Fear of intolerance 'stops children playing out'

girl playing out Many parents feared being judged by neighbours if they let their children play unsupervised outdoors

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Fear of upsetting the neighbours is preventing many parents letting their children play out, a survey suggests.

More than a quarter (28%) of 1,000 UK parents questioned feared being judged by neighbours if they let their children play unsupervised outdoors.

Almost a third (32%) believed allowing their children to play ball games or make noise outdoors would cause problems with other residents.

The poll was released to mark Playday 2013, an annual campaign for play.

One Poll surveyed 1,000 children between five and 16 years old and 1,000 parents with children the same age.


Of the five-11-year-olds, 53% said they would like to play outside more, while 40% said they could do so as much as they liked.

Of all the children, 13% said adults where they lived tended to disapprove of them playing outside, while 10% said adults thought they were up to no good when they were with friends.

Of the adults, 53% thought traffic was a barrier to children playing out where they lived, 40% cited "stranger danger" as a concern and 28% said intolerant neighbours were a problem.

How much play is enough?

boy with scooter
  • Health professionals recommend children get at least one hour of aerobic activity a day
  • This should include a mix of moderate-intensity activities, where a child raises their heart rate and breaks into a sweat, and vigorous-intensity activities, where they are breathing hard and fast
  • As part of a child's 60 or more minutes, they should also do activities that strengthen their muscles and bones

Source: NHS Choices

A quarter of the adults felt a more friendly community and better relationships with neighbours would encourage young people to play outside more often.

A lack of dedicated community space was also cited as hampering children's opportunities to play, with 32% of the adults and a fifth of the children saying more spaces to play within their local community would get more children playing out.

The research suggests play has the power to bring communities together, with 40% of adults saying children playing out where they lived improved community spirit, and 45% saying it helped families get to know each other.

And 60% of parents said they would feel confident letting their children play in the street if others were playing out too.

Space and freedom

Cath Prisk, director of Play England, said: "It's up to all of us to turn around the creeping disappearance of children from our streets, parks and communities. We all have role - as families, neighbours, and friends.

"We can all do something to say we love kids playing outdoors, that we want to live in communities that actively welcome kids playing out.

"There always was and always will be some people who want to squash kids' fun - but there are far more that really want kids back outside playing, not stuck indoors, especially over the summer holidays."

Start Quote

Consensus is spreading - play, especially playing outdoors, makes sense”

End Quote Jacqueline O'Loughlin Play Board Northern Ireland

Jacqueline O'Loughlin, chief executive of Play Board Northern Ireland, said: "Consensus is spreading - play, especially playing outdoors, makes sense. It makes sense for families, society and the economy. Play is fundamental to our children's enjoyment of their childhood, it can't be taken for granted.

"All of us, from parents to planners, from neighbours to policy makers have our part to play in allowing and supporting children's play as it is vital for our children's health, learning, development and happiness."

Mike Greenaway, director of Play Wales, said: "We need to recognise the importance of providing children with time, space and freedom to play in their own way.

"We need to support them and recognise that for their health, wellbeing and long-term development children need playful places and opportunities to play outside."

Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, said: "As well as a celebration of children's right to play, Playday is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children's lives.

"We know that children across the UK would like to play outdoors more than they already do, with more opportunities for a wide range of play opportunities wanted."

Playday - held annually on the first Wednesday in August - is run by Play England, Play Board Northern Ireland, Play Wales and Play Scotland and aims to raise awareness of children's right to play and the importance of play for their health, wellbeing and happiness.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    @72 CaptainJack

    I think you are missing the point, what we need is suitable areas for children to play. Grassed areas with proper facilities,our council provide them the children are happy to use the grass to play on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    - Noise. Laughing and screaming kids that never stop
    - Balls in the garden. And even worse kids running in retrieve them
    - Kids that look uncouth. The parent don't seem to bother dressing them properly these days
    - Skateboards. A hazard to pedestrians

    I have written to the council at least half a dozen times!"

    Someone must get a chuckle before putting your letter through the shredder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    To those that being racism into this, I'd much rather live on a street full of immigrants rather than the Vicky Pollard types that are in so many towns and cities these days.

