Guest Post: A Photo a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away?

Hi bbrttkiyzn
Readers: I seethed along with this one. — L.


She was all of five feet tall with a charming smile and her weapon of choice was a digital camera. So how did this mother of two ruin my afternoon?

It happened in the magnificent state of Vermont. I was relishing the crisp fresh air of the Green Mountain State when my enjoyment was abruptly shattered. No, this woman did not insult me, nor did she hit me over the head. Here’s the story:

Ms. Camera and I were waiting at the base of an Alpine slide for our children to come down the two-mile slide in their Alpine sleds. Vermont is skiing country, however, in the summertime the ski trails are turned into giant sliding ponds.

Since I’d already accompanied my children about a dozen times, I decided to wait out this round at the base of the mountain. Apparently Ms. Camera had the same idea, and we began chatting as we watched for our children to slide back towards us.

The first five minutes of our conversation went well, and we shared ideas regarding tourist activities in the area. Then Jennifer (as I learned her name to be) turned on her camera and showed me a photo of her 9-year-old daughter.

“She’s beautiful!” I exclaimed.

“Thanks.” She pressed a button for the next picture; her 11-year-old boy. “I take a picture of each of my children every single morning, so in case they get lost I can show a recent photo to the police with the kids dressed in their current clothing.” She must have noticed my eyes change expression and erroneously interpreted it as my avid curiosity about her idea because she started gushing.

“It’s part of our morning ritual,” she continued. “We eat breakfast and then snap a photo, and I keep the camera with me constantly. You never know what might happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Something wasn’t right here. I was a little confused and thought a moment about my kids’ routine. They walk from home to the bus. They are supervised all day long at school and come straight home where I am waiting. How many opportunities must this woman’s kids have to get lost  that would require a photo every single morning? After a pause I asked, “Do your kids go off on their own a lot? To me, it sounds like a lot of work for the off chance they might get lost.”

“Well, no,” she answered. “It’s not too much work. It just takes a second. I guess it’s not so much getting lost I worry about. It’s all the terrible stuff besides getting lost that can happen!” Maybe Jennifer thought she was being funny with that comment, but as she expounded on several more precautions she takes because she’d rather “be safe than sorry,” my mind was too busy raging to hear her.

I was livid. This mother forces her children to pose for a photo every morning so that she’ll have a current picture for the police, not in case they’re lost, but in case they’re abducted! She kept repeating her mantra, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Is it really?

Is it possible that other things are better?

Perhaps it is better to feel optimistic about your day as the sun rises, rather than believing potential kidnappers lurk at every corner?

Maybe it’s better to start the day on a calm note, as opposed to battling potential bogeymen?

Jennifer is entitled to worry and waste a vast amount of digital memory cards on her ridiculous project. However, I refuse to subject myself to that negative pattern of worrying: Life is way too short to waste on thoughts of the imaginary bad guys lurking down the block! — Ellen Braun

Ellen C. Braun is the founder of, a global parenting resource. She believes that safety is a good thing — however, too much of a good thing is never good. Her latest project consists of reviewing safety seats such as the Britax Marathon and Britax Boulevard.

90 Responses to Guest Post: A Photo a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away?

  1. Elizabeth March 23, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    Ugh, I heard about that recommendation when my daughter was a baby. I was flabbergasted. I mean, we take pictures a few times a month as the kids run about, and even if it were within the past three years–surely that would suffice? I just can’t believe the problem here is not having an updated picture!

  2. chris March 23, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    wow… i wonder if her kids know why she is taking those pictures. Poor kiddos.

  3. karyn blass March 23, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    every day??????that is plain weird–until they turn how old?18?what happens if they sleep over at a friend–or maybe they don’t.or if they go to sleep away camp–guess they can’t do that either……

  4. EricS March 23, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    Another “worse case scenario” thinker and selfish heli-mom. Forget about how she feels, doesn’t she realize this “ritual” WILL affect her kids as they get older? And not in a good way. At some point she’ll have to explain why she does it. When that time comes, it’ll be even worse for her kids’ future. Growing up paranoid, insecure, and fearful of every stranger is not a way to be. Mentally and emotionally. And she thinks she’s being clever. Psychotic more like.

  5. Wilma March 23, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    I can just hear this mom, in her sing song voice, telling the kids to pose for their daily picture, just in case they happen to get kidnapped today!
    It’s a good day in our household if I get everyone to brush their teeth. Jeez.

  6. CapnPlanet March 23, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    I agree her justification for doing it is a little overreactive, but at the same time, I have to say that this doesn’t seem like it’s a huge inconvenience. It only takes a few seconds, and the number of images generated is a non-issue (they could be deleted, and at worst would just take up a trivial amount of space on today’s hard drives). I’m a little intrigued at what the sequence of photos would look like if you made them into a video – it’d be like watching them grow up before your eyes.

  7. dmd March 23, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Can you say OVERKILL? I will admit, I did this in Disney World, but not because of all the terrible things that can happen, but simply because of the masses of people and the fact it would be easy to lose my son. If he had gotten lost, the photo might’ve helped staff find him more easily.

  8. Uly March 23, 2011 at 4:54 am #

    I’m a little intrigued at what the sequence of photos would look like if you made them into a video – it’d be like watching them grow up before your eyes.

