Fear of strangers and traffic stop children playing outdoors

Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 09:22
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Traffic and a fear of strangers are preventing children from playing outdoors, new research released for Playday 2012 has found.

Almost half (49%) of parents report that fear of strangers stops their children from playing out, while 46% say traffic and almost a third (31%) highlight fear of accident and injury as barriers to outdoor play.

The findings of the survey have been released today as an estimated half-a-million children and families nationwide celebrate Playday- the national day for play in the UK, held this year on Wednesday 1st August. Around 500 community events are taking place across the UK to celebrate 25 years of the campaign, which raises awareness about children's right to play and the importance of play for children's health, wellbeing and happiness.

The Playday 2012 theme isGet out and play!The campaign, which is co-ordinated by Play England (part of the National Children's Bureau), Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland has gone from strength-to-strength since its conception in London in 1987, when the first events were held to raise awareness about the effects of cuts to local play services.

Cath Prisk, Director of Play England, said: "Simply playing outside should be a normal, everyday event for all children. If we want to foster the next generation of Olympians and sports stars, then we need children with confidence, who love being active and are confident in tackling challenges. If parents are too afraid to let their children play out - because of fear of strangers, traffic or their children having accidents - then we as a society need to address this fear. Whether that's a community living in a cul-de-sac agreeing children will be playing out every day, a street applying to the council to close the road for play regularly, or residents volunteering to help local play projects reach more children, we can all do our bit to make sure every day is a Playday."

Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales, said: 'Perhaps, as a consequence of the coverage of a number of notable events, as a society we have developed a fear of strangers, fear of accident or injury and crime. Listening to the media, it would appear that this fear is rational, but it isn't. As a society we have developed an irrational fear that our children are unsafe outside. Compound this with the domination of cars and their drivers, and the world outside the front door doesn't look particularly attractive for anyone who wants to play there ... and children regularly tell us that outside is where they want to play. Children value time, quality places and freedom to play in their own way; we need to support them, recognise that for their wellbeing, they need to play outside and that it's safer than we think.'

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive of Play Scotland, said: "Playday is a fantastic opportunity for communities to come together and celebrate play.  Children and adults can enter into the true spirit of play which is child focused, spontaneous and fun - it is not a weather dependent event, and you can usually guarantee that everyone will get a bit wet and muddy before the end of the day!  Events can be street based and local or organised at key venues throughout Scotland.  Check the website for details and if there is no event happening near you - organise your own!"

Jacqueline O'Loughlin CEO of PlayBoard Northern Ireland said: "For the past 25 years National Playday has provided significant platform for all play advocates. The one day in the year where the importance of play and the message that children need to get out and play every day is promoted and celebrated. This year's theme 'get out and play' is timely given the mounting concerns about children's physical health and emotional well-being. For children, playing and exercise is the same thing and getting outdoors in the fresh air is most definitely conducive to both.

Source: ©Play England

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