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All posts in 2010

Hi Readers! So many folks sent in this story today, I present it to you in all its insanity, even though it struck me as a little too bizarre and garbled to be 100% accurate. For instance, the crazy accusations were reported to the press only by one of the accused. Ho ho hmm.

Still, Christmas is a time for stories so — enjoy. But first, keep your children safe! Lock up the candy canes!   L.

Readers:  Once in a while, I have to go off Free-Range topic for a sec. Like now. This video had me sobbing. My shirt is actually WET. So I had to share it. It does seem appropriate for the season! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIa563ltg5U]

And here’s the link for how to sign up to be a bone marrow donor. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! — L.

Hi Readers! In case you have some friends who still think you are IMAGINING a huge sea-change in our culture, a veritable tsunami of distrust in our kids, their competence and our communities, we present two Sesame Street clips. Same story line. Different era. Can you spot the difference?

OLDEN DAYS

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ6IAApz4oo&fs=1&hl=en_US]

MODERN ERA[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42-m5HlPVs4&fs=1&hl=en_US]

FREE-RANGE KIDS PRESENTS

THE 2010 GOLDEN HELICOPTER PARENTING AWARDS

FOR GREAT MOMENTS IN OVER-PARENTING

And Media Fear-mongering About Kids

PRESENTED BY LENORE SKENAZY, FOUNDER OF “FREE-RANGE KIDS” (www.freerangekids.com)

Free-Range Kids is the book, blog and movement dedicated to giving kids back the fun and freedom of childhood — the kind of childhood that makes kids sunny and self-reliant. We fight the pop culture tape-loop that says children are in constant danger and incapable of doing much more than sitting in the back of the minivan, eating Pop-Tarts and being driven the three blocks to school.

How wacky was 2010 when it came to insisting our kids are in peril, pedophiles are everywhere and the only good parent is a helicopter parent? Check out our Golden Helicopters:

But It’s Still Less Creepy than “J. Edgar Barbie”: With Christmas gearing up, the FBI warned that “Video Barbie” could be used by child pornographers — even though, so far, it has never, ever seen this happen. This didn’t stop the news media from showing how Barbie could easily be used to videotape from the corner of a girl’s bedroom or even under her skirt: http://bit.ly/h4NCza; Daily Show: http://bit.ly/gpXMZQ.

How About a Creepy Mom Locator? Verizon unveiled a “Family Locator” app in an ad that showed a mom using it to track her teen daughter and two friends at the mall. Because so many groups of three teens get kidnapped together from crowded public spaces: http://bit.ly/9LnnYt

Next Week The Today Show Explains Why You Should Never Cross in Front of a Black Cat: The Today Show warned viewers that no one under 13 should trick or treat without an adult, because, “people put on masks and…do bad things.” Meanwhile, an actual study of sex crime statistics found, “zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.” Somehow, that didn’t get mentioned on the show. http://on.wsj.com/dU64WZ

What Exciting New Career Beckons If You Live Alone with Your Cats and Talk to Your Toothbrush? Just how fragile are today’s kids? Schools have started hiring “friendship coaches” to discourage students from having best friends, because when they do, someone could feel left out. (Like…a Friendship Coach?) http://aol.it/avsWyx

And the Buns Give You Cancer: Dr. Gary Smith of the American Academy of Pediatrics urged that hotdogs be “re-designed” because, of the 20,000,000,000 hotdogs eaten annually, about 10 kids choke on them. That’s one death per 200 million franks. Smoothies! Get yer hotdog smoothies! http://aol.it/bcQr39

This Goes Double When Playing the “Flute” A new video from the musicians union in Britain instructs music teachers, “Don’t touch pupil’s fingers’ when giving lessons,” because anytime any adult touches a kid it’s practically molesting, right? What a great way to think of ALL child/adult interactions. http://bit.ly/i2By1x

And Once You Find a Grenade in a Cul de Sac You Take it Home and Have a Tea Party: After a forgotten stuffed animal was spotted on a quiet Orlando street, the nearby school went into lockdown. The bomb squad was summoned. The bomb guys blew up the stuffed animal, which turned out to be…a stuffed animal. But as one resident explained, “Once you see that it’s a stuffed animal, your mind starts racing with all kinds of…crazy stuff.” http://bit.ly/gnR2au

You ARE Allowed to Bring a Pencil: A school in suburban Colorado encouraged children to participate in the annual science fair — so long as their projects did not include organisms (living or dead), plants in soil, chemicals, microbial cultures, fungi, molds, bacteria, parasites, or flammable substances, all of which were banned. http://bit.ly/d6oGYc

