Effects of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on parents' attitudes towards green space and time spent outside by children in Cambridgeshire and North London, United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom, children are spending less time outdoors and are more disconnected from nature than previous generations. However, interaction with nature at a young age can benefit wellbeing and long-term support for conservation. Green space accessibility in the United Kingdom varies between rural and urban areas and is lower for children than for adults. It is possible that COVID-19 lockdown restrictions may have influenced these differences. In this study, we assessed parents' attitudes towards green space, as well as whether the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions had affected their attitudes or the amount of time spent outside by their children, via an online survey for parents of primary school-aged children in Cambridgeshire and North London, UK (n=171). We assessed whether responses were affected by local environment (rural, suburban or urban), school type (state-funded or fee-paying) or garden access (with or without private garden access). Parents' attitudes towards green space were significantly different between local environments: 76.9% of rural parents reported being happy with the amount of green space to which their children had access, in contrast with only 40.5% of urban parents. COVID-19 lockdown restrictions also affected parents' attitudes to the importance of green space, and this differed between local environments: 75.7% of urban parents said their views had changed during lockdown, in contrast with 35.9% of rural parents. The change in amount of time spent outside by children during lockdown was also significantly different between local environments: most urban children spent more time inside during lockdown, while most rural children spent more time outside. Neither parents' attitudes towards green space nor the amount of time spent outside by their children varied with school type or garden access. Our results suggest that lockdown restrictions exacerbated pre-existing differences in access to nature between urban and rural children in our sampled population. We suggest that the current increased public and political awareness of the value of green space should be capitalised on to increase provision and access to green space and to reduce inequalities in accessibility and awareness of nature between children from different backgrounds.