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Uber Safety

UPDATE! I love this comment so much, I have to highlight it here:

“When I was a little girl, an unarmed adult wandering the halls was likely to be questioned, not presumed to be a psychotic mass murderer.”


Readers — This  surprising story ran in yesterday’s New York Times about the news media’s new favorite story, finding “breeches” in school security. As reporter John Eligon begins:

The three news reports followed the same format: Television reporters walked into schools with hidden cameras, under the premise of testing the security measures. Each time, the anchors provided a sobering assessment of the findings.

“One of the more depressing reports I’ve seen in a long time,” said Matt Lauer, the “Today” show host, after a report showed unsettling lapses in security.

“What we uncovered may shock you,” Chuck Scarborough warned viewers of WNBC in New York.

Similarly, an anchor with the NBC affiliate in St. Louis prefaced a story by saying, “Some of it will disturb you.”

What disturbed ME — aside from the schools that went on lockdown, the kids made to cower in the classroom, and the not insignificant possibility of someone shooting the reporter — was summed up by Al Tomkins, senior faculty for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute, who told Eligon:

“What happens is you’re spending all this energy and time investigating school safety when that’s already the single safest place for your child anyway… [This] sort of reaffirms the false notion that my kids are really in danger at school when they’re not.”

Exactly. Like all the sweeps week stories where reporters go to playgrounds to film how easily kids can be lured away — as if to suggest strangers are doing this all the time — this new generation of reporters would make us believe our kids are in grave danger anytime any adult steps foot in a school.

That outlook reinforces the notion that all strangers are at least somewhat likely to be madmen, and that therefore all schools MUST be hermetically sealed. (See earlier post, “Strangers in the Schools”) The upshot is letters like the one I got a few weeks ago from a mom in an Iowa town of 1000, where students are no longer allowed to hold the door open for ANY adult, even one they know. (Which, in a town of 1000, is probably everyone.)

The media tells itself it does these reports as a public service. It does them for ratings, and the public be damned. – L

School or prison? Does it matter?

School or prison? Fearmongering reporters push to make them the same!

Readers – This is a wonderful and well-researched piece on Slate by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, who seems to have written articles on everything that interests and outrages me, including Satanic panic  (a FANTASTIC and oh-so-disturbing story), and how junk science can put innocent people behind bars for a very long time. But this time she’s writing about high-tech baby monitors like the Mimo and Owlet, sold to parents as essential for peace of mind:

If only mom had an iron lung to attach me to, then she could be SURE I'm breathing!

If only mom had an iron lung to attach me to, then she could be SURE I’m breathing!

Linda writes:

[The American Academy of Pediatricians advises] “Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS. … There is no evidence that these devices reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation or that they are safe.” And: “Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS. … They might be of value for selected infants but should not be used routinely.” (In fact, there’s some evidence that they might not be safe: In November, monitor behemoth Angelcare voluntarily recalled 600,000 under-mattress sensor pads after two infants died of strangulation when the cord attached to the pad wrapped around their necks.)

The point is clear: Infant monitors, even the newest generation of smartphone-friendly wearable tech, do not reduce the risk of SIDS. And while the creators of devices like Mimo agree, Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, calls Mimo’s claim that it is not presenting its device as SIDS protection “disingenuous”…

Lenore here: Disingenuous is a nice word for “Hucksterism.” Not only can’t these devices prevent SIDS, they actually spread EXCESS worry by making it seem like a sleeping baby is in danger every single second. No wonder parents are so crazed with fear. NOTHING — not even a baby in a crib — is safe enough for us to let our guard down a sec.

And so begins the great parent freak-out, brought to us  by the endlessly inventive and seemingly recession-proof Child Safety-Industrial Complex.

Readers – -This is an amazing article from The New Republic by Jenny Jarvie about a phenom called “trigger warnings” — warnings written on blog posts and, increasingly, everywhere else, that tell folks that the material they’re about to read may “trigger” awful thoughts:

Initially, trigger warnings were used in self-help and feminist forums to help readers who might have post traumatic stress disorder to avoid graphic content that might cause painful memories, flashbacks, or panic attacks.

But they kept spreading, and now:

Last week, student leaders at the University of California, Santa Barbara, passed a resolution urging officials to institute mandatory trigger warnings on class syllabi. Professors who present “content that may trigger the onset of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” would be required to issue advance alerts and allow students to skip those classes…. [Elsewhere]  Warnings have been proposed even for books long considered suitable material for high-schoolers: Last month, a Rutgers University sophomore suggested that an alert for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby say, “TW: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence.”

How does this have anything to do with Free-Range Kids?

We are constantly fighting the belief that kids are in danger from everything: “Creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure…”And yet, the assumption of fragility pervades our culture, from infrared monitors to watch baby at night — as if SLEEPING is dangerous — to now these warnings on college classes, as if THINKING, or even having a MISERABLE MOMENT is dangerous.

On this blog and in my speeches, I always try to explain that it’s not a million individuals who have suddenly decided to frantically helicopter parent, it’s a society TELLING us that if we DON’T supervise every afternoon at the park, our kids will be snatched, just as surely as if we don’t buy the latest educational toy, or serve exactly the right food, or enroll our kids in the very best program, they’ll end up stunted, illiterate, unloved and unemployable. But the real danger is this:

 By framing more public spaces, from the Internet to the college classroom, as full of infinite yet ill-defined hazards, trigger warnings encourage us to think of ourselves as more weak and fragile than we really are. 

Fight the assumption of fragility. Be strong!  - L.  

