63% OF PARENTS BELIEVE IT IS MORE DANGEROUS TO PLAY OUTSIDE NOW THAN WHEN THEY WERE CHILDREN
Parents should try and step out of their comfort zone to strike the right balance between safety and encouraging children to play outdoors, says Make Time 2 Play Ambassador Dr Linda Papadopoulos
Wednesday 12 June: Nearly two thirds of parents (62.7%) feel there are greater dangers for children playing outside now than when they were children, according to a study of 2,000 parents surveyed by OnePoll.com1 on behalf of the Make Time 2 Play campaign.
Increase in traffic was cited as the primary issue causing parents concern, closely followed by the danger posed by strangers. Parents in the East Midlands are the most laid back, those in Northern Ireland the most protective and mums worry more than dads.
The top five concerns2 for parents were:
||Increase in traffic
||Inability to monitor children’s activities
||Getting involved in or being confronted by gangs
||Outdoor play prevents children from studying
These factors contribute to children playing outside less often than their parents did: only 14.85% of all parents in the study say their children play outside more than they did. One third (33.65%) thinks the amount is roughly the same.
The belief that today’s children enjoy less outdoor play increases with older parents. Over a third (33.68%) of parents aged 18-24 said their children play outside more than they did compared to less than one in 10 (8.33%) of parents aged 55 and over.
With the longer daylight hours and summer holidays on the horizon, however, this is the time of year when there are greater opportunities for children to get outside and play and, according to Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Ambassador to Make Time 2 Play, outdoor play is one essential ingredient in a varied play ‘diet’ for children.
“Just as we talk of the importance of having your five fruit or vegetables a day for a healthy diet, so children need a varied play diet,” commented Dr Papadopoulos.
“A varied play diet encompasses structured, unstructured, supervised and unsupervised playtime. Outdoor play is a vital component of that, helping children to build friendships, solve problems and explore the world around them.”
The study demonstrated that parents are, on the whole, aware that their children need time outdoors, with 38.5% concerned that their children do not play outside enough. The majority of those surveyed showed concern that lack of outdoor play may mean that children do not learn about risk awareness (55.4%) and could hinder their development of social and communication skills (54.45%). Over a third of parents (38.5%) are concerned their children don’t spend enough time playing outside yet, on average, children are playing outside three days a week at this time of year.
Different regions of the UK responded differently. In Northern Ireland, parents tended to be more concerned with risk factors and take proactive steps to minimise them. East Midlands parents took a more laissez-faire approach. For example, teaching children road safety is considered most important in Northern Ireland (94.44% important or very important) and least important in the East Midlands (74.29% important or very important). And mums think this is more important more than dads (84.77% of mums across the country think the Green Cross Code important, as against 72.16% of dads – and this difference between the sexes was reflected in other parts of the survey.)
Despite the fears named above, what actually keeps children indoors in practice is – for 48.5% of all parents – our British weather. Just remember when it comes to play there is no such thing as the wrong weather – just the wrong clothes!
Dr Papadopoulos agrees it is difficult to find a balance between keeping children safe and giving them the freedom they need for healthy independent play, but that it’s important for parents to try to accept and to confront their fears and, at times, risk leaving their comfort zones.
“Parents do lots of great things with their children,” said Dr Papadopoulos, “but it’s also vitally important for their development that they are allowed to run around with their friends outside on a regular basis.”