Supervise Your Tweens Every Second or They Will Die: Doctor’s Office Pamphlet

See below. This is the kind of “safety tip” that enrages me: a vague warning that kids must never be trusted to do anything on their own because any kind of imperfect “choice” COULD lead to death and it COULD have been prevented if only YOU, the parent, never took your eyes off your them. If you’re not doing that, WE WARNED YOU (without giving you any actual suggestions, perspective, or statistics — just guilt and terror).

This is NOT advice. It is lazy fear-mongering and finger-pointing masquerading as advice.

Dear Free Range Kids:

I took my 11-year-old in for his checkup the other day and came home with a handout entitled “Well Child Care at 11 & 12 Years,” published by RelayHealth.  Under the section headed Safety Tips, it states,

“Accidents are the number one cause of deaths in children.  Children like to take risks at this age but are not well prepared to judge the degree of those risks.  Therefore, children still need supervision.  Parents should model safe choices.”

Which makes it seem like all these accidental deaths are due to kids taking risks and being unsupervised.  I plan on writing to my pediatrician to recommend better handouts.

Beth

Beth, please do. And remind them that the way kids learn TO judge the “degree of risk” in an activity is by…taking small risks as they grow.Outsourcing all risk-evaluation to adults results in a young person unable to gauge any risk at all.

Sort of like whoever wrote the pamphlet. – L

P.S. Here’s a nice list of 10 Amazing Child Heroes.

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Hey kids! Are your parents busy with something other than watching your every move, every single second? Just askin’!

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32 Responses to Supervise Your Tweens Every Second or They Will Die: Doctor’s Office Pamphlet

  1. SKL August 21, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    I’m not sure that statement is outrageous. I can remember a few things I did as a kid that were outright stupid. And I know the same is true of everyone here – whether they remember it or not.

    It says kids need supervision, it doesn’t say they need to be in line of sight 24/7. Supervision includes knowing where the kid plans to go and giving instructions for how to act and when to come home.

    And accidents will still happen. (So will intentional harms.)

    I do think the statement is superfluous. Who actually needs to be told their 11/12yo kid isn’t fully wise and mature?

  2. Donna August 21, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    I really don’t find that offensive at all. It doesn’t say “supervise your tweens every second or they will die.” It says tweens still need supervision. Nothing about the word “supervision” indicates one-on-one, eyes on them at all times 24/7. Most people have supervisors at work. Unless they are really bad supervisors, they are not leaning over their shoulder watching their every move the entire work day.

    Necessary supervision varies by age. I do not supervise my tween the same way I supervised her when she was a toddler, but that does not mean that she lacks supervision; just that supervision looks different for a toddler and a tween. I consider my child being “supervised” even when she is out and about on her own. I know where she is, who she is with and generally what she is doing. We have discussed the rules I expect her to follow and she has proven that she will usually follow them even if left to her own devices. We may even have had a specific discussion if she is going someplace that has unique risks and issues. She can call me if she has a problem. That is all the supervision my tween needs.

  3. Donna August 21, 2017 at 8:46 am #

    “Who actually needs to be told their 11/12yo kid isn’t fully wise and mature?”

    Many people. Some parents have very unrealistic and age-inappropriate expectations for their children. Doctors don’t just treat children with decent parents. They treat kids with all kinds of parents.

  4. Charlie M August 21, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    I think kids that age still need supervision. Not constant supervision of their entire lives, but maybe knowing who their friends are or if they’re starting to date. Age appropriate and non-fear-based supervision. Just like I think tweens need guidance but not steering.

  5. Theresa Hall August 21, 2017 at 11:20 am #

    Maybe give warnings for the the really stupid stuff like that blue whale challenge. Then if they are not jumping off Cliffs then they should be fine.

  6. pentamom August 21, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    Accidents are the #1 cause of death in children not because lots of children die of accidents, but because SOMETHING HAS TO BE the #1 cause of death, and children don’t die of other things very often.

    “This is the #1 cause of death, so we should fear it” has always driven me crazy. No, it just means that there is nothing else that causes more deaths, not that that particular thing is highly likely (depending on what you’re talking about.)

