One-in-four seven-year-olds is concerned about bullying, but researchers found the fear fades considerably with age.
However, girls are almost twice as likely as boys to worry about the problems associated with bullying.
Across a survey of 2,228 children aged seven to 15, almost one-in-10 girls and just over 5% of boys expressed a fear of bullying.
But while less than 5% of children aged 13 and older fear bullying, more than 25% of seven-year-olds do so. The figure quickly drops to 15% of eight-year-olds, just over 10% of those aged nine and 10, and 6%-8% among 11 and 12-year-olds.
“The relatively low proportion of children who reported to be concerned about bullying does not take away from the seriousness of the issue,” say Alanna O’Beirne and Brendan O’Keeffe in their report.
“The opinions expressed by children in our survey may well be a testimony to the success of anti-bullying initiatives that schools and health authorities have been promoting over recent years, and thereby underscore the importance of continuing and mainstreaming such interventions,” they wrote.
For children, particularly those in primary school, dogs and kidnapping are the two biggest fears when they are outdoors.
Other issues are animals, criminals, the welfare of others, and drunk people, which are all of about equal sources of fear as bullying.
Strangers and traffic are parents’ two biggest fears for their kids being out after dark, but living in remote rural areas, and a perception they do not need to be out after dark, were also among the issues they raised.
The report, being published today at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, recommends provision be made for children’s input into decision-making fora and public consultation processes in all policy arenas.
“We would hope the departments of education and environment would send the signal down through their structures to local authorities and schools, and actively support communities that promote increasing mobility,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“Parents are entitled to support structures if they are going to be active in making their children more mobile. It’s about giving parents a choice, and at least giving better facilities for those who opt to walk or cycle,” he said.
Despite regular complaints of children not spending enough time on sports at school, the report said children’s participation in physical education and their levels of physical activity in school compare favourably with international norms.
However, Mr O’Keeffe said there was evidence this was more the case at primary level, with time spent on PE dropping away from early teenage years in Ireland.
Gender differences also emerge when it comes to independent mobility, as parents are more reluctant to give their daughters permission to cross roads, cycle on roadways or travel on public buses.
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