Hovering "helicopter" parents may prevent children from engaging in higher levels of physical activity, according to a new study.
"It's a catch-22 for today's parents, unfortunately. Many parents are worried about the safety of their children, so they tend to hover," says Dr. Jason Bocarro, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State.
"The worry is - especially as we are seeing childhood obesity become an epidemic in this country - hovering is keeping kids from running around and playing with their friends and neighbours, and instead maybe sitting in front of the computer or television."
A group of 16 trained observers - undergraduate and graduate students from NC State -systematically examined 20 neighbourhood parks in Durham, N.C. from 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. for an 8-week period to learn how families use park facilities.
While scanning different areas in the park, the researchers counted the children, recorded their gender and apparent age group (0-5, 6-12 and 13-18), and coded their activity level as sedentary, moderately active or vigorously active.
The research showed that formal programs and facilities - like soccer programs or basketball courts - increase the likelihood of children ages five and up engaging in a higher level of activity.
The study also found that girls were less likely to be observed in parks, and less likely to be observed in higher levels of physical activity.
The study has been published in the American Journal for Preventive Medicine.