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Should Parents Allow Kids to Do Extreme Sports?

The Short of It

Motocross, skateboarding, snowboarding, rock climbing—kids as young as 7 years old are participating and training dedicatedly to these extreme sports. They don't just risk broken bones, concussions and internal injuries; some have them regularly.

The Lowdown

In a piece for The New York Times Magazine, writer Jon Lackman profiles several of these extreme-sports kids and investigates the pros and cons of their parents' choice to let them risk getting hurt—or even death—to participate in the pastimes they're truly passionate about. Here are a few highlights:

On the positive front, the kids are dedicated and enthusiastic about their sports, are spending time doing something constructive, and are part of respectful and friendly peer groups. They eat right, exercise and stay away from drugs and alcohol.

On the negative side are the hospital visits, the fear that something more serious could happen, and the fact that these kids may be too young to always make wise choices when doing dangerous moves on the ski slope or half pipe.

"What we're seeing is a lot of kids thinking maybe they can do what these professional athletes can do," said Vani Sabesan, an associate professor of orthopedics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and lead author of a study on head and neck injuries in extreme sports. She says kids may not have the maturity or judgment yet to hold back and wait until they have the proper training before taking risks.

The Upshot

"We don't want to Bubble-Wrap our daughters' childhoods. But we don't want them to seriously hurt themselves either," says Lackman about his own daughters, whom he describes as "thrill-seeking." "So we're stuck in the middle, questioning our choices."

While Lackman and the other parents in the New York Times piece seemed to struggle with their choice to allow extreme sports, ultimately, those who allow them seemed content with their decision. Dad Geoff Eaton said he'd rather teach his children that it's better to take risks in life than to tell them they need to act cautiously.

What do you think: Should kids be allowed to participate in extreme sports?

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