Are we wrapping our kids in cotton wool?

This morning, the BBC news brought an important issue to light: are we too protective of our children?

When I was the same age as my son, I was allowed to roam freely, so long as I was back home to check in with Mum at the times she said. My friends and I used to make dens in the woods, walk to the next village to buy sweets from our favorite shop; go to the best park which was almost a mile away. So long as my parents knew where I was and what time I would be home, they were happy to let me play. And to think I used to complain that they were being overprotective...

But I wouldn't dream of letting my son go that far alone. He's almost eleven, and the furthest I let him walk alone is to his friend's house, just a little way down the street. Even if his school was closer to home than it is (currently 4 miles away, but that's another story!), I doubt I would let him travel to school without an adult accompanying him. In fact, only 9% of primary school children are allowed to walk to school alone these days, compared to 80% in 1970.

I can only reason that parents like myself and hubby dearest are much more conscious of the dangers their children face these days. It seems almost daily that we hear of children who are hurt in car accidents, abused or even abducted, as in the case of Madelaine McCann. A few years ago, I heard about a young girl who suffered a violent sexual assault just a few metres away from her parents in a local park. My children have not played there since.

Yet, there are many reasons we should feel reassured about the safety of our children: our children's schools are now safer than ever; there are wardens assigned to our city parks, and many organisations dedicated to the support and well being of our younger generations. Yesterday I had a rather reassuring conversation with a regular patron of my husband's shop: the gentleman worked for the paedophile unit of our local police division:

"It must be an awful job to be in," I remarked. I imagined all the terrible things he must be exposed to in his work.

"Far from it," he explained. "It's the most rewarding job I could ever have. Making sure this type of person is off the streets and away from our children gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Even helping just one child makes a difference."

Indeed it does. Despite all the worries I have about our modern society, I am so happy to know there are people like him in the world, and relieved to know things are being done to keep our young ones safe.

Gone are the days when we could let our children play happily in the streets and know they were safe. My son starts secondary school this September, and I imagine he'll want to travel to school alone. In so many ways, I wish I could wrap him in cotton wool forever...

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