Letter: Parental paranoia is restricting children

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his review (7 July) of the BBC 2 Open Space programme 'The Kids Aren't All Right', Thomas Sutcliffe suggests that it was 'a lousy week' to be telling parents not to worry so much about allowing their children out on their own, no doubt owing to the killing of a three-year-old child and the abduction of a newborn baby from a hospital. As Mr Sutcliffe knows, these TV productions are planned, filmed and scheduled well in advance of their screening.

In my view, the media have a responsibility to allay fears where these are grossly exaggerated. In fact, Home Office statistics show that, on average, one child a year is murdered by a stranger, and I am unaware of any evidence that this average was lower a generation ago, when surveys by the Policy Studies Institute have recorded that children enjoyed far fewer restrictions on their freedom than they do today. As a consequence of parental paranoia about this minute risk - albeit, of course, tragic in the particular circumstance - literally millions of children are having their independence severely and unnecessarily curtailed.

There is increasing professional concern about the significance of the damage to children's physical, social and emotional development resulting from the restrictions on their freedom. Clearly, this issue warrants more informed public debate.

Yours faithfully,

MAYER HILLMAN

London, NW3

11 July

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