdam, the
capital of, and the largest city in, The Netherlands. The children living in Wognumerstraat
predominantly fit into this category. It is clear that the spatial and social conditions in this
street explain the positive outdoor culture. The relatively quiet streets, the small green
parts and the bigger playground all provide attractive possibilities for spending time outdoors.
Children can easily cross the street or the green to make contact with children living in a
nearby street. Therefore, the negative influence of the overall loss of playmates per street
is less strong. Moreover, the backgrounds of the children in terms of class and ethnicity
are not very diverse. These social conditions of propinquity and homogeneity create the
basis for intensive social networks (Gans, 1968). Thus, children in Wognumerstraat enthu-
siastically use the different public spaces in their neighbourhood. From around ten years
old, they are allowed to explore the reed beds along the water’s edge (where they build
tree houses), the dike (where they occasionally encounter a real vagabond), and Purmerplein
(where they buy their sweets). The small number of migrant children living in the street par-
ticipate in this outdoor life, as do most children in the neighbourhood. Children, including the
migrant children, were able to name several playmates living in the same street, although they
did not all attend the same school. Between them, the eleven children we spoke with were
attending four different schools, for roughly the same reasons as in the past, namely academic
and religious reasons. Besides these politically inoffensive reasons, some parents reported the
wish not to send their children to a nearby ‘black’ school. But, just as in the past, going to
different schools does not cleave the children’s culture. They spontaneously gather, look
out the window to spot each other or call to each other through the letterbox. The neighbour-
hood offers opportunities to appropriate public space for themselves in many ways, from just
playing to hanging around and organizing picnics. One 12-year-old girl told us:
I think that playing outside is much nicer than playing at home. Because often every-
body’s outside, it’s often nice. These days we play a lot with our elastic ropes.
Together we make different jumping patterns. And sometimes we have our club in
our hut in the bush behind our home. In the hut we have picnics, and sometime we
go from there to Purmerplein to play on our roller-blades.
And from time to time, these children in North Amsterdam get a taste of the ‘thrilling’
experience associated with cities, namely the presence of shops, public transport and
liveliness. When asked about their ‘adventures’, children related how they had followed
homeless people who had been on their way to a nearby care centre. These were strangers
intensively spied upon from a safe base: their familiar neighbourhood.
Parents and older neighbours reported positive feelings about children spending time
outdoors. They value their neighbourhood as a place where social control still exists:
We, as neighbours, all look after the children. When someone notices something
strange, something, which doesn’t look okay, we don’t hesitate to go outside and
see what’s going on. During the summer, I sit outside almost all the time, and so
keeping an eye on things is a matter of course. I like that situation here very much.
Notwithstanding the striking continuity in Wognumerstraat, times have changed here also.
Cars and traffic have become more disturbing, the number of playmates has decreased, and
home ranges have shrunk considerably, particularly for children under ten. New ways to
spend time after school have appeared and all children play in their own home more often
than the former children used to. Compared to the past, possibilities to spend leisure time
284 L. Karsten
at home and elsewhere have grown. When we asked the children how they value their
neighbourhood, they were without exception very positive.
A second group of outdoor children live in Bankastraat. While we did not hear any com-
plaints about children playing outdoors in North Amsterdam, we certainly did in East
Amsterdam. The outdoor children of Bankastraat are all boys, mainly of large migrant
(predominantly Moroccan) families. They play soccer almost all the time and make
their presence known in many (often loud) ways. We met them during our observations
and spoke with them several times. Their situation of being outdoors so frequently and
of lacking alternative ways to spend their leisure time is very similar to that of the children
of the 1950s. They grow up in poor families, in small apartments and rarely join a club.
Only a few of the boys are a member of a soccer club. However, in sharp contrast to
the children of the 1950s, they do not have many friendly contacts in the street. They
told us that they are often bored. We saw that sometimes this resulted in negative beha-
viour towards smaller children. Many residents said that they felt that these boys colonize
the street at the expense of others. In their opinion, Bankastraat has become a street that is
only for children who are ‘good for nothing’.
