November 17, 2008 / 11:15 AM / 10 years ago

Britons fear and loathe "feral" children: poll

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - About half the adult British public believe that children behave like animals and pose an increasing danger to themselves and others, according to a poll released on Monday.

A report by charity Barnardo’s, which commissioned the survey, said the findings were shocking and showed a disturbing intolerance of children.

“It is appalling that words like ‘animal’, ‘feral’ and ‘vermin’ are used daily in reference to children,” said Martin Narey, Barnardo’s chief executive.

“These are not references to a small minority of children but represent the public view of all children.”

Concern about children’s behavior has become an increasingly political issue in recent years following incidents of youngsters’ involvement in violent crime or anti-social behavior.

In one of the most shocking cases, three teenagers were found guilty in January of murdering Garry Newlove, a father-of-three, whom they beat to death after he confronted them outside his house about vandalism they had caused.

Meanwhile, the number of teenagers being murdered, or committing murder has risen, with 28 young people dying violently on the streets of London alone this year.

The Barnardo’s survey found 49 percent of the 2,021 people surveyed thought children now posed more of a danger to their peers and to adults with 43 percent saying something had to be done to protect them from youngsters.

The poll showed 54 percent thought children were beginning to behave like animals and 45 percent agreed that people referred to kids as feral because they behaved that way.

The charity said the British Crime Survey, which produces crime figures based on interviews with the public, showed that Britons thought that young people committed up to a half of all crimes. In fact they are responsible for just 12 percent.

“The real crime is that this sort of talk and attitude does nothing to help those young people who are difficult, unruly or badly behaved to change their ways,” Narey said.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato

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