Children have less freedom of mobility, Limerick study shows

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

Pictured at the launch of the Children's Independent Mobility report, which was launched by the Minister of Education and Skills, Jan O'Sullivan at Mary Immaculate College, was Ben Kazadi (age 12) from Scoil Mhathair De. Picture: Brian Arthur / Press 22.
A NEW report by researchers at Mary Immaculate College shows that Irish teenagers are less likely to have the freedom to make journeys on their own.

A NEW report by researchers at Mary Immaculate College shows that Irish teenagers are less likely to have the freedom to make journeys on their own.

The study reveals many inter-generational changes and it records a marked decline in children’s independent mobility on several scales.

Over 60 per cent of Irish parents report that, as children, they walked to school, whilst today only 13 per cent of second-level students and 22 per cent of primary children indicate that they walk to school.

This situation is more acute among girls than among boys. Parents are more reluctant to give their daughters permission to cross the road, cycle on roadways or travel on public buses, the study shows.

By contrast, boys are more likely to have access to organised sports and to engage in spontaneous recreational activities. Boys’ higher levels of independent mobility are also associated with higher confidence levels and lower levels of fear.

It states the single biggest sources of worry to children when they are outside are dogs, but for girls their biggest worry is kidnapping.

The first national study focusing on children’s mobility in Ireland, it was undertaken by Dr Brendan O’Keeffe and Alanna O’Beirne, Mary Immaculate College, and was officially launched by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan.

Entitled ‘Children’s Independent Mobility on the Island of Ireland’, this is the first Irish study ever to be undertaken to assess the level of freedom children have. The international data shows that Ireland comes in 12th place, among the 16 locations involved in the study with only 37% of children being allowed to travel home from school alone, as opposed to 90% in Finland (the highest ranking country); while 19% of those surveyed were permitted to travel on local buses alone in comparison to 65% in other countries.

The study forms part of an international research initiative across 16 countries, with MIC being selected to undertake the research for Ireland, and all efforts being co-ordinated by the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), in London.

Children and parents from 25 schools across the whole of Ireland participated in the study with a total of 2,228 children and young people, between the ages of seven and 15, completed a survey questionnaire that explored their travel patterns and levels of personal autonomy.

In addition, 1,695 of their parents or guardians completed an accompanying questionnaire about similar issues. Minister O’Sullivan said that the findings have implications for schools, local authorities, and public service providers.