Indoor Children
Another group of children in Bankastraat live the second type of indoor childhood: they
rarely play outside and if so only for short periods. They ‘play’ indoors (that is, mainly
watching TV), and they do not participate in many other activities. In earlier studies we
found that probably a quarter of all children in Amsterdam fit into this category (Karsten,
1998). These mainly lower-class children, many of whom have a migrant background, live
in deprived neighbourhoods that in many ways are similar to the Indische Buurt: a short-
age of nice spaces in which to play, crowded streets with many parked cars and a lot of
rubbish. The street is not valued as a place to play outside, and certainly not as a safe
place in which to wander around. Both parents and children report their anxiousness
about being outdoors (Harden, 2000) not only about the ‘big boys’ mentioned before
but also about strange people in general, as two Turkish girls (11 and 7) told us:
There are often strange people here on the street corner. That’s why we only play
outside on the sidewalk right in front of our door. The front door stays open, so
that we can run inside if as something happens ... It’s really not nice here; it’s
often very dirty. And there’s dog-poo on the sidewalk and in the schoolyard.
Some children added that their parents forbid them to play outside, which is a complete
reverse of the situation in the 1950s. This is often the case with the children of two
working parents, who are afraid that something might happen to their kids while they
are at work (Hochschild, 1997). Other children reported that they spend a lot of time in
the mosque. Parents consider the mosque as a safe place for their children, but the children
themselves were not always very positive about spending time there. Some of them miss
a ‘time-out’, particularly those who have to go every Saturday and Sunday, like this
Egyptian girl (12):
Going to the mosque is really instructive. I learn a lot, but sometimes I feel really
tired. I have to go to school every day of the week! Sometimes when I have a day
off—because the Dutch school is closed—I really feel relieved. Going to school
seven days a week is too much.
All the parents interviewed expressed their concern about the poor conditions in the neigh-
bourhood, regardless of whether they have sons or daughters. Although the residents
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 285
agreed that there is not enough space for children, more importantly they stressed the lack
of social safety. With the growing diversity among residents, social contact and social
control have faded away. In addition, migrant parents consider it problematic that their
children cannot socialize with Dutch children:
I want my children to play with Dutch children. But I never see Dutch children in this
street. It would be good for their Dutch, but I only know Turkish people living here.
And the Moroccan, German, English and whatever people living here, we don’t talk
to each other. Everyone’s very much on his own.
The heterogeneity on the level of the street seriously restricts social life, albeit only
because of language barriers. The social life of the families we spoke to is therefore
very much organized along lines of ethnicity. Playing with nephews and nieces during
a weekend picnic in the park was frequently mentioned by the children in Bankastraat.
They know by name only a small minority of the children living in their own street.
Backseat Generation
Almost all children living in Van Breestraat fit into the third type, namely that of the back-
seat generation.These are the escorted children whose time space behaviour is character-
ized primarily by adult-organized children’s activities. Some of them play outside from
time to time—and have scooters and skateboards to play on—while others hardly ever
do. They attend music classes, sport lessons and so on every week, and go rather frequently
to the cinema or a museum, or on another type of studious leisure outing:
I’m a member of the soccer club. On Wednesdays we have training exercises, and on
Saturdays we play a match. In addition, I go to a piano class on Fridays. I have to study
every day and I have to do homework every day. Every Monday a friend of mine comes
to my home, because both of his parents work on that day. On Tuesdays, the exchange
is the other way round. So the only day I don’t have a programme is Thursday.
And Sunday, I thought—until this 11-year-old boy reported that his parents consider
Sunday an excellent day for cultural outings. It is clear that children are not always
enthusiastic about some of the outings their parents organize, but on the whole we had
to conclude that children very much appreciate their diverse leisure life. Cities such as
Amsterdam can be exciting places for children, because of the supply of a wide range
of commercial and cultural children’s activities and domains (Hengst, 1997; O’Brien,
2003). For the backseat generation, Amsterdam is an archipelago consisting of different
places of which the own street is only one island in the chain. They move—escorted—
from the one domain to another in their urban field, constructing their identities as
modern young kids (Zinnecker, 1995; Karsten, 2002). These children are motivated to
acquire the cultural and social capital that is considered to be part of modern childhood.
