IF you were a child in 1970s Britain, you probably have the Central Office of Information to thank for scaring you witless.

Government-commissioned Public Information Films were a staple of Seventies telly; advising the nation on everything from the ‘bedtime routine’ (I’m sure I didn’t imagine that couple in dressing-gowns prancing around their house, flicking off light switches and emptying ashtrays) to dealing with a nuclear attack.

I’d barely started school when the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water appeared in the mist. A ghostly figure in a black shroud, he hovered at the side of murky ponds, “ready to trap the unwary, the show off, the fool”.

I watched the short film recently on YouTube and could remember every word of Donald Pleasence’s sinister voiceover, warning us children of the dangers of open water. I still shudder at the rusty junk littering the water’s edge as the Spirit tells of “hidden traps” that lay beneath.

Did that film stop me being foolish around open water? Since I spent quite a lot of my childhood playing near a canal and a neighbouring sewage works, and managed not to drown, I guess so.

I was fascinated by the gruesome element of public information films. There was a boy who lost his legs to a train while attempting to run across a railway line, a gang of lads chucking a firework in a young woman’s face, a child falling lifelessly from an electricity pylon, and the boy losing his grip of a branch over a lake, as the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water watches from misty reeds...

Maybe children don’t play near open water or climb electricity pylons anymore. They’re probably too busy online.

And there lurk the dangers of their childhood. We 1970s nippers had Charley and his cartoon cat warning us about the man in the park with pockets full of sweets. Today’s bogeyman is hiding behind a keyboard.

The sensitive issue of grooming is now being tackled in primary schools, with children as young as six advised on how to stay safe online. It’s the focus of a new play, Kid Power, by GW Theatre Company, which has already reached more than 4,000 young people aged 14-plus in Bradford with the drama Somebody’s Sister, Somebody’s Daughter, about sexual exploitation and grooming.

GW’s play Mr Shapeshifter, performed for nine to 11-year-olds, had good feedback, with nearly 90 per cent saying it made them more aware of how to stay safe online. Now an animated film has been launched.

It’s sad that six-year-olds must be made aware of horrors like grooming but, as GW Theatre Company creative director Dave Jones says, the age at which children use phones and the internet is coming down and “having an online life is normal for quite a lot of kids”. This new play, age appropriate and sensitively presented, will help young children to understand when something is wrong, and also to recognise trustworthy behaviour.

When I was six - the age this play is targeting - it was the eerie Public Information Films guiding us through childhood. As graphic as they were, they seem almost quaint now. They were of a time when danger hid under water and on railway lines. We were, of course, warned about ‘Strangers’ but to me this was just a man in a raincoat asking if you wanted to see some puppies.

It certainly wasn’t a more innocent time, but it was a different time. It was a time of three TV channels, and playing out all day, without a phone. It wasn’t a childhood spent online - and thank goodness for that.

* FOR someone described as "poor, obscure, plain and little," Jane Eyre has left a remarkable cultural footprint over the past 170 years.

Bradford City of Film is to work with the fast-growing Chinese film industry on a contemporary re-working of Charlotte Bronte's classic which, it is hoped, will be shot partly in Bradford, taking in key Bronte locations. This would have a terrific impact on the district's tourism economy.

China's fascination with Jane Eyre was sparked by a 1970 movie starring Susannah York. That was also my introduction to Jane Eyre, I remember watching it in on telly. York, a blonde screen beauty, wasn't the best choice for the famously plain governess, but it didn't matter. I was captivated by the story and, like its many Chinese fans, have loved it ever since.

* WHAT is it with Coronation Street's obsession with teenage pregnancy? First there was Sarah Platt giving birth at 13, then Faye Windass, who had a baby aged 12, and now Amy Barlow is pregnant at 14.

I know soaps like to tackle social issues, but Corrie's repeating storyline pattern involving pregnant girls who are barely out of childhood is a bit unsavoury. Why not explore the issue from the father's perspective?

Just for once, couldn't a Corrie teen turn out to be bright, ambitious and well adjusted..?