When should a child be allowed to take part in "dangerous" sports or activities?
I'm thinking of letting my son try motocross when he's "old enough" - but when is that, when is a child old enough to understand the risks involved? I've seen parents with children as young as 3-4 years old on small (50cc - circa 5-10mph) bikes, some with stabilisers some without. By the time they're in their teens, they typically ride much larger and faster bikes at potentially lethal speeds.
Ignoring the motor-sport context, whilst it's rare, I'm conscious that simply breaking bones can result in death (usually either from compound bleeding or infection etc.) so I'm very aware of the potential consequences - but my child may not be.
My main motivation is that I want my child to learn some life-skills that many less "harmful" activities often lack - elements of bravery, commitment, physical fitness and large components of risk (assessment) and "face your fears" experience that I want my son to learn, to make a mensch out of him. I want to instil a sense of grit and determination and the ability to keep pushing when things get tough. IMHO, too many parents avoid exposing their children to life's difficulties (risk, losing, physical effort etc.).
Additionally, from my own perspective, I'd very much enjoy being able to spend time riding with my son - but I don't feel very comfortable exposing him to danger (especially when he's too young to understand the consequences). By the same token, I'm conscious that if he isn't exposed to the sport young enough, he'll be unlikely to reach a professional standard, if that were to be something he chose to pursue.
Does anyone allow their child to participate in a dangerous (or contact) sport? When did they start and how did you mitigate against the risks?
You can assume they'll be wearing all the best protective equipment and only riding in appropriate places (closed circuits, with riders of the same age) - never on public roads without a helmet etc...