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Streets safer for children than ever before

11th June 2000, Author & source unknown

New research has established that the frequency of child abduction, murder, attack and injury in car accidents is lower than for a decade - but parents are increasingly anxious. The myth of lurking danger behind every street corner has so alarmed the children's charity Play Scotland that at a conference in Glasgow yesterday it set out to convince parents that they are damaging children by being unnecessarily overprotective.

Stuart Waiton, a PhD research student, monitored 30 children during the past year to discover how their lives were affected by parents' worries. He found they lost an average of one hour's play time every day.

The number of offenders in England and Wales found guilty of gross indecency with a child dropped from 334 in 1988 to 264 in 1998. Between 1988 and 1999 the number of children murdered between the ages of five and 16 decreased in England and Wales from four per million to three. The number murdered under the age of five dropped from 12 per million to nine. Most are murdered by family members.

Waiton said that, despite the rise in divorce custody disputes, "Abductions have not increased in more than 60 years but parents are afraid to let children out of their sight and they are now suffering. Unsupervised play time is essential for the development of relationships and independence."

Research by the University of Coventry found that adults who played freely in the streets 30 years ago now rarely let their offspring out of the house unsupervised. Even child deaths from road accidents has decreased - from 10 deaths per 100,000 in 1979 to three per 100,000 in 1998.

Jennifer Cunningham, a Glasgow doctor, said: "Parents don't dare let children out of their sight - but without this time by themselves they cannot develop crucial cognitive and social skills."


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