    Isn’t that what most of us don’t want?

  9. Lihtox March 23, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    I wouldn’t chastise the woman; as CapnPlanet points out, the inconvenience is minimal. Either she deletes the previous day’s pictures, or she has a unique archive of her children which they will cherish in the future.

    It’s true that this might be taken as a warning sign, that this woman might start doing more drastic things in the name of security. And it’s yet another symptom of our culture’s obsession with child abduction. But really, all of us have to do a risk analysis everyday, looking at the costs and benefits of each possible security measure. The benefit to her children in taking their picture each day is minuscule, but so is the cost, and if it helps give her peace of mind, then good for her. (And she might not even be doing this out of fear of her children’s abduction, but the fear of her friends’ chastisement if she doesn’t appear to be careful enough.)

  10. Noemi March 23, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    I take a photo of my kids AND HUSBAND near the car before we head to Legoland or Disneyland. The car (and husband) provide height markers and the picture reminds me what they’re wearing because after a single day of vacation I don’t remember much at all.

    I do this because the kids and I do get lost in these parks – never long enough for security to be needed but long enough that knowing I’m looking for a green shirt makes things easier.

    Taking this to the Nth degree and doing it daily is crazy.

    Plus Jennifer could be doing this FOR FUN – having a photo a day in the same place with the same stance and then editing it together for a year of photos would be really cool to see.

    Thin lines between cautious, cool, and creepy.

  11. Nanci March 23, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    This is so strange, I can’t even imagine. Other than the traditional first day of school picture with the new backpack I can’t imagine taking pix every day. It’s not like the picture will magically bring her children back if they are kidnapped all it could possibly do is make identifying the body quicker! Just another thing that makes parents feel better but does nothing to protect the children. It’s a total waste of time, and damaging to her children to start every day with a precautionary measure “you may be a victim today, smile”

  12. Holly March 23, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    While I think this lady is certainly paranoid, I don’t believe it should have ruined Ms. Braun’s afternoon. Becoming ‘livid’ or ‘seething’ over anther parent’s relatively harmless choice is a waste of energy.
    I agree that Jennifer’s attitude is over-protective and pessimistic, but it’s not worth the outrage.
    Besides, she could end up with a really cool scrapbook for the kids.

  13. Skyfire March 23, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    Right. Perhaps a little weird. But I don’t see the harm unless she’s telling her kids she’s doing it in case they get abducted. If I was going to do something like this I’d probably say it was for a morph project like some have described.

    I take so many pics of my kids, just because I like to, that I don’t think this is really necessary. I have a recent picture of her face and I can describe exactly what she’s wearing. This woman strikes me as being a little OCD, actually.

  14. Meagan March 23, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    I was thinking the same thing CapnPlanet, could be interesting from an artistic point of view, like the guy on Radio Lab who recorded his daughter’s voice from infancy to adolescence.

    The motivation of her action makes me roll my eyes, but as long as she doesn’t push her fears onto her kids (assuming its possible not to) it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

  15. enyawface March 23, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    21 years, 7670 pictures per child, counting leap years. That would be an interesting album, and just think you could show the next generation, ” See kids, grandma proved there isn’t a boogeyman on every street corner just waiting to get ya.”

  16. chad March 23, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    i started taking daily face snapshots of my kid when he was born (now 9months old), but not for the ridiculous reasons this lady was. I was interested in making a video as some people above have mentioned. Similar to this:

    Unfortunately, life quickly got in the way, i would forget to take the pictures, and then i just sorta stopped doing it.

    Also there’s a new phone app for it:

  17. Sara March 23, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    My stepsister is the same way, overly cautious about everything. But she has a reason. Her nephew was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a neighbor and his buddy. It destroyed their family, obviously. Maybe this woman had a similar experience in her life to make her feel so overprotective. I can understand being annoyed by the overprotective mothers, but give someone the benefit of the doubt, they may have gone through something you don’t know about

  18. Jocelyne March 23, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Huh. I consider myself fairly free range, but I also don’t choose my children’s clothing in the mornings, so I do this if we’re going somewhere busy.

    I figure that if/when they wander, it is much easier to say to the ride staff “Have you seen *this* kid?” than to try to describe my fairly average looking 6 & 4 year olds.

    I admit that doing it every day seems a little weird but I expect that my kid wandering down the block to knock on his friend’s door by himself seems a little weird to other parents.

  19. Veelana March 23, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    I think its a sensible precaution if you go to a crowded park – I talked to a nice guy at WDW who had worked at disneys lost and found for kids and he said that this makes it much, much easier to find the kids when they get lost – and the parents of lost kids are usually too stressed to remember what their kids are wearing that day.
    Doing this every day? man, I’m waayyy too lazy to go through with that, even if it might be awesome for an art/morph project. I would totally forget to do it most days…

  20. chris March 23, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    The problem with the breakdown in community is that problems like this take root in people’s life and no one calls them on it.
    When our son was stillborn we were told that what he had was a freak one in ten thousand sort of thing! Unfortunately that figure sat in my head and took over. Anything that was rare could and would happen to our family. I hated my husband and our toddler being out of my sight for a minute. I was sure that something would happen to him. I would break out in a cold sweat if the boy climbed to the top of the climbing frame, i knew that almost no one dies from falling from a climbing frame, but if anyone did it would be sure to happen to MY kid. I was sure my husband was going to die everytime he went out in the car. But because I was in a close community I was not allowed to act on those fears because people would call me on it, and say “you can’t stop your kid running and playing with our kids, you will ruin his life” Understanding people (who knew me well and had that doorway into my life) who would say, “I know you are scared, but…”

    Once you start acting on your fears that is when you really allow them to control you and your family. I feel very sorry for this lady and her kids. I think she needs help.