In this wealthy day-to-day context, it is almost surprising that parents are rather con-
cerned about the lack of proper outdoor facilities. Van Breestraat parents value playing
outside positively and openly regret the lack of opportunities in their street. As the
mother of a ten-year-old boy told us:
It’s only recently that we’ve allowed Mark to play outside on his own. But he rarely
does. There are no other children from his school living in this street and there’s
hardly any space. He’s still too young to go to Vondelpark on his own. I think
that’s very bad for children. We tried to improve the situation by buying an allotment
in a big complex on the outskirts of Amsterdam. During the summer we often spend
286 L. Karsten
the whole Sunday there. But he needs a friend who wants to come with him, other-
wise he feels lonely. He doesn’t know the other children at the complex and he finds it
hard to make contact. So the only one who’s really glad with that place is me!
Other parents also look for ways to compensate for the restricted opportunities to play
outside. Some try to visit the nearby park (Vondelpark) as often as possible, while
others buy a season ticket for the zoo or sign their children up with a sports club.
Parents complain about the difficulty of playing outside not only in spatial terms (no
space outdoors) but also in social terms (no playmates). Mothers make great efforts to
invite friends to play with their son or daughter. In so doing, playing outside becomes
an adult controlled and arranged affair (as opposed to a spontaneous one), an activity per-
formed by a small group (which often comprises only two members) of good friends of a
similar age, background and school. When we asked the Van Breestraat children about
playing outdoors, some started to talk about rather exotic experiences related to holidays
and campsites.
The changing character of indoor space at home as a place for children’s play is best
illustrated in the spatial and social context of South Amsterdam. First, it is illustrated
by the presence of individually used and well-equipped bedrooms, which offer a lot of
play possibilities and an escape from parental control (Solberg, 1990; Sibley, 1995).
Behind the doors of their rooms, parents think of their children as being safe and the chil-
dren themselves feel free: in my own room, I can do my own thing’. Second, daily nego-
tiations result in democratizing the access to other spaces (besides the own bedroom)
where children’s play is facilitated and even ‘outdoor play’ is tolerated. Parents and
children alike negotiate the ‘proper’ use of the spacious rooms in South Amsterdam
We put that little table over there to make two goal posts’. Also in Bankastraat and
Wognumerstraat we saw examples of ‘outdoor play’ performed indoors, such as hide
and seek, and the building of huts. This phenomenon manifests not only the transformation
of what used to be adult space into contemporary child space, but also the enlarging of the
home space for play and the intruding of traditionally outdoor activities (soccer was the
most extreme example we found) into home space: playing outdoors indoors.
6. Conclusions and Reflection
In our extensive research, we combined different methods in order to overcome the diffi-
culties of mapping the past. With the help of oral history we studied the changing character
of children’s geographies in this locality, but we had to look for complementary methods
to counterbalance the bias in positive memories, which seem to be part of looking back at
one’s youth. Notwithstanding the great effort we made to gain a full insight into patterns of
the past, we are aware of the case-study character of this research project.
This study confirms the thesis that over time, public space has been transformed from a
space that belongs to children (child space) into one meant for adults and accompanied
children only (Valentine, 1996). The amount of time that urban children spend playing
outdoors has declined considerably. While children used to be outside for hours at a
time and often participated in large groups, nowadays playing outside is much more
limited in time, company and activity. Their use of public space to play and to socialize
and their freedom of movement have decreased, although not for all children and not
for all neighbourhoods to the same degree. The impact of spatial limitations related to
traffic safety and a lack of space to play differs: some neighbourhoods (Bankastraat and
Van Breestraat) have had higher costs in this respect than others (Wognumerstraat).
However, the influence of changed social conditions seems more important: the decrease
Continuity and Change in Urban Children’s Daily Use of Space 287
in the number of children, parents’ and children’s concerns about safety, and the middle-
class culture related to the acquisition of cultural resources during childhood have all led to
a reduction in the amount of time children play outdoors.
First, it is easy to romanticize children’s traditionally high engagement in outdoor play.
Notwithstanding the overall positive nature of such play, we cannot agree that ‘it all used
to be better’. In fact, this study demonstrates several examples of the opposite. Playing
outside, socializing with neighbours and taking care of siblings was not always preferred
by children and was not always a matter of choice. Children were supposed to spend time
outside, both for their pleasure and out of necessity. In the first decades after World War II,
many families struggled with poverty, a shortage of means and very small houses. Many
children did not have any other way to spend their free time than to play outside. And
although some dimensions of traditional outdoor childhood have disappeared, new chil-
dren’s activities that fit perfectly into the urban scene (such as skate boarding) have
emerged (Karsten and Pel, 2000). Those children who can profit from the new urban
advantages do not feel nostalgia for the past, but value the new pleasures that are available
to them (Hengst, 1997).
