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child safety

Readers — I haven’t signed up for Amber Alerts, so I haven’t experienced this. Have you? How common is it? I realize Amber Alerts CAN save kids, but not if they become the boy who cried wolf. (What a famous boy!) – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I am a faithful reader who grew up in the dangerous ’70s and ’80s and was a criminology major. I have a very difficult time explaining to my friends that the world is much, much safer for my children. Part of the perception problem is the insanity of the Amber Alert.

Yesterday, while in a meeting, everyone’s phones went off. At the same time. After determining it was neither a fire, nor an earthquake, we read that there was an Amber Alert for a 12 year old boy. He had been “abducted” on Thursday. The Amber Alert came in on Monday. And the Alert on the phones said nothing about the fact that he had been taken by his mother for her regularly scheduled visitation and not returned on time.

While I do believe this is a serious violation of a custody agreement, I am not sure it rises to the occasion of notifying all of Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Diego County. He was, of course, found safe with his mother:

http://temecula.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/amber-alert-12yearold-boy-abducted-in-long-beach-police-say

I think the idea that the “news stories” did not include that the child was taken by the mother was to increase the shock/scare value. Stranger danger!

I will remain committed to “Free-Range,” but the State of California is making it hard to convince others!

Yours, Jill Schindler

Amber Alerts seem like they'd lose their effectiveness if used injudiciously.

Amber Alerts seem like they’d lose their effectiveness if used injudiciously.

From my piece on Time.com today. (Time writes the headlines, not me):

How Kitty Genovese Destroyed Childhood

We once may have been too slow to call the cops. Now we’ll dial 911 if we see a couple kids walking alone to get pizza.

by Lenore Skenazy

Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death 50 years ago today. She was 28. A tragedy. The press reported 38 onlookers heard her screams and decided not to intervene. That account has since come under fire, but it nonetheless created a perception of ourselves (and certainly New Yorkers) as unconscionably reluctant to get involved.

We’ve been making up for it ever since — and that’s too bad.

We may once have been too slow to call the cops (though that’s still disputed), but today we are definitely too fast. Oh, I don’t mean we shouldn’t dial 911 if we see someone being murdered, or threatened, or hurt. Of course we should! In fact, the simple 911 number to call for emergencies was developed partly in response to the Genovese murder: Now everyone could have a quick, easy way to summon the cops anytime, anyplace. A great leap forward.

The leap sideways, or perhaps downward, came as the general public gradually became convinced that it not only had an obligation to help anyone in danger, it had the obligation to call the cops anytime it noticed people who could be in danger, especially kids, even if they were fine and dandy at the time. This has given rise to a near mania for calling the cops when people spot a child on his or her own anywhere in public.

Read the rest here.

Reports of uninvolved bystanders led to hyper-involvement today.

Reports of uninvolved bystanders led to hyper-involvement today.

 

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.

Shoe (danger) fetishists at work. THIS is the nefarious footwear in question.

 

Readers — Please first take a guess as to why the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled these shoes last week. Then, read the real rationale. (Boldface mine.) 

Recall Date: February 20, 2014

Eastman Footwear Recalls Coleman Runestone Children’s Shoes Due to Laceration Hazard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers should stop using this product unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Hazard: The metal rivets surrounding the holes where the shoestring is secured on the shoes can have sharp edges, posing a laceration hazard.

Units: About 12,200

Description: The Runestone children’s shoes are black with gray mesh fabric panels on the side of the shoe with a green “Coleman” logo name and lantern graphic on the tongue. The black shoestrings on the shoes are threaded through green fabric tabs on the top of the shoe. 

Incidents/Injuries: The firm has received one report of an adult who scratched or cut his finger. No medical attention was required.

Lenore here: So, I just got back from Mexico where, one night,  I was on a bus where the bus driver’s 4-year-old son was hanging onto the back of his daddy’s seat. No seatebelt, no carseat — nothing. This is not to recommend unbuckled 4-year-olds. I believe in carseats and seatbelts. It’s just to remind us that our standards for safety are already so above and beyond much of the world’s, it feels like we have no place to go but off into the stratosphere of psychedelic uber-safety, where we hallucinate dangers and then dream up elaborate procedures to defuse them.  

An adult maybe scratched his finger?

If that’s all it takes to turn a shoe into a hazard, what ISN’T hazardous? – L. 

Readers — Sometimes I can’t believe how hard it is for kids to find anyone to play with outside.  Some days my sports-loving son, now 15, still comes straight home, only because all the other kids were doing that, too.

So — here’s an alternative you might want to try: Rather than relying on parents to spontaneously let their kids go out and play (which I hope will happen again some day), a Florida parent has started organizing “Good Time Sports” every other Sunday at a local park. Kids come and play casually organized games.  Parents pay $10, which goes for food and expenses.

Now I know — $10 isn’t peanuts, and why do kids need anything other than a ball and each other? But it still seems like a great alternative to a super-organized sports program, or sitting at home on a beautiful day.

WHERE YOU COME IN

If this sounds fun to you, why not share your location and an email address in the comments section, below? Tell folks what day and time you’d like to organize a Free-Range Sports Day! If and when you get something going — I sure hope you do — send pictures! – L

Someday kids will play beyond clip art!!

Someday kids will play beyond clip art!!

Readers — This is a video made by a Norwegian group, SOS Children’s Villages, that gives out coats to Syrians freezing through the war and winter.  If you wish to feel good about humanity, click to play. If you wish to help, too, here’s the link.  - L

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).