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Our best intentions could be robbing children of their freedom

Parents will always have an innate desire to keep their children safe, and this is something that's only strengthened by the many horror stories about accidents and other misfortunes presented to us in the tabloid press each day.

However, new research has suggested that this well-meaning protection could be having detrimental consequences for our youngsters' development - because it's eliminating the lessons that can be learnt from risk.

Furthermore, it could be making children feel over-protected and dissatisfied, which might in turn lead to mental health issues.

The poll was carried out by Eureka Children's Museum in West Yorkshire on 2,823 parents and children, with the latter aged between five and 11.

It found that 81 per cent of kids prefer playing outside to watching television, yet half of parents or carers said they won't let their offspring leave the boundaries of the garden or home. Only 37 per cent revealed they would let little ones go as far as the end of the street when playing out.

When asked why this was, the majority cited concerns about stranger danger and heavy traffic, even though 95 per cent also agreed that it is vital to allow kids to take risks and have time free from adults to let their imagination run wild.

Sadly, many of the parents polled admitted their children don't enjoy the same freedoms they once took for granted; parents' favourite places to play were fields, woods and the street, whereas modern youngsters listed the park, the garden and the home.

It's sad to think that the once traditional pleasure of meeting friends 'down at the rec' (and only returning home when the sun started going down) might be lost forever because we're too frightened to let out kids out of our sight.

And if children never learn to manage risks and understand real danger, they are likely to be less advanced developmentally than we were at the same age.

"Parents need to be provided with the tools and confidence to allow their children more freedom to play outside, or the next generation of children will become even more housebound than the current one," warned the report.

It suggested that local councils could help by "setting up street play initiatives aimed at closing off streets and instilling a sense of shared trust and collective care within a street community".

The news comes after a study carried out at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Bristol on children aged aged five to 16 in nine countries discovered that physical activity levels drop significantly when the clocks go back.

Indeed, they were 15 to 20 per cent lower on winter days than summer ones, leading the authors to suggest that it would be beneficial to health if 'British Summer Time plus one' became the norm.

What do you think about these two pieces of research that are so closely linked? Perhaps you'd love to see your offspring playing like you once did, but feel the threat from strangers or cars is just too much. If this is the case, what do you think could be done to reduce it and allow kids more freedom?

And how about altering the clocks and keeping them forwards rather than backwards? Would this make a difference to playtime? As ever, we'd love to know your thoughts.

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