Nearly fifty per cent of men in the UK would be too scared to help a child in trouble – because they fear being branded a paedophile.
And more than one third of parents with children under five think it is 'common' for children to be abducted while playing outside.
A new survey commissioned by children's charity Play England has painted a picture of a society beset by misplaced safety fears, unfriendly neighbours and lonely, isolated children cooped up indoors.
While 90 per cent of adults used to play regularly in the street as children, nearly half of youngsters today are never allowed to play outside unless they're accompanied by an adult, says the survey. As well as fears of abduction, parents say they are worried about their children annoying neighbours or that their neighbours would 'judge' them if they left their children to play in the street unsupervised.
The average child now has just six friends within walking distance of where they live – down from 14 a generation ago.
Its study of 2,000 children and adults found that 44 per cent of men said they would be wary of helping youngsters in case they were suspected of attempting to abduct them. And almost a third of both men and women said they would be reluctant to help because they fear the child would be abusive.
Play England is concerned that these attitudes are having a detrimental effect on today's children. 'Children are experiencing a very different childhood to previous generations, with freedom curtailed, and safety concerns exacerbated,' said the report. The charity campaigns for all children to be able to have regular, safe access to outdoor play space because children grow up happier and healthier if they are able to play safely outside.
The new survey was released ahead of today's Playday 2010, which aims to get thousands of children across the country out to play through a series of locally organised events.
What do you think?
Are children suffering because we have become over-protective as parents?
Or are parents right to be concerned?