Even The Today Show Seems Embarrassed by Its “Expose” of Child Danger

Readers — This video of what Matt Lauer dubs “an alarming social experiment” is so outlandishly UNalarming, even the hosts at the end seem to be distancing themselves.

Visit eeseszakrz
NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So here is the premise:

Would you notice a lost kid wandering around on his or her own? Would you get involved and help?

Staging a social experiment as many children return to school, the Rossen Reports team wired a boy named Bjorn Golden with hidden cameras to see if anyone would notice that he was apparently on his own and see if he needed help.

In fact, no one at the park questioned Bjorn. When the Rossen team showed the hidden camera footage to child safety advocate John Walsh, he said, “As the father of a murdered child, it’s very disturbing to me. It only takes a minute for the predator to identify a vulnerable child, swoop in, and you may never see your child again.”

Ah, there’s that phrase that is ruining childhood around the globe: “It only takes a minute…” Those words have convinced parents everywhere that if they take their eyes off their kid for even a single minute, their kid could well  be kidnapped. Except that:

1 – There’s zero evidence in this video that “uninvolved” strangers would REMAIN uninvolved if they saw a kid actually in danger.

2 – There is no reason any of the strangers should think that this young man was lost. (The fact that he wasn’t lost probably only added to the normalcy of his demeanor.)

3- John Walsh’s idea that a kid walking around TRYING to look confident is just evidence that the kid may be feeling terrified means that anytime we see any young person looking happy-go-lucky we should automatically assume that he or she is possibly in grave distress.

4 – The “little boy”is 11! Not 3! He SHOULD be outside, on his own, on a beautiful day. Trying to make this seem dangerous, which would in turn make the onlookers seem callous, is to completely re-write the day, the place, the kid, the adults and — oh yeah — REALITY.

What’s next, Today Show? “We let a squirrel loose in Central Park and NO ONE stopped to consider it could be someone’s pet who’d gotten out! Stay tuned for Rossen Reports!” – L.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

83 Responses to Even The Today Show Seems Embarrassed by Its “Expose” of Child Danger

  1. John September 24, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Look, it was absolutely terrible what happened to John Walsh’s son Adam. We got that. But John Walsh is sooooo over the top with all this that he has no credibility in my eyes. With his unending “sex offender” witch hunt, he has probably done more to hurt kids over the years rather than to help them! I refuse to watch any of his shows and I make it a point to turn the other way every time I see him in a commercial!

  2. MichaelF September 24, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Maybe no one paid attention to this “child” since he was an 11 year old out on his own, on a beautiful day, and no one saw anything wrong with it. Which is exactly what I would expect to see.

    Sorry, but I don’t really want to watch it just to see the reactions, much as I love to know about the other side of the argument in this case I would get nothing.

  3. Jen (P.) September 24, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    This has reached the point of absurdity. A kid shouldn’t be able to buy some ride tickets at a carnival without being interrogated? And the reporter keeps upping the ante – oh my goodness, now he’s sitting alone on a park bench!

    I take some comfort in the fact that a few of the people he interviewed said something along the lines of, “yeah, I noticed him and that he was alone, but he didn’t appear to be in any distress; if he had been, I’d have offered to help.” What’s that – common sense? Even the panel of anchors seems to realize this report is ridiculous (for instance, Matt Lauer pointing out that his niece took public transport to and from school at about this age). Maybe this is evidence we’ve reached a turning point.

  4. Roger the Shrubber September 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    If these bystanders were to observe someone approach the boy to offer the aid that John Walsh seems to expect, shouldn’t they intervene on the thought that this stranger is trying to abduct the youngster? Don’t you understand the paranoia you are trying to instill in us, Mr. Walsh?

  5. E September 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Good grief — that’s ridiculous. The kid is polite, calm, confident and certainly looks WELL old enough to be on his own, walking or waiting or whatever it is he’s doing.

    And that part about his age not wanting to show fear — well guess what – the kids WASN’T afraid. He was escorted by cameras and his mother. When he asked for “directions” it was to the BATHROOM, not “I’m lost and don’t know how to get home”.

    I’m sure “Rossen” loves his TODAY gig but I’d feel dumb presenting this like some indictment of society.

  6. John September 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    My thoughts exactly Roger!!

  7. anonymous mom September 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    So this morning I had to pay rent. My infant was sleeping and my three year old was cranky, so rather than either loading everybody into the car for a 30 second drive or into strollers for a walk, I sent my 10 year old to walk it over. His little sister, who is 4, wanted to go, too, so I let him take her. My landlord’s house is literally a block and a half away, you can see her back porch from our front porch, and I can hear the kids the entire time they are out (they are VERY loud). And yet, the whole time I was worried somebody would see them out and call the police. I figured that, because I was outside and keeping an ear out for them, they wouldn’t have grounds for charges, but who knows? This is just NOT stuff parents should have to worry about. I should be allowed to make the decision to send my 10 year old and his sister on a two-minute walk (only one street to cross, and they cross it in front of the house, so I can see them) without any fear of the police or CPS getting involved.

    John Walsh has made his career off of exploiting people’s fears. He was the main suspect in his son’s disappearance for a long time. He insisted they close the case based on the confession of a serial killer who didn’t kill any other kids and who confessed to many crimes he didn’t commit. Honestly, I have long suspected that he was involved in some way; it often seems like the people who make careers out of their victimization are the most likely to have fabricated at least part of their stories.