You Are NOT Allowed to Bring a Pencil: A sixth grade teacher at North Brookfield (Massachusetts) Elementary School banned students from bringing pencils to class or “face disciplinary action for having materials to build weapons.” http://bit.ly/fG5dzn

And If We Find Him Making His Own Lunch, M’am, You’re Looking at Hard Time: Cops threatened a mom who let her 8-year-old son play outside: http://bit.ly/cSYfeB

Hi Snookums, How Was Your Day? (As If I Didn’t Know): Japanese inventors unveiled a GPS device children wear over their shirts that also takes photos and monitors their heart rate. That way, if their heart rate goes up, parents can take a photo of whatever is scaring their kids:  http://aol.it/9HOM6e

BUT IT WASN’T ALL BAD!

THE TOP 10 FREE-RANGE KIDS MOMENTS OF THE YEAR:

But She Could Have Been Abducted! A Northern California 3-year-old saved her collapsed daddy by walking to the fire station to get help: http://bit.ly/fjETFO

Why Can’t He Sit in the Back of an SUV and Sulk Like a Normal Kid? After initially saying no, a school board reluctantly reversed itself and allowed a boy to ride his bike to school: http://bit.ly/gDHKCv

The Nerve! Two Canadian fifth graders gathered 250 names on their petition to be allowed to play with balls during recess: http://bit.ly/eF0zCy

Now Even Lumberjacks are Okay: British Airways ended its “All men are perverts” policy of moving any male seated next to an unaccompanied minor. (Okay, after it was sued for sex discrimination.): http://bit.ly/d43n07

The Rosa Parks of Roses: Volunteer flower arranging ladies at Gloucester Catherdral in England (average age: 70) were told to undergo background checks to confirm they weren’t convicted child molesters. The chief volunteer refused, calling it insulting. Others followed her lead.  http://bit.ly/eXgoB3

When it’s Not Strep Throat, Viral Is Good: A fed-up Texas mom (who is also a cancer researcher) blazed onto the parenting scene with viral “Mom-Petitor” cartoons ridiculing parental perfection: http://bit.ly/fyXk8O

Annoy Me Again and I’ll Make You Renovate the Library: After a mom got chewed out by local police for letting her 10-year-old walk to soccer, she became an activist and got her small Mississippi town to put in new sidewalks and bike paths: http://bit.ly/ck9d2S

How Could Kenneth Branagh Ever Leave This Woman? Emma Thompson (a.k.a. Nanny McPhee) told the world that kids need to take risks and even get a little bruised to end up resilient and happy: http://bit.ly/gl6Kg4

Not the “Predator Picnic” The Media Promised It Would Be? Children made new friends and played without being dragged off and killed, during first annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day” — despite rampant fear-mongering in the press: http://bit.ly/9ATz3Y (And follow-up comments: http://bit.ly/9wYHGo)

Somehow We Missed This on Nancy Grace: A massive federal study found all child abuse down by a stunning 26% from 1993-2006, and child sex abuse down even more—38%!  http://bit.ly/elfmUA

MEDIA: To discuss any of these items or Free-Range Kids in general, please contact Lenore at: Lskenazy@yahoo.com.

Hi Readers! While we’re on the topic of crib recalls, as well as when parenting intervention is called for and all that, I just had to link to this phenomenal essay from The Economist: “Not All Tragedies are Preventable.” As it says in the opening paragraph:

LEGISLATION that bears the name of a victim of a particular crime or accident is often bad legislation. That’s because lawmakers, feeling the pressure of an emotionally-charged constituency, tend to overreact, instituting a broad and aggressive policy in response to a specific, perhaps rare problem. And so it is with the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2008, which directs the secretary of transportation to take measures to protect children in and around parked vehicles. The act is named after a two-year old who was tragically run over by his father as he backed into his driveway in 2002. Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal reported on the latest outcome of this legislation: starting in September 2012 new cars will be required to expand their field of view in an effort to reduce blind spots on the sides and rear of vehicles. This will effectively require carmakers to install rear-mounted video cameras.

Later on, the article talks about whether it really makes sense to mandate a “safety” measure that is expensive and saves few lives, considering the trade-off costs:

If the cost of the regulation is borne by carmakers it will… reallocate resources at the government’s behest that might otherwise be used to increase driver safety, improve fuel efficiency, or pay for employees’ health benefits….. More importantly, if we’re thinking about the children, this $2-billion-a-year tax equivalent would do more good if it were directed at improving the nutrition of youngsters from poor families, paying for research into and treatment of common childhood diseases or expanding programmes like SCHIP.

