Back in the day, it was normal to see children walking in the mornings and afternoons to and from school. However, after a few well-publicized kidnappings, parents became fearful of letting their kids walk alone and have opted to drive them instead. While some argue that children should be able to walk to school without much worrying, others are not sure if the risks are worth it.
— Lea Thali, Nia Creator
The evidence, though there isn't too much out there yet, seems to indicate that walking to school, if feasible, is the better option. If the infrastructure is in place, and you teach your child how to walk to school safely, I see no harm. The risk of kidnapping is very small, and car accidents are a greater risk than being run over while walking. Children need to learn life skills like independence, critical thinking, and how to live a healthy lifestyle, and walking to school can begin to teach them these.
Given the increasingly sedentary lifestyle that most Americans live, coupled with the rising threat of global warming, I believe the benefits of walking to school far outweigh the risks. I believe that if anything, parents should feel more comfortable allowing their children to walk to school now than they did fifty years ago, given all the recent legislation passed protecting children on their walk to school, such as the safe routes to school program. At some point, children must learn how to be independent, how to cross a road, and how to think safely, all of which a walking on their own would teach them.
There are many different and factors and each parent should consider the answers to each of these questions for their unique situation.
However, in general it seems the benefits (exercise, being outside, etc.) greatly outweigh the risks. It is easy to perceive certain risks, such as kidnapping or injury, as larger than they are in reality.
I think one thing is clear: we're all crappy drivers. There, I said it, and you should admit it too.
While this issue is always going to be emotionally hard for a parent because we always want to feel in control when it comes to our kids' safety, we need to look past any illusions of safety and pick the path with the best odds for a happy, healthy, successful kid.
The evidence is there that walking is often the better option than driving, but let's make it more personal: how many people do we know who have gotten into car accidents? How about hit by a car while walking? And how about being kidnapped? This count probably reads like this: many car accidents, maybe one or two people hit by a car, never known anyone kidnapped at all (let alone by a stranger).
So, generally speaking (and the data supports this), your kids are safer and a lot healthier walking, in general.
It's still a judgements call though. Neighborhood traffic, crime, and infrastructure need to be considered. Your child's maturity, understanding stranger danger, knowing safe pedestrian practices, and whether they would walk to school with friends.
If they do walk to school though (and inevitably, they will need to learn to walk around on their own at some point!), they will learn independence and healthier lifestyle practices that make them less likely to die of an obesity-epidemic-related disease — the odds of which are frighteningly high. Don't confuse the odds of obesity with odds of kidnapping...
After reviewing this Nia, I have chosen to vote Depends on the issue of walking to school. Though the National Center for Safe Routes to School states that children are generally not ready to walk to school alone until age 10, I believe that readiness depends almost entirely upon the specific child and their family.
I agree that walking to school can help a child gain a sense of independence as well as lead to a healthier lifestyle. I am also encouraged by the implementation of necessary infrastructure by the Safe Routes to School Program.
I have chosen to vote depends, because, despite the fact that only 1 percent of annual kidnappings are performed by strangers, I believe it is fair for a parent to be wary about giving their child too much independence at a young age. If organizations like S2RS continue to work to make the commute safer in all areas, however, I believe that walking to school could be the way of the future.
I think this issue depends entirely on circumstances. Surroundings need to be seriously considered and researched before children are free to navigate them.
What's also tipping my answer towards "depends" is the issue of how old the child in question is. Having never been a parent, deciding when and how to delegate and teach independence to children is a topic completely foreign to me. From my experience with children, I would say the age of 7 or 8 could be appropriate for short walking distances. But then again, every child is different, not every child is ready for responsibility at that age. Perhaps one day if I become a mother, I can come back to this Nia and give a more informed answer.
It depends entirely on where you live. For example, if you live in a particularly bad area of town, it's not safe to let your child walk to school in case something could happen. Also, if you live far from school or in an area that doesn't have sidewalks which would make it unsafe for your child to walk, you should be dropping your child off to save time.
However, walking to school reduces our carbon footprint and is both an environmentally friendly and health conscious decision. When you allow your child to walk to school, you are saving gas, avoiding using your car, and letting your child get exercise daily.
If circumstances allow, I think walking to school could be a better decision than driving your child. However, it's not so important that you should have them walk to school rather than drive them if you live in an unsafe/far area.