Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kids too scared of crime to play outdoors

CHILDREN and teenagers are so scared of the outdoors they prefer to hang out in shopping centres, play computer games or go to school, a new report shows.
The snapshot of Sydney children reveals both primary school-aged boys and girls and adolescents have nowhere to play in a modern city.
The data from the New South Wales child watchdog, the Commission of Children and Young People, comes after the NSW Government failed to act on a two-year-old inquiry that warned children were missing out on play time.
The Commission's Built Environment report found children don't like to catch public transport because they are worried they will be robbed or see people do drugs.
"It's not safe on the streets if you're alone, you can't go to public toilets, the train station's not safe. There are people doing drugs," a 12-year-old boy said.
An eight-year-old girl surveyed said she didn't like playing in parks because "someone might come and do things to you ... or you could be wearing bare feet and step on syringes".
Children aged from four to 18 were interviewed for the report and nominated their top favourite places or things to do as shopping, bowling, roller-coasters, movies, school, Disneyland, Timezone and Questacon - a science centre in Canberra.
Rebekah Jeffery, 12, says she would rather hit the shops than play outside.
"It's safer to be at the shopping mall because there are more people," she said.
"My parents are a little concerned that I stay inside so much but I walk the dog and they make me go outside and kick the ball with my brother."
Child experts are now calling on the NSW Government to act upon its own report that urban sprawl was resulting in ever-shrinking play zones for children.
"Diminishing public space and play spaces inhibits development of motor skills and social interaction," the report, from October 2006, reads.
But nearly two years later the NSW Government has yet to act on key findings from the report recommending the departments of Planning, Community Services, Education and Local Government come together to create child-friendly spaces.
Port Macquarie mother Melissa Baker, who moved from Sydney when she discovered she was pregnant with her first child Tahlia, now 8, said she never contemplated raising children in Sydney.
Mrs Baker, who also has a two-year-old son, Tom, said she and her husband Phil enjoyed the outdoor space and freedom from Sydney's crime.


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