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New research shows parents fear of judgement as barrier to children walking to school

New research shows parents fear of judgement as barrier to children walking to school
October 9, 2019

Coinciding with VicHealth’s launch of their 2019 Walk to School program, the health promotion foundation has released new research that finds parents are worried about being judged by other parents for allowing their children to walk independently to school.

VicHealth’s Walk to School program encourages Victorian primary school children to walk, ride and scoot to and from school to build healthy habits for life

The research found 44% of parents believe other parents would disapprove if they allowed their children to walk, ride or scoot independently to school. These fears are not unfounded, with 57 % of parents stating they feel it’s irresponsible to allow children to walk to school without adult supervision.

Despite their fears, most parents want their children to walk to school with 84% believing it’s good for children’s health and 78% stating it would help develop independence.

With the majority of children who travel to school with their parents doing so by car, VicHealth Chief Executive Dr Sandro Demaio said it was important parents felt they could allow their children to travel to school safely and independently without facing harsh judgement.

Dr Demaio advised "kids who travel with their parents to school are more likely to be driven and are less likely to walk, ride or scoot.

“We also know that many parents are scared to let their kids travel to school by themselves and are also worried they’ll be judged by other parents in their community for doing so.

“Our message is that you’re not a bad parent if you allow your kids to walk to school by themselves. As parents, you’re in the best position to judge when your child is ready to walk to school independently.

“This is why initiatives like VicHealth’s Walk to School program are so important – we want to encourage kids to build their skills and confidence to be able to walk to school safely and for parents to feel comfortable because lots of families are doing it.

“We want to reduce the stigma around parents who allow their kids to walk to school independently and make active travel to and from school a normal part of life again.

“For many parents, taking part in Walk to School is a great step towards reducing their fears. The more families in your area walking to school the safer, and more fun, it’ll be for your kids.”

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos added that encouraging children to get active and into the habit of using their commute to enjoy a daily walk or ride was an important part of setting them up for healthy, happy lives.   

Minister Mikakos added “walking, riding and scooting to school is a great way for kids to stay active and healthy, which is why it’s so important that parents can feel confident to support their children when they feel that they are ready to safely walk or ride to school.”

“All Victorian kids should get to enjoy the benefits of happy, healthy lives and that means getting active.  Congratulations to all the schools and families participating in Walk to School this year – keep it up!”

Dr Demaio said with less than one fifth of kids getting enough daily physical activity to be healthy it was critical parents were encouraged to help their kids be more active, concluding "walking, riding or scooting to and from school every day – even if it’s only part of the way – helps kids get some of the physical activity they need to be healthy and happy.

“If parents are nervous about their kids walking by themselves another great tip is for kids to walk with friends or neighbours until they’re ready to travel independently.

“We encourage parents and carers to support their kids and each other to take part in the Walk to School program – it’s a great way to teach them the benefits of being active and see their confidence and independence grow.”

VicHealth’s Walk to School program commenced this week and runs until 1st November. Children are encouraged to walk, ride or scoot to and from school each day, with a number of prizes up for grabs for schools and individuals. Last year a record 147,000 children took part across the state, walking an impressive 1.7million kilometres.

Key facts:

• Only one in five children aged five to 17 years get the recommended one hour of physical activity every day
• Childhood obesity levels are on the rise. By 2025, one in three children will be overweight or obese

To find out more visit

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24th September 2019 - Stonnington prepares for Walk to School program

8th July 2019 - New Chief Executive appointed at VicHealth

20th June 2019 - Research recommends aquatic activity for overweight children

1st June 2019 - New parks planned for Melbourne’s expanding suburbs

14th January 2019 - Sport Australia’s Kate Palmer says schools are critical to solving nation’s inactivity crisis

11th October 2018 - VicHealth’s wellness and activity promotion recognised with Australasian Leisure Management award

29th July 2018 - Australian Sports Commission joins global movement to get children active

27th July 2018 - VicHealth initiative to help sporting organisations engage with teenagers

14th May 2018 - Walking, swimming and fitness training top list of Australians’ physical activities

21st November 2017 - Report shows massive commitment to youth and children’s sport by Australian families

26th September 2017 - ESSA Relaunches Exercise Right for Kids

8th May 2017 - VicHealth continues to provide funds for walking initiative

13th January 2017 - Low sport participation in Melbourne’s growth suburbs

15th November 2015 - Risky outdoor play positively impacts children’s health

16th January 2015 - Award winning children’s bike trail inspires an early love of cycling

21st May 2014 - Australian children get D grades in first ever physical activity report card

28th May 2008 - Australians love their Screens

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