One in five parents electronically track their child’s trip to school: study
Jo Coleman simply loves walking her daughters Alyssa and Jennah to school each morning.
- Royal Children’s Hospital study shows parents track their children to ease their concern
- Poll director says tracking will not provide children with the skills needed to safely make the journey
- Study finds vast majority of students don’t walk or ride to school
It’s one of the highlights of her day, but she knows it can’t last forever and soon enough the pair — currently aged seven and eight — will want to make the trip by themselves.
Which raises an increasingly common question: should she use a device to electronically track their trip and keep an eye on them?
“That’s a discussion we are already having in our household,” Ms Coleman said.
“I just think kids and gadgets, it’s a bit too early at the moment … but as they get older that will be something I need to consider.
“The whole thing about stranger danger and those sorts of things, it does cross your mind particularly because we go to an all-girls school and, unfortunately, it is something as parents we do think about.
“But you need to give them some level of independence as well otherwise they are not going to learn.”
Ms Coleman isn’t the only one looking at the pros and cons of electronic tracking.
New research by the Royal Children’s Hospital has found that of the students who travel to school by themselves, one in five have a tracking device that is monitored by their parents.
It’s more common among teenagers, with parents citing their own comfort as the main reason for the move.
The study also found the concept was a point of tension in many homes, with nearly one in three children not wanting it, and one in five parents reporting their partner disagreed about doing it.
Anthea Rhodes is the Royal Children’s Hospital poll director and oversaw the study of 1,745 parents nationwide who care for 2,849 children.
She said she understood why parents wanted to track their children, but it had to be weighed against other factors.
“We need to remember that, just because we know where a child is … that’s not necessarily giving them the skills they might need to navigate difficulties,” she said.
“If they’re crossing a road and they need to understand how to do that safety or they encounter a difficult situation with a stranger, having the device is not going to help them. They still need the skills.”
Most children are driven to school
The hospital’s study also looked at the way children travel to school and found a clear majority were still driven or used public transport, with only a small portion walking or riding.
Ms Coleman is a fierce advocate of walking and is an active member of her Melbourne suburb’s “walking school bus” that forms as various children come together for their trek each morning.
Jennah and Alyssa have been walking to school since kindergarten and Ms Coleman said neither the distance nor the weight of their bags had ever been an issue.
“Any exercise is good exercise in our opinion,” she said.
“We go to a cafe that’s local to the school … then we walk 700 to 800 metres to school.”
Dr Rhodes said there were a number of reasons parents either didn’t walk with their children or let them go on their own.
“The family schedule, convenience, busyness were some of the big barriers,” she said.
“When it comes to older kids walking on their own, parents were concerned about things like stranger danger and traffic hazards.
“We know that obesity is a big and growing problem in Australia and an hour a day of physical activity for primary school-aged kids is recommended — this is how you can fit part of that into your day.”