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Pros and Cons of Kids Walking to School

The age-old custom of kids walking to school is quickly becoming an antiquity. Most kids these days arrive at school via private car or school bus. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of kids walking to school in this 21st century.

Walking is good exercise.
Walking to school is one of many ways that parents can help their children “own” their lives and responsibilities. When parents drive kids to school, parents “own” the responsibility of getting kids to school. When kids ride a school bus, the kids’ sole responsibility is getting to the bus stop on time. Walking to school, by contrast, is literally portal-to-portal responsibility, but not so burdensome a responsibility as to be daunting (unless the kids live an excessive distance from school).
If kids walk in groups, the walks can be bonding opportunities among the kids’ social group. Social skills can be developed and enhanced. Self-definition can be shaped based on social relationships (i.e., “I’m funny. I make people laugh.”).
If kids walk singly, the walks can be opportunities to unplug and spend some time in quiet introspection. Kids today spend so much time being entertained by electronics; unplugged walks can be near-term decompressing and can, over time, increase kids’ self-awareness. (Note: if kids listen to music as they walk, this can still be consistent with decompression and an increase in self-awareness.)
Walking to school can present opportunities for discovery: finding new paths to school, meeting new kids and neighbors along the way, seeing and appreciating flowers or other aesthetics on the journey, and finding odd items (i.e., a buffalo nickel, a piece of broken crockery, or another child’s jacket) strewn on the path and developing an inquiry into them, etc.

Long distances and inclement weather present challenges for kids walking to school. Sometimes, kids should not walk to school given these factors.
Stranger danger must always be considered when kids are walking without adult escort. Kids walking in groups are usually safer than kids walking singly.
Social interactions during group walks can be socially scarring if those interactions are unpleasant. For example, if one of the kids walking in the group is being bullied by another of the kids in the group, those walks can be socially and psychologically damaging for the victim of the bullying (and, in the bigger picture, damaging also for the bully).
The walking path may yield unpleasant discoveries: offers of drugs or alcohol, etc.
In sum, walking to school is not right for all kids in all situations, but it is a healthy, positive choice for many kids in many situations. Parents are well advised to assess the pros and cons that are unique to their kids and make choices accordingly.

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