  8. lollipoplover September 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Why on Earth would anyone stop a capable child from paying for tickets and riding kiddie rides at age 11?!
    I had to turn it off when John Walsh came on as I felt instantly nauseous. “It only takes a minute”…for normal kids to have a lot of fun doing common childhood activities.

    My 11 year-old is *alone* all the time. She’s gaining confidence, maturity, and building self-esteem, all important to GROWING UP. She babysits and can cook dinner for our family (though her room is a mess, still working on that one). She also helps coaching my younger daughter’s soccer team and enjoys the responsibility and having younger children look up to her for guidance. How can she possible achieve anything if she’s treated like a mindless baby not on a leash??
    At 11?

  9. Emily September 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    There was a time when I was sad for John Walsh. However, he’s turned his son’s death into something to profit off of and I just can’t consider him credible based on that.

    There have been great strides made in helping kids who have been abducted. It’s a horrible thing. It’s a rare thing, however and not one we should be changing out entire lives for.

  10. J- September 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Did anybody else notice the Catch 22?

    No adult felt it was necessary to rush to the aid of a 11 year old boy who looked totally fine, going about his day with no distress. Ergo, these adults are negligent and would allow a predator to abduct the child.

    On the other hand:

    Had one of these adults approached the child alone, they themselves might come under the suspicion of being a predator. Even Walsh said “and you don’t want the bad gut to come up and say ‘I can help you.'” Implying that the adults who would approach a lone child are predators.

    The way this “report” is structured it could swing either way: ignore a kid doing normal things, you are a monster who would let that kid get abducted OR approach a kid doing normal things and you are monster who abducts children.

    Other than that, I can only reiterate what other have said. What is so outrageous about an 11 year old boy who doesn’t look like he is in any distress in a public, family friendly, area. I used to go to the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk with my family. When I got to be 12 or 13, and my little cousins got tired of walking and wanted a break, my mom would give me some money and let me off on my own to play in the arcade or go mini-golfing. Totally normal.

    I think the reaction of most of the people there was reasonable. If the kid is crying or looks distraught, they would help. But just a 11 year old, walking by them selves looking like they know where they are going seems like something not freaking out over.

  11. Linda September 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    That the ticket taker didn’t question him? I let my 9-year old do these kind of transactions on her own all the time. We both appreciate when they treat her like a normal customer.

    The backpedaling at the end is really funny. I find this whole report rather comforting, aside from the incongruous statements of alarm.

  12. Virginia September 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    I saw this on the Today Show a few days ago and was horrified. Why would you think twice about that child? He was in a park, an amusement park, and a boardwalk, with thousands of families surrounding him. He was in no danger or in any distress. Now, if it were very late at night and said boy was walking along the median of a highway, I’d stop.

  13. Reziac September 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    A kid in distress looks like a kid in distress. Kids don’t fake confidence very well. If a kid IS in distress, you’d help ’em, right? If you don’t, you’re the problem, not the solution (but none of these people would get involved if a kid really WAS in distress, because OMG lawsuits). And if he’s not in distress, how is what he’s doing your business?

    If I had kids and someone marched my kid home demanding to know why they were out alone and didn’t I know anyone could snatch them — I’d be sooooo tempted to respond, “Someone like you??”

    I wonder what these busybodies would say to my 13yo self — I rode my bike some 6 miles (through downtown, across the river, along the truck bypass) to the fairgrounds, paid 25 cents to get in to the State Fair, spent 3 or 4 hours wandering the exhibits, then rode another mile to my grandmother’s house, had dinner with her, then rode home in the dark.

    And LIVED!! I wasn’t snatched by carnival roustabouts, nor by truck drivers, nor by bums downtown, nor the countless off-duty airmen, nor was I molested by the owner of the pawn shop I frequented (good source of 10 cent books), nor hit by a thousand cars that passed me on the road. Amazing!!

    Me and every other kid in town…. who knew we’d survive all this!

  14. Liz September 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    What’s the long term effect on kids of parents who swallow this hook, line and sinker — who tell their 11 yo or maybe even 12 or 13 yo:

    “Don’t go anywhere alone! You might be snatched! Even if you are in a busy place, with lots of lighting, escape routes, bystanders, with a cell phone — you should be worried because someone evil will grab you and drag you away and we will never see you again” ?

    Common sense says don’t get lost late at night, in an deserted part of town far from home. But teaching your kids that they can’t trust their own instincts as to what’s a safe situation, because some nefarious “child snatcher” will still get them, well, I can’t see how this leads to a happy adulthood.

  15. pentamom September 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Why does stuff like this always include the element “school is back in session”? That’s totally irrelevant to anything — like kids can’t get lost during the summer?

    This was mind-bogglingly stupid. None of the people who saw him,except the people he sat near on the bench, saw him for more than 30 seconds. None of them had any reason to think he’d been on his own for any “worrisome” length of time, if there even is such a thing for a kid that old, in broad daylight in public places. And the people who saw him for “several minutes” waiting a on bench — what ELSE would a kid be doing at a park sitting on a bench but waiting for someone? Like his parents?

