Children Prefer To Play Outside - But Parents Won't Let Them

29/10/2014 13:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

children playing outdoors

Over 80 per cent of children say they would choose outdoor play over screens, but anxious parents are keeping them indoors, according to new research.

Contrary to the popular perception that today's youngsters turn their noses up at den-building and climbing in trees in favour of lying on the sofa with a tablet or a mobile phone, it seems the modern generation is just as keen on outdoor play as their parents and grandparents.

In fact, only 17.5 per cent of the average child's playtime is spent on technology, according to the results of a new survey.

What is actually keeping kids inside is their over-protective parents, who discourage their children from roaming outdoors and exploring their surroundings without close adult supervision.

The findings come from research carried out by the Eureka Children's Museum in West Yorkshire. Their 'Play for Today' project surveyed over 2,500 adults and children aged five to 11 on their attitudes towards outdoor play, comparing grown-ups' memories with the experience of children today.

While 54 per cent of modern children report being taken out to the park to play, only 14 per cent regularly play in the street, compared to 47 per cent of the adults surveyed.

The disparity between the generations is easy to understand, with almost half (49 per cent) of parents reporting that they never allow their child to leave the house or garden without adult supervision.

"Street play is becoming increasingly rare, with parents citing traffic and stranger danger as reasons for keeping tabs on their children," the authors of the report observe, noting however that 95 per cent of parents agreed that some element of risk is an important part of childhood play.

Although parents appear to be theoretically in favour of outdoor play, it appears that the majority do not practice what they preach - 63 per cent of respondents forbid their children from going beyond the end of the street.

One parent told researchers: "I just wish it felt safer for children to play outside like we used to."

While parents may think that keeping their children's within view at all times is protecting them from danger, author Richard Louv - quoted in the report - explains that they may actually be doing more harm than they realise.

"An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children, but other risks are heightened," he says, including 'risks to physical and psychological health' and to a child's 'concept and perception of community', and the loss of the ability to 'discern true danger'.

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