Dear Readers: You may recall that last week, Dear Abby passed along the advice that children take a walkie talkie every time they enter a public restroom so they can call mom when they get molested. Since this is a common fear, I asked a child abuse specialist if this is also a common occurence. Of the 500 children this pediatrician had treated for sex abuse, NONE had been abused by a stranger in a bathroom. So Abby’s advice was a little alarmist, to say the least.
That same day, Abby ran a note from another reader that said we should be very careful at indoor playgrounds like the ones at McDonald’s, because children have been “violated” there in a matter of “seconds” WHILE THEIR PARENTS WERE ONLY A FEW FEET AWAY.
Rather than saying, “That sounds almost insane,” Abby ran it with nary a raised eyebrow. Welcome, then, to Abby’s world. I call it Pedo-delphia — a place she loves to think of as filled to the brim with pedophiles. This may explain the advice she passed along this weekend on her very favorite topic. Here goes:
ABBY: I have an idea that may prove useful to parents. I have worked in law enforcement for more than 18 years, including as a state police dispatcher. There are often stories in the media of children lost or abducted in the blink of an eye.
Because of the proliferation of cell phones with cameras, there is now a way to help law enforcement officials get the word out via Amber Alerts and news bulletins.
Parents should take advantage of these photo opportunities. Before leaving home for the day on a shopping trip or family outing, take a picture of your children in the outfits they are wearing that day. Once you are all back home, safe and sound, you can delete that picture and the next day take a new one. That way, you’ll always have a current photo of how your child looks “today,” not six months or more ago at a special event. You also won’t have to rely on your memory of exactly what your child was wearing if he or she should go missing.
Time is of the essence, so take advantage of the technology that’s available in today’s world. — JANET IN AURORA, ILL.
DEAR JANET: That’s a great idea. I am sure many thousands of parents will be grateful for your suggestion. Thank you!
And thank YOU, Abby. I’m sure thousands more parents are grateful to you for perpetuating the notion that every day in every way our children are in danger of being abducted.
Not that we shouldn’t have an up-to-date photo of our kids. That does make sense. But to make this a part of one’s DAILY routine, like flossing, is to assume that kidnapping is as likely as tooth decay. It’s also to assume that we can protect our kids from this rare occurence the way we protect them from cavities. I.e., that if and when anything bad DOES ever happen to a child, it’s because the parents just were not vigilant enough.
This is terrible for two reasons. First of all, it makes parents believe they must be on guard, at all times, against abduction. But abudction is so rare that, to quote my favorite statistic again, if you for some reason WANTED your child to be kidnapped and held overnight by a stranger, you would have to keep him or her outside, unattended, for 750,000 years for this to be statistically likely to happen. Yes, it happens THAT INFREQUENTLY. And yet parents are supposed to organize their lives — and their childrens’ — around the fear of it.
Secondly, it makes parents believe that with enough obsessive planning, they can guard their children against all evil. The corrolary to this is that now parents feel irresponsible unless they are actively keeping their kids safe from even remote dangers. This not only leads to overprotection, it leads us to blame any parents whose children who DO get hurt. He scraped his knee? WHERE WERE HIS PARENTS??
I thought Abby was supposed to give sensible advice. And I guess it is — if you live in Pedo-delphia. – Lenore