    The reason nobody reacted to this is that there are a dozen perfectly logical reasons why a kid that old could be on his own for a bit of time, that are more likely than “this kid is lost and is going to be eaten by a predator.”

    This infuriates me because if people watch this and learn the “lesson” they want to teach, it’s just more hassling for my 13-looks-11-year old.

  16. Roger the Shrubber September 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I find this whole report rather comforting, aside from the incongruous statements of alarm.

    Exactly. They could have used this same video footage and reported ‘no kidnapper, murderer, or molester approach lone child in busy park!’

  17. bmommyx2 September 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I totally agree with you. The boy was old enough to be “exploring” alone. His body language & actions sent out a message that he was fine & didn’t need any help. Not to say that it doesn’t hurt to make eye contact, smile, say hello or chat a little to open the door just in case he does need help. I’m a bit disappointed in John Walsh’s alarmist attitude, but at least he has an excuse. I think though people like him have helped put our society where we are today, living in fear and on constant alert. I do think if he asked for help or was younger or gave off an I’m scared or lost vibe some people would help. The other side of the coin is that strangers are afraid to help out of fear of being accused of doing something bad. I think it’s so important to teach our children how to ask for help & how to decide who to ask. When I took my kids to the county fair by myself I was concerned about what to tell them if they got lost. I made my first stop the the security office & asked them for advice. They showed my kids what to look for to spot an employee at the fair & what the security people were wearing. They suggested I write my cellphone # on them with a sharpie. Since then I have purchased small clothing labels with my last name & phone # & put them on their shoes or the backs of their shirts. Now my 8 yr old knows my #, my my 3 yr old knows to point to his shoes & ask someone to “call my mommy”. Honestly I am less worried about something bad happening like someone doing something to them than I am about them just being scared & lost & it taking a while to find them. With my phone number they can have anyone call me & I can find them within five minutes. My three year old is a runner & will just take off, when he was two (and not very verbal) he did just that at the aquarium. I lost him in the crowd & it took me 20 minutes & five employees to find him. No one noticed him because he was just exploring. I tell my kids all the time if you get lost look for someone who works there, look for a family & ask the parents & if not then just ask someone. I think the worst thing we can do is make our kids afraid to ask for help. I was even pleasantly surprised that when my son’s elementary school had a stranger danger type assembly the company that did it taught the same type things that I already teach my kids. I was afraid I it was going to be the other type & I would have to keep my son from going, glad I didn’t have to.

  18. Stacy September 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    This was unintentionally hilarious. I especially loved the shock over him buying his own tickets and going on children’s rides and no one saying anything! Hopefully, most viewers realized that the dramatics were way over the top, when pretty much everyone he met treated him like he was mature and capable and even the comments at the end basically said this was no big deal for a kid that age.

  19. Tim September 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Such irresponsible scaremongering. It was good to see the hosts basically say it meant nothing and that a kid that age should, of course, be out and about.

  20. Swain September 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Child walking around in tears, calling “Mom? Dad? MOM?!” = lost child.
    Child walking around not doing that = not lost child.


  21. kate September 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    What does the 9 year old riding the subway for days have to do with the story? People are supposed to notice that a boy is riding alone on the subway and assume that he is lost and in trouble?

    I couldn’t find reference to that story, but
    but I did find the story of the adventures of runaway 11 year old boy riding for days on the subway. He encounters many interesting folk on his ride before he is recognized as a runaway and reunited with his mother. Safely.


  22. Donna September 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I do like that at the end all the news people commented basically that they wouldn’t have stopped to talk to him either because he was old enough to be out wandering by himself.

  23. E September 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    And yes, the idea that the kid should be wary of stranger, yet we are being scolded for not approaching the kid (as a stranger) — it’s just completely silly.

    Is John Walsh suggesting that the “bad guys” will self-identify? Because if you were a kid alone (with permission and not in fear), it would be impossible for them to know the good guy from the bad guy. And if a good guy comes up and says “I see you are alone — where is your mother”. I mean — c’mon!

    I guess the other message is that an 11 year old should NEVER be alone. Ugh ugh ugh.

  24. Ben September 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    This kid wasn’t lost. He was just wandering around doing fun stuff. “What Would You Do” already did a Lost Child experiment — a much better one with the child actually looking distressed, and later on, asking for help.

    They got pretty much the same result

    You can’t conclude anything from this crappy Rossen Report experiment. You need a good experiment to get good results.

  25. Sloan44 September 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm #


    O.K,got it out of my system (One reason I keep my hair short,so I don’t pull it out)

    This is outrageous!! If,when I was eleven,and was out alone playing,riding my bike etc. and a person were to approach me and ask “Are you alone,where’s your parents?” I would have retreated,feeling they were there to cause harm. Now, if adults don’t ask they are questioned why.

    Is society trying to make it the norm for adults to approach all kids alone and ask this? This country is going off the deep end.

  26. Beth Holmes September 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Wow! First, don’t the hosts of the NBC Today show preview any of their segments — and would thought this one was a good idea?
    Second, I am SO glad that I live in a sane community in Rhode Island, where it’s actually school policy to encourage our 4th and 5th graders to ride their bikes to school, and where anyone in 6th-12th grade who lives closer than two miles to school doesn’t even have bus service — they are expected to walk, bike or get driven by parents/friends. My daughter has walked or biked to school a mile or more each way since she was 11. I work, so I imagine that at times she may have stopped on the way to hang out with a friend or just breathe fresh air! How can we stop this ridiculousness?

