Keeping kids safe at playgrounds: Survey

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with children the most vulnerable to the ultraviolet radiation that causes it.

University of Southern Queensland researchers Dr Nathan Downs and Professor Alfio Parisi are investigating the availability and quality of shade for UV and heat protection in playgrounds across New South Wales.

They are carrying out the project with lead researchers at QUT for the Cancer Institute NSW, which leads the NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy to reduce the incidence of skin cancer in NSW.

Dr Downs said the investigation had the potential to significantly benefit children and their families.

“Children need to spend time at playgrounds and outdoors for their development. But their skin is especially sensitive to direct sunlight, and they are less aware of the dangers of UV exposure. So it’s vital that there is a sufficient amount of shade at parks and playgrounds,” Dr Downs said.

“Shade is one of the most effective and easiest ways to protect from the sun, and can reduce exposure to UV rays along with good quality clothing, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and exposure timing – avoiding the sun when UV is highest.

“This project will involve virtual shade mapping and providing new methods for real time assessments of local ultraviolet protection factors and heat index underneath trees and nearby buildings.”

QUT public health sun-safety researcher Dr Elke Hacker said the team was inviting people to give feedback through an online survey about their needs and preferences in the public areas they visit.

“Input from the community who are users of playgrounds and parks is crucial to this project being able to improve access to shade and greater protection from excessive sun exposure,” Dr Hacker said.

“To ensure community members have a say in shaping their playgrounds we have launched a short, 10-minute survey that is open until May 31. To take part in the survey, click here.”

“The community feedback we receive from survey participants will inform our recommendations,” Mr Brough said.

For more information about the project, or to take part in the community survey, visit