Child Protection, or why I feel I have to tell people I’m not a paedophile

Child protection is an increasingly frustrating bugbear of mine. The raft of legislation, the quantity of bureaucracy and the sheer stupidity of many policies does little but infuriate me.

In recent weeks I have been banned from videoing my children ballroom dancing, been made to feel like a paedophile for daring to bring even a stills camera with me (“Don’t allow your children to get changed in here”, boomed a voice over the PA system, “there are people with CAMERAS for goodness’ sake!”) and been told that a no touch rule is not sensible. For peripatetic music teachers.

Today I discovered that should I ever wish to visit the Eureka! science museum in Halifax without a child in tow then I would need to phone in advance to inform staff of this and sign a register when I get there. If I ever do visit the museum (unlikely given my current mood) then perhaps my CRB will appease them, although with the latest being almost 4 years old now I might have to also have to provide a blood sample and a photocopy of my passport.

Anyway, rather than continuing to rant, I’ve sent an email to the chief executive, Leigh-Anne Stradeski, and thought it would be interesting to get the thoughts of others. Maybe I’m justified in my anger, or maybe I’m missing the point. I do know that I’m sick of being labelled a potential paedophile by virtue of the fact that I am adult, male, spend almost all of my time with children and usually have a camera with a decent zoom lens to hand…

Dear Leigh-Anne,

As is doubtless the case with many parents at this time of year, I have been looking for exciting days out for my children over the summer holidays. I’ve never visited Eureka but have heard very good things so thought I would have a look at the website.

I was extremely concerned, however, to see on your ‘Times and prices’ page ( that adults wishing to visit the museum without children are treated with such explicit mistrust. According to this page, ‘…adults who are not accompanied by a child are asked to sign in on arrival at Eureka!’. And not only that but they are asked to ‘…call ahead to notify staff of your visit’.

This means that if I wished to visit the museum without children, for any reason, I would be required to contact the museum staff before I even set off. And that once I did arrive I would have to sign some sort of register.

As a parent, I am of course conscious of the many risks that exit in the wider world, but to treat every adult without a child with such blatant suspicion is, frankly, abhorrent. The implicit suggestion can only be that anyone wishing to attend the museum without a child must be there with an ulterior and inappropriate reason – otherwise why would you need to collect the names and, presumably addresses, of anyone without a child in tow? Do you require identification or proof of address before letting people in? Would you require me to have an explanation for my visit? Would I be questioned, perhaps even taken into a separate room away from any families until such time as you could verify my intentions? Would I need to bring evidence of a CRB check?

I dare say you can sense my frustration over this issue.

Having recently written an article on tackling the sexualisation of children ( I am even more surprised at your policy. To quote your own article: “…to think that we can completely protect all children from exposure to sexualisation in today’s world through tighter regulation amounts to burying our heads in the sand. Wrapping them in cotton wool does not help children learn, develop and understand the complex world around them and the choices they will have to make.”

This appears to me, to be directly in line with my own opinions – and yet your own organisation is actively following a path that alienates any potential visitors who do not bring children and criminalises them in the eyes of families and staff. I would feel incredibly unwelcome having to go through this process and it is indicative of a whole range of ‘child protection’ issues that do little to actually protect children but marginalise those who, for whatever reason, do not have any with them.

An adult bringing a child with them to the museum is surely no less of a threat than any other adult. The fact that I have children of my own, or might choose to take a relative’s child out for the day, does not prevent me from being a paedophile. In fact were someone to plan anything nefarious then surely taking a friend or relative’s, or even their own, child along with them would surely provide much more ‘cover’ than attending alone.

I am deeply frustrated and concerned at your policy and urge you to reconsider your stand on this issue. In the meantime I do not feel that I can visit your museum in good conscience.