  21. EricS March 23, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    @ CapnPlanet: It’s not about he convenience of the parent. It should never primarily be about the convenience of the parent. It’s not even about the parent. The issue is, what message is this conveying to the kids. If you breakdown the mentality of most helicopter parents, you’ll find that they do what they do primarily to make THEMSELVES feel better. We all know already that the children will be safe 98.9% of the time. The kids probably know that more than their parents. But when the parents start to become paranoid, like this woman, the children feel it. But because it’s their mother or father, telling them they take pictures of them because if they get kidnapped, they have a recent photo of them to give to the police. Now if your a kid hearing this, how will that make you feel? How will that play on your psyche? After all the people you trust the most are fearing for you, so it must be true. Now you live a life in fear just like your parents. You now see this as “normal”. Now imagine living and thinking like that the rest of your childhood and adolescence. What kind of adult do you think you’ll turn out to be? Just like your parents. Which in turn you teach your children the same thing.

  22. Heather March 23, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    CapnPlanet, someone did do that:

    Sorry it’s the Daily Mail, which is the UK’s purveyor of random fear of strangers with bonus bigotry, but it was the first link I found.


  23. EricS March 23, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    @ Chris: Kudos for realizing and overcoming. The saying is true, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”.

  24. Donna March 23, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    It might be a minor inconvenience but how exactly can she do this without passing her irrational fears onto her children? Maybe my child is unique but I can’t do anything without her asking me why I’m doing it. I seriously could not imagine taking her picture every single morning for 18 years without having to tell her (likely repeatedly) why I’m doing it. I also can’t imagine a surly teenager (the age most likely to disappear) actually cooperating for a picture session every single morning.

  25. Kris March 23, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    What people do in their house is their business, but I would have had to stop her at the first set of stats she spewed. Keep your crazy in your house.

    Having said that – This IS crazy on so many levels. The stats that stick out in my mind (other than the 115 actual *stranger* abductions last year instead of the tens of thousands we’re lead to believe):

    1. Kids are more likely to be abducted by a parent, family member or someone they know and trust. The same is true for sexual abuse – the “Chester the Molester” Law & Order types are extremely rare.

    2. Children who are successfully removed from the initial area have a dramatically slimmer chance of being found alive.

    3. 1 in 7 minors (ages 10-17) have been sexually solicited online.

    So instead of taking a picture to ward of the boogeyman –

    1. Make sure your kids know their address, phone number, your full name, employer, and other relevant information.

    2. Teach your child very basical self defense moves and remind them to employ every resource available to NOT leave the area.

    3. Monitor what’s going on IN your house – that’s where much of the danger originates.

  26. Marie March 23, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I agree that a picture a day could be cool artistically speaking. Couldn’t stand it for the other.

    My mother’s tactic for taking the grandkids to amusement parks and other crowded areas is to keep a supply of neon green shirts for the group to wear. She wears one also. Fairly unpopular, highly visible color. She also does the picture thing, but for your typical kid wandering off, the bright color is quite effective.

  27. Mark March 23, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    “This is so strange, I can’t even imagine. Other than the traditional first day of school picture with the new backpack I can’t imagine taking pix every day. It’s not like the picture will magically bring her children back if they are kidnapped all it could possibly do is make identifying the body quicker! Just another thing that makes parents feel better but does nothing to protect the children. It’s a total waste of time”

    I’ve got some friends in the local search-and-rescue organization. If a kid gets lost (which is far, far more likely than getting abducted), a photo of what the kid was wearing that morning is the very best thing you can give them — it can reduce the time needed to find the kid by hours or days.

  28. Nicola March 23, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Why breed? Why? If it’s all going to be bad stuff – why bother with the stress that it’s going to cause these sheeple? The stupidity that runs around me is threatening to make me go blind and deaf – self inflicted sealing from the rest of the idiotic world and their child-hating-ruining ways. *disgusted*

  29. Jen Connelly March 23, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    I’ve heard about people doing that. I can see the picture thing being beneficial if, say, you are heading out to a crowded theme park for the day because it’s pretty easy to get separated but to do it every day is just nuts.

    Although, if she saves everyone she’s going to have a really cool catalog of how her kids have changed over the year which is neat. My cousin’s son is in college and is doing a photo journal called, “I’m not going to shave until I graduate” or something like that. Every day he posts another picture of himself to see how much his beard has grown. He cracks me up (he’s a photography student, I believe).

    And I saw a blog once where a dad snapped a picture of his daughter every day years until she went ballistic with having the camera in her face constantly but the photos were an amazing documentation of how she grew up over the years.

  30. Emily March 23, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Last April I decided I was going to take a picture of my son every day for a year. It really doesn’t take any time out of my day (though I do it as he’s doing other things to get the full effect of him being 2) so I don’t think that point is valid.

