Keeping children safe without imprisoning them in the home

“Some children creep out of their homes at night without their parents’ knowledge. I just hope their parents are not relying on a policy of imprisonment to keep their children safe.”
– Sarah Fitz-Claridge


From the archives: The original post was posted on 6th January 1995

“I live in the East End of London. There is no way my 8 year old would be allowed to use public transport unescorted. At certain times of the night and parts of town I would think twice about doing so myself.”

Greetings, fellow Londoner! Some of us live in an area described by the local police here as “the worst area in London, crime-wise” (Bruce Grove area of Tottenham) and yet do travel unescorted late at night on buses and the underground. My worst experience in that regard happened not in Tottenham at all, but when I lived in the very genteel area of Harrow on the Hill. We do have the odd murder here and there—well—only one that I witnessed—but I still think it would be jolly bad luck to be the one in a million (or whatever the figure is) to have that sort of trouble. I often see children out alone at night and they don’t all look neglected or like tearaways or whatever.

“I know a large part is just our heightened perception of the levels of violence all around us.”

I think this is a good point. Much of it is merely an increase in awareness, not an increase in actual risk. London was far more dangerous 50-100 years ago. The East End no longer has a culture in which open brawling and other violence is regarded as acceptable. It certainly did in the past. People’s lives are generally much less subject to violence than they used to be.

Anxious parents have my sympathy. I too have known this fear, for instance when I once looked out of an upstairs window in our high ceilinged home to find a very young child at eye level in a tree in the garden outside. But even so, when my daughters start wanting to go out unescorted, I shall not be imprisoning them in the house. I have already started talking to them carefully and honestly about the dangers so, by then, they will not be under any illusions (of course that may mean they don’t want to go out alone). What I am starting to do, while they are very young, is to look into the possibilities offered by new technology: that is, bleepers, pocket telephones, alarm systems, and so on. What I’d like to find is a pocket telephone combined with an alarm button that alerts the police. I think this service already exists, although it is rather expensive still.

BTW, people get attacked in their homes, not just out in the street. My daughters never answer the door without first checking it is someone they know. Soon, they will have the opportunity to start self-defence classes with me.

I prefer to give children as much information as possible so that they can make their own rational, informed judgements in any given situation, and to ensure that they are as well prepared as possible, should something awful happen. All that involves a lot of thought and creativity, but I think that ultimately, it is the safer option. Some children creep out of their homes at night without their parents’ knowledge. I just hope their parents are not relying on a policy of imprisonment to keep their children safe. There will come a time when young people do venture out alone.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 1995, ‘Keeping children safe without imprisoning them in the home’,

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