  7. pentamom August 21, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    But I do agree with Donna and SKL that this thing doesn’t really say “Watch your children like a hawk every second.” That’s not really the definition of supervise. And children should be supervised, until they’re not children anymore — it’s just that it diminishes and changes form as they grow and learn.

  8. Anna August 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    @Pentamom: ‘Accidents are the #1 cause of death in children not because lots of children die of accidents, but because SOMETHING HAS TO BE the #1 cause of death, and children don’t die of other things very often.

    “This is the #1 cause of death, so we should fear it” has always driven me crazy. No, it just means that there is nothing else that causes more deaths, not that that particular thing is highly likely (depending on what you’re talking about.)’

    This is so very true! And a corollary is that eliminating or drastically reducing the leading cause of death will just mean we’ll have to move up the second one to first place, and obsess about that one instead. Which is why we are now (or so it seems, best I can tell) more fearful and anxious about our children than parents were back when half of them died of measles or diphtheria before 5 years of age.

    Remember that story about how swings should be removed because they’re the most dangerous piece of playground equipment? It’s the same principle: once the swings are gone, then we’ll have to target the second-most dangerous equipment next.

  9. Anna August 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    I agree with those who are pointing out that “supervise” may not mean “watch like a hawk” here. However, I think the advice would be much better if it included some advice to help your tweens learn to make good risk assessments – i.e., by actually facing and dealing with risks appropriate to their development. As it stands, the implication is that risk should simply be avoided by parental intervention.

    For instance, we were just at a big group picnic hosted by a family who had just put up a zipline that ended slam-bang against a large tree, with no stopper or bumper of any kind. A bunch of tweens tried it out, using various devices like foot-dragging to slow down enough not to body-slam the tree. Granted, the hosts were nuts to have the thing up, and I (like many others) cringed each time a kid tried it, especially if it was a shorter kid whose feet might not reach the ground.

    But on the other hand, no kids actually got hurt – each apparently did gauge their level of risk well enough. I’m pretty sure they learned something. (Although I have to admit I am not and have no wish to be as free-range as those parents who let the kids use the zipline, particularly the ones who let their big kids help their little kids use it. . . .)

  10. CK August 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    Supervised kids still die in car accidents and from suicide. More supervision is not the answer.

  11. Theresa Hall August 21, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    As they aren’t breaking the law or doing those stupid stunts like the cinnamon challenge they should be fine. Why kids ever want to do those dumb things is beyond me?.

  12. Miriam Drukker August 21, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    I agree with the other comments, that it’s not that bad.

    It could be written in a better way, explaining that some degree of risk taking is natural, and important, but some guidance is still necessary. And also adding the word “some” before supervision would have been better (“Therefore, children still need SOME supervision”).
    But I feel that the general atmosphere that this handout is giving isn’t about blaming parents or fear-mongering. It feels more balanced, and lies in the final statement:
    “Parents should model safe choices.” Which is always a good idea.

    The words “still” makes it feel like it’s not a 24-7 thingy.

    Since the tendency is to go to extreme regarding safety (and blaming the parents, and avoiding activities instead of trying them), every little evidence of it is upsetting. And since there usually aren’t other handouts to balance the ‘safety’ view, other handouts about how important it is to teach kids to be independent and how good it is for their well being – then it’s extra upsetting, but this specific one is not one I would get upset about.

  13. James Pollock August 21, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    There’s nothing wrong with the advice as written.

    “Supervision” does not mean “under constant direct observation”, nor does it mean “removing all decision-making authority from the supervisee”.

  14. John B. August 21, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    “Children like to take risks at this age but are not well prepared to judge the degree of those risks. Therefore, children still need supervision. Parents should model safe choices.”

    I don’t know, this seems like somewhat of a generic statement. I would say that even a normal healthy 11- or 12-year-old STILL needs adult supervision, or at least supervision from an older sibling, in some areas but certainly not in ALL areas. I.e., sport shooting / hunting, DEFINITELY. Riding their bikes or walking 5 blocks to school in a small town and in a low traffic neighborhood, NEVER.