    My goodness, Matt Lucas what have you inspired?

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Children are great but can get on your nerves.

    Just like adults.

    We have to try to get along. There are more and more of us and there is not enough money to go around to provide facilities for all of us, whatever our age.

    Lets just try and get along.

    Be sympathetic to noisy children, give them a break. Then perhaps you might just get back some of that niceness :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    I'm concerned by the lack of common sense in children,and supervision by parents.Yesterday evening,on a small hillside street,I narrowly avoided hitting 3 children riding down the hill on a corner bend, on their scooters in the middle of the road. If I was less careful and observant driver, there would be injuries that would have been my fault.Children should be educated about the dangers outside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Too many non UK people have been let into our home land which has destroyed community spirit more so in the large cities.

    We do not know our neighbors.

    People are VERY selfish (me,me,me society)

    Too many cars,

    EVERYTHING overpriced (so cant take the kiddies out as much)

    BBC SCAREMONGERING - IE: not every adult is a pedo.

    So you see we have a few issues to tackle, oh and miserable adults :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    If you complain to a parent about their kids behaviour, the standard answer is "but they are kids".

    I told my neighbour I would play loud music so they could get an idea of how it felt to be constantly bombarded with unwanted noise. They found it upsetting & made some changes.

    If kids damage your property, call the Police or sue the parent

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Me and my sister used to get booted out the house on summer days and told not to waste them!

    A lot of comments on here seem to stem towards community, I grew up on an estate were luckily people spoke and knew each other.

    Too much segregation nowadays, no community spirit. Lots of different cultures living together with no interaction. The problems are obvious but wont change until our leaders do

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    There is one answer to this problem - Don't have kids - clearly there are too many people about anyway.

  • Comment number 244.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Other things we used to do when young: go on rambles in the countryside with a bottle of water and a few sandwiches: out at 7am, back at 6pm! Going to paddle and mess around in a local stream, trying to catch sticklebacks. Build go-karts out of old wheels and boxes, and have races with them. Going on very long cycle rides also in the countryside which meant exploring woods and strange villages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Our neighbours kids play out in the street, even though there is a large field at the back of the house. This is mainly because the council do a terrible job of cleaning up smashed bottles and removing rubbish that people insist on dumping out there (right behind their own garden wall!) The local authorities are to blame here, not the neighbours, who pretty much get along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    The weather in the UK in summer is not always good enough to play out, children to need to play together, invent silly games and as long as they are safe and don't leave a mess they should enjoy their childhood as being 'grown up' is no picnic. When we were children we played out and were respectful of others. My son also played out and he wasn't a nuisance. everyone such respect each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    I don't object to kids playing in the street. Indeed, I enjoy a chat with some. The only worry, nowadays, is you have to be careful to avoid the predatory ones.

  • Comment number 239.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    We have become a miserable, selfish and mean spirited bunch.

    When asked again what it is to be British, I'll have the answer above at the ready.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    I love to see and hear children playing outside but so few do so these days. I live id a small safe village but still see few children outside. They are welcome to play ball outside my garage. My children used to build dens in the woods and paddle in the brook. They also used to cycle to local farms and generally have fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    If you actually read the article, traffic is understandably the biggest fear and "intolerance" is low on the list.

    So this is yet another example of the BBC spinning a story to emphasise a point that it wishes to make. Interesting that it links with unrelated information about BMI and overweight. Perhaps global warming could have been shoehorned into the page too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    @215.First Norn

    'if you mention the damage you get abuse from the parents.'

    That's a problem you've got with adults and their attitudes not children.
    A lot of people on here blaming kids and dogs for what are ultimately the responsibility of parents, pet owners, local planners, housing developers, etc. In other words, adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    It is a symptom of creeping intolerance in everything and fear of strangers. However, there is also an issue of parental responsibility: when I was this sort of age, almost 50 years ago, we had been taught that you should not damage other's property, and that we should respect others. There was always someone you knew you could go to for help when you were playing: not so much "stranger danger"


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