We already know that lawsuit abuse impacts access to healthcare, insurance costs, and (if you live in New Jersey) your ability to profit from driving under the influence. But a new study suggests that frivolous litigation may have extended its reach to the playground as well.
According to research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, three primary barriers have been identified which impede children’s usage of playgrounds. A greater focus on academics and a lack of financial capital to install or maintain equipment isn’t necessarily surprising. But “risk of injury” is a barrier which is un-divorceable from liability.
Daycare centers, schools, municipalities, YMCAs, and other public entities (read: taxpayers) may be in legal jeopardy if a child is injured, irrespective of the reason. This reality has prompted playgrounds to adopt a plastic, safety-minded exterior – to the point of boredom. Alice G. Walton writes in the Atlantic that children master such equipment quickly and move on to more intoxicating electronic stimuli. Monkey bars just aren’t as exciting when they’re so low to the ground that you can walk, instead of holding on for dear life.
“Safety guidelines, which are admittedly important, can defeat the very purpose of the playground: rather than promoting physical activity, they are dampening it,” writes Walton.
Of course, experts say that the ripple effects of dwindling, unstructured playtime will affect how today’s children solve problems and resolve conflict as adults. Fewer cuts and bruises may save entities hefty seesaw-induced legal fees later on, but at the cost of a sedentary childhood.
Lawsuit abuse has managed to make its way to the playground. And it’s a painful reality to digest.