Monday, 19 Dec 2011

19 December 2011: Children who know how to use a mobile phone, as opposed to those who don’t, are more likely to move about their neighbourhood without adult supervision, new research from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) suggests.

The study, by ACER Research Fellow Ms Catherine Underwood, examined the extent to which knowing how to use a mobile phone is correlated with children’s physical activity and ability to move through their neighbourhood without adult supervision, also known as independent mobility.

More than 800 Victorian primary school children aged between 8 and 12 years participated in the research, of which 84 per cent reported they know how to use a mobile phone.

The study revealed that 70 per cent of children who know how to use a mobile phone reported that they are allowed to go outside and play with other children, compared to only 51 per cent of children who do not know how to use a mobile phone.

Children who know how to use a mobile phone reported a greater awareness of skills needed to move independently around their neighbourhood, such as how to read street signs (94 per cent of children who know how to use a mobile phone vs. 74 per cent of those who do not), road safety rules (91 per cent vs. 88 per cent) and how to use public transport (61 per cent vs. 33 per cent).

Children who know how to use a mobile phone also reported a preference for playing outside and participating in outside activities, and were more likely than children who do not know how to use a mobile phone to say they enjoy moving around in their neighbourhood. They were also more likely to own equipment that enabled them to engage in active modes of transport, such as a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or rollerblades.

Ms Underwood said the findings support the idea that mobile phones may be a tool parents use to allow their children greater independent mobility.

“The mobile phone, once a leading contributor to inactive lifestyles, has had a change of heart and may now be getting children mobile in their neighbourhood,” said Ms Underwood.

Analysis was based on an aspect of data looking at children’s independent mobility and active transport collected in 2010 using VicHealth funded data. Data was collected from 1,427 primary school aged children from Prep to year 6 aged 4 to 12 years across 19 Primary Schools in Victoria.

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