It’s always easier to think of a single tragedy —  a “poster child” — than it is to wrap our minds around a bigger problem like autism, or failing schools, or a lack of public park space. And it also risks sounding heartless, since we can SEE the poster child and we can’t see “a lack of arts education.” But I agree with this Economist writer: Often enough, legislation that focuses on a rare and horrifying tragedy does not improve the world that much, and may take our attention and money away from bigger problems that just don’t stab us through the heart. — Lenore

Readers — I think I need a Valium. Read this. A mom is ticketed for letting her 5.5 year old son walk home from school. Even though she BEGGED the school to let him take the bus. Even though she went to city council meetings and BEGGED the town to put in crossing guards. Even though she makes her son wear an ORANGE VEST AND HELMET so as to be as visible as possible along the route she taught him — the SAFEST one possible. Even though she has a younger child at home AND an older child with cerebral palsy. Nah, none of that matters, She was charged with negligence.

She really sounds negligent, doesn’t she? — L.

Hi Readers — I’m going to be blunt: The ban on the sale, resale and manufacture of all drop-side cribs does not make sense. Here’s why:

Over the past nine years, 32 children have died in these cribs. That is tragic. My heart sinks thinking about it.  But — and yes, there IS a but, and this “but” does not make me a heartless bean counter, or a crazed Free-Ranger who laughs in the face of danger (I am, at base, a nervous mom) — we are talking about roughly 3 deaths a year in a country where about 4 million babies are born annually. That is, about one death per million.

That does not prove that the cribs are UNsafe. It proves that the cribs ARE pretty safe. Safer than stairs (1300 deaths/year), safer than eating (about 70 kids under age 10 choke to death on food each year), safer than just sitting there and the next thing you know, you’re bitten by a venomous spider (5 deaths/year).

I realize that these stats are jumbled — they are not the deaths of infants, whose main cause of death is birth defects (5623/year) — but my point is that 3 deaths a year from any cause for any large population is almost something that statisticians call “de minimus.” Not that these deaths don’t count. Of course they do! But when a cause of death is that rare, you can’t base your life on it, or you couldn’t do anything. Go outside? No, there are spiders! Go downstairs? No, you could trip! Eat a sandwich? No, you could choke! (And then would you sue Wonder Bread?)

As for cribs, one reason the drop-side models seem so “dangerous” is because they are so popular. When you have millions of people using anything, no matter how safe, the odds of an accident go up because the odds go up with the numbers. That’s why it’s more likely an American will die in a car accident than a bucking bronco accident. Doesn’t mean that cars are inherently less safe than bucking broncos. The odds also go up because with millions of people assembling these things, some are bound to do it wrong, which seems to have been the case in many of these tragedies.

I don’t want to get into a huge discussion of crib design, but the recall list includes some of the biggest baby-product manufacturers around, like Even Flo and Child Craft. I am sure they tested their cribs because no company deliberately puts dangerous products on the market, if only because they know they could be sued up the wazzoo. And children’s product manufacturers know that better than anyone. Think of all the products recalled for tiny infractions, like a protruding screw.

And yet my own senator, Kristin Gillibrand (D., NY) is quoted in yesterday’sDaily News saying, ”These products are deadly, and this critically needed action will prevent further senseless deaths.”

Ah, but what will prevent further, senseless grandstanding? These products are not deadly. There’s a difference between a deadly product (cyanide) and a product that sometimes results in death (a grape). We keep obscuring that difference, and congratulating the folks who act as if it is only a lack of vigilance that allows anyone to die of anything other than old age.

This is the same impossible standard we then go on to apply to parents: The idea that if anything bad EVER happens to ANY child, it is because the parent was “defective.” And what is the result? Helicoptering! Truly, one reason parents today are so obsessive and fearful is that this is society’s norm: Worry about every possible, if extremely unlikely, thing that COULD go wrong and spend your days ACTIVELY trying to prevent them all.

The truth is: I love the idea of the government keeping us safe from dangerous products. It is the definition of “dangerous” that has gone awry. Next the Consumer Product Safety Commission may train its sights on balls because, in their inherent roundness, these sometimes roll into the street, and some kids running out to get them get hit by cars. Moreover, there are millons of balls in Americans’ homes, making balls a far bigger danger than, say, battery-operated guillotines. That is why, if I am ever elected Senator, I will not rest until we redesign the bouncy ball. A slightly boxier one would make our kids safer, would it not?

Elect me and I will make sure our nation has no more balls. – Lenore

Minimize risk? Yes. Eliminate all risk? Impossible.