Stepping out: Children negotiating independent travel

August 14, 2013

A two-year study has revealed the final years of primary school are critical for developing children's confidence and independence to travel without their parents in their communities.

The Stepping Out study conducted by the University of Melbourne and VicHealth aimed to increase understanding of how children negotiate independent , and to find ways to encourage children to walk independently and foster health and wellbeing.

The study explored children's perspectives by walking and talking with them as they negotiated daily travel journeys, in addition to speaking with class groups, . The study worked with 48 children across three schools in the local government area of Moreland in Victoria, during 2011 and 2012.

The children in the study were aged 10-12 – a transitional age in social and educational terms, representing the shift from primary to secondary school.

By late primary level, children are preparing for the transition to secondary school, and which often requires traveling further from home using varied modes of transport.

Dr Lisa Gibbs from the School of Population and Global Health said there was a range of traffic safety measures, as well as school education and active travel programs already in place.

"However, our findings suggest there are a number of other ways families, schools and communities are able to support children's development of mobile independence," she said.

"We identified a range of shared characteristics in children able to travel in their neighbourhood without . Children will travel with friends or relatives and choose busier routes and at popular times to provide visibility in ," he said.

Dr Bjorn Nansen from Computing and Information Systems at Melbourne also observed the role of new portable technologies. "Many children now have mobile phones that provide a sense of security. This too makes an impact on how children negotiate their travel."

The findings suggest that parents can help support children's transitioning to independent travel through stages such as walking with children early on, then slowly releasing the tether to allow them to walk ahead, to walk with friends or siblings, practicing new routes together, setting rules about routes, having children carry a mobile phone, and finally allowing children to travel without adults.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said: "When you consider that two-thirds of children in Victoria are now driven to school even though they live less than two kilometres away, it's no wonder that one in four are overweight or obese. That's a massive increase from just one in 20 in the 1960s.

"VicHealth is really interested in what is driving this phenomenon and Dr Gibbs' research provides a positive anecdote to the so-called 'cotton-wool kids' phenomenon by offering parents advice on how to get their kids walking more often."

Explore further: Research throws new light on why children with autism are often bullied

Related Stories

Research throws new light on why children with autism are often bullied

August 7, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A study of hundreds of teachers and parents of children on the autistic spectrum has revealed factors why they are more or less likely to be bullied.

Children of same sex attracted parents score high on health and wellbeing

June 7, 2013
Australian children of same-sex couples fared better on average than families from the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion, but continue to be subject to discrimination, interim findings of ...

Most children experience their neighbourhoods from the back seat of the car, researchers find

October 23, 2012
At a time when childhood obesity rates are on the rise, Deakin University research has found that parents prefer to play chauffeur than let their children walk or ride to school or around the local neighbourhood.

Urban children are healthier commuters than rural teens

July 4, 2011
The children most likely to walk or cycle to school live in urban areas, with a single parent, and in an economically disadvantaged home, according to survey results that were published in Pediatrics today by Dr. Roman Pabayo ...

Tool kit answers mental health and epilepsy questions for parents

August 12, 2013
Parents of children with epilepsy and mental health problems have a new go-to resource.

Recommended for you

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.