Second, children’s lives have become more home-centred (Sibley, 1995). The amount
of time children spend at home has grown, and activities that used to be done outside have
become part of the indoor children’s culture. Smaller and more prosperous families are at
the basis of this development. While private space at home used to be the domain of the
housewife, today the situation is the reverse: private space at home has changed from an
adult space into a child space. Children value this development differently. Most of the
children we interviewed in North and South Amsterdam could easily sum up the positive
sides of playing inside with attractive toys and, importantly, their freedom from parental
control (Solberg, 1990). But some children, particularly those growing up in Bankastraat,
do not profit so much, or not at all, from modern, home-centred child culture. They feel
isolated and would very much like to have more friends with whom to play, as well as
more safety outdoors (Harden, 2000).
Third, diversity among children has increased considerably, leading to more inequality
among them. We can distinguish at least three geographical childhoods, each having differ-
ent positives and negatives for the children themselves. Outdoor children represent the line
of continuity with the past. This type is characterized by the frequent use of public space,
some out of choice, others because of a lack of alternatives. The first group living in
Wognumerstraat with its safe and attractive play spaces in fact have an enviable position:
they enjoy the traditional profits of accessible outdoor space in combination with a welcom-
ing and democratized indoor space. The second group find themselves only in the shadow
of the traditional pleasures of street play. Social and spatial circumstances in streets like
Bankastraat have changed so much that the present street only vaguely resembles the
common children’s territory it used to be. Two new geographical childhoods have emerged:
indoor childhood and the childhood of the backseat generation. Both share parents’ feeling
of urgency to intervene to a high degree in children’s free time and, as a result, the reduction
of children’s independent movement through urban public space (Valentine, 1997). Indoor
children are the group we should perhaps be most worried about. Their domestication is not
at all compensated for by means of alternative leisure activities. Their homes are small
apartments, their streets are unattractive and their parents are poor, hard-working people.
It is exactly these indoor children who suffer most: they have the least inside space in
which to play, they have lost their access to outdoor space and they profit less from the
modern amenities that make playing more pleasurable. The third type (the backseat gener-
ation) is the most privileged: the children have many alternatives for playing indoors and
diverse leisure activities elsewhere. However, also these children pay a price: they have
288 L. Karsten
fewer spontaneous meetings in the street with other children from the neighbourhood. It is
remarkable that children growing up in deprived neighbourhoods and those coming of age
in upper-middle-class neighbourhoods share the same marginal position when it comes to
the freedom of movement in public spaces. But while the latter group of children is com-
pensated in all kinds of ways, the former have no choice other than to wait until their parents
come home. Over time, class-based patterns in the way children are growing up have
become more manifest (Lareau, 2000).
In light of the conclusion that home is increasingly becoming a child space and supervi-
sion a more common practice, I wish to end with a reflection on the loss of children’s
agency. From the stories about the past we can learn that children as junior citizens can
contribute positively to urban public life. Children’s participation in urban public space
used to be extensive, and children were able to make a difference and to build bridges.
In The Netherlands, society was largely organized around pillars of different religions.
In the mixed urban context of Amsterdam in the 1950s, children succeeded in partially
breaking down the strongly separated worlds of families with different backgrounds.
With the exception of such streets as Wognumerstraat, nowadays the bridging agency of
children themselves seems to be diminished: they do not play outside that often; they
have less freedom of movement; and they have a smaller territory. They simply meet a
smaller number and variety of children. The home-centred and supervised culture of
today’s children’s not only deprives them of real-life experiences (playing outside has
become more focused in terms of time, space and activity), but also separates them from
children with diverse backgrounds. Emphasizing this mechanism may contribute to the
long list of arguments for putting child-friendly outdoor space higher on the policy agenda.
