Overly protective parents rob their children of outside play

Teenagers want watches with more functions like an alarm, timer and Indiglo light.
Teenagers want watches with more functions like an alarm, timer and Indiglo light. Roger Weber - Getty Images

OVERLY PROTECTIVE parents are costing their kids up to 20 minutes of outside "free play" per day, or more than two hours per week, out of a fear for their child's safety.

New research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed little difference between parents in the city and country, although each had different worries.

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children considered how about 4000 children aged 10 or 11 spent their time.

In regional and rural areas, nervous parents worry about poor quality parks while their cosmopolitan counterparts are more concerned about traffic.

AIFS executive manager Dr Ben Edwards said parents needed to think about the consequences of not letting their children play outside.

"There is a case to be made for letting kids run around outside more and explore," Dr Edwards said.

"There is an increasing concern about children's safety and that translates into kids spending less time outside.

Dr Edwards said this translated to less physical activity and in part, may contributed to more Australians being overweight or obese.

Although 20 minutes per day may not seem a huge amount, it added up to more than 100 hours a year of lost play time for children aged between 10 and 11.

Boys lost more play time than girls, spending 27 few minutes a day playing outside with supervision - a total of three hours a week.

Girls however, spent about the same amount of time outside regardless of how concerned their parents were.

Dr Edwards said it had to be a balancing act.

"Even for myself as a parent, I have to be mindful of giving children opportunities to explore the world themselves without me watching over them all the time," he said.

"My own parents did that and in some cases I probably did things they wouldn't have liked me to do but that's part of growing up."

Topics:  australian institute of family studies parenting research

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