One in five (18%) parents report using a tracking device to monitor the location of their child when travelling independently.
The poll asked Australian parents a series of questions about their behaviour, attitudes and experiences in relation to children’s travel to and from school.
According to the findings, 58% are driven to or from school by car most days of the week, 71% of Australian children do not walk or ride to school in a typical week and 20% teenagers never travel to or from school without an adult
The main worries parents have about independent travel relate to safety of their child, including stranger danger, traffic hazards and bullying. This has prompted many to use tracking devices to monitor their child’s movements.
When asked if “using a tracking device makes me more comfortable to allow my child to travel without an adult”, 88% of parents responded yes and 87% felt reassured about their child’s safety by tracking their location.
Royal Children's Hospital poll director, Dr Anthea Rhodes, said the findings highlight the many factors that affect a parent’s decision about how their child travels to and from school.
“Active and independent travel have potential physical and mental health benefits for children and yet many Australian children are not regularly engaging in these activities, with most being driven to school by car,” Dr Rhodes said.
“A combination of fear of strangers and perceived traffic hazards contribute to parents discouraging tweens and teens from independent travel.”
Dr Rhodes said the challenges of family scheduling and convenience further add to parents choosing car travel over walking or riding to or from school.
“Policy makers should consider these factors in the development of physical, social and regulatory environments to support parents and families in choosing active and independent travel for their children,” she said.
“Geolocation technology has the potential to alleviate some of the perceived fears among parents and children about independent travel risks, but further research is needed to understand the impact of this practice on parent–child relationships, actual child safety and the development of independence in children and teens.”