    But, I’d imagine if youre the kind of person that needs to know what they’re wearing every day, your kids probably don’t spend that much time away from you so isnt it a moot point anyway?

  31. AlizaG March 23, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Kris, your suggestions actually make sense – arm your kids with knowledge!!!!
    That said – go check out Ellen Braun’s website Raising Small Souls – you’ll be glad you did!!!
    I’ve been reading her for years now and she makes a lot of sense. Also check out her book “Animal School” – and no, I’m not related to her (that I know of!).

  32. Emily March 23, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Dude. DUDE. Someone needs to hit her with a rolled up newspaper.

    that’s not very diplomatic. but DUDE

  33. Sweepstaker March 23, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    It’s natural for mothers to worry sometimes but hers is too much. I wonder what the family or the kids think of their mom’s paranoia.

  34. Larry Harrison March 23, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    I am a hobbyist photographer, and this woman’s thinking is an insult to photographers and snapshooters everywhere.

    I take photos of lots of things–sometimes, other people’s kids in the candid or spontaneous sense (which causes some to freak out thinking I’m a pervert, another topic)–but I can tell you that I photograph my kids because of how cute I feel they are, NOT because I think I need a photo of them taken that day so that the police have a photo of them in that day’s clothing.

    I love my camera(s) and my photos, but please do not lump me in with fruitcake. I’m full of happiness and joy, she’s just full of nuts and fruits plucked from a very weird-ass tree.



  35. Lihtox March 23, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    But taking the picture doesn’t cause her fear, it alleviates it. If she stops taking that daily picture, then she’s probably going to be even more nervous, and her kids will pick up on THAT.

    It’s great for us to rail against our culture of fear, but we have to recognize that parents are going to be afraid, and telling them “Stop being afraid! It’s irrational!” isn’t going to make that fear go away; at worst it will just pile shame on top of fear. If we really want to help people get over their fear, it has to be from a position of sympathy, not contempt.

    There are people who *do* deserve our criticism: the people and organizations who actively encourage paranoia in parents. But an individual parent is just doing the best they can, and as long as they aren’t blatantly abusing their children, then we have to give them their freedom. It’s what we want ourselves, isn’t it, to be free from busybodies? And even if helicoptering makes kids a little more timid and uncertain in life, it’s certainly not going to ruin them, any more than bottle-feeding does. As Lenore says in her book, the parents’ influence on how a child turns out is often greatly exaggerated.

  36. bmj2k March 23, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    This is a broader symptom of her paranoia and fear. I doubt this stops at her kids. I am sure she has elaborate and ridiculous safety measures when she hangs up her coat at work. The sad part is that she takes it in such stride that her lunacy seems not only normal but not a bit inconvenient. And worse, this nonsense will be transmitted to her kids. We are raising a nation of wimps.

  37. MikeS March 23, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    “I’m a little intrigued at what the sequence of photos would look like if you made them into a video – it’d be like watching them grow up before your eyes.”

    For a while, did this with my daughter, but we got side-tracked. I wish we’d continued it.

  38. Frances March 23, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I’m disconcerted by the tone of many of these comments.

    If taking the picture lets her get on with her day (and she was standing at the bottom of a lift while her kids were skiing without her), who are we to judge?

    Kids are pretty smart — instead of transmitting her fear, is it possible she’s teaching them to understand and manage risk? We don’t know anything about her mental health or personal history, or about her kids. Or, for that matter, how she presents it to them.

    I worry more about the woman who let this person’s foibles ruin her day. Let it go.

  39. Derek K. Miller March 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Like others, I agree that it would be a marvelous idea as a daily document, especially turned into a time-lapse later. The motivation here is, unfortunately, entirely poisonous, and I can’t help but think that the kids absorb it.

  40. SKL March 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I know some people take a lot of photos of their kids, so more power to them. I just hope they aren’t telling the kids that this is a reason for taking their photo so often.

    I can see the logic of doing this upon embarking on an unusual outing such as a trip to an amusement park. My daughters are fairly brave and curious, so they could wander off, but at 4 I’m not sure they’d have the skills to quickly get found again. I’ve heard good suggestions such as: dress them alike in distinctive clothes, and take a photo of them in said clothes, so they are easy to spot should a search be needed. Although I do not really fear abduction, I would not want my kids to feel lost for an extended time period. And also, if I did lose track of them, having evidence that I tried not to could save me from being accused of being an uncaring or incompetent mom. (Or is that also an unreasonable fear?)

    I got such a sick feeling when my kids’ school tried to sell me on a police photo and fingerprinting. I have numerous photos of my kids. Is a police photo really going to make a difference? Note that this is the same police department that threatened “appropriate action” if they find any kids alone in cars outside of daycare centers. Nah, I think I’ll just rely on my own photos and the general benign-ness of people in the community.

  41. Virginia March 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    “Livid”? Really? That seems to me like a bit of an overreaction to a mother who is just trying to do the right thing.

  42. King Krak, Shaking Head in Wonder March 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Is this really a true story? I can’ imagine this woman who is So Afraid letter her kids go on the Alpine Slide – much less having them out of her sight.

