Professor Frank Furedi, a sociologist at the University of Kent and author of Paranoid Parenting, says:
“I’ve been examining this culture of fear for seven years and every year the situation gets worse. Things that weren’t a problem three years ago are today.
“Before, it was argued that it was unsafe for kids to play outdoors on their own. Then they were unsafe playing indoors, so kids were encouraged to sit at a computer. Now there is the risk of pedophiles lurking in chatrooms.
“Whatever kids do, there’s a health warning. I passed a park play area recently and for every child on the swings or monkey bars, there were about two adults watching to make sure they didn’t get hurt.
“There was no chance for the kids to play around and have an adventure because they were under constant surveillance.
“We no longer think of them as being robust – we now see them as vulnerable and at risk. We think there must be constant adult supervision. But youngsters also need to be taught to be self-sufficient.”
So why are parents worried ?
The average age of child bearing has gone up significantly and this is often paired with fewer offspring.This has a compound effect on those involved and makes the process of having a child at a late age much more emotionally fraught. This can result in slightly obsessive behaviour surrounding safety.
One must also consider that we live in a media saturated age. There is advice for everything and anything everywhere. We don’t just get on with it anymore. In the age of social media, in which we stand over each other like witless judges, there is a constant weighing up of ourselves against one another and a nagging inner voice that tells us we might be getting it wrong. As a result we doubt ourselves, defaulting to a state of hypersensitivity and over vigilance. The irony of all this excessive attention is that it is actually having a damaging effect on our children.
Im sure many of us can remember having the Green Cross Code drummed into us at primary school by some furry mascot or other, but there are many children beginning secondary school having never walked to school on their own. And this is not insignificant. Road awareness is taught through practice, just as any other skill is and the experience of a pedestrian is vastly different to that of a passenger in a vehicle. Indeed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is so concerned about the phenomenon that they are rolling out a scheme,Learning About Safety Through Experiencing Risk (LASER), whereby 10-year-olds encounter various scenarios aimed at boosting road skills.