I should like to thank all the children and adults who participated in this research. I am
indebted to Carolien Bouw for the pleasure and inspiration she provided while working
together on this project. My thanks also go to Vera van den Bos, Martine Buijs, Laura
de Graaff, Marleen Stroo and Bernard Kruithof, all of whom did part of the fieldwork. I
feel grateful to Pia Bjorklid and Maria Nordstrom for their invitation to lecture on the con-
ference Public Space in Lund (2004) where I presented a first version of this paper.
1. All figures come from the Onderzoek en Statistiek (O þ S; ‘Research and Statistics’) department of the city
of Amsterdam. Many figures were collected especially for the purpose of this research. This applies in
particular to the figures at the street scale (see Table 2).
2. From here on, I shall sometimes refer to Wognumerstraat as ‘North Amsterdam’, Van Breestraat as ‘South
Amsterdam’ and Bankastraat as ‘East Amsterdam’.
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... New geographies of childhood emerge, in addition to the outdoor children, which characterized childhood historically, we have today: indoor childhood and childhood of the backseat generation (Karsten, 2005). If outdoor children enjoy freedom of movement with the disadvantage of being more at their own risk, the situation of indoor children is, for the author, the most worrying since excessive domestication is not compensated with alternative activities. ...
... In these spaces, play is limited to the rules of use of the equipment and well-defined spatial limits. It is in the domestic space that children manage to have some autonomy, escaping from their parents' control (Karsten, 2005;Solberg, 1990). In our study, children expressed feelings of well-being (joy, relaxation, freedom) in relation to outside spaces, as opposed to the isolation and boredom experienced inside home. ...
... They are the backseat generation and the most privileged. Children from context B, one of the segments of the lower classes portrayed here, represent an outdoor childhood (Karsten, 2005) that enjoys greater freedom and mobility, demonstrating a sense of agency, mastering common spaces and interacting within the "adults' world", with the risks this entails. Another group, within the lower classes, is, however, confined to their apartments, showing traces of "social anomy" and abandonment. ...
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... The relation between inside and outside spaces started to change at the beginning of the 1960s, but especially rapidly from the 1970s onwards. Karsten (2005) stated that nowadays playing outside is much more limited in terms of time, space and activity. In addition, the amount of time children spend at home has grown, and activities that used to be done outside have become part of children's indoor culture. ...
... Children saw opportunities for playing everywhere and everything that came to mind was played. These findings are in line with other studies (Karsten, 2005;Holt et al., 2015;Nicholson et al., 2016). For example, Karsten (2005) comparison of children's use of space and time in Amsterdam in the 1950s and early 1960s with that of today highlighted that the 1950s and 1960s was characterized as "outdoor childhood, " with children playing outside for hours and in large groups. ...
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... A razão para esses dois itens serem representativos da estrutura de crenças dos pais pode ser explicada por uma diferença geracional. Os pais reconhecem uma mudança no uso dos espaços abertos ao longo das gerações e suas representações nostálgicas de uma infância com memórias de boas vivências nesses lugares -onde usufruíam de maior contato com a natureza e autonomia de exploração (CLEMENTS, 2004;KARSTEN, 2005;SKAR;KROGH, 2009;VALENTINE;MCKENDRICK, 1997;WITTEN;KEARNS;CARROLL, 2013) -influenciam na construção de suas crenças e práticas familiares. De fato, há uma associação positiva entre regras e hábitos de realização de atividades ao ar livre e a maior quantidade de tempo em atividades ao ar livre dos pais com os filhos (REMMERS et al., 2014). ...
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O estudo objetivou investigar a estrutura interna de duas escalas de atitude parental, originalmente produzidas em língua inglesa e então adequadas ao contexto brasileiro. Da aplicação de questionários online com 105 genitores, propriedades psicométricas dos instrumentos foram investigadas pela análise de consistência interna, de componentes principais e estudo relacional entre as variáveis atitudinais. Na Atitude Parental para com a Natureza, os itens agruparam-se em adesão estética, oportunidades de contato e transformação positiva e, na Atitude Parental para com a Criança na Natureza, em benefícios ao desenvolvimento, riscos à segurança e repercussões desfavoráveis. Os Coeficientes Alfa de Cronbach mostraram-se satisfatórios e, apesar de tipicamente positiva, a atitude parental foi desfavorecida pela percepção de riscos à segurança da criança.
