XXTREME MINORS - WHEN SHOULD WE ALLOW MINORS TO PUT THEMSELVES IN DANGEROUS SITUATIONS?
When should we allow minors to put themselves in dangerous situations?
We like to see teenagers push themselves, strive to achieve great things, show they are independent, and take risks. But taking risks can mean putting oneself in dangerous situations. There are the immediate physical dangers of extreme sports, the unpredictable hazards of natural expeditions, the psychological and physical risks of body-focused activities such as ballet, and the more mundane dangers of everyday life, including driving, consuming alcohol, and regularly eating fast food.
How dangerous is too dangerous? How old is old enough? Who should make these decisions?
- Reading of suggested materials below
- General understanding of the major issues in question:
- The range of risky behaviors and dangerous activities minors might engage in
- The responsibilities of parents to their children
- Society's obligation to protect minors
- The rights and limitations of autonomy/self-determination
LIST OF SUGGESTED MATERIALS TO BE READ BEFORE CLASS:
The resources below are intended to give the reader an introduction to the problem that presents them with some of the major issues of the debate without going into much detail about any specific issue.
- Dreams scuppered for Dutch sailor girl by Rob Kievit (BBC News, Aug 28, 2009)
- Sorting Out Mixed Media Signals by Sara Rimer (New York Times, Apr. 16,1996)
- Observer: The Demon Success by Russell Baker (New York Times, Apr. 20, 1996)
- Social justice framework and other discourses on the rights of children by Julia Waldman (Child Welfare Across Borders, Dec. 2003)
- 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do Gever Tulley, TED Conference, March 2007 (Video)
Do: Ask students to think about and discuss the following questions:
- What is risk? What is a dangerous situation? What sort of activities might be dangerous? (think here of the large range of dangerous situations)
- Can risk be a good thing? What is the value of putting oneself in a dangerous situation?
- What responsibilities do parents have to their minor chidren?
- How might these responsiiblities require parents to limit these minors' exposure to various dangers?
- What are society's responsibilities to minors?
- When, if ever, do these responsibilities justify overriding parental decisions about which activities are too dangerous for their children to participate in?
- What should determine when a minor is qualified to determine for themselves whether or not they should engage in risky behavior?
* For additional ideas on assignments and lesson plan you might develop with this material, visit our Suggestions for incorporating lessons ethics into your course page.