A recent survey of six thousand children is reported as saying that nearly nine out of ten of them are anxious about violence and street crime and called for extra policing in parks and places where children play on their way to and from school.

It found 54% feared violence, 53% crime and 51% said they were anxious about war.
There were just 11% who had no such worries. Half of those surveyed worried about their parents arguing, 48% about their health and 40% about being poor. 83% said they would walk to school and 78% would play in parks if they were safe. 63% agreed there should be an emergency number to call when they felt unsafe.

How meaningful can such figures be? – Ought they to be taken seriously? – Was the survey taken in a congested Urban or a quiet Rural Area? – Were the children all from the same age group? – When they say they are anxious, do they mean frightened or just concerned? – Perhaps we should be told how these children were selected? The answers from a six year old would be expected to differ greatly from those of a teenager!

Did You Know?

Children as well as adults have always had a fear of something. For the very young it is usually the dark or being left alone. As they get older, boys always strive to convince everyone they are afraid of nothing but it is often quite easy to find something they quickly shy away from. All of them would hesitate before walking across a field where cows were grazing until they had made quite sure there was no bull in attendance.

Nowadays ladies have their cars to travel about in after dark but there is no doubt they would be just as reluctant as their forebears to venture out and walk any distance on their own.

In every school there are bullies and probably always will be, but fortunately there are not nearly as many as there were. At least they are now discouraged and punished when caught, whereas in the old days, led by the example set in Private Schools where new boys were made to ‘fag’ for the seniors, it was accepted. Like the sixth formers and prefects at Grammar Schools, those pupils who were already young men, had license to use physical force if the juniors did not do as they were told.

Before the last war youngsters had a great deal to fear and feel anxious about. There was probably more violence on the streets. Especially when the pubs closed but then it was most likely to be a dispute between two mature men over something insignificant. It was quite possible that the next day they wouldn’t even be able to remember why they had fought.

People didn’t have the problems with traffic they have today but there was always the danger of being run over by horse drawn vehicles. From time to time a horse took fright and bolted, galloping off down the road making everyone run for cover. Bicycles too could be a hazard. Errand boys in particular with a heavily loaded basket over the front wheel sometimes found it difficult to steer a straight course. Added to which, their brakes were not always reliable.

Dogs were generally kept outside the back door chained to a kennel. Very few were allowed into the houses that were often small and overcrowded. At any time of day a number of different breeds that were usually outnumbered by mongrels could be seen running loose on the streets. Many had no collar or any means of identification. Some were let out because owners didn’t have the time or inclination to exercise them regularly and they didn’t want a mess in their back yard. Others were just left to roam about all the time. It wasn’t wise for children or anyone to approach them but of course they often did and it was not unusual for someone to be bitten. This called for a hasty visit to the local Chemist who would probably paint the wound with iodine. Needless to say that such treatment was often more painful than the initial bite.

Youngsters generally had no fear about being poor because most of them already were and they didn’t worry about their parents arguing because not many did in front of their children. They had to walk or cycle to school because there was no other way to get there.

Young boys were often seen fighting among themselves. There was probably more gesticulating and wrestling than actual hitting with the most likely final outcome being nothing more serious than a bloody nose. Some formed their own street gangs but rarely confronted those from other areas. It was more likely for them to re-enact an adventure they had seen on film at their local cinema the previous Saturday afternoon.

Their main concern about the war when it started was that it would be over before they were old enough to play a part in it. Many fifteen and sixteen year olds ‘did their bit’ by joining up with members of the Civil Defence to help with Fire Watching, recycling etc.

So what did the survey really tell us?

There always has been and always will be individuals with phobias that are difficult for others to understand but every generation has its own unique problems. Children of today do not have to worry about dogs roaming the streets, crossing a field where there is a bull or even being given away to the gypsies. [Sometimes threatened by distressed parents when a child had been particularly naughty.]

They are all so much better off materially nowadays and should be happier but as soon as they are out of their cot they seem to be under pressure to perform and reach set standards. Leaving little or no time to have fun and enjoy their childhood. Are all these targets really necessary and conducive to a successful life for our future youngsters?

valley lad – [SIXTYFOUR]