  15. Papilio August 21, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

    “Accidents are the number one cause of deaths in children.”
    I’d like to know what percentage of that are car accidents… If kids die because mom drives like a maniac, then put *that* on that pamphlet :-E Scaring people into driving safer can’t be a bad thing. Kind of insinuating that kids age 11-12 still need to be watched as if they’re little kids – and I can see how you could read it that way – is.

    Meanwhile in The Netherlands: this cute radio news item about a 12-year-old boy whose father got a civilian alert thingy about an 80-year-old woman with dementia who had ‘escaped’ from the local care home and had disappeared. Had anyone seen her?
    So the kid grabbed his bike, cycled around the neighborhood, found her (‘Hello ma’m. The police are looking for you.’ ‘On Sunday afternoon?’ ‘Actually, it’s Saturday evening…’ < so he knew he had the right old woman in pink coat 😀 ) and brought her back. Funniest bit: "She matched the description", dixit the kid (not sure how that sounds in English, but the Dutch version is quite specific police jargon – hilarious to hear from a 12-year-old!).

  16. Elin Hagberg August 21, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

    Well, I know a couple of kids that age that almost set up their little brother to do something so dangerous that he could have been killed had not the mother seen them at the last minute. They were not stupid and used to freedom (raised very much in line with free range parenting). Their mother never imagined they would do anything half that stupid. I agree, some supervision is needed and guidance in thinking the right way when assessing risks. What is surely dangerous, what is potentially dangerous but could still be done with the correct precautions and what is generally safe?

  17. Dave Booth August 22, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    While some commenters seem to feel the pamphlet’s statements are valid, I take the same position as Lenore. To ascribe ALL accidental deaths to the child’s bad choices is very misleading. Accidental deaths also include dying in car crashes, often driven by mom, and dozens of other events outside the control of the child.

    Kids really do need to learn about risk by making mistakes – hopefully ones that don’t run the risk of killing them – or they will never learn to accurately evaluate risk as adults, where the consequences of some risky behaviors are far more dire. Let kids learn. Protect them from the most egregious bad decisions, but give them room.

  18. SKL August 22, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    Well speaking of tweens and supervision …

    Last night I had a meeting at school at the same time my kids had a gymnastics class a half hour away. I was not sure how long the school meeting would last, so rather than inconvenience the gym people (class ended at 8:15pm), I gave my kids $20 and told them to go next door to the pizza place and buy something to eat until I got there.

    The gym boss would not let them leave without an adult. So they sat there waiting in the gym for a half hour after it closed.

    When I was that age, I walked myself to the pizza place in the rare case I had enough money. I also walked to another pizza place that used to pay me a quarter or give me free food for folding boxes – one of my first “jobs.”

    I’m sure this is some kind of “liability” issue, and my kids can leave from home and go wherever they want, but I found this sad. My kids would have enjoyed the experience and learned a couple things. :/

  19. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    That’s a school for you they refuse to treat kids like adults till they are in college. They keep annoying the girls with don’t distract the boys dress. How will these boys ever learn to treat females with respect when the adults barely do. How can these girls ever be someone great if every the school doesn’t like their clothes they get dragged out class.
    Me I have no care about what other people wear as long as they have the brains to do their job.

  20. Sam August 22, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Supervision is classified as either “proximal” or “distal”. For tweens, the latter is sufficient in most cases, as many readers here have pointed out. It is possible that this is what the brochure meant, as well. However, in many contexts lately only the former meaning is used, which does make the brochure’s wording questionable. The handout should explicitly state that not all supervision involves direct “watching” over the person, and could involve developing trust and supervising from a distance.

  21. James August 22, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    @Dave Booth:

    “To ascribe ALL accidental deaths to the child’s bad choices is very misleading.”

    I’m not clear on which part does that. The pamphlet presents the facts: Teens take risks, accidents are a leading cause of death, and parental supervision and role models can help. This doesn’t ascribe ALL accidental deaths to teens making risky choices, it merely acknowledges that some are a result of that. All of this is pretty self-evident to anyone who remembers their teenage years.

