Thursday, 11 October 2012

Kids Today: Are We Living in a Culture of Fear?

It seems, as a parent, that every few days, you turn on the news and, yet again, there is talk of paedophiles. Either a child will have been snatched, or a celebrity will have had the finger pointed at them.

The thing is, as a child, I don't remember such a massive culture of fear surrounding these most nasty of human beings (yes, it pains me to call them that).

I have two examples, first off,  my local area's newspaper.

A young boy aged ten happened to be walking to school, not far from my very street. He was within a park, and two schools, broad daylight, when he reports a male driver "called to him" from his open window. There is now mass hysteria on one parent group I am a member of on Facebook, that we are all at risk as there is obviously some dodgy character around, poised and ready to walk off with the child of his choice.

Or not.

The thing is, as a more sensible member pointed out, yes, this could be what we, as parents, all fear. However, it could also have a perfectly reasonable explanation too. This is an area that has lots of little roads, its really easy to get lost in if you don't have a sat nav. Perhaps, just perhaps this user proposed, this man was going to ask for directions?

However, with recent events, every parent takes a sharp intake of breath that there could be a sinister side to this.

The second incident is a friend's lovely daughter. She recently started secondary school, she walks the short distance to and from school alone. She has a mobile phone but, like most kids, they run the battery out and, of course, at school can't have them on show.

When she suddenly didn't turn up home, an hour after the bell rang, her Mum was, understandably worried. We all got worried that something could have happened.

Again, it was a simple case of us all being wrapped in a bubble of fear. The daughter had decided to stay for after school club, and forgot to tell her, anxious Mum. No harm done.

So, where does this massive fear come from?

I feel the media has whipped us all up into a society that immediately worries about the unknown, who wrap our young up in cotton wool.

When you think of recent events, these people are generally known to the family of their victim. Mark Bridger was related to April Jones (her half sisters Uncle), and knew her family well. She would have trusted that, this was a man who was her parent's friends- she was playing on the green with his own daughter.

Ian Huntley was trusted by the small community he snatched Holly and Jessica from, as he was their school caretaker. He had the opportunity to ask them in his home without their parent's because he wasn't a stranger.

As for Jimmy Saville, how much opportunity did he have! Beloved TV presenter, kids around the country (myself included) wrote to him in their thousands to appear on Jim'll Fix It. He was a respected charity collector, allowed to visit hospitals and kids homes whenever he fancied.

My point is, yes, we do have to watch our children, but the biggest issue is that, all of us were taught "stranger danger" but now its more likely to be someone we knew and trusted who we needed to be wary of.

I am a massive supporter of the idea of a "Megan's Law" import in this country. At any time, we could check  up on who the people are in our town that we want to be wary of, with an picture of them too. Sadly, the Human Rights groups in this country say this is against their principles because vigilante groups would form, and serve their own justice on these people.

Yes, that possibly would be the case, but, as a parent, I don't allow my children to play in our back garden without me being there, let alone let them walk ahead at school pick up time. 

We can't watch the children we have in our care forever. We'll never stop worrying about them.

And I for one wish the media would stop playing on this parent worry for sensational headlines.

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