‘It’s dangerous out there’: Perceptions of safety as a determinant of children’s wellbeing in Auckland, New Zealand (14697)
A growing body of research is highlighting the possibility of designing cities to achieve positive health outcomes. In this paper we contribute to this convergence of health geography and public health by drawing on data from the ‘Kids in the City’ (KITC) study to investigate the place of safety perceptions in influencing children’s attitudes towards, and engagement with, urban space. Our study explored children’s use and experiences of nine Auckland neighbourhoods. Children served as key informants and co-producers of knowledge, reporting on their environments, their safety concerns, and offering suggestions for more ‘child-friendly’ neighbourhoods. In a mix of suburban and inner-city settings, we accumulated data from trip diaries (n=260), interviews (in-situ (n=40), child-led ‘walk-alongs’ (n=140) and discussion groups (n=5). Children spoke about neighbourhood features which made them feel unsafe, including people, traffic, waterways and dogs. Parents were reported as both constraining (through being vectors of fear) as well as enabling mobility (through offering accompaniment). While being accompanied by adults or peers mitigated the constraints of safety fears, here we explore the ambivalence of adults as enablers of children’s agency and independence, We draw on Duff’s ideas of enabling resources to develop an understanding of how the development of children’s agencies or capacities might be supported. We conclude that the sort of data offered by the KITC study is helping to highlight the ways that some children feel they are outsiders in their own neighbourhoods. A key challenge for planning and public health is therefore contesting the continued reproduction of the city as comprising largely adult-centric, rather than child-friendly, space.