Minor spats if branded 'bullying' can harm youngsters

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London, Oct 29 (UNI) Minor playground spats, if blown out of proportion by parents and teachers, can harm natural growth of children, a leading child expert has warned.

Tim Gill, a former government adviser who headed a major review into children's play, said the normal rough and tumble of childhood often interpreted as 'bullying' was vital to ensure their proper development into confident adults.

Mr Gill's comments followed a series of warnings about the increasingly sanitised life today's children lead.

''In an atmosphere of heightened media and public awareness, there is a real danger that adults will overreact and suppress behaviour that, unlike bullying, has a key role in helping children learn for themselves how to deal with difficult social situations,'' Mr Gill was quoted by Telegraph as saying.

In his book 'No Fear' published recently, Mr Gill said, growing up in a risk-averse society, he accepted a need to protect children from paedophiles, child snatchers, thuggish contemporaries and fatal accidents, without ''bubble-wrapping'' them.

The overprotectiveness of parents limits the play, freedom of movement in children corroding their relationships with adults and constrains their exploration of physical, social and virtual worlds, he said.

If the trends were not reversed, there would be a rise in levels of anxiety, and either these children would be frightened of contact with other people or they will have conduct disorders, the expert warned.

His comments came after a study by the Children's Society that found 43 per cent of adults thought children should not be allowed out with their friends until they were 14 or over.

Grown-ups must accept the responsibility of keeping children safe but rather than having a nanny state, where risk aversion dominates the landscape, there should be a child-friendly society, where communities look out for each other and for children, he noted, adding, ''The government has an important role to play in encouraging that vision.'' UNI

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