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What has happened to our ability to assess risk?

(81 Posts)
flashingnose Thu 09-Jun-05 20:44:03

There have been a few threads on here that have got me thinking about how I assess risk, especially in relation to my children. I always thought I was easy going but certainly not neglectful, but I'm wondering whether I'm being ridiculously lax in some of the things I do (or don't do).

How real a threat is child abduction? Is it any more prevalent than when I was a child in the Seventies?

There are many instances where I take my eyes off my 4 and 6 year olds (not the 2 year old, she's far too random ) - is this really not the done thing any more?

Should I actively discourage my kids from being friendly to people?

I'm asking this mainly because I had my kids abroad (where things are much more relaxed - sigh) so I want to get up to speed with how people are thinking here and crucially whether they can back up any fears with facts, and also just to see what everyone else thinks....

Pruni Thu 09-Jun-05 20:51:35

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flashingnose Thu 09-Jun-05 20:55:00

I'd read that statistic as well, which was why I wondered whether abductions had gone up and that was why people were more concerned.

compo Thu 09-Jun-05 20:55:40

I don't have any statistics to back my opinion up I'm afraid but I think people are more worried now because these stories are so prevalent in the media nowadays. I personally don't think there is any more risk of child abduction than there was in the 70s

WideWebWitch Thu 09-Jun-05 20:56:34

I'm interested since I was with a friend recently who was very happy for her nearly 9yo and 2 nearly 8yos to go off in a zoo for an hour. I wasn't sure what I thought tbh, interested to see what age people think this kind of thing is ok.

marthamoo Thu 09-Jun-05 20:58:29

I was thinking along these lines today too. I was listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio Two and they were talking about this story and I have to admit I found myself siding with the people who phoned in to say this is sheer insanity. I just do not believe that London, or anwhere else for that matter, is teeming with paedophiles covertly taking pictures of children in public places. One man phoned in to say that his dd had celebrated her birthday party at a local leisure centre. Her party was in a private room - so all the children in there were there by invitation and known to the family. The father was not allowed to take any photographs of his dd's own birthday party. Madness.

I'm not saying that paedophiles aren't out there - of course they are - but we are creating a culture of fear and suspicion which isn't doing anyone - least of all our children - any good.

Pruni Thu 09-Jun-05 20:59:16

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flashingnose Thu 09-Jun-05 21:00:25

Well tha's the thing www, my parents would have let me go off around a zoo with someone else at about 7 or 8, no problem. It seems that would be highly unusual now, from what I've read on here.

compo Thu 09-Jun-05 21:01:20

www - I don't think I'd let my 11 year old neice and 9 year old nephew go off on their own for an hour at the zoo. I guess though once she goes to secondary school walking home from school with other girls her own age is okay. Which is the same iyswim

flashingnose Thu 09-Jun-05 21:06:38

And people worrying about putting their bins out when their kids are inside - it's never occurred to me that I should be worried about this. Ditto leaving kids in the car when paying for petrol. I am very out of touch.

Orinoco Thu 09-Jun-05 21:13:46

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sheepgomeep Thu 09-Jun-05 21:14:17

Bloody hell I don't think twice about putting the bins out when the kids are inside. I come out my back door walk round the side of the house, down the path and through the gate. I leave the kids inside the car when I go get petrol too (ds aged 5 and dd 2)
I DON'T however let them play on the path outside the gate unless I'm out there with them. I get paranoid if they play in the garden now after what happened to that little boy. I tie the gate shut and open all the windows so I can hear and see them.

flashingnose Thu 09-Jun-05 21:17:40

I discovered recently from my Dad that we had a convicted paedophile living round the corner from us all the time I was growing up. I walked or cycled past his house at least twice a day from age 7 but my parents obviously didn't think it was worth mentioning at the time!

