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Scared of the Kids?

Curfews, crime and the regulation of young people

Stuart Waiton

ISBN 0 86339 929 0 May 2001 pp176 Paperback 9.95 + £1 p&p

Sheffield Hallam University Press
Adsetts Centre, City Campus, Sheffield, S1 1WB
Tel: 0114 225 4702 Fax: 0114 225 4478 Email:

Culture Matters: Communications, Media and Communities Series

Series Editor Graham Barnfield

A series of publications reflecting diverse and innovative academic work. The series covers a broad range of
interests from popular culture and local history to critical theory and analysis of social trends, with the accent on recent debates and initiatives in the various fields of enquiry.

Scared of the Kids? is a thorough examination of the lives of and relationships between young people and adults within communities today. The book is recommended as an important overview or anybody working within the community – especially those working with children, young people and families.

A key question the author addresses is "How should those of us working in the community deal with the levels of fear and insecurity that exists between the generations?"

Areas addressed include:

The importance of ‘free play’ for children

How fear is excluding young people

The importance of community relations

The question of children’s rights

Are young people really ‘at risk‘?

The growing regulation of young people.

Based on research with young people who were directly affected by the Hamilton curfew in Scotland, this book critically explores the development of safety initiatives within schools, communities and throughout young people’s lives.

Waiton looks at how a sense of risk, or fear, across society has created an environment within which the petty misbehaviour of young people has been redefined as criminal. Policing for example is no longer based on policing crime – but on policing the fear of crime – something the author explains is little more than policing based on prejudice.

Scared of the Kids? explains how the level of insecurity and fear surrounding children and young people is such that all areas of their lives are being affected.

Within schools, hospitals and across council departments, the author describes how crime and safety concerns associated with young people are affecting public services and asks, "Can we still call ourselves ‘public servants’ when often our initial instinct when dealing with a young person is to ask ‘am I safe’?"

The second half of this book looks at the effect that a ‘risk conscious society’ is having on the lives and relationships of children, young people and adults within the community.

Firstly the author examines the trend to over-protect children and thus limit their freedom.

With an overview of the growing body of research in this area, Waiton explains that "ironically in a period when children have never had less free time, the image of them running around wild and the call for more curfews across the country is greater than ever before."

The effect of this growing regulation of children’s time upon children and the family is explored.

The young people in the curfew-targeted areas were conscious that they were being moved off the street because of adults’ fears of them. Waiton looks at how the curfew simply reinforced these fears and reduced further the contact between the generations. This growing distance between the generations is discussed in depth as Waiton tries to explain why adults no longer feel able to deal with the young people on their estates and in their schools.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Scared of the Kids? explores the effect that growing up within a ‘risk conscious environment’ is having on young people themselves.

"It is not far from the truth," Waiton concludes, "to say that ‘youth’ no longer exists – if by youth we mean the freedom-loving rebelliousness so often associated with teenage life."

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