... Näin nuorten mahdollisuudet ottaa lähiympäristöä itsenäisesti haltuun saattavat olla hyvin rajatut. Lia Karsten (2005) on kuvannut tätä ilmiötä "takapenkkisukupolven" käsitteellä, joka viittaa tilanteisiin, joissa vanhemmat toimivat lastensa autonkuljettajina ja joissa lasten ja nuorten suhde ympäristöön rakentuu auton ikkunoiden takana vilisevien maisemien jatkumona. ...
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Tämän tutkimuksen tarkoituksena on tuottaa laaja ja moniulotteinen tietopohja nuorten vapaa-ajasta kaupunkiympäristöissä korona-aikana eli koronaviruksen ja siitä aiheutuneiden rajoitustoimenpiteiden synnyttämänä erikoisena ajanjaksona. Tutkimuksen lähtökohtana on paikkatajun käsite. Sillä tarkoitamme nuorten ymmärrystä, osaamista ja mielikuvia erilaisista vapaa-ajan toimintaympäristöistä sekä kaupungin maantieteellisistä sijainneista. Tässä tutkimuksessa käsite liittyy kiinteästi kaupunkitilaan ja sen moninaisiin sosiaalisiin ja tilallisiin käytäntöihin. Tutkimuksessa kysymme: 1) missä ja miten nuoret liikkuvat pandemian aikakaudella kaupunkiympäristössä, 2) millaisia kokemuksia nuorilla on näistä ympäristöistä korona-aikana ja 3) millaisia mielikuvia nuoret liittävät eri paikkoihin. Näiden tutkimuskysymysten kautta rakennamme ymmärrystä siitä, 4) miten nuorisotyön universaalit palvelut voisivat jatkossa vastata vielä paremmin koronan aiheuttamaan nuorten pahoinvointiin. Katseemme on ensisijaisesti nuorissa, toiseksi jalkautuvassa nuorisotyössä, osittain nuorisotyössä myös laajemmin. Tutkimuksemme keskiössä ovat alle 18-vuotiaat nuoret, mutta olemme pidättäytyneet ehdottomista ikärajoista tutkimuksen fokuksessa. Tutkimus toteutettiin pääkaupunkiseudulla (ts. Helsingissä, Espoossa, Vantaalla ja Kauniaisissa) sekä Tampereella, mutta hankkeen tulokset ovat hyödynnettävissä valtakunnallisesti. Tutkimushankkeen perusta rakennettiin yhtäältä käymällä aktiivisesti keskusteluja mukana olevien kaupunkien nuorisopalveluiden työntekijöiden kanssa ja toisaalta tutkijoiden jalkautuessa kaupunkien julkisiin ja puolijulkisiin tiloihin sekä kaupunkien jalkautuvan nuorisotyön rinnalla että itsenäisesti. Jalkautuessaan tutkijat havainnoivat nuoria ja heidän vapaa-aikaansa sekä kävivät vuoropuhelua nuorisotyöntekijöiden kanssa. Havainnot kirjattiin kenttäpäiväkirjoihin. Tästä muodostui hankkeen ensimmäinen aineisto. Toinen aineistokokonaisuus kerättiin nuorten ja nuorisotyöntekijöiden ryhmä ja yksilöhaastatteluilla. Kolmas aineisto koostuu nuorten itse tuottamasta, korona-ajan kokemuksia käsittelevästä aineistosta. Aineiston keräämiseksi järjestettiin muun muassa 15–20-vuotiaille nuorille suunnattu kilpailu, jossa nuoria pyydettiin kertomaan, mitä he haluaisivat aikuisten ymmärtävän nuorten elämästä korona-aikana. Neljäntenä aineistona tutkimuksessa hyödynnetään nuorisotyöntekijöiden tuottamia korona-ajan kokemusaineistoja ja viidentenä media-aineistoja. Kirja sisältää 35:ltä eri kirjoittajalta yhteensä kahdeksan vertaisarvioitua lukua, viisi muuta lukua, kuusi näkökulmakirjoitusta sekä kaunokirjallisia tekstejä tai muita taiteellisia teoksia 14 nuorelta. Työskentely on ollut tiimietnografian sovellus. Nuorten hengailu korona-aikaan on mahdollista nähdä nuorten pyrkimykseksi elää rajoitustenkin keskellä mahdollisimman normaalia elämää. Hengailu ylläpitää nuoruusvaiheen hyvinvointia, ja vertaisten kesken vietetty aika useimmiten tukee aktiivisesti nuoren kehitystä. Toisin kuin moni ohjattu harrastus, kauppakeskukset, puistot ja muut