David Kendall, pictured here with son Zac, 8, and wife Libby say there are fewer options available for children to play unsupervised outdoors. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
When David Kendall was growing up in Melbourne, he would leave home in the morning to play with his brothers and friends, riding his bike, yabbying, or sneaking into cinemas, with the only requirement to be back in time for tea.
It's a familiar story for most who grew up in a time before computers, and a study of 1000 households, commissioned by a power tool company, has found only a third of children today are allowed to leave their property unsupervised, verses 90 per cent of their parents.
Time spent outdoors is also right down, with half of the parents surveyed spending over three hours a day playing outdoors as children. Now less than 15 per cent of their kids do.
Zac Kendall, 8, gets some play time outside. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Mr Kendall, from Holt, said he has no problem convincing his eight-year-old son Zac to participate in outdoor activities, but there were fewer options available, with not many children his age living in the street, and no culture of playing outdoors together.
“Trying to get kids to go out to play probably only lasts as long as going out the back and feed the chooks, then maybe a bit of a wander around to climb on the wood pile and check out what's happening next door … then it's back inside and 'I'm bored',” he said.
He's seen the change too, having raised two older children in the 80s, and thinks computers and DVDs are a big contributor.
He wonders if modern day children stay inside the house because that's where it's easiest, although he imposes strict time limits on the television and computer, and they get away for weekends for camping and other outdoor adventures.
Clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack said keeping children constantly supervised can stifle independence and self-confidence.
“My view of parenting is to encourage independent, responsible young adults, and if we are constantly keeping them too close and keeping them inside where we are … I don't think we're giving them the opportunity to live up to their potential,” she said.
She knows parents are bombarded with messages about the dangers children face, but says parents need to create a safe environment where they can play unsupervised.
“It's freedom with boundaries if you like. Give them the limits, the rules, whatever you are happy with as a parent,” she said,
“It might be going out and playing in the yard for the next two hours. They may have access to shovels or whatever it might be… whatever the parents are comfortable giving them and then letting them be.”
“Children who aren't allowed to go out and explore and do their own things, they make lack the trust in themselves. We have to let kids make mistakes, albeit small ones.”