  43. King Krak, Shaking Head in Wonder March 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    @Virginia – Livid would be correct. In no way was the mother trying to do the right thing.

  44. Ava Aston's Muckery March 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    If the kids had an opportunity to express their personality in each photo, then it could be a fun social experiment and family project. Otherwise chalk it up to sopmething kinda creepy.

    I enjoy reading your blog!!! Keep up the great writing



  45. Emily March 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    If they know why their mother is taking their pictures every morning, I imagine the kids are going to have one of two reactions to this. One, they’re going to end up crippled by an irrational fear that kidnappers are around every corner; or two, they’ll decide that since their mother is obviously cuckoo about her kidnapper warnings, they can discount all her other safety advice as well. Neither outcome seems good.

  46. Amy - Parenting Gone Mad March 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Every single day? Where does she get the energy? She might as well wrap them in bubble wrap with a homing device. Crazy!!

  47. Kenny Felder March 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I would never have had the discipline to do this every day, but I often wish I had. I would love to have that kind of digital record–my kids faces, each day looking identical to the previous, and yet slowly, subtly, changing from baby to little kid to big kid to teenager. As several people here have pointed out, the inconvenience to the kids is minimal.

    My first negative reaction was “If she is so paranoid about unlikely events, she probably doesn’t let her kids do anything fun.” But it’s hard to press that point when her kids are on an unsupervised two-mile Alpine sled. So the whole thing seems almost harmless, with one key exception: does she *tell* her kids that this is why she’s doing it? Does she send them off into the world every day thinking that predators and kidnappers are laying in wait behind every fence? I’m not saying that if she does so, her kids are necessarilly going to grow up paranoid or terrified–but I’m not saying they won’t either–and as someone once observed, better safe than sorry!

  48. Tuppence March 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    I was all set to comment in a huff. But all the other damning comments took the wind out of my sails. Now I’m with the “cut the poor woman a break” crowd.

    Yeah, the commenter who said something along the lines of – What can you expect when fearmongers and co., who dominate the media, go to work on parents? — has a point. The woman thinks, erroneously of course, she’s doing the right thing.
    Hate the sin, love the sinner, kind of thing, I guess??

    That’s why it’s so important to get “our” message out there. People need to know the world’s pretty much the same as it’s ever been (esp. in regards to things like adduction). Kids are the same as they’ve ever been. Scaring the begebbas out of kids — it’s SO likely that you’ll be abducted, I need to take an evidence photo every morning — is as mean as it ever was.

    Our parents wouldn’t have dreamed of frightening us with a message like that. Those Tales of the Unexpected were the dominion of late night television. Or, a devious older brother.

  49. Tara March 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    My sister took pictures of our whole party on the tram into Disney World. I thought she was a little weird, but it turns out that it’s the best picture I have of me and my son! 🙂

  50. Donna March 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    “But an individual parent is just doing the best they can, and as long as they aren’t blatantly abusing their children, then we have to give them their freedom. It’s what we want ourselves, isn’t it, to be free from busybodies?”

    And herein lies the biggest problem with society today – the inability to tell the difference between having an opinion and being a busybody.

    I didn’t see anywhere in the original blog where the writer was a busybody. She didn’t do anything whatsoever that in any way impacted Jennnifer’s freedom to do whatever she chooses with her children and her time. She didn’t harass Jennifer. She didn’t call CPS. She didn’t call the police. She simply talked about it on her own blog (and allowed Lenore to post it here). As a matter of fact she said specifically: “Jennifer is entitled to worry and waste a vast amount of digital memory cards on her ridiculous project. However, I refuse to subject myself to that negative pattern of worrying…”

    We are, however, allowed to have opinions on matters. We are allowed to express those opinions. What we shouldn’t do is inflict our opinions on others in ways such as to force them to live in the way that is “right” in our opinion.

    It’s still a free country. It’s acceptable for some of us to think Jennifer is a tad crazy. It’s acceptable for some of us to think this is a great idea. Just like it’s acceptable for a mother to believe that the world is too unsafe for her kids to walk 2 blocks to school. The problem arises when that mother then tries to force her opinions on others by calling the police on people who allow their children to walk to school or trying to put school policies in place that prohibit walking to school. There is a HUGE difference between having an opinion and forcing others to live according to that opinion that seems to get blurred.

  51. Ricki March 23, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Kris, I agree with most of what you said, but I have an issue with your point #3 – 1 in 7 minors 10-17 being sexually solicited on-line. I am always very wary of statistics and that one illustrates why. First of all, what is meant by “sexual solicitation,” and second, why are 10-year-olds being lumped in with 17-year-olds for that purpose? I googled, and from my minor research I found that something like 90-94% of that “solicitation” is coming from people in the same or similar age range (which again doesn’t tell us enough – are 17- and 18-year-olds soliciting 10-year-olds? Or are 17- and 18-year-olds soliciting 17- and 16-year-olds? I suspect the latter, but as long as the statistics refuse to distinguish a 10-year-old and a 17-year-old, how do I know). Also, 69% of the “solicitations” are really just sexual comments and do not include attempts to contact each other off-line.

    Apparently this statistic first went around as 1 in 5 children being solicited. Here’s an article talking about why that’s misleading.

