0734 GMT February 28, 2020
A combined study by Auckland, Otago and Harvard University tracked a group of children aged between 11 and 13 found that they spent more than 50 percent of their non-school time within 500 meters of the family home, theguardian.com reported.
They typically left to visit their school, friends’ homes and food outlets such as takeaway shops and convenience stores.
Tim Chambers, lead researcher on the Kids in Space study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, said, “The findings supported current trends for modern kids to be less active and independent than previous generations, as fears about neighborhood safety rose and daily physical activity decreased.
“This study is the first to quantify the size of New Zealand children’s actual neighborhoods and the time they spend in them, and where else they go.
“Children in the study most often visited school and other residential locations, showing that school is a significant leisure setting outside school hours”.
The research used wearable cameras and GPS technology to measure more than 100 children’s leisure activities for four days between Thursday and Sunday.
Children visited food outlets as often as sporting and outdoor recreation venues combined, with children visiting food outlets twice a day and spending 14 percent of all their non-school time there, the study found.
Considering a third of all New Zealand children are overweight or obese, the amount of time they were spending at food shops rather than parks or outdoor areas was worrying, said Chambers.
Chambers said, “There is now mounting evidence of the link between neighborhood and wellbeing.
“The constrained nature of children’s neighborhoods heightens the impact of local facilities and retailers on their health.”
Associate professor Louise Signal of the University of Otago in Wellington said community action and government leadership was needed to create healthy neighborhood environments for New Zealand children.
Signal said, “Recent positive changes include local retailers refusing to sell junk food to children in school uniform, and local communities stopping new alcohol outlets in their neighborhoods.”
Over 100 children were randomly recruited from 16 school zones in the Wellington region for the study.