All parents will understand the protective mechanism that triggers in the brain when we first set eyes on our gorgeous offspring. You want to wrap them up in cotton wool for the rest of their days, shielding them from the dangers of the outside world. But has it always been like this? Whether it be dangerous toys, life-threatening playground equipment or unsuitable travel arrangements, below are 10 things that prove health and safety was definitely not a priority during the 1980s.
Whilst the inherent nature of playgrounds means they can never be one hundred percent safe, these days many measures have been put in place to ensure that children are protected as much as possible.
But on the other end of the seesaw, a 1980s play area was a concrete-filled death trap, with slides as high as the clouds and towering monkey bars that almost guaranteed a broken ankle if your hand slipped whilst you were halfway across.
Government guidelines and safety certification mean that every item in your modern day toy shop is suitable to be enjoyed by all the children in your life, but travelling back in time a few decades will provide some truly shocking examples of dangerous items that we were somehow allowed to play with as kids.
These include a Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid that chewed your fingers, a Rollerblade Barbie that fired out real sparks, a CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit that contained asbestos and an Atomic Energy Laboratory that let us play with actual radioactive materials. The 1980s really was a different time.
8. Food and drink
Jamie Oliver has done his best to ensure that we think more about the kinds of food and drink our children are consuming, but we can’t help reminiscing about a time when our parents let us eat whatever the hell we liked.
During our childhood breakfast cereals were essentially boxes full of sugar, school packed lunches were calorie-filled delights and drinks like Sunny D turned our insides orange.
7. PE apparatus
School PE lessons should be a fun, engaging opportunity for young people to test out their physical attributes, but during the 1980s they often meant scaling a death-defying set of wall apparatus in only a vest and Y-fronts.
Many of you will also remember ropes that burned off the skin from your inside leg in addition to long, thin benches which became an ankle-breaking set of balance beams once your teacher turned them upside-down.
We’re always going to be slightly concerned when our offspring begin to ride their shiny new bike around busy local streets, but they are at least usually kitted out with safety equipment, lights and some kind of road awareness training.
Our own childhood was a different time when we were laughed at by our peers for wearing a helmet, and were regularly seen creating life-threatening, Evel Knievel-style jumps outside our house using a few bricks and a spare plank of wood.
5. Video nasties
Whilst the internet had opened up a whole new world of filth to dirty the minds of our innocent young treasures, we can at least do our best to protect them by turning on age restriction settings on TV streaming services and activating filters on our broadband.
Unfortunately, a few decades ago there was absolutely nothing to stop us raiding our parents’ 18-rated VHS movie collection to watch the likes of RoboCop, Predator, Friday the 13th and Basic Instinct.
4. Car travels
It would be irresponsible for us to suggest that travelling in today’s super-powered cars is any safer than the vehicular outings we took part in during our childhood, but modern safety features and regulations do at least mean that people are as safe as they can be whilst they move at 70 mph down a busy motorway.
It’s (un)safe to say that our parents weren’t quite as worried about us when we made that yearly trip to a seaside holiday park, often letting us travel without wearing our seat belts, and on one or two occasions even throwing us in the boot alongside our baby sibling and pet dog.
3. Playing with friends
Playing with your best friends these days means asking your parents to arrange a ‘play date’ that will no doubt be strictly supervised from start to finish.
But spending time with your mates during the 1980s meant knocking on their door to check that they could ‘come out to play,’ and assuming they hadn’t been dragged to the shops by their mum and dad, you’d stay out until tea time, with your only form of parental contact being a reverse charge call at the nearest phone box.
2. Secondhand smoke
We don’t know about you but our childhood home was often a smoke-filled health hazard, and a long journey in our parents’ car didn’t do wonders for the condition of our lungs either.
Thankfully, these days parents tend to be far more aware of the dangers that secondhand smoke presents to the young people in their lives than our mums, dads, aunties, uncles and friends did during the 1980s.
If we were to leave our young children at home by themselves now we could expect to hear a knock on our front door in the not too distant future, but things haven’t always been quite so strict.
As well as being expected to fend for ourselves whilst our parents were out of the property, we remember being looked after by babysitters that weren’t much older than the kids they had in their charge.