In high summer, a Martian air of desolation descends on my street. Most school-age kids around here spend their days at camp or some other structured, adult-run activity, not knocking around the neighborhood in packs looking to make their own fun. It’s very, very quiet. A closing car door or a passing Green Line train registers distinctly in the library hush of a July afternoon.
This is one important way in which city life has changed since I was a kid. Among the contributing factors in our ongoing technology-assisted retreat from public space and public life are the expansion of parents’ work days and of kids’ participation in camps, lessons, teams, enrichment programs, and other school-like activities. It all adds up to a lot less free play than there used to be.