  27. lollipoplover September 24, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    “Why does stuff like this always include the element “school is back in session”? That’s totally irrelevant to anything — like kids can’t get lost during the summer?”

    Because the fear mongering, idiot journalists want the viewers to think a child walking with a backpack and no adult nearby is in DANGER vs. realizing SCHOOL IS OUT and kids know how to walk home. The act of being alone does not make a child vulnerable. They are just as vulnerable in the back of a speeding minivan.

  28. marie September 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    They should show this and Reefer Madness as a double-feature.

  29. EricS September 24, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    WOW!! I would have actually been happy seeing that boy by himself, doing things by himself. That’s a normal thing. Has been for decades. This era of people are idiots. I’d like to think that most of the people saw the boy, and thought “it’s a boy enjoying the day”. I’d also like to think that a confident boy, is a confident boy. That if something were wrong, he’d be smart enough to ask for help. I’m sure had people seen him in distress, they would have approached him. I’ve seen children walking by themselves downtown, and find it refreshing. But most of them have their parents either further up, or behind. And they don’t seem to mind their kids walking off on their own.

    I see Walsh completely differently now. I feel bad for what happened to his daughter, but I’ve lost a lot of respect for him. He’s just another paranoid, helicoptering parent, that a tragic but rare incident has affected him and his family. Just because it happened to his kid, it doesn’t mean it’s happening to every kid all over the world, all the time. And again, that “what if” mentality is does more harm than good. Such a dumb segment. It’s more fear mongering. No wonder things just keep getting worse and worse for parents who would prefer their children grow up the old way.

  30. EricS September 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    This actually gives me more hope for humanity. That many people WEREN’T freaking out about boy on his own.

  31. Reziac September 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Someone says, “Common sense says don’t get lost late at night, in an deserted part of town far from home.”

    If it’s deserted, who’s going to snatch you? At worst you might wander around lost for a bit. (I suppose you could fall in a manhole, but seriously…) If you have common sense, you’ll probably go toward lights and find *gasp* people who can direct you on your way.

  32. SKL September 24, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Wow, I am embarrassed on behalf of that TV show.

    That kid was as big as some of the terrible adults who didn’t save him.

    But what was the advice given? If you see a child (who appears to be just fine) “alone,” you are supposed to ask him “are you alone” and “where are your parents”? Isn’t that exactly what you’d do if you were a child molester looking for an easy target?

    I’ve taught my kids that if they are in a situation where they are separate from me and they get a creepy vibe or someone asks them to go somewhere with them, they are to say “my mom’s meeting me over there” and walk purposefully away.

    I loved that the guy thought it was just horrific that someone sold a big kid tickets at a carnival. I’ve been sending my kids up to buy their own tickets etc. for years. When they were little, I would watch at a distance. It never occurred to me that some people might think they were lost just because they were at the ticket stand “alone.”

    A kid that big who is actually lost needs to know how to ask for help. Thankfully everyone exposed to the experiment (other than that hovering mom) felt the same way, and didn’t assume a problem existed just because that “little boy” 😛 wasn’t holding his mommy’s hand.

  33. Melissa September 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Wow. It really did play like a parody! I think the people were being completely normal and didn’t know how to react when the camera crew swooped in all dramatic, except to be apologetic. My favorite part is the lady at the ticket counter DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE THERE WAS NO PARENT IN SIGHT! He paid with his OWN MONEY! Gosh, my kids are a little younger than him and they go into little stores themselves and hang out with their friends out of my sight. Just, wow.

  34. Roger the Shrubber September 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    At 11, if some stranger approached me and asked ‘Where’s your mommy?’ I doubt I would have replied in a friendly manner.

  35. Steve September 24, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    The title of this video should be one of these:





    People often acquire a warped view of the general public because of their daily association with the types of people they interact with. Police have daily contact with criminals and people reporting crimes. Mental health workers see people with emotional problems from morning till night. Doctor’s patients are either sick or claiming to be sick, or are being told they are sick by the doctor. (Caveat: Are “patients” called that because doctors have a long history of keeping people waiting?)


    It’s interesting that they tried to make this normal looking self-assured boy into a victim even though he was not one. Not a toddler, not acting lost, not exhibiting any behavior that would draw attention.

  36. Warren September 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    John Walsh needs to be stopped. I have been saying this for years.

    He advocated knee jerk law reform, while in mourning. Then took that attention and turned it into fame and fortune. The man has become a bottom feeder, off the death of his son.

    He has made his living out of scaring the hell out of the weak and paranoid.

  37. SKL September 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    anon mom’s story reminds me of a day from my childhood. My brother was 2, therefore I was 11. I was on my way to the city bus stop to go shopping at a place a bit far to walk. My 2yo brother, who was in the joint care of me and my other school-aged siblings while my parents worked, came running and it was so cute the way he begged me to take him with me, I relented and brought him along. We ended up being gone longer than I expected, because I took the rapid bus on the way (the rapid didn’t stop at all the stops) so I had to walk some miles back home – with a cranky tot in tow.

