in our local area within the last week. A man using a fake taxi has attempted to lure children in by claiming their parents have had an accident and he has been sent to get them.
Fortunately both children had the good sense to run back into their schools and report the incident. Their schools, the police and the media have made certain that people have been made aware of the incidents.
That is a good thing. The bad thing is that even those few parents who were prepared to allow their children to walk home from school are now finding other ways of getting them from school.
After-school hours care is also crowded. There are long waiting lists for places.
One of the childhood rites of passage for my generation was "being old enough to be trusted to walk home from school on your own". Even I was allowed to ride my tricycle to and from school when we lived in the city. When we moved to the country we always lived next door to the school.
I have been trying to remember when my generation started moving around alone. My father says that he was only taken to school for the first few weeks. After that he insisted on going alone. The school, the same one I attended in the city, was about a half a mile away. For me it was over a mile. In both cases there was a railway line and more than one wide road to cross - without traffic lights.
Of course the traffic was not nearly as heavy. Not everyone owned a car and those who did would not have used them for picking children up from school. The assumption was that you walked or you rode your bike to school.
From memory, and my father agrees with me, I was expected to go to and from school alone when I left the "infant" section and started in the "primary". I had "skipped" a year so I must have been barely six. Other children would have been seven. When my brother began school the following year I was, once again, expected to go to and from school with my mother because she was escorting him. I objected strongly. Eventually my father said I was to go alone. I would pedal past my mother and ignore her, my brother and my sister in the pusher. I was much too grown up to talk to them.
I can remember just one "near miss" - reported to my parents - but the driver was apparently at fault. I was on the footpath and he mounted the pavement after a visit to a local hotel. Fortunately he was travelling slowly enough that I stopped in time. I don't know what happened to him but I was given a thrashing by my mother before the circumstances were made fully known to her. I suppose the incident had frightened her. She did not apologise to me.
Nobody ever approached me with an invitation to get in their car. I do not remember even hearing of such invitations. We just knew not to talk to strangers and not to go with strangers or accept their sweets.
After school and at weekends children roamed. There were adults there somewhere in the background but they went about their business and we went about ours. We did not have "play dates" or "sleepovers". We did "messages" for our mothers and on the way home we visited the horses which pulled the bread van and the milk float.
The change must have been gradual. We noticed it when we returned to the city. My youngest sister was just starting at secondary school. By then it was considered that she was "old enough" to travel alone - but only just.
My brother and sisters say they are glad they grew up in the country and could roam freely. I think I was fortunate to have grown up at a time when it was still possible. I think we managed to learn a great deal by being left alone.
I just wonder how the next generation of children are going to manage their children - and hope they don't get abducted because they have never been able to learn through being left alone.