Your children's safety.....
The charity surveyed over 3,000 children between 1997 and 2006. It found that almost all – 95 percent – had been the victim of crime on at least one occasion, often violence such as hitting and kicking. However, they were unlikely to report these incidents to the police.
Nearly 20 percent had been the victims of theft on the way home from school, while 49 percent had had something stolen while at school. Over half (57 percent) had experienced deliberate damage to their property.
It’s a depressing state of affairs for parents, and, of course, their children. This is especially true because the survey revealed that many children feared crime and felt scared about it. What they wanted was safer places to play and more initiatives – such as youth clubs or child-friendly cafes - to relieve boredom.
Director of the Howard League, Frances Crook, said that while children were rarely consulted about the impact of crime on their lives, they were frequently the victims. She also said that children need to be listened to.
"The surveys revealed that these crimes are often not reported as children think adults will not listen to them or the crime will be viewed as too small to bother with,” she said.
The majority of incidents of victimization in this report are indeed low-level crimes taking place in schools and playgrounds. To children, however, in a child-sized world, these crimes are serious enough and do matter.
“Ironically, the very institutions where children should feel safest – their school environments, set up and patrolled by adults – are where children are most commonly victimised.”
Supernanny's expert clinical psychologist, Dr Victoria Samuel, agrees that children need to be properly listened to.
“Children's reports of upsetting incidents should always be taken seriously, no matter how minor they may appear,” she says. “It's important to avoid dismissing children's worries; even if it seems they are overreacting to an apparently minor playground scrap. If a child doesn’t feel taken seriously on one occasion, they may be less likely to tell you about more serious incidents."
What can be done?
- The League made its own recommendations to deal with the issues raised. One solution proposed was to introduce mediation into schools, suggesting that aggressors could make amends to their victims. They also advocated strong local partnerships, involving police, victim support and local education authorities, which could help educate children and challenge negative attitudes.
- Parents can try to be aware of what's going on in their children's lives - asking questions and taking complaints seriously.
- Talk to other parents and teachers if you have any concerns, and make sure your children carry items such as mobile phones safely. Discuss whether they really need to take valuable possessions such as iPods to school with them, but remember to take their views seriously.
"Children may feel embarrassed, guilty or frightened or confused if they have been a victim of crime and this may make them reluctant to talk," adds Dr Samuel. "Signs to watch out for might be: your child becomes suddenly withdrawn; regresses in their behaviour e.g. bedwetting; develops nightmares; starts to enact events through their play or develops somatic complaints e.g. unexplained tummy aches (which may also be used as an excuse to avoid school).
Gently ask questions about school, friends etc, showing concern, support and warmth and emphasise that if anything has happened it is not your child's fault. Try to hide your own anxiety or panic as this will make your child more nervous.