    Well, guess what.

    1. Nobody called the cops or, in my recollection, asked what we were up to or where our parents were.

    2. We arrived home alive.

    3. I accomplished the goal of my trip.

    4. My kid brother accomplished his goal of seeing more of the world.

    5. My mom’s only admonishment was that I should have told someone that I was taking my brother, so my parents wouldn’t wonder where he was. (I was not punished.)

  38. SKL September 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    I’ve brought this up before, but it took a 12yo Jesus’ parents 3 days to notice he was not with them on the way back to their hometown. And nobody at the temple seemed to be concerned that he was separated from his family for those 3 days.

    This boy was 11, but puberty being what it is, he could easily pass for anything from 10 to 15. If they’d chosen a younger-looking 11yo, some people might have asked him if he knew his way around in some of the scenarios presented. Not that anyone should feel badly for not doing so, but I could see it happening.

  39. Vanessa September 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    I wouldn’t look twice at a 5-foot-tall middle schooler on his own either! I’ve been approached by lost children for help in the past, and all of them were little, maybe six or seven years old at the most. They weren’t buying ride tickets and asking for directions to the bathroom, they were crying and upset and saying “I can’t find my mommy.” If the experimenters really wanted to do it properly, they should have gotten a kindergarten-age kid.

  40. Michelle September 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Earlier today, I was walking around the grocery store all by myself, and not a single person stopped to see if I was lost or needed help! No one asked me where my mother was, or if I knew how to get home. They even let me make a purchase without questioning me! Doesn’t anybody realize that it only takes a minute for a criminal to grab a vulnerable woman like me; ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

  41. Neil M. September 24, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    So let’s see if I have this right: A clean, well-dressed pre-teen in no obvious distress who seems to know his business is supposed to be a flashing neon danger sign because, as we all know, the world is full of “predators.” In fact, any adult, no matter how innocuous-seeming, could be five seconds from snatching up any unaccompanied child. However, adults are expected to completely ignore the fact that if interfere with him they’ll be seen as predators in order to keep this child safe from predators.

    In summary, adults are supposed to be hyper-aware that the world is full of people waiting to harm children, but should dismiss that “fact” whenever they see a child alone. I swear that Douglas Adams couldn’t write this stuff…

  42. Jill September 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    While I’m sorry for the loss of John Walsh’s son, I can’t help but reflect on how much damage his message that there are “predators” lurking everywhere has done.

  43. Liz September 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    When a kid is ELEVEN-years-old it’s normal to let them walk to the bathroom on their own. Maybe they get halfway there and realize they don’t know exactly where it is. Why is him asking where the bathroom is a cry for intervention?!
    When I would get separated from my mom, I would try to stay calm (as they suggested) but I would be pretty blunt when asking for help in finding her. In stores I would ask either an employee or go to customer service and ask if they could page her. I may not have been crying, but I asked for help. Now, if the boy went up to the stranger and said, “I can’t find my mom. Can you help me?” then yes, they would think something is wrong, even if he was perfectly calm.
    The whole premise of this is totally ridiculous!

  44. Vanessa September 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Seriously! Since when is “Where’s the bathroom?” some sort of secret code for “I’m lost?”

  45. Kim September 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that 11 year olds can take babysitting courses. So they can be responsible for other children, but not themselves? Ridiculous. They should have used a much, much, younger child if they wanted the reaction they were looking for!

  46. kate September 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    What a difference a generation makes. When I was eleven, I got separated from my mother at Filenes Basement downtown Boston. I approached a saleslady and asked if she could page my mother. Her response: “We only do that for little children” I eventually found my way home to the suburbs via subway and bus and walking. My mother was already there! She knew I had money and could handle myself. We had actually never made plans for such an eventuality, but I made it home safely.

  47. SKL September 24, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Oh, another part that was idiotic. The boy offers to snap a photo of two women with their camera. “Why didn’t they ask him if he was lost?” What? Do lost children go around offering to snap photos for tourists?

    This is really disturbing the more I think about it. They are telling America to interfere with 11yos who are going about their business. What happens when the 11yos don’t accept the “help” offered? “No, I’m not with my parents. Have a nice day.” Then what are we being asked to do? Call the cops? What then?

    I would like to think nobody would be swayed by such a ridiculous clip. But then again. When that mom was arrested for letting her 7yo walk a half mile to the park, at least one news lady was acting all up in arms about any parent who would think that was OK. I know 7 isn’t 11, but still. This scares me.

  48. Donald September 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    He is NOT a wallet that someone dropped. Paranoid parents tend to believe that kidnappers will pounce the same as a seagull will pounce on half eaten Twinky! An 11 year old boy is a human being.

  49. Tiny Tim September 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    The logic is similar to the idea that it’s obvious who the good guys with guns are and who the bad guys with guns are. As others have said, if you are an adult who approaches a child you are probably a predator. If you are an adult who fails to approach a child to “help” you are a bad person even if that child needs no help.

    Stranger danger does happen, but it isn’t likely to happen in Target, or crowded parks filled with families, etc. Because there are people around who would see it.

  50. Lance Mitaro September 24, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    John Walsh suffers from extreme personal and emotional bias. He wants America to see the world through his eyes which is really pathetic considering the millions he’s made of his dead kid fostering and encouraging unwarranted fear “It could happen to your child, too” mindless droning he’s been spouting for decades in an obvious attempt to remain relevant.

