Friday, 8 June 2007

As many of us will recall it was not so not long ago when a Unicef report declared the UK the worst country in the developed world to grow up in. Recently another report has suggested that parents/guardians may be too cautious when determining when and where a child might be allowed to play outside. According to The Childrens Society in 1970 the average nine-year-old girl would have been free to wander 840 metres from her front door. By 1997 it was 280 metres.
In 1970, 80% of primary school-age children made the journey from home to school on their own. It was what you did. When I was at Junior school most of us kids walked home and I don’t remember any one being picked up by car. Today the figure for children going to and from scholl alone is under 9%. Escorting children is now the norm - often in the back of a 4x4. It sems we are rearing our children in captivity - their habitat shrinking almost daily.There is increasing concern that kids are having their development hampered. This suggests that children might become stifled by fears which are more phobic than real and that so called “stranger danger” is a rare and exaggerated problem. We are certainly more likely to be aware of crimes aginst children be they local, national ot international than we were when I was a child. The information revolution has enabled us to know about anything and everything happening in our world. A startling piece of evidence from the Childrens Society report suggests that a lack of unsupervised play might reduce the opportunity for children to form deep friendships in early years. Evidence presented to the Children's Society's Good Childhood Inquiry suggested the number of teenagers who don't have a best friend has risen from one in eight 20 years ago to one in five today.
The recent case of Madeleine McCann has highlighted the debate about the supervision of children. What has happened to the McCann family is guaranteed to strike terror in the heart of every parent. In spite of the fact that abductions of children are very rare this case like all others before it will cause some parents to stray across the “over protective line”. As a parent of a young one I am sure I did many times. My worst fears never materialised. I was dreading the day when my child would have to go to school on their own and anxious to the point of deep emotional upset as we waved him goodbye on the first time. Of course he coped. He also coped with some serious bullying but he was for the most part well protected and supervised. Today he is a gregarious and highly socially skilled with a host of bright and intelligent friends. Now he takes care of himself and I am incredibly grateful. Job done.
When we were kids we played outside, weather permitting whenever we could. We lived in a town surrounded by beautiful countryside that was filled with great places to play. During summer holidays we were out all day only coming back to our house for food and drink. On many occasions we would be far from parental supervision. I completed my first solo 100 mile bike ride before I was 16. Was it safer then? I don’t think it was really. In Britain, there are now half as many children killed every year in road accidents as there were in 1922 - despite a more than 25-fold increase in traffic.
So what are we to do about this problem? It will be difficult to persuade parents to be less protective but they should try to attain a balanced practice that will enable children to development to their full potential. We live in a time when the demands on children seem more than they were when I was very young. The issues in their young lives seem more complex than ever before. Young people interviewed for the Childrens Society report often indicated they wanted stay indoors, especially after dark. They cited a long list of fears that indicated to them that the outside world was a dangerous place. This seems to me to be a very sad sate of affairs and another contributory factor in the process whereby children might easily be robbed of vital experiences that would normally enhance their development.

Fact: By the end of the decade, education will be receiving 5.6% of GDP - which compares to the 5.5% that is the current average for education in industrialised countries. It means a huge amount of cash has been spent to push us all the way up to average. Is it enough? More than one in five children have spent six or seven years in primary school without learning to read and write properly.

copyright e d g a r b r o u g h t o n 2007


Anonymous said...

Hi Rob

Godd bit o' research and a a great precis of the 'situation'. I wonder exactly how the statistics are worked out. As you and I both know, growing up in our respective (Warwick and Canterbury) childhood towns, with the counryside a short walk away, is a country mile away (pun intended) from the London estates that our boys grew up in. While the cities have sprawled, many of our towns are much the same size, with much the same available countryside to play in. It might be interesting research, to see if the kids in the towns that have not altered much, are still allowed to play as we did, or are thier parents now afraid of babies drowning in puddles, and the queue of cars round the corner filled with men in dirty macs?. Of course, still having thousands of tower blocks doesn't help, particularly if the view is more tower blocks. Letting your kids play outside if you live in one is another paranoid ball game, compared to a house on a street. Gone is the "Don't go further than the end of the road!" You can neither hear nor watch them from a tower block.

You touched on the fears that many young people hold with a view to the 'outside world'. Do you think this is the result of too much of the wrong information? It seems to me, that the media, and particularly sadly, The BBC News 24, have only one goal, that being to sensationalise anything they can, trivialise the important, and make important the trivial, that American Air-head-ess and all the time wasted on her nomark story, being a perfect example. From the media point of view, scaring everyone into staying in by portraying the world outside peoples homes as a dark and dangerous place, is excellent wheeze for raising viewing figures.
I expect there will be a program called something like 'Street World', where ordinary members of the public take their lives in their hands, and go and buy a pint of milk, or put their bins out 'on their own'! And someones got to make some money out of all the CCTV cameras - "Hello, and welcome to High Wyckham High Street TV, where we've just spotted a man in plus-fours and a waterproof jacket, going into Millets. Now that wouldn't normally be of interest, but this man is carrying a Rucksack, and we think he may have a Hood concealed in the collar of his coat" "What we thought was smoke coming from his rucksack, turned out to be just an ordinary 10 year old standing behind him smoking a spliff" "Updates to this story, and those of the many other people we are following, on the hour". It'll happen, you just know it!

Very interesting statistic re: child road accidents, quite a surprise eh. How many were from cyclists 'Riding furiously'I wonder. Wasn't the 1st person killed by a car, a policeman?

"Tell me, where do the childen play?"

Love and electrolyte
ramblinmad x

Anonymous said...

The problem is, no one really knows if the number of 'men in dirty macs' has increased over the years or not. Is the risk to our children greater than it was? My guess is that it's about the same, but it's only a guess so I decided not to test this theory by packing my kids off to school on their own too soon just in case I'm wrong ! You're dead right about the 4x4's -why do so many parents think their child's school is across miles of rough terrain and half way up a mountain?

Anonymous said...

just watching the evening news after work today , murders socalled honor killings stabbings , just a normal monday? meybe that why some of us want to keep a close eye on our kids . i may let mine go when he's 40!
i dont have a 4x4 but meybe i should get a tank, and build a great wall around my house , or meybe just stop watching the news and get on and live my life.
ps not too long till herzberg now !

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, those of us who work with (ex) sex offenders see a set up which lets us all down: Putting 'paedophiles' back in the community in large enclaves is a dangerous game. From my experience & engaging in counselling, many have only 'reformed' in order to gain early release. 'Ah!' you may say, 'Psychiatrists are not stupid'. Sadly, that is not true!