Risk, nostalgia, and the production of the ideal childhood in online commentary on children’s outdoor play
Sharpe, Erin K
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We use Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine comments posted online in response to news articles that reported on one Canadian neighbourhood’s ‘ban’ on children’s outdoor play. Our analysis showed that reader comments, both for and against the ban on street play, accessed discourses of risk that produced an idealized childhood based on close parental supervision. Additionally, nostalgic discourse, the feeling that unfettered, wholesome outdoor play has been lost and cannot be reclaimed, also made claims about who the ideal childhood is for. While marginalized children continue to experience disadvantage that inherently exposes them to risks daily, White, middle class children already have access to safer streets, both parent presence or unquestioned but appropriate parental absence, and play in the streets can be part of their everyday lives. We consider how the idealized childhoods produced by discourses of risk and nostalgia influence the materiality of children’s outdoor play, including how children’s time is organized and who gets to organize it, how play is experienced and who gets to experience it; in ideal ways, in ideal spaces, and for the ideal child.