Recognizing Urban Public Space as a Co‐Educator: Children’s Socialization in Ghent


This article discusses how urban public space impacts upon children’s socialization. There are two points of view on the relationship between children and the urban neighbourhood, whether one considers the position of children in urban public space or the position of this environment in children’s socialization. One can define the relationship in terms of the need to protect children against the perils of the city; this results in a spatial segregation of children into separate (play) spaces. Alternatively, one can argue that children should be able to move independently and safely through urban public space in order to make full use of the socializing opportunities offered by the city; this results in criteria for a child‐friendly city. Leaving aside abstract images of the ideal neighbourhood for children, urban public space should also be considered as a co‐educator. Theories of urban public space as a co‐educator require empirical information about the way in which this space impacts upon existing processes of socialization and the citizenship of children. Three cases from the city of Ghent are presented to illustrate this discussion.