Bullies, birds: our kids’ fears revealed
KIDS want to be more independent and take more risks, but their fears of hoons, bullies, magpies and dogs stop them from feeling safe in their neighbourhoods, new research shows.
Their parents want them to get out more, but are worried about them encountering strangers, “weirdos” and traffic-related risks.
A study of 132 children aged from 8 to 13 from seven Victorian state schools and 12 parents showed many wanted kids to move around their local areas more alone. Previous research shows only one third of 8-15 year-olds are allowed to venture more than 15 minutes from home alone.
Lead researcher Dr Sharinne Crawford from La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre said some children aged 11- 12 said they were able to catch the train to the city with a friend while others said they would “never be allowed to do that”.
Younger children were allowed to go to school, local shops, parks, the pool and visit friends and relatives. Older children were allowed to venture further afield: to the cinema, library, skate park and sporting fields. Most kids reported that they loved “exploring”, “having fun” and “mucking around”.
Parents were most worried about strangers and other people – “weirdos”, as one said – and traffic.
Some of these concerns were shared by children, but they were also worried about bullies, darkness, rain, cats, dogs, magpies and “really big teenagers”.
Despite this, Dr Crawford found most families manage to allow children to “progress gradually from dependent to independent mobility as with increasing age”.
She found mobile phones and the progression of children from primary school to high school were important factors in decision-making.