Bul­lies, birds: our kids’ fears re­vealed

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - SUSIE O’BRIEN

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.

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