Now THIS lady could use a Trigger warning.

Now THIS lady could use a Trigger warning.

Readers — As the mom of two Scouts (of the boy variety), I am so sorry to see some troops turning into a morass of red tape, Worst-First thinking and CYA. Time to whittle down the fears! – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought I wouldn’t ever do this, but I think I’m going to have to.  I am easing my daughter out of Girl Scouts.

A friend of mine, a former GS leader, assures me that this is the local group being buffleheaded, not national rules.  But practically speaking, it doesn’t matter.  It’s the local group or no Girl Scouts at all, due to our location.

Around Christmas, I had a dispute with my daughter’s troop leader about letting her walk alone to the pickup point for a caroling excursion, which was just around the corner and across the street.  She said I had to drag the younger siblings out of the house and through the chilly winter weather — seeing as how they really are too young to stay home alone — while I personally walked my eldest to the pickup point.  Or  I could tell my husband that he had to let me have the car for the day instead of using it for work-related trips.  Reason? “Safety.”  Although I held on to my temper (I think), I got the feeling that this person was completely willing to call the cops or CPS or something if I let my eldest walk alone for five whole minutes, so I was willing to give in.  And then the whole thing got weathered out.  Bullet dodged.

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s troop had a meet-up at a store a block from our house.  I told my daughter to courteously ask whether she could walk home on her own, and if not, to call me.  She ended up calling me.  “Safety.”

Last night my daughter had a meeting in an elementary school building.  They dropped their coats in the cafeteria, then went to a small classroom just down the hall.  When my daughter was done with the activity, she wanted to wait in the cafeteria for me to come in and get her.  Not allowed.  “Safety.”

The cherry on the sundae of stupid: Apparently, this whole time she has been forced to take a bathroom buddy to the restroom whenever she needs to go!  All of the girls have to do this, it isn’t just her being picked on.  What.  The.  Frack. She’s 9.

The local Salvation Army runs a scouting program that does none of this nonsense and seems awesome. Hopefully I’ll be able to ease my daughter out of GS for “logistical” reasons.  I don’t want her memories of Scouts to be bitter . (Heh.) – Scout Mom for the Time Being

Dedicated to cossetting kids?

Dedicated to pointless “safety?”

Readers — This is a post from Australia’s iVillage about a true concern: Death by backyard pool. There as here, drowning is one of the leading causes of child death. Heartbreaking. Nonetheless, banning pools seems like a bad idea. How come?

Well I read through some of the comments to find one that articulated my reservations. This is by a guy named Jon S.:

I understand one always wants to take measures to prevent deaths, but 16 deaths a year is 0.00000064% of the population.

Without sounding horrible that is a very low figure to punish 100% of the population with, and force 100% of pool owners to fill in their pool regardless if they have kids or not – and I am assuming at their expense?

We really need to be careful with these kind of ideas, it might not be the banning of cars but the amount of rules that can be added in the name of safety is and will continue to spiral out of control. People seem to want a zero fatality society yet this is not only impossible, the quest for it will create a culture and country based on fear and draconian governance. Given the rules in place now, and articles like this asking for more, 100 years from now you won’t be allowed to swim at all or build, play outside, run, experience anything really.

This line of thinking is not a very comforting direction for our future.

I’m with Jon. – L.

Everybody out of the pool?

Everybody out of the pool?

I know some folks may think there’s a good reason Illinois’ Madison County Health Department shut down 11-year-old Chloe Stirling’s cupcake business. But here’s what bugs me: If you are buying cupcakes from a kid, you KNOW they’re not being baked at Entenmann’s headquarters. And that’s a “risk” you are taking.

A society that doesn’t even allow microscopic risks is a society more obsessed with rules and liabilities than gumption and frosting. Me? I’m in the gumption/frosting camp. – L.

(Maybe Chloe can raise enough money for a non-time-delayed headset for the local reporter!)

Readers — Wrap your head in a towel before you read this, so when you bang your head against  the wall it won’t hurt as much:

State Journal birth notices to end because of hospitals’ new policy

by David Wahlberg

The [Wisconsin] State Journal will stop publishing birth announcements later this week because Madison’s two birthing hospitals will no longer provide the information to the newspaper.

The end of the traditional keepsake for parents and notice to the community stems from a growing concern about infant abductions, hospital officials say.

Birth listings “set people up as targets for somebody who might want to steal a baby,” said Kathy Kostrivas, Meriter Hospital’s assistant vice president for women’s health services.

“It’s an effort to improve safety and security for families,” said Kim Sveum, spokeswoman for St. Mary’s Hospital.

...The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells parents to consider the risk of birth notices.

“In general, birth announcements in newspapers are not endorsed by most experts,” says a guide by the center, called, “What Parents Should Know.”

At least 290 babies have been abducted in the U.S. since 1983, including 132 at health care facilities, according to the center. Four cases, from 1989 to 1993, were linked by law enforcement to birth announcements, the center says.

“Our world is so different now than it was 25 to 30 years ago,” said Cathy Nahirny, the center’s senior analyst for infant abduction cases. Abductors “are using every means available to them to select a possible victim infant,” she said.

As one reader who sent in this story noted: “Reading the article it would appear that your new born would have a greater chance of being hit by lightening on the way home from the hospital, but I guess you never know and better safe than sorry eh?”

Yes, and what a perfect way to begin parenthood: Deeply terrified and convinced the world is worse than ever. (Despite the fact that  crime is down to the level it was when gas was 29 cents a gallon.) – L

Come and get him!

Come and get him!