    This man has ZERO credibility when it comes to protecting children and should be discounted as a toiler and a crank that should have slid into obscurity after FOX canceled his show.

    Take everything this man says with a grain of salt. In fact, whatever he says, believe the opposite. He’s a showman that knows how to exploit parents fears to stay in the spotlight. Your child is more likely to see a UFO or get accepted to Harvard before the same thing that happened to ADAM, happens to your kid. What pisses me off the most is that he’s regarded as child “safety expert” and a media darling that everyone uses whenever a RARE abduction makes the news cycles. If it scares, it airs. $$$$

  51. Maggie September 24, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    The child was ELEVEN? Well of course no one took much notice of a child who is in MIDDLE SCHOOL alone at a park! Most people would consider it normal for a child of this age not to be leashed to his or her parents.

  52. Maggie September 24, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Maybe they should have noticed that NO ONE TRIED to abduct this child. I mean, isn’t there a predator behind every tree?

    The news is, the child wasn’t at risk, most children alone aren’t at risk, NOTHING HAPPENED.

    No news, nothing to see.

  53. Lance Mitaro September 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    What children really need to be afraid of is ignorance. And there is a LOT of that going around. Right, Mr. Walsh?
    The media is making this situation worse by being one sided on this issue. They take everything Walsh says as gospel.
    It was a HUGE mistake to even float this video over to Walsh in the first place; That’s the equivalent of giving an alcoholic a vat of liquor. What Walsh does is no different than yelling “FIRE” in a crowed movie theater and crying wolf. Walsh shamelessly plays the fear card and nobody questions him. God forbid someone would tell him: “Just because you’re a victim, doesn’t mean that you’re right!”

    To Mr. Walsh It’s a business. It has nothing to do with safety. A great way to make money is to make people afraid of something.

  54. Buffy September 24, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    I went to the Today website, and apparently they don’t allow comments. Too bad.

  55. Mike September 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    What’s next, Today Show?

    What’s next is a segment about how you strangers approached a lost child in a park and any one of them could have been an abductor! Honestly, Today has the panic story covered no matter what happened.

  56. Cassie September 24, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    I have no words. America scares me.

  57. Edward September 24, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Just posted this on Rossen Report page of Today Show for a follow up story idea.

    Mr. Rossen, please contact Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids.com to arrange an on camera debriefing of sorts with that 11 year old boy and his mother from your “lost kid” report a few days ago. You need only read her blog item about it to understand the outrage of only including Mr Walsh’s comments as gospel on the subject. A shift in society’s reaction to competent, capable kids on their own is taking place in this country and NBC news appears to be clueless about it. Surely you are aware of the outrage against “zero tolerance” and out of control sex offender registries.
    Contact Ms. Skenazy.

  58. Lance Mitaro September 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Yes Lenore, You would THINK the child in this experiment is exhibiting socially acceptable behavior, but according to Mr. Walsh, this kid is “wounded prey” and sending out subliminal signals to would-be kiddie snatchers to move in for the kill.

    THIS is what’s wrong with victimology and why the media coddles this mindset. 80% of the reason your blog exists is because of individuals like Walsh and their forced perspectives of unlikely scenarios which doesn’t jive with reality. Their specious arguments of “it only takes a second” is just spin to catapult their fear propaganda and to exploit parent’s worst fears – something happening to their child.

    You are fighting the good fight, Lenore. Not fear profiteers like Mr. Walsh that are just mad at the world and preying on people’s emotions for notoriety and fame while exploiting the memory of their loved ones.

    Screw Them!

  59. Alex September 24, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    I was laughing at that video. I’m pleased the hosts recognized some of its absurdities.

    And given that kid’s parent who insisted watching over him during the process, this might be the most freedom he gets in awhile, so I hope he made the best of it. 😛

  60. no rest for the weary September 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    Oh f*ck this sh*t.

    The anchors all have a good guffaw at the end of this ridiculous encouragement to people to find a middle-school-aged child walking around in broad daylight alarming.




    Seriously, people in North America have just gotten too successful. Their lives are too easy, the dangers too small.

    Otherwise, this just couldn’t air as anything less than a parody.

  61. A September 25, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    I agree with anonymous mom about John Walsh. Only three suspects in the killing: two serial killers who targeted a certain type of victim but never kids, and Walsh himself – a man with admitted anger control problems.

    But he gets sympathy for the death of his son and makes a career out of frightening parents with rare but dramatic threats while encouraging an increase in common but boring threats (like obesity and diabetes caused by inactivity that is the result of kids not being allowed outside to play) – and manufactures outrage when strangers don’t offer to help a child in need when his own actions are largely responsible for adults being afraid of helping children in the first place. Add in the adults who have been falsely convicted of various crimes due in part to his fearmongering, and it is difficult to estimate how many deaths of both children and adults he might be primarily responsible for, and how many more lives have been adversely affected by his actions.

  62. Glen September 25, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    The Rossen Report is one of the most ridiculous segments I have seen yet. I don’t watch TV much anymore because of the mindlessness of it all. I recently saw a Rossen Report that recommended home owners treat a home invader like royalty. Not once did they advocate resistance.

