Britain is turning into a nation of 'paedophobes'

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The Independent Online

Britain is becoming a nation in fear of its teenagers, with a growing number of people refusing to go out after dark because they feel intimidated by young people hanging around on the streets.

A survey of adults throughout Europe found that people in Britain are more afraid of teenagers than in any other country. A rise in what scientists call "paedophobia" - an unreasonable fear of children - has led to more than a million adults considering moving house. Adults are also less likely to stop teenagers committing acts of vandalism than in other countries because they fear being attacked.

According to research by IPPR, a think tank, only just over a third of Britons would ask young people to stop spray-painting a building in their street, or to stop being rowdy outside.

The report, Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World, found widespread fear of verbal abuse, physical attack and reprisals. It also found that lack of adult supervision was leading to a growth in youth crime and violence.

The findings coincide with a rise in the use of Asbos to control hooliganism, vandalism and disruptive behaviour among young people. The Asbos have been deployed against children as young as 10 and have included prohibitions on loitering on street corners, and even curfews.

Some new housing developments have gated communities to keep youths out. The Government has also ordered parents who fail to keep their children under control to attend parenting classes, which includes instructions on how to get their children to go to bed.

Mr Blair's Strategy Unit has been examining ways of stopping young people being dragged into criminality by their peers. They found that those who loiter on the streets tend to move on to car-jacking and robbery unless they are diverted into other activities.