1.11.2007

Latino Children Kept Indoors

According to the findings from a U.S. Census study, 48 percent of Hispanic children living in the inner city were kept inside because of parents' perception of danger in the community. That compared with 39% of black children, 24% of Asian children and 25% of non-Hispanic white children.

What's missing in the article is the idea that the parental behavior is not simply a response to the presence of crime in the streets of urban America. While it is clearly a factor, I would argue that the Latino standards of behavior and the role of the family are just as important in limiting children's exposure to the outdoors. To test this theory simply spend time with a family in Latin America and you'll find many of the same tendencies.

It certainly was the case in my own childhood and it's also the case with many families that I've met over the years. The irony is that the perception on the part of many is that just the opposite is true. But that's clearly people generalizing out of ignorance or worse.

However, while limiting children's time out-doors serves cultural and safety purposes, it also leads to children, and then adults, susceptible to the very conditions plaguing Latinos here and abroad: diabetes and obesity.

Since these problems are at a crisis levels, it appears that Latino parents must find ways of both protecting children, transmitting important family values and encouraging outdoor activity that is safe and healthy.

Any advice for how to achieve those objectives?