UK: Most adults think children ‘are feral and a danger to society’

Children are the most excellent mirror of a society!

Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

Comment: Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s

Public intolerance of young people has reached such levels that more than half of all adults think that British children are beginning to behave like animals, a poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, found that 49 per cent of adults regard children as increasingly dangerous both to each other and to their elders, while 43 per cent feel that “something has to be done” to protect society from children and young people.

More than a third of people agree that “it feels like the streets are infested with children”.

The YouGov poll of 2,000 adults suggests that the great strides made towards children’s rights and child welfare through the Government’s Every Child Matters agenda, in which the interests of the child are supposedly put at the heart of all policy, have had little impact on public consciousness.

The picture to emerge from the poll is of an adult population exasperated by what they perceive to be a breakdown in social order among the young. For children and young people, the upshot is a world in which they are made to feel unwelcome in public spaces and where adults have become fearful of them on the streets.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s and former director-general of the Prison Service, said the attitudes revealed by the study reflected the results of the British Crime Survey, which showed that people blame children for “up to half of all crime” when in fact they are responsible for 12 per cent of criminal activity.

More than half of the survey respondents (53 per cent) said that children were beginning to behave like animals and 45 per cent agreed that people refer to children as feral “because they behave this way”.

Mr Narey said it was appalling that words like “animal”, “feral” and “vermin” were now used daily in reference to children. He said: “Despite the fact that most children are not troublesome, there is still a perception that today’s young people are a more unruly, criminal lot than ever before. The British public overestimates, by a factor of four, the amount of crime committed by young people.” In reality, most young people lead trouble-free lives and many contribute positively to society. Half of 16 to 19-year-olds help informally in their communities and a third do formal voluntary work, according to the Barnardo’s report. The charity argues that children who become involved in criminal activity come from the most deprived families, have the poorest education and are more likely to suffer from poor health.

It cites the case of Liz, aged 17, who was taken into care after her mother abandoned her as a baby and her father abused her. Unable to fit in, and bullied by other children, she became unmanageable and violent.

With the help of Barnardo’s, she is attending a course to learn the practical life skills that teenagers from more comfortable backgrounds take for granted. She told researchers that for the first time she has a sense that her life is heading somewhere positive. Her ambition is to become a chef in the Navy.

Barnardo’s hopes that such stories, together with an accompanying television campaign and a video that will be aired on YouTube, will help to tackle negative perceptions of youngsters.

– Pre-nuptial agreements would be legally binding and cohabiting couples would be refused the same rights as those who wed, under Tory plans for strengthening marriages and families. The proposals, revealed in an interim report from the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, run by the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, also back the use of Australian-style family relationship centres, which work with separating or divorcing couples.

November 17, 2008
Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

Source: The Times

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