Back in the day when I was growing up, my parents were very protective. I wasn't able to walk down to the railroad tracks that led to the Mississippi River by myself. Not long after I was warned, a body was found dumped by those tracks. I was educated in parochial schools, with my parents secure that my siblings and I were safe. Even the best laid plans don't always protect innocent children from predators. By the time I graduated from high-school, I was afraid of my own shadow. I found it difficult to enjoy independence and quickly married a man I didn't really know. However, I am shy by nature, so the old question about nature or nurture confuses the issue, making a straightforward response difficult.
Today, the internet complicates parental ability to insulate their children from harm. The news parades a relentless number of ways that children are abused in the schools, the library, in the homes of friends and via the internet in their own home. Short of locking your children up, which in itself constitutes abuse, there is no plan that ensures safety for anyone. Just last week a school bus full of children returning from a field-trip collided with a truck, leaving many children traumatized and several injured.
I remember as a grade-schooler, attending the church picnic with my parents. One of the carnival operators started making suggestive gestures at me, which I did not understand other than it creeped me out. My parents didn't notice. So, as protective as they strived to be, it was my own observation that kept me at their sides.
I think parents need to accompany very young children everywhere until they are old enough to understand the importance of protecting themselves. When children become teenagers, isolating them as a means of protection isn't productive. Teenagers rebel and parental over-protection defeats the intent, with a rise in oppositional behavior that puts teens in harms way. Parenting, with the best of intentions, is trying and difficult. Often, parents must go with their gut, sometimes with the rules changing, depending on the situation and the child.
Parenting is the toughest balancing act in the world.