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Many adults think slapping has little impact on children

The Children’s Society asks Government to ban slapping of children completely

People are twice as worried about parents not knowing where their children are after 9pm than they are about the potentially damaging effects of slapping, research from The Children’s Society has revealed.

Slapping was put last in a list of people’s safety concerns about the parenting of children in the UK in a special study commissioned by the charity. The Children’s Society’s pioneering study follows heated public debate about the kind of risks children are exposed to by their parents. Little research has been done in the UK on these issues.

Over 2,000 people were asked to identify the biggest risks for children aged six to 15 years inherent in a number of different ‘scenarios’.

Some 77% said children were exposed to a high level of risk when parents did not know their whereabouts in the evening. Girls were more likely to be considered to be at high risk – 82% - than boys – 73%.
The same number was very alarmed about parents who failed to arrange medical help for children when they needed it (e.g. no trip to the dentist for those with persistent toothache). 45% saw this as very high risk.

Six out of ten said children ridiculed by parents were at risk of emotional trauma (e.g. called ‘stupid’ by their parents).

Half of those surveyed were worried about parents who ignored the emotional needs of their children, when they were upset by their friends.

At the same time, 47% thought isolating children and keeping them away from friends represented a high risk of harm.

Surprisingly, being slapped by parents as a standard punishment was only seen as a high risk by 33% (14% said it was ‘very high risk’).

The survey shows that people weigh up the risks associated with slapping children very differently from other threats to their safety. Thirty-two per cent think slapping has little impact on children and young people, while another third remain divided on the issue. Unusually, teenagers are thought to be at more risk of physical punishment than younger children (36% rated secondary school age children at high risk compared to 29% of primary age children).

Forty six per cent of far more older people (over 65) think slapping presents a low level of physical and emotional risk for children. This finding may point to a generational shift in opinions about acceptable parenting.

Letting a child play outdoors after 9pm on a summer’s evening without knowing where they are was seen as the highest risk in the survey, with 50% of respondents rating it as the highest possible level of risk.
Only one per cent saw supervisory neglect as ‘no risk at all’ as opposed to 16% who said the same about slapping.

Despite this, all the statistical evidence shows that children are hurt more in a family setting than outside the home. Acute fears about young people’s safety outside the home could possibly be exaggerated, The Children’s Society says.

“Children must be safeguarded from harm but this should also be balanced with the freedom to be themselves and to take some risks,” said Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society. “It is a question of balance. Young people consistently tell us that they need to be able to develop friendships, have fun and to play without adult supervision.”

“Physical violence is something children definitely need to be protected from. The survey revealed a worrying lack of concern by one third of people surveyed about parents slapping children. Children are the only group of people in this country who can be legally hit on a regular basis by others, with little protection in law.”

The UK is one of five EU countries holding out against an all-out ban on slapping. It has been criticised on multiple occasions for contravening Article 19 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Society is now calling on the new Government to fall in line with our European neighbours and ban the slapping of children completely.

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