Letter: Modern dangers that handicap children's lives

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Sir: In response to Mayer Hillman (letter, 14 July), I would agree that the freedom of many modern children is more restricted than it was when, for example, I was my daughter's age, about 30 years ago. But, in defence of parents, I suggest that, far from being paranoid, many of us try to allow our children the level of freedom and independence that they are ready to handle, in spite of many misgivings. Erring on the side of safety, without carrying it to extremes, is, I suggest, good parenting.

Although the tragic, and fortunately rare, incidence of murder by a stranger is the stuff of parental nightmares, there are many other dangers, some of them life- threatening, from which we seek to protect our children.

The vast increase in traffic and the consequent dangers to pedestrians and cyclists is a source of anxiety to almost all parents. Other concerns may be specific to particular localities, families or children.

I would list among my particular concerns the grown men (not teenage boys) who 'chat up' my pretty and mature-looking 11-year- old daughter; the bullies who rampage around the local streets and park in the summer and who have been responsible for threats, damage and numerous bike thefts; the frequent occurrence of 'gropers' on Tube trains; the increased incidence of drug-dealing in the inner city; pickpockets and thieves in main shopping streets; abusive and threatening drunks or otherwise disturbed people; and the man who feels obliged to expose himself to local dog walkers from time to time.

I allow my daughter the freedom I believe she can handle and have discussed these and many other concerns with her. I have advised her on fall-back procedures if she ever feels frightened or threatened, and I know she is a sensible child. Nevertheless, she is still a child, and some of these concerns are matters that frighten me.

Even dangers that are not life- threatening may have implications for a child's social, psychological and emotional development that are just as serious as those of 'curtailed freedom'. Parents are not paranoid - we live in the real world and regard our children as much more than mere statistical chances.

Yours sincerely,


London, W6