kaupungin ulkotilat taipuivat hengailuun sulkutoimien tiukentuessakin. Kaupunkitilan sosiaalisuus muuttui rajusti. Nuorisotyö lähti aktiivisesti jalkautumaan nuorten tueksi. Aikuiset ja media näkivät nuorten ryhmien hengailun aikaisempaa ongelmallisemmaksi aikana, jolloin Suomen hallitus ja terveysviranomaiset aktiivisesti viestivät välttämään turhia sosiaalisia lähikontakteja. Jalkautuessaan kaupunkitilaan tutkijat havaitsivat, että suurin osa nuorista oleskeli kaupunkitilassa rajoitusten puitteissa ilman, että aiheutti häiriötä. Nuoret hyödynsivät sinnikkäästi hengailuun muun muassa kauppakeskuksia, mikä aiheutti neuvottelua tilassa valtaa käyttävien järjestyksenvalvojien ja myös muiden tilaa käyttävien aikuisten kanssa. Kaupunkitilassa tapahtuva syrjintä ja häirintä tai nuorten huolta aiheuttava päihteiden käyttö eivät ole uusia ilmiöitä, jotka olisivat syntyneet koronapandemian tuomien muutosten myötä. Nuoret ja nuorisotyöntekijät ovat kuitenkin kuvanneet häiritsevän käytöksen lisääntyneen koronan aikaisessa kaupungissa. Päihteiden käytössä on tapahtunut polarisaatiota, ja huolta aiheuttava päihteiden käyttö lisää väkivallan ja muun laittoman toiminnan riskejä. Tutkimuksen tuloksien pohjalta esitetään 17 suositusta ja toimenpide-ehdotusta nuorten vapaa-ajan kestävän hyvinvoinnin entistä paremmaksi tukemiseksi jatkossa. Asiasanat: nuorisotutkimus, etnografia, nuoret, vapaa-aika, vapaa-ajan tilat, covid-19, nuorten asema, kaupunkiseudut, koti, nuorisotyö, nuorisopalvelut, hyvinvointi, häirintä, epäasiallinen kohtelu, päihteet, järjestyksenvalvojat, nuorisokulttuurit, jengit, nuorisorikollisuus, tyylit, sosiaalisuus, yksinäisyys
... Anche se i bambini di questa "backseat generation" (Karsten, 2005) vivono sistematicamente un senso di distrazione rispetto al proprio mondo, l'esperienza dello smarrimento può avere anche un valore educativo (La Cecla, 2011), e in questo quadro, l'educazione all'aperto (Antonietti, Bertolino, 2017), che sollecita l'uscita verso l'inconsueto, non aggiunge nulla di nuovo, se non la tensione e l'auspicio di una riconciliazione dei tempi dell'apprendimento con quelli dell'esperienza, attraverso l'assunzione della lentezza come dispositivo didattico (Farné, Bortolotti e Terrusi, 2018). ...
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Quanti soggetti, quante relazioni! Cambiare gioco nell’Antropocene
... Clements (2004) established that today children play more indoors than the last generation, devoting more time to television and computer games. Karsten (2005) also reported that today children play more indoors, have smaller areas where they can play, have fewer playmates, play more at home, and parents impose more limits on them. ...
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Children can understand the natural world through play. It occupies a leading place in children's education. Children, when they see and do things, they learn more than when they read or listen. The game's essential function is to help the child adapt to the world in which he lives. Play is not a simple occupation in which children waste their time but how they maintain their mental health and establish and develop relationships with each other. The play also provides an appropriate framework for developing values and supporting education in achieving its goals. The values are transmitted both through the family and through the school. This article tried to find the values transmitted through plays in early education.
