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Youth engaged in health research

Youth panel is speaking out about overprotection and parents trying to keep them too safe.

The children are speaking out. A panel of young people recently completed a documentary called “Overprotection and Safe Risk,” under the supervision of Queen’s University researchers Colleen Davison and Will Pickett (Public Health Sciences) and Valerie Michaelson (School of Religion). The group has one simple message – let them play, let them be kids.

The video grew out of Child Health 2.0, a Queen’s-based research program that brings together researchers, practitioners, children and their families from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. The aim of the work is to support child health.

The panel explored their own boundries on the rope course at the RKY Camp.

"Our youth advisory committee works with us to provide input and advice on the activities of the project and on the research questions we are studying, and they have become a valuable part of the research team. This documentary was one of the projects that we worked on together in 2015.

“First we asked the group to brainstorm together to come up with what thought were the most important health issues facing young people today ” explains Dr. Michaelson. “They had a lot of great ideas, but the one they decided to work with was overprotection.”

The group started off discussing a number of issues facing young people including not being able to fail a test, not being allowed balls on the playground, not keeping score in soccer for fear one team will lose and banning tobogganing. They questioned the rules that were supposed to keep them safe. The idea morphed into a video discussing overprotection, risks and safe play.

“We all want to keep our kids safe but the panel discussion revealed youth are concerned about certain rules and that their parents – and society – are sometimes trying too hard to keep them safe,” says Dr. Michaelson. “They want to be able to explore, be free without the fear of getting hurt or failing.  And they also recognized that sometimes falling down, or losing a game, or doing something that stretches you even though it has risks is part of how you grow strong.”

As part of the video, the youth organized a panel discussion featuring elementary school teacher Chris Davison, Kingston General Hospital (KGH) emergency doctors Heather Murray and Susan Bartels, and child psychologist Sian Phillips. They also visited RKY Camp to challenge themselves on the high rope course and talk about protection and risky play.

The young panel took away some key messages from the research. "Kids need to learn that it's okay to make mistakes," says Cameron. "You have to take risks to learn successfully."

The research and video were presented Sunday, Feb. 21 at the Tett Centre during a research showcase hosted by the Child Health 2.0 team.