    So a man breaks into your home and you are supposed to give him what he wants and treat him like royalty? They also advocated using your car alarm and wasp spray to repel the violent invader. They never mentioned guns as an option.

    If my kid is in trouble, I have taught them how to get help from any other adult in the area they feel good about. So I give my kids a lot of freedom because I know they know what to do.

  63. BL September 25, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    @anonymous mom
    “He insisted they close the case based on the confession of a serial killer who didn’t kill any other kids and who confessed to many crimes he didn’t commit. Honestly, I have long suspected that he was involved in some way”

    Hmmmm. Has anyone (like a journalist) ever investigated this?

    It *would* explain a lot.

    I remember that some years ago he refused to provide DNA to match up with a Florida man claiming to be Adam Walsh.

  64. Emily September 25, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Similar story:

    Yesterday, I was helping a friend of mine with an after-school music program at a church. The Reverend (who I find to be a rather loud, abrasive, and controlling woman) was staffing the sign-out table, with another woman from the church. At one point, after the program was finished for the day, we had the following exchange:

    REVEREND: “Where’s D? Did you see his mother sign him out? This isn’t SAFE, the kids are supposed to be signed out by their parents or guardians!”

    ME: “Well, I didn’t see him leave, because I was moving things back into the office, but isn’t D about twelve years old? I know him from the summer program–he knows enough not to go off by himself, and even if he did, he could handle himself.”

    REVEREND: “That doesn’t matter. The kids are supposed to be signed out by their parent or guardian.”

    A few minutes later, D re-emerged, probably from the bathroom or something. He signed himself out, and then went home with my friend and her two sons, because he’s taken piano with her for two years now, and he’s become friends with her kids. Both D and my friend seemed unconcerned, so this was apparently the plan all along. So, the Reverend got worried about basically nothing–the church is in a relatively safe neighbourhood, and D is a mature, smart kid. He’s grown up a lot since I met him two summers ago.

  65. SKL September 25, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Re signout policies: My kids’ American Heritage Girls troop (a scouting program) also requires parents to sign the girls in and out. I do not know if there is an age limit for this requirement (one hopes so, since AHG goes up to 12th grade and some girls can drive themselves to meetings). I assume it is because of liability considerations. They do not generally act like girls are babies. (Last week they taught my kids different ways to light a fire etc.)

    Tort reform etc. might help situations like this.

    A little pet peeve that is not really relevant here, but sort of is. My kid is young for her grade. Therefore, even though she has done everything every other 3rd grader has done and perhaps more, she is not allowed to move up to the next level (grades 4-6) with her grade. You have to be 9yo by x date. People say it is because of insurance concerns with the things kids at the higher level do, such as being allowed to camp without your parent in your same tent, ride horses with less assistance, etc. I asked for an exception, but they say it is impossible.

  66. K2 September 25, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    The age that kids can do some things unsupervised seems to be getting older even though in many places the age is 8 or 9. If any adults call 911 for an even an 11 year-old being alone CPS gets involved. If they burn themselves on the stove at 11 while learning to cook or accidentally fall off of the anemic monkey bars parents are responsibe and CPS gets involved. I understand John Walsh’s pain, but I think the predator’s should be held accountable maybe with life in jail or even the death penalty. I don’t think the entire society and maybe a few other societies should give up life as we know it.

  67. K2 September 25, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    I have also noticed that kids are not learning really basic things that they used to do, in part because they can’t be expected to do it on their own. There are 2 kids that live in our neighborhood that either haven’t learned to look for cars or don’t get out of the way of cars. One will be 7 soon and the other is even older. I don’t think the parents are entirely responsibe when they have to hold the kids hand most of the time. I don’t think that John Walsh should have that kind of power over us.

  68. E September 25, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    As a side, but related note. I experienced something that’s been discussed here before — that parents from a much more free range age become worried Grandparents. I was with my 86 yo mother this weekend. We were discussing a sibling who has young grandchildren. She started to tell a story about the bus dropping one off when there was a snafu with whoever was going to greet her and she couldn’t believe the bus let her get off — but I stopped her and said “I walked home from kindergarten every day — alone”. She said “that was a different time”. So I told her that we’re not any more unsafe than before, but we just hear about every thing due to the 24 hour news. She didn’t seem to buy it.

    But it made me very sad because my mother would be someone I’d NEVER think would be of that mindset. We ran all over as kids and just came home when she rang a very loud schoolbell.

    Then again, she also leaves her home open/unlocked all the time, so maybe she’s not as paranoid as some.

  69. SKL September 25, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    About crossing the street, I’ve observed with my own kids that if I’m with them, they leave the looking out to me – even if I remind, “watch for cars.” They are fully capable of looking out for themselves, but they are also programmed to not do it while closely supervised.

    I am the same way when I’m a passenger in a car vs. the driver / navigator. I’ve been driven to some places many times and then when I have to drive myself, I’m not sure how to get there. But I am perfectly capable of finding my way when I am the person in charge of that.

    So as parents, we really have to send kids off alone if we expect them to get a clue.

  70. Roger the Shrubber September 25, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    RE: crossing the street
    I have my 6 and 8-year old take turns leading us through busy parking lots.

