Inner-city kids afraid to play outside, says U of A study

It’s hard to play hopscotch on a street corner where prostitutes are wooing customers; tough to play tag in a park prowled by gang members.

EDMONTON — It’s hard to play hopscotch on a street corner where prostitutes are wooing customers; tough to play tag in a park prowled by gang members.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise to University of Alberta researcher Nick Holt when a study he headed came to the conclusion that children in dangerous, inner-city neighbourhoods are often too frightened to play outside.

What shocked him were the stories.

“Some younger kids told us they had made a fort in a playground one day,” recalled Holt. “They went back there the next day and it had been used by drug users during the night and it was covered in needles.”

“It was a much bleaker picture than I was expecting.”

For the last two years, Holt and his research team interviewed 59 students with an average age of 12, eight school staff and 13 youth workers in a poor, crime-ridden neighbourhood to determine their levels of physical activity.

The researchers found that while there was an abundance of playgrounds, park space, programming and places to walk, children were too scared to use them.

The study found that in many cases, parents rarely allowed their children out alone.

When a relative was available to go along, the children said they liked to play outside, but for many of the families, especially those with single parents, that was difficult to accomplish.

Organized, adult-supervised activities in the evening were abundant, but the researchers found there were problems recruiting and retaining staff and volunteers, and sometimes children were so scared to leave at a program’s conclusion they had to be accompanied home by staff members.

“My first day of work . . . the house across the street was cordoned off because there was a murder the night before,” one teacher told the research team.

“These kids see things in this neighbourhood that you don’t see in a lot of neighbourhoods.

“You don’t see people passed out in the back alley. You don’t see meth addicts tweaking on the corners.”

Holt allowed that the fear phenomenon may not be unique to inner-city neighbourhoods, noting a study in London, Ont., found playgrounds anywhere are barely used between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“We rarely hear stories, ‘Today, thousands of kids around Canada had fantastic and fun experiences in playgrounds.’

“But when something negative does happen, you’ll hear about that,” he explained.

However, he suggested that while children in affluent neighbourhoods have heard the horror stories, kids in the inner city have seen them.

He said the situation is not unique to Edmonton, and other metropolitan areas in Canada have inner-city neighbourhoods with similar characteristics.

The study will appear in December 2009 issue of the international journal Health and Place.

Just Posted

Lacombe council seeking answers about policing cost overruns

Council surprised to find out about $240,000 policing budget shortfall

Red Deer fundraiser to help educate Somali orphans on May 11

The Mother’s Day event is for all ages

Lacombe to join municipal coalition spreading the word about importance of resource industry

Resources Communities of Canada Coalition to represent municipalities connected to resource industry

These blues will get you dancing: The Overdue Blues Band performs in Red Deer Saturday

Calgary’s Brother Ray Lemelin Band is also on Elks Lodge bill

Gardening: Time and effort key to buying garden plants

Greenhouses, garden centers and box stores are set to start selling bedding… Continue reading

Montreal native Nicholas Latifi off to solid start on Formula 2 race circuit

Practice makes perfect for Canadian Nicholas Latifi. The 23-year-old Montreal auto racer… Continue reading

Bruins victory over Leafs ensures an American team will hoist the Stanley Cup

TORONTO — Many NHL players were either not yet born or too… Continue reading

Swole, buzzy, among new words in Merriam-Webster dictionary

BOSTON — Get swole, prepare a bug-out bag, grab a go-cup and… Continue reading

Garner graces cover of People’s annual ‘Beautiful Issue’

NEW YORK — Jennifer Garner graces the front of this year’s “Beautiful… Continue reading

Updated: Joshua Arthur Sanford has been found, says RCMP

37-year-old Ponoka man last seen on Tuesday morning

Inspired by a galaxy far, far away, these ‘Star Wars’ mementos could be yours forever

CHICAGO —The stuff of “Star Wars” —and there is unfortunately no better… Continue reading

Shoppers Drug Mart launches second online medical pot portal in Alberta

TORONTO — Medical cannabis users in Alberta can now get their therapeutic… Continue reading

Most Read