The good news is that many of the changes we have seen in children’s lives over the past century have made things progressively better for the next generation. Children are healthier and wealthier than ever before; they are given time, attention, protection and education. The bad news, however, is that society’s desire to protect children

from the harsh realities of life has in many ways gone too far. There is a real danger that by cocooning children, over-protecting and oversupervising them, society could be denying kids the opportunity to grow up into capable, confident adults. The Children’s Society’s 2007 report The Good Childhood Inquiry

was widely reported as showing that UK children are ‘hostages’ to parental fears. The UK media ran alarming headlines warning that we are ‘rearing children in captivity’. The report argued that parents are today denying children the freedom to mess around with their friends

outdoors – a freedom that they themselves once enjoyed and cherished. Back in 2001 the Children’s Society and the Children’s Play Council likewise warned that children are being prevented from playing in their own neighbourhoods. Cars, bullying and parents’ fears about strangers are turning them not so much into couch potatoes as couch prisoners, claimed Ian Sparks, then chief executive of the Children’s Society. In Detoxing Childhood, her how-to sequel to the grim Toxic

Childhood, Sue Palmer claims that we are raising a generation of ‘battery’ children. ‘This is the first time in human history that children en masse have been reared in captivity.’ she wrote (Palmer 2007: 51). And US educationalist Chris Mercogliano, in his book In Defense of Childhood: Protecting Kids’ Inner Wilderness, points to the ‘supreme irony’ that, while we have eliminated many risks from children’s lives, ‘the perceived danger is causing us to fence them in as never before’ (Mercogliano 2007: 3). He describes how childhood from the middle of the twentieth century has increasingly been viewed as an accident waiting to happen:

The public service announcement ‘Do you know where your children are?’ was intoned like a mantra between evening TV programs, and as the twentieth century moved fearfully to a close, the parental imperative to keep kids close to home, confined to playgrounds and playrooms, had become nearly universal.