  71. pentamom September 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Emily, that story about the church program blows my mind. The perception of a child’s safety was based on whether he signed his name on a piece of paper before doing exactly the same thing they feared he’d done without signing his name? I guess they think that some unnoticed person was sneaking around the church carrying kids out a secret exit?

  72. Emily September 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    @Pentamom–It turns out that D is “only” eleven, not twelve, but I agree with you. When I was eleven, I was in grade six, walked to and from school alone, volunteered in the kindergarten classroom at lunch time (Canadian winters, class of five-year-olds, recess, snowsuits), and walked/biked/Rollerbladed around the neighbourhood, so I definitely didn’t need to be signed in and out, and shepherded everywhere. It wasn’t a church program either; it was just a ragtag, homemade music program that operates out of a church, so maybe that’s the confusion–maybe the church had one way of doing things, and my friend had another. I know from the first summer (at a different church, with officials who didn’t stick around) that we allowed kids to sign themselves in and out, if their parents allowed it. Anyway, D is fine, nothing was really wrong, and the Reverend had no reason to worry, so maybe in time, she’ll stop worrying about non-issues. Another thing–towards the middle/end of the program, the kids were starting to get wiggly, and my friend was starting to get frustrated. I kind of expected this, because the program was 90 minutes, RIGHT after school, and it was mostly sitting still…..and this is a program for 6-11 year olds.

  73. oncefallendotcom September 25, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    John Walsh has stated he will “always be the parent of a murdered child.”

    Walsh, until he dies, will carry that mindset with him that he failed as a parent because of that “one minute” his back was turned (or, more specifically, his wife).

    In the end, everything he has done to harm millions of people in his dead son’s name cannot absolve his own sins.

    Walsh was too busy sleeping around on his wife and making millions from his dead kid to invest in treatment for himself. He is a perpetual victim.

  74. Kez September 26, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    I know for a fact that ‘strangers’ will help a child in difficulty, because I myself check on little children I don’t know if they appear to be sad, frightened or lost. I’ll walk up to the kid and say something like “Hi honey, are you OK?” Usually the mom or other adult is somewhere close by and it’s just a matter of taking the toddler to the adult. Another time I checked up on a boy (older than toddler, maybe 8 or so)and he pointed out his house about 30 yards away and said his parents knew where he was playing, so I let him be. But yes I am aware of people around me, including children, and so are the other parents I know.

  75. not really SOA (AKA Roger the Shrubber) September 26, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    @ lollypoplover, SOA, Warren, et.al.

    Apparently I’ve been a bad boy and our discussion thread has been removed.

  76. Emily September 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    >>The age that kids can do some things unsupervised seems to be getting older even though in many places the age is 8 or 9. If any adults call 911 for an even an 11 year-old being alone CPS gets involved. If they burn themselves on the stove at 11 while learning to cook or accidentally fall off of the anemic monkey bars parents are responsibe and CPS gets involved. I understand John Walsh’s pain, but I think the predator’s should be held accountable maybe with life in jail or even the death penalty. I don’t think the entire society and maybe a few other societies should give up life as we know it.<<

    See, that's what bothers me the most. If you ban kids from cooking (or playing outside without an adult, or being unsupervised at home for any length of time) until they're twelve, or some other arbitrary cut-off age, then how are they supposed to magically be able to do those things safely once they reach that age? It makes no sense at all.

  77. Puzzled September 27, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    I noticed that they started with a boy who was on the subway for 5 days. Subway. It’s a hidden reference to FRK!

  78. Sigh September 28, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    Good. That was a tween, not a child. He’s old enough to take a Red Cross Babysititng course. That means he’s old enough to be trained to look after other people. Doesn’t that kind of imply that he’s waaaaay old enough to be responsible for himself?

  79. Radical Rodent September 28, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Wow! I spent untold hours prowling the amusement arcades, tromping round the shops and gallavanting over the fields around that age, with never a thought or care for myself, nor was anyone else in the least concerned about me – I was a kid out and about, enjoying myself. Who knew I was in such danger?! (/sarc)

    My defences would have been up on full alert had anyone shown any interest in me, other than to respond to any questions or comments.

  80. Papilio September 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    So this was the American version of that Japanese show? WOW. Someone definitely missed the point 😛

    The kid asks for directions to the bathroom; he offers to take pictures, in short: he can talk!! Since when is the rest of humanity supposed to just assume that he can’t use that powerful tool to ASK for help IF he needs it???!!!

    @pentamom: “Why does stuff like this always include the element “school is back in session”? That’s totally irrelevant to anything — like kids can’t get lost during the summer?”
    Perhaps it is just a relict of this mysterious ancient tradition called “walking to school” (something that presumably died out waaaay back in the 20th century AD), implicating more kids will be out on their own?

  81. Ben September 29, 2014 at 3:30 am #

    This sounds like a video just *begging* for the MST3K treatment (note that they did lambast “Reefer Madness”, so it would go with that double-feature).

  82. Rick September 29, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    OMG…. the line of the day….

    “He even buys ride tickets with his OWN money!”

    Yes, how shocking. Sorry, I can comment no more on this matter without snark.

  83. Ivy S October 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    “He even buys tickets with his own money!!” Can you believe it?? An 11-year old capable of earning money on his own and then making a transaction?

    I thought all 11-year-olds were helpless!