There is an increasing understanding of the role of the built environment on children's neighbourhood mobility and play and the importance of this for children's development. This has led to concerns over children's declining neighbourhood mobility and calls to see an increase in children's use of public space. This paper draws on findings from a research study working with 9 and 10 year olds living in inner London, England. The children participated in go-along interviews and a range of other qualitative methods, which explored how they used their neighbourhoods for getting around and play. Findings from the study demonstrate the importance of threshold spaces for children in supporting both their neighbourhood play and their wider neighbourhood travel and mobility. Threshold spaces are defined as a semi-public space that straddle the gap between the private space of the home and the wider public realm. Children's use of threshold spaces was influenced by a reduced movement function in these spaces, restricting vehicles and people passing through, and the presence of signals that it was ok to play, with girls being more sensitive to these features than boys. Threshold spaces were important as a start point for children's wider explorations of their neighbourhoods.
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So far, children have not gained much attention in the field of segregation studies. In the research reported here, the notion of segregation is related children's daily life paths in the public domain. Given the local dimension of children's everyday lives and the growing number of 'black' and 'white' schools, it is apparent that children deserve a higher place on the agenda of segregation studies. Drawing on research carried out in five different Amsterdam neighbourhoods, this paper addresses children's time-space behaviour—after-school time. The central question is whether differentiation and segregation form vital dimensions in Amsterdam childhoods. Special attention has been given to children's orientation towards the public domain, their membership of leisure clubs and their freedom of movement. Results show that differences among children growing up in Amsterdam are big. At first sight, there seems to be a sharp divide between Amsterdam children with Dutch parents and Amsterdam children with a Turkish/ Moroccan or Surinamese/Antillean background. However, incorporating gender and class into the analyses, the picture becomes less clear. Ethnicity is a far more complex and dynamic concept than is sometimes argued. However, on the geographical scale of the neighbourhood, we must conclude that in three out of the five studied areas the contours of segregated childhoods are evidently clear. The material presented in this paper is based on observational studies and interviews in public playgrounds and a survey with 454 schoolchildren (7-12 years of age) and 214 parents.
In the 1980s and 1990s, North America and Europe have experienced a rising tide of concern about the behavior and well-being of children. On the one hand, there is increased popular concern about young children's vulnerability to stranger-dangers in public space. On the other hand, adults also appear to be concerned about the violence and unruliness of older children in public places. This paper uses these contradictory concerns to explore how public space is being produced as a space that is "naturally" or "normally" an adult space. It also examines the way that this "normality" is being disrupted by teenagers, who are provoking anxieties among adults concerning their continued ability to regulate the activities of the young and therefore maintain their spatial hegemony. In doing so, the paper questions the extent to which "public" is an appropriate term to describe the streets and the suburbs, if their maintenance requires the exclusion or marginalization of young people. It also explores the paradoxical meanings of the home as a public space and the street as a private space for many children.
Using ethnographic data of US white and African-American children 7-10 years of age, this study examines the role of social class in shaping the contours of childhood, pace and rhythm of life, and the amount of interweaving between parents' and children's lives. Focusing on middle-class and working-class boys, the results show that middle-class children spend time in activities organized by adults stressing public performance and skill development. Working-class children's lives tend to revolve around informal play, visiting kin and `hanging out'. Middle-class children's activities, while formally leisure, were similar to school activities. There are also parallels between middle-class children's activities and the nature of their parents' work.
Children's publicness (Kinderöffentlichkeit) develops and occurs in local urban areas. It is obviously threatened today by the lower density of the child population, the institutionalization of childhood and changes in the urban landscape. That does not mean that it is disappearing. Rather, it is undergoing a substantial change. `Scripts' created by the media and involving intensive consumption influence when, where and how children's publicness actually occurs. In dealing with these `scripts', children develop new forms of temporary publicness. Of considerable importance are attempts to develop a new way of integrating medial, sensual-active, body-, space-and group-related actions. The article reconstructs these interrelationships from a cultural analysis perspective. The analysis itself is based on many years of empirical research.
Since children spend most of their time close to home, the neighborhood environment affects their daily life activity patterns in a number of important ways. Based on research conducted in Oakland, California, this paper reports results of a survey comparing children's play patterns across neighborhoods of different social status, different terrains, different levels of access to play space, and different levels of municipally provided after-school services. The paper argues that few neighborhoods are designed with the needs of young people in mind. By examining how children's play patterns in four neighborhoods are constrained or facilitated by the terrain, by the availability of "managed" and "unmanaged" play space, and by play problems associated with questions of safety and mobility, it is possible to see how planning and land-use decisions affect the everyday experience of the young.