MARK SAINSBURY: 'In my day' kids were safe to walk to school

The four words that you hear and immediately wilt are “back in my day”.

I couldn’t stand it when my parents, or other members of their generation, used them - now to my shame I occasionally catch myself saying this.

What prompted the latest utterance is all this talk about ‘stranger danger’. The sense that our kids are no longer safe on the streets.

Danger lurks on every corner - which means we must shepherd our precious ones to and from school.

Back in my day my mother accompanied me to primary school on day one - then pretty much after that I walked. I can remember being warned about the strange man who lived around the corner but that was pretty much it.

Were my parents some irresponsible monsters? No. Was the danger back then totally different? I’m not convinced.

No one is ever going to accept a risk to their kids - although we do in small ways: they bounce on trampolines, they ride in our cars - there are risks in everything we do.

But stranger danger is visceral - and assumes a proportion all of its own. Kids are now getting taught self-defence at primary school.

Is it relevant to the risk - and are we creating a climate of fear for our kids, where they will now believe that danger does in fact lurk around every corner.

No one wants to be the parent that says ‘phooey to danger our kids should be able to walk the streets’ - and then some tragedy strikes.

But we must look at the balance of life and create an environment where our kids are safe - but not terrified - of life in general. Don’t you think?

Do you agree with teaching primary school kids self-defence? What is this doing to your kids - and what is it doing to you?

In the past decades high-profile cases have heightened our awareness and our anxiety. Teresa Cormack was raped and murdered in Napier a day after her sixth birthday - this was in 1987. The case traumatised the nation.

Kids from that era are now in their 30s - and are parents themselves. I wonder what impact those circumstances had on them.

Not only was the crime so horrifying, it was the fact it took so long to get justice for Teresa. Fifteen years passed till advances in DNA led to the arrest of Jules Mikus.

So with that background, and other deplorable heart-breaking cases over the years, have we been conditioned to a ‘protection at all costs mentality’ - and maybe that is how it needs to be.

The question is: are we in fact conditioning the next generation to a danger that is misplaced? Last year Roland Hermans, a police adviser to schools, warned against the term ‘stranger danger’ - these days the biggest danger of abuse for our young kids comes from those they know - and creating this image of stranger danger was in itself dangerous and outdated.

Maybe everything from our past is, by its very nature, outdated.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.