Childhood Freedom vs The Nanny State

On the radio this morning, I heard an item that showed me how far the Nanny State extends in today’s world. The report stated that a school was referring a family to the social services because the two children aged 5 & 8 were cycling to school unaccompanied.

Don’t get me wrong, I too think that 5 years old is too young to be out on a bike without supervision, but don’t you think that getting the social services involved is a mite heavy-handed? If the parents have problems escorting the kids to school, why can’t the school or another parent help out? Or is that not allowed in this politically correct, insurance obsessed world?

OK, I come from an earlier age, but at 5 I was walking unaccompanied up a road with no pavements to visit my friend whilst my parents worked in our little shop; the risk of traffic was minimal because there just wasn’t that much around. No-one worried about me popping “up the road” and then we would all play out in the street with no supervision. It was, I must admit, in the age where most mothers didn’t work and if they did it was some “light housework for the Brigadier’s wife” or some such and they would walk to their employers with hat & coat on & their overall folded neatly in a bag. Those who employed “cleaners” in our street employed ladies who came in with scarves on their heads and their overalls already on – in other words it was a “nice” area.

But I digress, by the age of 6 we were wandering off to the local playing field by ourselves and playing in the sand-pit, drinking water from the fountain and falling of the swings, but no-one worried; we had all be instructed “not to talk to strange men” but it wasn’t elaborated on and we didn’t ask – it was a far more innocent time! I wonder how the social services would re-act to this now? We would ask for and get a “picnic” usually meat paste sandwiches and a bottle of orange squash and stay out all day – arriving home when we heard the school clock strike 5. No-one got into trouble, no-one got molested and we thoroughly enjoyed our time playing and growing with plenty of social interaction that developed naturally, not influenced by the TV or internet. Getting into trouble meant being caught scrumping from the orchard at the top of our street!

As we grew, we roamed further afield to the brooks at the bottom of old Loose Hill, but no-one worried, we walked that way every Sunday on the way to Sunday school. We would ask for jam jars to catch tiddlers and frog spawn in and proudly bring them home, only to find that half of them had died on the way home! But it didn’t traumatise us – we accepted it as part of the way things were.

We had loads of adventures and, apart from the usual bumps and bruises, never came to any real harm and enjoyed the freedom. OK you say that was back then, but the dangers were out there then; the Myra Hindley episode came to light just after this time – it just wasn’t reported as much or in such minute detail and by going out and about you developed real friends and a good dose of common sense, which is lacking with today’s kids who are over protected and when they are let out into the world or to roam on the internet are not able to pick up the signs that we developed in that “innocent” time to sense good from bad.

One final thing, I caught a bus today and three teens got on – to travel ONE stop! We used to roam miles – what’s gone wrong??



  1. I’s a good job Christopher Columbus wasn’t born today. Imagine-‘ooh, you can’t do that, you might get lost/abducted’ etc.

  2. You touch on a subject close to my heart, because I believe the world is so topsy turvy on this subject today (and I’m only 45 myself!).

    It drives me insane that schools drill the whole Stranger Danger message into every child, when it is completely the wrong message to give: something like 85% or more of cases involving Bad Things happening to a child (other than road accidents) are not caused by strangers at all, but by people they have been taught to trust, because they know them.

    So that’s excellent – make children scared of adults by default, and then make them scared of the wrong ones. Fabulous idea, not! I taught my children to think for themselves: who initiated the contact (if you approach an adult for help, the chance of them being the wrong one is very slim, for example. But if they single you out, that’s a different matter entirely) etc.

    Interestingly, I believe it is the case that child abduction/murder rates have not significantly risen in the last 50 years, despite the invention of the internet, and the ease with which paedophiles can now find each other. And that’s why the rates haven’t risen much: because they are not the people children are in danger from, for the most part. Your stepfather, uncle, mother even don’t need to go onto the internet to find you because they live in the same house as you!

    I’m not trying to scare people about this but trying to explain why we should be a lot less hung up about scary people hanging around on street corners. Fear breeds fear. The vast majority of people are well meaning, and if a child of 5 or 6 could walk to school on their own in the 1960s, they can do so today, as they learn how to do so safely.

    And the other huge change – and much more important to children’s health – is the massive increase in traffic. But I see so many adults so focussed on the bogeyman fears that they won’t let go of their children’s hands and allow them to learn to walk to school on their own. Yes, I was scared to death the first time I let my son (aged 5) walk to the post box on his own, but I rationalised my fears and within 10 minutes he was back again, happy as Larry.

    I remember one time when my son walked to school and my (scared to death by everything) friend came by to tell me she had “rescued” him from the side of the road because he was too scared to cross. Er, no. SHE was too scared for him to cross. It was a quiet estate road he crosses twice a day and on the normal route to school. But apparently, because I wasn’t there, she believed he was too scared to cross. If people have their own fears, that’s their issue, but please don’t project them onto my child!

    I think she’d have a heart attack if she knew my two boys (then 7 and 9) walked two miles to the local supermarket on their own alongside a VERY busy road, which they had to cross repeatedly as the path went from one side to the other! They had gone the wrong way, as it happened, but I was so proud of how easily and safely they navigated the route on their own. So many parents would have shouted at them about what could have happened, but didn’t, just to release their own anxiety. Me, I bought them an ice cream and told them I was proud of them.

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