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The Dangers of Play

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The Dangers of Play

            What is play? In what environments can it be helpful or harmful? These are some of the questions that the concept of play brings up. Everybody has his or her own opinion about it and how it is limited. In her short posting “Play Does Have Limits,” Sydney claims that play stops as soon as someone gets hurt. This is when children are no longer having fun, and are therefore incapable of playing. Contrastingly, in the fourth chapter of “Urban Wildscapes” “Playing in industrial ruins” by Tim Edersor, play is described as something limitless. In fact, Edersor claims that play truly becomes a learning experience when children are injured. Both authors seem to agree that play takes place in “rough” areas, but Sydney’s posting says that it ends with injuries, while Edersor says that that is where the learning experience begins.

            It is agreed by both authors that play is an experience that can be enjoyable and also a learning experience. They both talk about playing in a rough environment, and how destruction of old objects created a unique experience. Sydney says, “It was fun playing with these objects, further damaging them in order to create something totally new.” The breaking of items was actually what expanded play and created an environment of creativity. Edensor agrees with this concept, but he takes it one step further. “A lack of overt regulation is a key attribute of ruins, important in relation to play since this provides a space outside the strictures of ‘health and safety’, systematic surveillance and material maintenance” (66). According to this author, the absence of authority is essential because there is no safety. Sydney claims that safety is the thing that allows play to continue, and still make the entire experience a pleasurable one. 

            There are many risks involved in play, especially play in a dangerous environment. Cuts, bruises, and blood are inevitable in such ways of playing, but the important question is where to draw the line between dangerous in a productive way, and dangerous in a lethal way. To Sydney, this line is when play is forced to a halt due to reactions to injuries. “Although it would seem that [injuries] limited our play, it was really our social interactions with one another that stopped us.” Sydney states that playing stops because of the “social rules” that say that it is time to stop having fun when someone is hurt. Society has created this limit and it is difficult to break. However, Edensor mentions that play helps develop many skills in life. One such skill is the detection of danger and what to do when that occurs. “Akin to the developmental approaches to play discussed below, it could be argued that these forms of play help develop useful skills of recognizing and negotiating danger and knowing one’s bodily capabilities. Yet beyond these instrumental approaches…such encounters with risk need also be understood as forms of ‘extreme’, ‘adventure’ or ‘lifestyle’ sport, involving self expression, playfulness and heightened embodied sensation…” (70). Going beyond the understanding of behavior and actually making it a “lifestyle sport” could be more beneficial than play that is without danger. This goes against Sydney’s views of play and how it can be taken as something limited.

Playing in an area prone to injuries creates an environment that will be more open to child development and the development of abilities that can only be learned through play. This is done through reexamining the places that where we play. Ederson says, “…Play can be a means to make wild those spaces that otherwise may be seen as ‘smooth’, revealing their rough edges and the potential these hold to refigure and challenge systems of order and governance…” (76). Breaking the rules and living creatively has its pros but also has its cons. Sydney presents the other side in her post, “Because we saw someone in distress, we realized that our play was no longer purely enjoyable. Essentially, play has limits that vary from person to person and depend on how we perceive our social environment.” She says that although it was fun playing in a rough situation, the loss of fun created a non-productive atmosphere as well.

            There is a difference between dangerous play and safe play, but the play that is more fun is the dangerous one. This is when play is taken to the next level and used to develop many skills. Dangerous play is productive play, where a child consciously needs to be aware of what could go wrong, and go past the societal limit of stopping when things actually do go wrong. Dealing with injuries and continuing to be playful is another skill that can be learned only through such experiences.



Works cited:

Sydney, Play Does Have Limits, webby post

Edensor, Tim, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington and Jon Binnie. Playing in Industrial Ruins: Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in Spaces of Material Alterity and Low SurveillanceUrban Wildscapes. Ed. Anna Jorgensen and Richard Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2011. 65-79.