    Again, I agree with everything else you had to say. I just think that, as Free Rangers, we have to question the statistics that are being used to scare us by always thinking carefully about what is implied and what the numbers mean.

  52. Larry Harrison March 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    DonnaAs usual–exactly correct.

    There is often confusion there–to both extremes. There are the busybodies who call CPS and the police over disagreements vs their parenting opinions, on the other hand some think even just stating an opinion I’m a blog is “judging” or “meddling.” Wrong. We are allowed to have opinions still.


  53. pentamom March 23, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    This is extremely silly, but “waste a vast amount of digital memory cards” seems over the top. Those things hold a lot of pictures these days. Waste “a few” digital memory cards is closer, and even that assumes she keeps every one of them forever, which isn’t indicated in the post.


    “This mother forces her children to pose for a photo every morning”

    There’s also nothing to indicate this. You can snap a quick picture of a kid while she’s doing something else. And “forces them to post for a picture?” What next? Starving them? Beating them?

    I completely agree with the beef against what this picture-taking lady’s doing, and how she thinks, but it seems like Ms. Braun’s outrage is causing her to write in a less than rational fashion about some aspects of the situation. Let’s not become “hysterical Free Rangers” in response to “hysterical worrywarts!”

  54. Momof2 March 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I hope you directed her to “Free Range Kids!”

    In our area, when the kids get their photos taken for school in the fall, the school provides us with a “Smile Safe Kids” card with their current picture and you fill out their profile information on the back. Done! 🙂

  55. Douglas John Bowen March 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Karyn Blass already said this above, but I must echo: Every … day?

  56. Tuppence March 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Let’s not become “hysterical Free Rangers” in response to “hysterical worrywarts!”

    Well said, pentamom.

  57. Kokopuff March 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    It always amazes me that parents on this comment section really think these kids don’t know why their mom take the daily photo. Of course they do. Her kids are 9 and 11…there’s no way to keep that a secret. I’m sure they’ve overheard her talking about it to other people if Mom herself hasn’t told they why.
    And although she didn’t expound, the mom also described “several other precautions” she takes, so it’s not just the picture taking.
    And she sounds just ike someone who would call the police on us Freerangers.
    So no…she doesn’t get a pass.

  58. Robin March 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Maybe she needs to take a picture of them every night before bed, just in case someone snatches them from their bed, the police will know what the pajamas looked like. Sheesh.

    This mother has some serious issues. “We eat breakfast and then snap a photo, and I keep the camera with me constantly.” Constantly? Maybe on vacation, but every day? This is not normal safety worries. This is in the area of needing professional help. Hopefully her kids will grow up and realize this and not take her fears seriously. But who knows what else the mother is telling these kids.

  59. Brian March 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    Mark–I am not sure what a “search and rescue operation” is but I am guessing it is forest/woods based. If so, I dont see how knowing what the kid was wearing would save days. The lost kid wondering around crying is probably the one to save.

    Same goes for Disney. Its the kid by himself crying that is the lost one. They also have about a million cameras covering every inch of the park. They know what your kid was wearing from the minute you swipe your ticket. Compared to Disney a prison is a haven of privacy and freedom.

  60. chris March 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Yep, the hysterical thing.
    It is too easy to be hysterical about anything these days (at the risk of sounding like an old fart) Because, as I said before, the breakdown of real communities, people we talk to face to face, neighbours who we disagree with but love and hang out with anyway.
    Too much of our community time is online. We choose the websites/blogs where we find people as like us as possible and we have fun saying how right we are and slag off anyone who disagree with us or label them as morons while not ever getting the chance to get to know them, where they’ve come from, what their strengths are – we know nothing! I love reading the articles here because they have set me free from a lot of worries that I have had.
    But 10 years ago, someone who I just casually met in the park may have seen how I couldn’t let my kid child out of my sight, and without knowing a thing about me other than that, might have written a comment here about me and others could have jumped on about how I was ruining my kid’s enjoyment and instilling fear in him, and there would have been all this eye rolling going and no one would know the reasons why, or that I was actually a good mother who truly wanted the best for her kid… So had I come here back when the fear in me was so great and the issues un-dealt with, of course, I would have just said, ‘oh these people are just judgemental’ and maybe would have gone off to find a different online community whose ideas fit with mine so we could all go around and judge your ideas instead. And around it goes….

    I also echo Pentamom’s,
    Let’s not become “hysterical Free Rangers” in response to “hysterical worrywarts!”

  61. Lisa March 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    This doesn’t make me seethe as much as I just think Jennifer is an idiot. (sorry, shouldn’t call people names) But seriously, if she wants to surround herself and her children with negative thoughts and actions based upon unfounded fears, that is her business. She is a fool, but at least she’s not trying to get others to do the same (yet?).

  62. Tuppence March 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    chris, I’m so glad wrote that. I was starting to feel really uncomfortable with all the “pile on the rabbit” – ness going on. (It’s a Bugs Bunny thing.)
    (And, yes, the part I might have played in it over the time I’ve been commenting here.)

    Your point that the mono-culture the Internet can provide us with can invite smugness, is right on. Not to mention, inhibitions which real-life contact would provide are swept away under the cloak of anonymity, allowing us to indulge ourselves in some unsavory “judgmental-ism”.

