Nanny state? Debate heats up over kids playing on streets
COUNCILS with a huge focus on risk adversity could be contributing to a decline in the number of kids being encouraged to play outside, says an expert from Bond University.
Gold Coast's Dr Wayne Petherick, an Associate Professor of Criminology, said companies, businesses and councils often attached too much risk to an activity, such as a basketball hoop in a quiet cul-de-sac.
"Instead of looking at the potential benefits to the activity, they focus on the risks associated with it and what could go wrong," he said.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to dangers we tend to over predict the risk and under predict the benefits, so will attach too much risk to an activity so it will decline or stop altogether.
"Instead we should be looking at the benefits that are coming from being outside in the fresh air and social interactions and physical activity."
It comes as a mother-of-four copped backlash after she spoke about being threatened with a $667 fine from the Gold Coast City Council for having a basketball hoop in her cul-de-sac.
Bundall local Carmen Battems said her children aged 11 to 16 spent about 20 minutes a day shooting hoops after school before coming in to study. More than 100 Facebook comments championed the council's hard-line approach, accusing Mrs Battems of being "entitled" and suggesting her kids play at a council park instead and "get off the street".
But dozens of Gold Coast parents stood up for resident, saying they felt the council was discouraging "kids from being kids" and playing in the streets.
Mudgeeraba mother Shannon Ball said there was nowhere for kids to play. "People don't want to slow down when they see kids playing in streets, kids are an inconvenience these days.
"Where I live kids ride their dirt bikes on the weekend and people complain. I love the sound, it's one less Xbox on and one more kid outdoors."
Pacific Pines mother-of-two Maree Carter said her elderly neighbours told her they loved hearing the noise of kids playing outside in the streets. "It is a good way to start to make the neighbourhood a community," she said.
Benowa resident Kathy Kruger said she lived in a wide street and believed as long as kids were old enough, respectful of others and younger ones were supervised, then "play should absolutely be encouraged".
Another parent commented that she had a swing hanging from a tree and council told them to take it down or risk a big fine, after one of her neighbours complained.
Dr Petherick said allowing kids to play outside taught them negotiation strategies, how to be empathetic towards other people, conflict resolution and helped them to develop effective communication skills.
"They certainly won't get these skills if they're locked up inside playing on consoles all day. "Unfortunately, we seem to be discouraging interaction and communication and the evidence is clear that we're becoming less social and losing essential brain function that governs social behaviour and importantly, problem solving parts of the brain," he said.
"Some people are attributing the reduction in mass of the frontal lobe of the brain to a lack of social interaction, with people being online more.
"What's better, to shoot hoops outside for 20 minutes or sit at a desk watching TikTok videos for hours on end.
"We already have a problem with obesity and kids wanting to spend more time inside, it doesn't make sense to discourage children from playing outside."
Originally published as Nanny state: Debate heats up over kids playing on Coast streets