"Stranger Danger" Deters Kids From Walking

by Joy Keller on Mar 01, 2007

Fear of strangers and lack of green areas discourage children from walking more, suggests research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood (2007; 92, 29–33).

Researchers focused on six primary schools in England that were located in a cross section of areas in and around Birmingham. Researchers gathered responses from 473 children ages 9–11, based on evidence that lifelong exercise patterns are established around this age.

The survey questioned the children about how often they had walked in the previous week, their perceptions of the local environment; and their individual travel preferences. Children who had made more than the average 20 trips by foot were classified as “high” walkers and comprised just over 40% of the sample. Those who had walked fewer than 20 times were classified as “low” walkers and comprised well over half of the sample (58%). There was no difference between the sexes, but higher numbers of black and minority children were classified as low walkers. Those whose families owned at least one car also tended to walk less.

Only a third of children felt that heavy traffic made the local roads dangerous. This view did not deter kids from walking. More of those who were classified as high walkers perceived the neighborhood to be full of traffic. Almost two-thirds of children and over three-quarters of parents expressed anxiety about “stranger danger.” Low walkers were more likely to worry about strangers when out alone; to claim that there were insufficient local parks and sports grounds; and to prefer traveling by bus or car.

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About the Author

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master. Joy joined IDEA Health & Fitness Association in 2002, and brought with her a wealth of information about how to fine-tune communication channels, after having spent her formative career years specializing in business-to-business journalism. Before she even graduated with honors from the respected University of Georgia journalism school, Joy was offered a job at one of the most successful trade publishing companies in the southeast, Shore Varrone, Inc. She made her mark in the automotive aftermarket industry as a creative thinker and journalist with an intuitive knack for researching and understanding niche audiences. Joy has worked on several titles, including Auto Trim & Restyling News, Truck Accessory News, Digital Output Magazine, Retail & Construction News, Miata magazine, Ford Racing, and many more. Her passion, however, lies with health and fitness. She was the associate editor of ACE Certified News while working at the American Council on Exercise, and transitioned that publication from a newsletter to a magazine. She has enjoyed 17 years at IDEA, where she has launched several publications, including the award-winning Inner IDEA Body-Mind Spirit Review, IDEA Pilates Today and IDEA Fit Business Success. Joy is a content creator and media 2.0 advocate who takes pride in discovering the unique information needs of qualified audiences, and she is dedicated to serving those needs while following the highest available standards.