Our health and safety culture is producing a generation of 'bland' children who do not know how to evaluate risks, a headmaster has warned.
Jonathan Hughes-D'Aeth said that pupils' development was being "stifled".
He told a conference of independent school heads in London about an incident last year where two children assumed that it must be safe to leap into the sea from a harbour wall - because there were no warning signs.
He said: "They exemplify a generation of young children who have not been given the chance to evaluate for themselves the risks of the dangers which are around them."
His warning came as insurance firms warned that parents were increasingly suing over bruises and other minor injuries.
Mr Hughes-D'Aeth, head of Milton Abbey School in Dorset, said: "They need to learn at an early age about trips and falls.
"How do they learn about hot fires, things that can be sharp or blunt? How do they learn about traffic?
"Without uncertainty, without a fear of failure, we will merely produce an anodyne and bland set of children.
"Health and safety legislation is designed to save lives, not to stifle and control it.
"We are in danger of using health and safety to replace judgment and personal responsibility."
He also criticised a trend for children's friendships to be closely supervised by adults.
"We could have an adult present with children 24 hours a day, checking that all is well and no unpleasant behaviour is taking place," he said.
"However, that would not be right.
"They need to learn how to get on with the young boy who shares the dormitory whose socks smell or that person in the dormitory who snores.
"These are essential skills as to how to survive in society."
Meanwhile, Norwich Union experts have said a U.S.- style compensation culture is sweeping through Britain.
Parents were now less likely to accept minor injuries to their children - such as cuts, grazes and bruises - as accidents and instead sued for personal injury, they said.
Dominic Clayden, director of claims at Norwich Union, said the compensation culture costs state schools about £200million per year - enough to pay for 8,000 teachers.
Some 42 per cent of claims made against schools concerned slips and trips, he said.
"Certainly there is a risk-averse culture. People are taking down hanging baskets," he told the conference.
"There isn't tolerance for minor injuries."
But Mr Hughes-D'Aeth added: "If we take drowning as an example, the best form of protection is actually to teach children how to swim, not putting up large numbers of notices banning swimming.
"Systems themselves do not create safety. Competent people do."
RED TAPE STOPS PLAY
* Children at Cummersdale Primary School in Carlisle were told to wear goggles when playing conkers
* Youngsters taking beach donkey rides in Bogor Regis were told to wear hard hats
* Councillors in Bristol ordered 100 yew trees next to a playground to be chopped down in case children poison themselves by eating the leaves
* Three swings at Great Somerford in Wiltshire were taken down because they were slightly too high under EU regulations
* Derby City Council told schools to cancel trips in sunny weather in case the pupils were sunburned
Special Thanks to The Daily Mail