    Further, I’d argue that there is supervision, then there is over-supervision. When I was a teen I had a job and after-school activities, like everyone else in my school. My parents expected me to provide my schedule. This wasn’t hovering–everyone in the family was expected to provide their schedules (my siblings had jobs/school activities, my parents were involved in the local fire department, church, and town government), so that we could plan meals and other activities. But it also let them know in general where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with. If I went somewhere to help a family member or friend (which happened pretty often–rural Rust Belt, we did our own home repairs up to and including re-wiring the whole house), I was expected to call. I consider that a reasonable amount of supervision. When it came to risk-taking, my parents, siblings, and I discussed various courses of action–we had a fairly open line of communication. That sort of situation would cover 99% of what this pamphlet is discussing, and prevent the other 1% from occurring. And I think it’s pretty reasonable.

  22. lollipoplover August 22, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    “To ascribe ALL accidental deaths to the child’s bad choices is very misleading.”

    Exactly.

    I think every parent on here has experienced an accident when they were RIGHT THERE with the kid. They’re called accidents for a reason. This false assumption that parents can have superhero abilities to control everything is a very slippery slope with not much reward for the child…looking at the teen years and the alarming increase in suicides:

    http://time.com/4887282/teen-suicide-rate-cdc/

    Strange that the tween kids I know right now that have been treated for injuries are all in organized sports, but since they are supervised, these types of accidents (head injuries, concussions, broken bones) are more acceptable than a child breaking their arm falling out of a tree?

  23. James Pollock August 22, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    “While some commenters seem to feel the pamphlet’s statements are valid, I take the same position as Lenore. To ascribe ALL accidental deaths to the child’s bad choices is very misleading. Accidental deaths also include dying in car crashes, often driven by mom, and dozens of other events outside the control of the child.”

    Does this fact change the message that proper supervision would reduce the number of accidents involving tweens?

    “Kids really do need to learn about risk by making mistakes – hopefully ones that don’t run the risk of killing them – or they will never learn to accurately evaluate risk as adults”

    And… “supervising” children STILL doesn’t mean taking away all their choices.
    Here’s the deal. Adults sometimes need supervision, too. That’s why so many jobs have supervisors. Sometimes they need supervision to make sure the job’s getting done correctly and on schedule, and sometimes they need supervision because there’s something dangerous about the work to be done, and part of the supervisor’s job is to make sure the work is being done safely.
    Because “supervising” someone does NOT mean treating them like a toddler.

    ” The handout should explicitly state that not all supervision involves direct “watching” over the person, and could involve developing trust and supervising from a distance.”

    In other words, you want the brochure to talk down to the parents, because they aren’t mature enough to already know this.

    The takeaway message they’re trying to deliver is “look, even though tweens are mostly capable of self-regulating their behavior, when the self-regulation fails, it fails big-time. They still need someone to watch over them enough to keep them from doing the truly colossally stupid things that can get them (or someone else) seriously injured or killed ”

    The message is not “treat your tween like a toddler”. Treating this particular message as if it DOES say “treat your tween like a toddler” is silly. The decisions that pop up for tweens are serious and can be life-altering, since they tend to involve sex and recreational drugs. Ideally, by the time they are confronted with these decisions, they’re ready to make those kinds of decisions. If they’re not, however, they WILL need help. Then, there are also the sorts of things that begin with “hey, everyone, look at me!”… these kinds of decisions are not at all limited to tweens, and are made incorrectly by people legally considered to be “adults”, too, and not just by children.

    “look, I’m going to jump off the room, onto the trampoline, and from there into the pool…”
    “Watch me ‘ghost-ride” this two-ton machine into the pole with the neighborhood’s electricity lines hanging from it…”
    “I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before. What possible harm can come from trying to show off?…”

    The Internet is full of videos of people who needed just a smidge more supervision.

    I remember the time in junior-high school where we grabbed the pads that make up the high-jump pit, dragged them over to the bleachers, and were jumping off the top of the bleachers onto the pads (a two-story drop). We did, at least, wear helmets when we were jumping our bikes off of an 8-foot-tall ramp, across 40 or 50 feet, over cars. (That’s boring by current standards, where they have to do things like two backflips or let go of the bike and get back on before they land in order to get the same adrenaline rush. It was the 70’s. Conditions were primitive. We didn’t have an indoor practice facility where you could land in nice, soft padding until you learned how to do it right.)

  24. BL August 22, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    @James Pollock
    “It was the 70’s. Conditions were primitive.”