    It’s a relief to know – and this really is the wonderful thing about online communities – that I’m not alone. I have the energy to keep reading now! Thnx.

  63. Wayne March 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Wow, so many opinions. IMHO, if it allows her to alleviate her fears, and get on with her day, than what’s the harm here? As noted she was waiting at the bottom for her kids, so she isn’t totally smothering them. She does have some issues, but if this approach allows her to function and allow her kids some freedom, than so be it. It may harm her kids, it may not, even if they know why she is doing it, maybe they do it because they know her fears and are willing to put up with them to function as a family. But allowing someone else’s issues to ruin your day. c’mon, just as we don’t want the fear-mongerers to dictate to us how we raise our children, we cannot, and should not dictate to them how they are to raise thiers.

    As for the camera thing, my boys are teenagers, the camera is always in my car, and i have taken pictures of them by the car before we get into a crowded or busy place where the possiblity of them becoming separated exists, plus one of them changes his look(including hiar color) often so a picture from a few months might not reflect how he appears now.

  64. Sean March 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    So if you leave your kid in the car for 30 seconds, it’s endangerment, but if you scare your kids to death and make them paranoid, you are parent of the year?

  65. Cheryl W March 23, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    My thoughts on this.

    1st, she was trying to get validation of her method of combating her fears from the other mom, that is why she went on and on about it, explaining in detail.

    2nd, her kids know why she is taking the photos. How do I know? Because she is talking about this with a stranger, and I am 100% positive that she has talked about it to other parents, and at times in the kid’s hearing. They know, trust me.

    3rd, if they decide that mom is over the top, I am willing to bet at some point they will rebel and this will be even more pointless than it is now. (Because it is pointless, she is not doing it for the art, or that would have been the conversation.) At some point, I am willing to bet that one or both of her kids will start carrying clothing in their book bag and will be changing clothes on the bus or at friend’s house on the way to school, or in the bathroom before school starts. Not quite the same thing, but I knew a girl whose mother was Jehovah Witness (Dad was not.) She was not allowed to date or wear makeup. So she got on the bus, pulled her boyfriend’s ring out of her bag and put on her makeup. Kids have their ways around things that they do not agree with.

    All that said, I have taken photos when my boys were younger and couldn’t talk and we went to crowded areas. I also wrote on their arms in Sharpie my phone number with the message “Call Mom.” (My oldest was 5 before other people could understand him.)

    And, this mom hasn’t heard of the case at one of the Disneys where someone took the child, drugged her, cut her hair, died her hair and changed her clothes. The shoes were the only thing that were kept. They were recognized as the person took the sleeping child out of the park. Of course, this is REALLY rare, but the next person will have flipflops or something for the kid. That case would just flip her out! (Don’t tell her – she wouldn’t let her kids out of sight!)

  66. Matt March 24, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    My son has been asking to be able to go around the corner to the store to be able to buy a little candy. When I say around the corner, I mean less than a quarter mile without him having to cross one street.

    Well, I told him he could go today, and guess what? We got a call from a “concerned” neighbor who stopped him and did not believe him when he told them he had permission to go.

    Thanks for having this site, so I can vent to those who are sympathetic.

  67. Timkenwest March 24, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    Cheryl W, I agree with your points but that Disney story made my eyes bulge out of my head. A quick google search and I’m happy to share that it’s a urban myth. Here’s the article:

    It’s a pretty interesting read and reflects a lot of what’s talked about here on FRK.

  68. David March 24, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    This mother’s fears are irrational without doubt, but irrational fears can be hard to overcome, even in the most intellligent people. As has been pointed out, her children were relatively unsuperivised at the time of this conversation. If this rather strange ritual helps this woman cope with her fears and allow her children a degree of freedom who are we to condemn her? In the abscence of any indications she is drastically restricting her children because of these fears, it would be more charitable not to judge her.

  69. Lihtox March 24, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    @bmj2k: No, you are not sure; you’re making assumptions about a woman you’ve heard about secondhand. What you’ve described is a stereotype; well, people have stereotypes about Free-Range parents too, which are no more fair than yours.

    @Frances: I completely agree with you.

  70. Elissa March 24, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    If I got “livid” over every stupid thing I saw other parents do, I wouldn’t have the strength and energy to parent my own kid. Like Ellen says – Life is way to short! Let it go.

    I might have made a comment how paranoid I thought that approach was, but I do see the wisdom of taking a picture of a kid before going into a crowd. Before the days of digital cameras, my mom would make me and my brother wear stupid hats so that she could see us quickly and describe us easily for WHEN (not if) we got lost – because it happened all the time. We were easily distracted and wandered/lagged behind a lot.

  71. TressaRay March 24, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    Last year I prepared a speech for a public speaking class about being free-range. I used it again for another class this year (because I didn’t want to do more research). It was still in my backpack when a third class required a five minute speech. So I got up to the front of the class and said a little bit about being free-range, only referring to my written speech to quote statistics.

    When that was all over, the teacher told a story about one time when his daughter went missing. Everyone was in a panic, freaking out, running around the neighborhood in their underwear trying to find this little girl. They found her after a few minutes walking home from the park. His conclusion was that, having known the fear of not knowing where his daughter was, he decided not to let his kids take any more risks. He actually said, “When it comes to our children, our most precious things, can we really be too careful?”

