17 Oct, 2014 Last updated: 30 Mar, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

Opinion piece first published in the Sunraysia Daily newspaper on 17 October 2014.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

Research released this week has revealed that children who live in rural and regional Victoria are more independent than children living in metropolitan areas.

With childhood obesity on the rise, VicHealth commissioned this research to examine the role parents’ fears play in shaping children’s independence and physical activity. We surveyed over 2000 parents of children aged nine to 15 across Victoria.

We learned that a range of factors influence parents’ decisions to let their child play and travel independently such as ‘stranger danger’, traffic hazards, and what family and other parents think. Boys were allowed more freedom than girls, and children living in rural and regional Victoria were more independent than those living in metropolitan areas.

40% of children in rural and regional Victoria travelled to school independently compared to 34% of children in metropolitan areas.

Importantly, we know that children who were able to play and travel without an adult, and those who walked or rode to school, were more likely to get the recommended one hour of physical activity every day.

We know that all parents want the best for their children. Granting children independence to walk to and from school and explore their neighbourhood is a critical part of the solution to childhood obesity.

October is VicHealth's Walk to School month and is a great way to make physical activity a part of children’s daily lives. If your child's school isn't participating, you can register as an individual at the Walk to School website, lace up and get walking!

- Jerril