Was your childhood full of happy days

'Back in my day things were so different' is a phrase we often hear trotted out - but were our childhoods really such halcyon days? TOLIA WILTZ, 15, from Kesgrave High School asks people how children's upbringing has changed since their childhood.

By Tracey Sparling

'Back in my day things were so different' is a phrase we often hear trotted out - but were our childhoods really such halcyon days? TOLIA WILTZ, 15, from Kesgrave High School asks people how children's upbringing has changed since their childhood.

Laurie Robinson, headteacher of Copleston High school grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.

He said: “When I was a boy I was allowed to roam out and about in the open spaces. I'd go out in the woods and hills to look for frogs- only to come home at the end of the day for tea. It gave me and my friends independence from a young age. Parents wouldn't allow that for an eight year old now. Despite that, family is still a key influence, back then, now and it will be in the future. Modern children at school are self disciplined and devoted to their studies, which is why exam results important to them.”

Chris Mole, Ipswich MP, grew up in the 1960s.

He said: “I remember having plenty of freedom to go to local recreational grounds to play on the swings and kick a ball about, at a much earlier age than my children have been allowed because roads then were much safer.

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In terms of access to information, children nowadays are better informed and have a much wider range of information, from sources such as television and the internet.

Some children are forced to grow up by the circumstances of the families they live in and are taking on more responsibility at a younger age, but in general I think kids can be allowed to be kids if their parents choose not to be too afraid of the world around them. There are dangers of parents being too over protective, which is understandable, but they need to be careful not to deny them opportunities.”

Sam Sampson, positive futures manager for Suffolk youth offending team grew up in the early 1960s in Lowestoft, and has four grandchildren.

He said: “Children nowadays have more freedom but they don't appreciate it as they don't have the innocence we had. Communities have broken down. In the past communities would look out for each other, now it's dog eat dog.

My mum was a single parent and I was very independent; I could cook and clean from a young age. I totally think that we as adults have high expectations of our children, forcing them to grow up too quickly. The kids we work with are put under so much pressure to achieve, to meet expectations. There's a whole sub culture of kids who are written off before they have a chance to start.

I tried to allow my children to have as much freedom as possible but with society being how it is this isn't always possible. There's an awareness of it being different and unsafe, you have to be alert the whole time that there are dangers out there.

“Kids weren't carrying knives and guns when I was a child, but today it seems commonplace. Children aren't allowed to be children.

“Nine and ten year olds should be playing normal children's games and doing normal 'kids stuff'.There are reports of children as young as this being involved in violent gangs. It's sad they're missing out on a whole portion of their development.”

Stephen Foster, dad of two, Star columnist and BBC Radio Suffolk presenter grew up in the 1960s in Ipswich.

He said: “I spent virtually all my leisure time out of school playing in the local recreational ground on Bramford Road, there were no safety issues whatsoever. The fact that we could do virtually anything we wanted until it got dark and the park closed was great. It must have been good for parents too- obviously they kept an eye out but they knew we were safe. As a parent now, still living in that area, I love that my boys of seven and 12 can play over that park, but at the same time I always make sure the eldest has a mobile. I wouldn't let my seven year old out alone, or without a mobile phone. I think technology helps put your mind at rest, but there's always the scare of one of your children going missing, even after half an hour you begin to panic.

“I suppose even allowing a youngster in their early teens a mobile means they're growing up quicker. There must be such a temptation for youngsters to see what's out there as it's much easier, but having said that, we in the media are reporting it all, the fear is broadcast. We can never underestimate the people out there and what some are capable of. We shouldn't become obsessed but awareness is key. We should protect our children as much as possible without wrapping them in cotton wool as they've got to find their feet in the world.”

Hannah-Jo Besley, community safety project officer for Ipswich grew up in the late 1980s.

She said: “I think there's much more awareness about what's going on around us and as a result children are having to grow up quicker. However, they still have opportunities to be children due to the huge wealth of clubs and activities for them to take part in, and they're making the best out of what they've got. There's a fine medium.

“In the 70s there was a similar outcry, but the issues are much more highlighted now. With the family unit having changed and an increase in separated couples there are certainly different issues but no worse, and no better.”

Jacci Spashett, senior parenting practitioner for Ipswich Borough Council was born in the 1950s.

She said: “I think things are certainly different compared to when I was growing up. I had a lot more freedom, and there weren't the concerns as a youngster that there are now. I spent all of my summers at the beach and climbing trees, now there are more structured clubs and activities for children. Ideally there are still opportunities for children to be children, but marketing and the media put pressure on children to grow up. However, there is a lot of support to help families to keep children being children.”