Fear of dangerous strangers in inner city neighbourhoods is discouraging kids and teens to go out and play in parks and playgrounds, a new study has found.
Lead researcher Nick Holt from Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta studied 59 children and youth, eight school staff and 13 youth workers and found three themes that influenced youngsters' opportunities for physical activity, with positive and negative factors for each.
The first theme identified was "neighbourhood characteristics". On the plus side researchers found neighbourhoods "walkable," with plenty of parks and playgrounds and nearby amenities.
However, "stranger danger" fears related to drug users, bullies, prostitutes, gang members and fear of abduction deterred children and youth from visiting these places.
The second theme was "family involvement." The research team found that while children and youth were rarely allowed out alone, involvement by a family member, for example, accompanying them to a park to play, increased their engagement in physical activity.
The third theme was the "availability of adult-supervised programs."
On the positive side, researchers noted the large variety of programs offered by dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers, while negative factors included minimal resources; staff and volunteer recruitment and retention challenges, and little knowledge of program availability by inner-city children and youth; low adherence to the programs was also a negative factor.
The study appears in the international journal Health and Place.