mallplaygorund
Image via Ron Miguel

We left the playground early after school yesterday. I couldn’t take it. A 3 yr old was running around with fists full of stones and throwing them at his brother. His sister. The kids from his playgroup. And my son. In his face, in his hair.

I’d had enough and called the boys to go home, as I usually do when the kids of others start to get out of hand. The mom, nose deep in her phone wasn’t paying attention to her kid, so we left. She didn’t notice anything he was doing until he chased a friend near where she was sitting and let the shrapnel fly.

“Aiden, we don’t throw rocks!” she admonished.

“He’s been doing it all afternoon,” I called back as we left the park. “Pull your face out of your phone, and you’d notice.”

And this is why we can’t have nice things. A few bad parents ruin it for the rest of us.

Tired of dealing with tantrums, lost children, and injured kids Guildford Town Centre, a mall in Surrey, BC, replaced their play area with a wall of iPads.  They are getting lambasted in headlines after spending $280-million on a redevelopment that included what officials are describing as “an interactive play park.”

The Lowest Common Denominator

Really what it is is a white flag waved at the bad parents. “You win, man,” they seem to be saying. “You won’t look after your kids, we’re sick of dealing with the brats in the play area, we don’t want lawsuits, we’re putting up iPads.”

The official line is a little more measured.

 Guildford Town Centre spokeswoman Petra Barker told Global News that the mall wanted to do “something different” and a bit “new and unique.” “We are pleased to offer a quiet play environment for children. In our experience, providing slides and things for climbing leads to much more active play and can result in children being hurt.”

mall playground
Images via Huffington Post

Parents have risen up on the mall’s Facebook page raging with criticism. “How is this a “play place”? Are we not trying to have heathy children playing and burning off energy, instead of them looking at another screen??? This totally disappoints me and many of my friends!!,” screamed Sherry Cann

“You think slides and climbing leads to children being hurt wait till one fights the other for I pad time!” says Amanda Thomasen.

Actually, that’s the problem, Amanda. The kids are fighting on the playground too. Just like Aiden at our playground with the rocks, kids of parents who don’t pay attention will continue to ruin it for the rest of us.

It’s A Growing Trend

Mark Hoffberg of Not Another Dad Blog says a mall in Brampton, ON long turfed their playground. “Our mall got rid of the play area because parents were just leaving their kids there with no supervision,” he says. “Kids would push or get hurt and they couldn’t find parents.”

Darrel Milton of Modern Father Online calls them shopping mall orphans. Even though his Sydney, Australia malls have ditched playgrounds for iPads, it hasn’t stopped parents from ditching the kids in the area and wandering away.

So here we are. Parents don’t look after their kids, it’s not the malls job to look after their kids, and so we don’t get nice things.

Parents with faces in phones. Parents who drop kids off and go away. Parents with screaming kids in restaurants that don’t care. Just like in elementary school when the entire class would get detention because a few in the back row were misbehaving, we all get punished because of the behaviour of a few.

It Could Have Been Different

I get it’s not a mall’s obligation to build a playground for kids, but they could.

They could have gone West Edmonton Mall and built something that would have been a huge bait for parents to come. People would come just to take their kids tot he playground. Then they would visit the food court. Then they would try on some shoes. Then they would walk through the department store on the way home. They would come, they would buy things.

West Edmonton Mall

But then they would leave their kids alone, create a liabilty for the mall and causing more trouble than the business is worth. So they toss up some iPads. Devices I already have in my pocket. Things my kids play with too much already. Because it’s easy.

Use Some Common Sense, People

We all have different rules. We all have different parenting ideals. Most of us are making it up as we go along, but there needs to be some common middle ground we can agree on.

Things like – don’t take your 2 yr old to a pub at 9:30p on a Monday and play catch with her in the middle of the restaurant to keep her entertained (saw it this week). Don’t breastfeed in line at the coffee shop. Don’t have your face in your phone when you should be playing with your kids. Don’t drop your kids off at the playplace / playground and then wander off.

I’m not saying anyone deserves to be arrested for doing any of this, I get circumstances sometimes dictate rules bending, but we need less exceptions to the rules, and more common courtesy.

I don’t want to live in a world where iPads replace playgrounds at the mall. Bad parents of worse kids, this is your fault. Please stop ruining things for everyone.

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