How children lost the right to roam in four generations

A Daily Mail story outlines how children have almost completely lost their right to roam by walking and bicycling in the last four generations. This causes many problems in children's development, including loss of health and fitness, loss of independence, loss of the chance to instill lifelong healthy habits, loss of contact with nature, and almost completely indoor living with its sedentary activities.

The great-grandfather lived mostly outside and roamed in an area six miles in radius. The grandfather was allowed to roam an area with about a 1-mile radius, the mother was allowed a half-mile radius.

The son, a child today, is allowed to roam in his back yard and occasionally go the end of the street. In reality he spends most time indoors.

She said: "He can go out in the crescent but he doesn't tend to go out because the other children don't. We put a bike in the car and go off to the country where we can all cycle together.

"It's not just about time. Traffic is an important consideration, as is the fear of abduction, but I'm not sure whether that's real or perceived."

She added: "Over four generations our family is poles apart in terms of affluence. But I'm not sure our lives are any richer."

The report's author, Dr William Bird, the health adviser to Natural England and the organiser of a conference on nature and health on Monday, believes children's long-term mental health is at risk.

He has compiled evidence that people are healthier and better adjusted if they get out into the countryside, parks or gardens.

Stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, he says. Even filling a home with flowers and plants can improve concentration and lower stress.

"If children haven't had contact with nature, they never develop a relationship with natural environment and they are unable to use it to cope with stress," he said.

"Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature were at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment.

"They need time playing in the countryside, in parks and in gardens where they can explore, dig up the ground and build dens."