ghosty Fri 10-Jun-05 08:43:13

This is an interesting debate.
I have totally mixed feelings about this ... As DS gets older I dread the day he asks me to let him walk to school on his own. He is 5. In NZ most children walk to school on their own and home again. It is accepted that YR1 children are walked to school by parents but I know of many children in YR2 who walk up our road alone. Coming from England I feel this is really young but my kiwi friends seem to think this is right. I do agree with them that children should be able to walk the 15 minute walk without a grown up but my Englishness gets in the way of my accepting it IYSWIM?
Also I was nearly abducted at the age of 7 ... so I feel very very nervous about letting DS go off on his own ...

bobbybob Fri 10-Jun-05 08:56:12

Most of the parents of the kids I teach piano to met me for 15 minutes, wrote me a cheque and have never been seen again, I can't see if the kids get into their parents car from my front door (and have the next child coming in and so can't go out to check). I guess because I am female and live in a nice house they assess the risk and decide I am okay. This constantly and continually surprises me - and I guess like Ghosty it's my Britishness coming out.

potty1 Fri 10-Jun-05 09:27:36

Ghosty - can understand your wariness.

Personally I think children are safer in the car while you go to pay for petrol and that its fine to leave them in the house while you put out the bins - shocked that someone wouldn't TBH

I worry what effect our over-protectiveness, if that's what we are, has later. My children walked to school by themselves in Yr 6 - there were lots that didn't. Suddenly they are in secondary and fending for themselves, walking alone or on a bus with the hoards. We aren't equipping them with the skills to cope with a crisis. When my eldest was going away for an activity week with school, I had to take him out and show him how to use a payphone because I realised he wouldn't be able to ring me .

ScotsBird Fri 10-Jun-05 09:30:03

This is really interesting. From age 6 I walked to and from school on my own most days (mum was a single parent and was working so couldnt be there). When I was 8 I went to another school on the other side of the city and had to catch a train (with other pupils). I think it fostered independence in me. I am happy to let my dd (21mths) play outside on her own in our enclosed back garden while I potter around in the house. I suppose I am quite lax, but I dont want to wrap dd in cotton wool either ... its hard to find a balance i think. Sorry flashingnose - I wasnt much help then, was I???!!!

zipzip Fri 10-Jun-05 09:36:38

I too read a report a while back that the number of abductions hasn't risen, it's just that we are more aware of them because the rise in media accessability.
The report went on to say, that because of this, parents don't allow their children to wander far or walk to school alone. I seem to recall that a figure given (this won't be spot on, but close) was that 30+ years ago 90% of children walked to school alone but now it is only 9%.
The report made a connection between these facts and the fact that children these days are unfit and do not interact socially (by comparison) I think the heading for this report was 'killing our children with kindness' (or something similar)

All this said, I do not and will not let my son (9 yrs next week) out of my site.
At the end of the day i will only do what I feel is right for me. i cannot fight my motherly instincts.

IMHO it's not just abductions that's the worry, it's the danger of roads, (and the cars and bikes that plough onto the path) it's what other kids do to kids these days, mugging, torturing etc.
there's little things too. I don't dwell on them, am just aware. Dog theft is rife, therefor I won't allow son out of sight in the park with the dog. Dog thieves will snatch from an adult which is bad enough, but if it were to happen to my son.......

Cam Fri 10-Jun-05 09:38:38

Yes how times have changed, when I was coming back from France on the ferry at half-term there was a gang of 3 girls (aged 7/8) roaming around the ship without adult supervision. My dd (age 8) commented on it as "not being safe".

But when I lived in Singapore as a child in the 60's, my sister and I (age 6 and 8 respectively)regularly took the bus on our own down into Singapore City for something to do

tabitha Fri 10-Jun-05 09:45:36

I think that the kindest and best things parents can do is to give them appropriate and increasing ammounts of freedom, no matter how difficult this is for the parents. Obviously what is appropriate will depend on the age of the child, their personality and the area they live in but 'wrapping kids up in cotton wool' is not the answer. It's particularly difficult when the media is full of awful stories about paedophiles, happy slapping, bullying, speeding cars etc. These things happened 20/30 years ago but either children were not believed when they told about it or else it was much less reported than it is now.

assumedname Fri 10-Jun-05 09:49:30

There were far fewer cars on the road when I was a kid.

