As Schools Ban Kids From Playing Tag, Psychologists Ask Why
January 29, 2019 3:39 PM Subscribe
Experts agree that kids love tag because the game lets them pretend to be predators. Is that problematic? Maybe not.
As a result, when kids chase each other they excite their limbic system, the reward center of the brain, receives a rush of dopamine, the so-called happiness hormone. Given that fact and the ease of tag as social play, it makes sense that the game exists as a sort of playground default. What’s interesting about the biological incentive underpinning the natural inclination to chase is that tag does offer kids a natural high in exchange for them treating their friends like prey.
This is where educators grow concerned and where psychologist like Tomlinson feel compelled to step in and provide a context for the conversation about tag that has less to do with #MeToo and more to do with childhood. Tomlinson argues that despite the fact that it was never intended to teach emotional intelligence, tag is actually a good way for kids to learn about boundaries — depending, of course, on how the game is being played.
It’s important to note that tag doesn’t just get banned for activist reasons or because of optics. Children have a tendency to get rough while playing the game. It becomes a forum for testing boundaries. And that can go south in a hurry if there isn’t an adult nearby to intervene and correct bad behaviors. There is also the potential for exclusion. Kids who are too aggressive eventually experience a social exclusion similar to being “it.” The game ceases to be fun.
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