    We had running water and electricity by then.

  25. James Pollock August 22, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    “We had running water and electricity by then.”

    Which of these would have helped you land a double-backflip bike jump? I mean, I’ll concede that electric lighting gives you more opportunities to keep trying, because you don’t have to stop just because the sun went away, but that won’t actually help you land it successfully. It just means you have more opportunities to break your neck.

    The guys who do the double backflips do it in an indoor practice facility, where they get to land in a big pile of foam blocks until they get a feel for how much rotation they need and when they need to pull out of the rotation to land the trick.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJzMZxKI8zw

    This hadn’t been invented yet in the 70’s. (yes, now that you mention it, I *AM* jealous.)

  26. Red August 22, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    That is weird. My son just had his 11yo well child check, and his nurse practitioner talked to him a bit about peer pressure and making smart choices. There was the expectation in the conversation that there would be times when he + peers would be unsupervised and just some ideas on when to get parents involved.

    But our middle schools are *adding* afterschool care this year. I’ve never before seen a middle school with afterschool care and ours didn’t formerly have it available. They are doing a grade shift (middle school will now be 6th-8th instead of 7th-9th) but I come from a 6th-8th middle school culture in the midwest and none of the middle schools ever had afterschool care.

  27. SteveS August 22, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    I remember the time in junior-high school where we grabbed the pads that m, nor are ake up the high-jump pit, dragged them over to the bleachers, and were jumping off the top of the bleachers onto the pads (a two-story drop).

    I just had to comment on this because I remember doing something similar. We had a balcony in our high school gym that was a good 20+ feet above the gym floor. We drug the pole vault pads under the balcony and would jump off the balcony onto them. In hindsight, this was incredibly stupid and I am surprised that no one got hurt.

    That being said, I didn’t find the message all that bad. It could have been better written to point out that complete, one on one supervision isn’t needed, nor are all accidents caused by lack of supervision.

  28. Liz August 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    Our pediatrician told us “there’s no real reason for your toddler’s room’s door to ever be closed.” Um, the large dog who does whatever he can to wake him up, plus the 2 cats who go in, close the door, and then meow as loudly as they can to get us to let them out, which also wakes him up. My husband and I looked at each other and just groaned.
    Plus, if there was a house fire, a closed door would be safer.
    Sometimes they recommend opinion rather than facts. Like the other doctor who told us that, under no circumstances should we ever use a single “generic” product, not even diapers or wipes, because “they are just inferior.”

  29. pentamom August 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

    Anna, I agree with your application, but IMO it’s the kind of thing where parents who wouldn’t exercise caution in a risky situation like that either don’t heed pamphlets like that, or have decided that they *are* providing adequate supervision, but their judgment is different from yours.

    While I don’t think the pamphlet is as bad as Lenore seems to, I think that pamphlets like this are generally of little value. I’m also just a little concerned about the rhetoric — while supervise doesn’t mean “watch like a hawk,” the recommendation that children of that age still need supervision doesn’t need to be, and shouldn’t be, juxtaposed against “accidental deaths.” That’s just a bit alarmist, rhetorically if not literally.

  30. Artyom August 22, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    Guys, guys, please. Being more restrictive will definitely put accidents back in the hierarchy of death causes there. You have accidents at the first position and suicides on the second position. You simply have to be a lot more strict with kids and extend their time in school aswell as doing school work, and they will have less accidents. The higher pressure affects the mental state and make everyone more depressed and the suicides go up. Voila, accidents aren’t the leading cause of death anymore.

  31. William Tippins August 22, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

    It’s official, I’m going childfree. Our society is too hostile, brutal and unloving to bring a kid into. What an awful childhood they would’ve had.

  32. Dienne August 23, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    Sorry, late to the party here (out watching the eclipse), but I wouldn’t say that’s an outrageous statement. Note, it doesn’t say “direct” supervision. You can supervise a child by talking to him/her and discussing risks, setting limits, etc. You don’t have to have your eyes glued to your child to be supervising him/her. I would say that kids who know that their parents have a general idea of what they’re up to and who have talked to them about risks and limits probably have fewer accidents than kids whose parents let them run wild and completely unsupervised.