And you could still do 100 miles an hour legally on the motorway!

assumedname Fri 10-Jun-05 09:53:54

I let my kids out to the park on their own. They're 11 and 9. The youngest, 6, can go as long as the park is empty (can see it from my house).

I never worry about traffic, but do about paedophiles, whereas a friend of mine worries much more about traffic and not at all about weirdos.

My 11 year old is also allowed to walk into town with her 10 year old friend.

RedZuleika Fri 10-Jun-05 09:58:38

I've seen a discussion on another website where people were debating how old a child would have to be before you'd go out and leave them. Some people were saying that they wouldn't leave their 17 year old home alone. Perhaps they have particular reasons for feeling this - maybe they can't trust their child not have some hugely gate-crashed party, which subsequently gets busted for drugs - but I found it very disturbing that this young person could leave home in a year or so (whether to their own flat, to higher education or to go travelling in, say, Uganda...) without having had to take much responsibility for their person. I'm with potty1 in wondering how children get the skills to cope in a crisis, if they are never presented with even mildly tense situations. Perhaps parents whose children go off to university kid themselves that they are still part of a system and that there's some pastoral care, but in my experience no one notices whether you come and go: only your friends - who are probably the same age - are in a position to know whether you're likely to choke on your own vomit or haven't been seen since a week last Tuesday.

I can't believe that the number of child abductors has drastically increased over the decades, but I do appreciate that changing technology has altered the nature of abuse. And we're more likely to know about sensational cases. However, I wonder if it's more likely that - if abuse does happen - it's by someone you know, rather than a stranger in the street. The father of little Jane's best friend, for instance - to whose house she's been going for sleepovers for years. Because even if you could do a background check, he doesn't have a criminal record - and he seemed such a nice man...

And then you're into worrying about whether you should restrict your child's social development.

aloha Fri 10-Jun-05 10:00:02

I think it is a hard balance to strike. Most of my contemporaries (late 30s, early 40s) remember having a lot of freedom, but also remember being flashed at in the park, being chased by strange men, getting horrible phone calls and generally leading quite a secret and separate life from their parents. I read Rhona Cameron's autobiography which is full of the absolutely horrifying sexually coercive behaviour of children who were certainly allowed plenty of freedom but who were also basically feral and it seems to be true that in groups, 11 and 12 year olds rapidly lose the sense of right and wrong.
I was interested to see, in the wake of the case of the five year old tormented by a group of older children, letters to the papers from adults about my age describing how similar things had happened and people had basically shrugged their shoulders - perhaps the perpetrators got the cane, but it wasn't considered spectacularly bad or unnatural.
there is the other side of the coin - that by taking our kids everywhere in cars we contribute to their obesity, fill the air with pollution and make it ever more unsafe to walk anywhere because of the risks posed by traffic. I personally find it quite a tricky question. Ds is three and of course I don't let him out alone, and my stepdaughter is 13 and now goes into town shopping with friends and is just about willing to get on a train alone for a longer journey if someone puts her on it and she is met at the other end.
As for putting stuff into the bins, well, yes I have to say that does strike me as pretty extreme.

nell12 Fri 10-Jun-05 10:08:02

I think it is all about equipping our children with the skills of being more independent. My ds is 9 now and is regularly out playing with his mates. He does however know about stranger danger and will only go to the areas and houses that I have ok-ed with him. It is difficult to let them go, but I see it all as part of the job of raising a well rounded individual.
As for he petrol station bit, I think the kids are safer left in a locked car than having to cross a forecourt where you have to dodge the mad drivers!
We run the risk of being too over-cautious and ending up with kids who have no coping strategies when they go to secondary school.

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