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Eek! A Male! (and Stranger Danger)

easter egg hunt rules

Readers — A friend who’d like to be identified only as Catherine L. posted the  rules from her town’s Easter Egg hunt (above) on Facebook. These include: 

Wristbands indicate the age group of each child and the number on the band matches the number issued to the parent.

After each hunt, children will be released only to the adult with the corresponding number from the wristband.

In her post, Catherine wrote:

“How do you suck the fun out of an Easter Egg hunt? Treat every adult like a potential kidnapper and every child like they are in mortal danger. The sheeple just went along with it. I was the only one who complained. “

Many, many commenters then said that it wasn’t a big deal, and if she didn’t like the set-up, she didn’t have to participate, which is certainly true. But to Catherine —  and me —  the issue wasn’t whether it was BIG deal or not. The issue is how we are gradually accepting the idea that  evil adults are scooping up children from public places often enough that we must constantly be on guard.

I”m sure there were probably some insurance concerns that prompted these rules, as well, and maybe even logistics. But it is all of a piece: At base these slight, “simple” new requirements enshrine a view that kids need constant supervision if they venture out into the public. This dark (and increasingly legally upheld) view of the world is making us less likely to send our kids to the park, less likely to let them walk to school, and less likely to act as a community: “Can you pick up Megan at the end of the hunt? I have to go make lunch. I told her she could go home with you.”

After reading a lot of commenters poo-pooing her concerns, Catherine wrote:

“I have an issue with me as the parent having my authority taken away. I’m 34 years old. I have been entrusted with 3 children. I think I can handle making sure they don’t get abducted and an egg hunt. I don’t need to be questioned by strangers to check my son’s bracelet against my name tag. The implication that nobody can be trusted made me angry and sad.”

Me too. But don’t let it ruin your Easter! Have a hoppy one. – L.

Readers – -This just in. Two masked men grabbed a 4 year old from a playground and threw him in a van. Surprise! It was to make a video about “kidnapping awareness.” Why is this insane?

A – The “perps” could have been shot.

B – It is based on the crazy idea that WITHOUT a video of masked men snatching a child off a playground, no one would be aware that masked men shouldn’t be doing this.

C- It is also based on the crazy idea that this is happening so much, no one should consider the playground a safe place.

D – All of the above and THEN some.

P.S. You KNOW the answer.

Readers — So a 79-year-old sub in New Hampshire (the good ol’ “Live Free or Die” state) was given the choice: De-friend all the students you’ve friended on Facebook or never work in this school system again.

She chose the latter.

This story is dismaying for a bunch of reasons, the first being that Facebook is like the modern-day town center, where people meet and greet — even people of different ages. Seeing it as the Pedophile Pages is like seeing the outside world as Child Snatch-o-Rama.

Also disturbing is the comment one supporter of the rule wrote on Facebook itself (the devil’s tool):  “Rules are rules and while her intentions MIGHT be good, I am sure parents don’t want male teachers friending their 14/15 year old daughters on facebook!”

MIGHT be good? Like there’s a decent chance this lady was really out to lure jail bait back to her lair? And what’s with the demonization of male teachers? Oh right…it’s the demonization of males who are teachers. Because if all teachers are suspect, MALE teachers are simply terrifying. – L.

P.S. Thanks to William Noren for sending and bringing up all these great points!

UPDATE: Reader Crystallee Newton  explains what brought this case to the fore:

This was a new rule in response to a recent scandal where a young male teacher was sexually abusing a female student. This happened about 30 minutes from where I live. Local news stories interviewed current and former students of this teacher (who is a substitute, by the way, not a full time teacher) and by all accounts she is a lovely older woman who uses her FB page to spread inspiration to her friends (yes, including students) and for years has been a positive influence to the students she interacted with. This town is known for it’s crippling poverty and drug abuse. The kids in that district need more people like this woman. After the abuse scandal, the school district made a knee-jerk reaction policy to ban FB friendships between students and teachers in an attempt to look like they were doing something. The student who was assaulted by her teacher (allegedly multiple times) was not assaulted over FB, she was sexually molested in a classroom at her school. The school boa
rd should try figuring out how that happened with no one noticing or being aware of the situation. It certainly had nothing to do with an almost 80 year old substitute teacher passing along inspirational quotes to kids who look up to her. That’s why this is a Free-Range issue. This is just another example of these blanket bans that protect no one, and punish innocent people. – Crystallee 

I do NOT like this school's anti-social paranoia.

I do NOT like this school’s anti-social paranoia.



Readers — This story is headlined, “Attempted kidnapping caught on tape!” but…was it? I’m glad the girl is safe but does a slowing car really equal = “kidnap threat”?

Unless there’s more to this story than what we see here, it strikes me as bizarre that everyone is acting as if the girl somehow only barely slipped the clutches of a demon. – L



Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:


Would we stop to ask if she's ok?

Would you stop? Why or why not? 

A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.

Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:

…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.

I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.

Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….

It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.

Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.

Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive  cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.

Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.

Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L

Readers — This is just a fascinating artifact from the world of Worst-First thinking, where folks believe today’s children are completely besieged by criminal masterminds (or at least the last of the phonebook users)  who are driven in equal measures by rank evil and a love of intensive research. It ran as a letter to the Press Enterprise paper in Bloomsburg, PA (boldface mine):

To the Editor: I am writing this letter as a concerned former resident of the Bloomsburg area, and am a reader of the Press Enterprise. I no longer live in the area but still return to Bloomsburg because of family and friends who live there.

The March 3rd newspaper carried a page that is commonly used every month, but disturbs me, and others in the area, very deeply. Yesterday it was page 22, the page featuring pictures of young children in the area who are celebrating their birthdays. I would like to urge the Press Enterprise to please, please stop printing this page. These are beautiful, young children who deserve to have their birthdays made a special day for them, but please don’t make it so obvious and so public.

I caution not only the newspaper, but the parents who send in those pictures and the information accompanying them. It is a practice that puts the lives of these children in jeopardy. If I were someone desiring to do something to a child that is too horrible to imagine, all I have to do is get a copy of the newspaper that features a page 22 with all the pictures and information I would need  in order to carry out my desires. By purchasing that newspaper I would have a current photo of the child; know the names of the parents; know the town they lived in, and get a phone book to look up the address; learn the names and towns of the grandparents; know  how many siblings there are and their ages; and, by putting two and two together, come up with the school they go to.

If I learned their address from the phone book, I could drive to the area where they live, sit in my car and watch for them to walk to school and make my move. This is an extremely dangerous situation and the newspaper and the parents are making it very simple and treacherous for the very children they love so much.

This morning (March 4, 2014) I looked on the Internet and did a search for current registered sex offenders in Bloomsburg, Danville, and Berwick. There were a total of 66 current registered sex offenders. How many others are there in the area who are not current or are considering taking that next step to becoming one? Of course the three towns only skim the surface of the residents Benton, Hazleton, Northumberland, and, of course Sunbury where very recently a teenager was arrested for murder by finding victims on the Internet.

Bloomsburg is not the innocent town it once was when I grew up there (I graduated high school there in the ’60s). I know several residents of the area who have never  traveled over 100 miles from the town and probably never will. If you live in the town, you may never see Interstate 80 except when you drive on it. You may not even have a concept of the amount of traffic that drives on that highway. Do you even realize that I-80 goes from the New York City area all the way to the west coast? The number of people who travel through the Bloomsburg area daily is tremendous. It would be so easy for one of them to buy a newspaper, see the pictures of the children, do a little research, and their day would be planned. I would hate for something horrible to happen in my hometown.

S. H. . Norman, Okla.

Those poor doomed children who live in Bloomsburg, PA.

The doomed town of Bloomsburg, PA.


Readers — As much as parents worry about predators behind the petunias, they worry about predators behind the pixels, too. danah boyd has researched the validity of those  online fears. Not only does her book, “It’s Complicated,” seem totally spot-on, but she is reviewed by the equally remarkable and culture-changing Peter Gray in this post on his Psychology Today blog. I have a section from Peter’s book, Free to Learn, that is mindblowing, too — stay tuned for that post!  Meantime, enjoy Gray’s take on Boyd’s book (with even a shout-out to Free-Range Kids!):

Myth #4: Social media put teens at great risk from sexual predators.

In a nationwide survey, boyd and her colleagues found that 93 percent of parents were concerned that their child might meet a stranger online who would hurt them, while only one percent of them indicated that any of their own children had ever had such an experience. By far the biggest fear expressed by parents was of “sexual predators,” “child molesters,” “pedophiles,” and “sex offenders” who might contact their child through their online participation. This mirrors the fears, revealed in other national and international surveys, that underlie many parents’ decisions to restrict their children from venturing away from home, outdoors, without adult protection. Surprisingly, the respondents to boyd’s survey expressed as much fear for their sons as for their daughters.

As I and others (e.g. Lenore Skenazy in her book Free Range Kids) have reported elsewhere, the “stranger danger” fears that afflict so many parents are greatly overblown. In fact, harm of any kind to children or teens from adult strangers is very rare, and there is little or no evidence that technology or social media has increased such danger. As boyd (p 110) puts it: “Internet-initiated sexual assaults are rare—and the overall number of sex crimes against minors has been steadily declining since 1992—which suggests that the internet has not created a new plague.” Of course, teens and children should all be cautioned about such possibilities, and we should discuss common-sense ways of preventing it with them, but the danger is so small that it is irrational to ban our children from social media because of it.

The fact is, child molestation is far more likely to be perpetrated by people who are well known to the child, such as relatives, trusted family friends, priests, and teachers, than by strangers. Again, in boyd’s (p 110) words: “Although lawmakers are happy to propose interventions that limit youth’s rights to access online spaces, they have not proposed laws to outlaw children’s access to religious institutions, schools, or homes, even though these are statistically more common sites of victimization.”

Read the rest of the review here!

Beware of online predator (statistics).

Beware of online predator (statistics).