    Hello, yes. You CAN be too careful. Our kids aren’t knick-knacks we can keep tucked away somewhere. Eventually, they need to leave our protection, and they better know what to do with themselves when that time comes.

    When I said that, he started in on how many sex offenders are in his neighborhood, and he’s not taking any chances.

    I think, next, I should email him a copy of the speech I wrote about the sex offender registry.

  72. Jessica March 24, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Do children really change that much, that quickly? Take a picture afterr they get a hair cut or have glasses put on and call it good. I can’t imagine being that paranoid!

  73. Taradlion March 24, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Anybody else given the Identification Baggie? We were given them when our kids were in preschool… Complete with place for a photo, fingerprint card and smaller bag for hair or fingernail clippings.

    I remember thinking (if only for a second) That I would feel horrible if I throw these things in the garbage and then something happens to my kids… I WOULD (in fact) feel horrible if something happened to my kids, but not because I had not completed the kits – AND that completing these kits wasn’t going to prevent it…

    This reminded me of the book, The Blessing of A Skinned Knee. The author refers fondly to her Grammy as a “prophylactic worrier”…”The idea that you can prevent a bad event by worrying about it”

  74. pentamom March 24, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    Jessica — good point, and I’m surprised that everyone (self included) has overlooked, or at least not mentioned, that point.

    EVERY morning? Like if there ever IS a need for identification, someone’s going to say, “No, that’s not her, the kid in the photo is wearing a blue shirt, and this child is wearing a pink one.” What in the world?

  75. Cheryl W March 24, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Timkenwest, I could have sworn I actually saw that article in a newspaper, but, hey, it is nice to know that it isn’t true. Even when I read it, amazed at the work the person went through to kidnap a random child. But then, true or not, the thought would freak out the mom. Even if the only real life times this happened was with family members. (Yes, I do believe I have read true account of families taking a child and changing their own and the child’s appearance.) And perhaps, the thing I read about did involve a family member abduction.

  76. pentamom March 24, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    But even those cases of abducting a child and then changing his appearance to avoid detection aren’t as absurd as the idea that someone could get away with giving a kid a haircut and a dye job in a Disney rest room. Sure, if you abduct a kid and then get him home, it’s not only possible but quite reasonable that you’d alter his appearance that way. But before going out the gate of an amusement park?

    I actually had a older lady come up to me and warn me about the story of the guy who dyed the kid’s hair in the rest room because I stepped 6 feet from my kid in the shopping cart — this had to be at least 15 years ago, possibly closer to 20. Only of course in that case “the incident” had occurred at a supermarket.

  77. freerangeteen March 24, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Like many have posted, it doesn’t seem like a lot of work at all. It only takes a few seconds and the pictures can be deleted. What worry’s me is the sense of fear and distrust these kids are developing with each flash of the camera. If mom needs to take a picture of me everyday just in case I’m abducted the world must be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. This just isn’t true.

  78. Scott March 24, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Although the mom is nuts, it’s going to be super duper awesome having a photo a day to show exactly how you grew for 18 years!

  79. Jules March 24, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Better to be safe than sorry…until you start feeling sorry about all the fun you missed while you were being safe.

  80. grety March 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Poor woman is going to have a meltdown when it’s time for her chicks to fly away and hopefully they will be okay because it doesn’t seem she is preparing them with the tools to survive on their own.

  81. Per March 25, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    Come on! If snapping a picture each morning is all that this woman needs to cope with her OCD – and she then lets her kids run off and not worry – what’s the big deal?

    On the plus side, she can make a pretty cool time-lapse movie out of these pictures later.

  82. Jen March 25, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    I will say, I used to take a picture of my older son whenever we would go on outings (something big like the zoo or Legoland, not everyday things like the park or the grocery store). He is a wanderer, and I was constantly losing him, and could never remember what he was wearing (I had two rather active toddlers at the time – my brain was all used up) when looking for him or asking for help to track him down.

    But every day on the off chance that they might get lost or taken, even as 9 and 11 year olds? As many people have said, I don’t know that it would be that time-consuming, and it would provide a cool record of the children’s lives. I think the reasoning behind it is the scary and worrisome part, and imparts a false sense of fear and distrust in both the parents and children.

  83. Timkenwest March 25, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    I asked my husband his opinion about this story and he burst out laughing. “bye children, I love you! Hope I get to see you again!” He was aghast: “OMG, if your neighborhood is so dangerous that you have to take an identification photo every time your kids leave the house, MOVE!”. When I told him it was in Vermont, he fell out of his chair.

    Today he texted me a photo of himself with the caption “so you know what I’m wearing in case I get abducted” : D

    I know, I know, it’s not nice to make fun of this lady or kidnappings, but COME ON!

  84. North of 49 March 25, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    I took a picture of my kids, individually, just before going into the National Exibition a couple of years ago. But then again, I was expecting at least one of them was going to dart off during a second’s distraction. That was a special event, not the day to day going to school thang.

    Right now, the newspapers and televised and even radio news programs here are all about the 20th anniversary of the disapearance of a little 5ish year old boy. Michael Dunahee ( ). Yes, the typical “what parents can do to protect their kids” thing has been going on for the last several days. ARGH! What about teaching the kids to be smart about strangers? Oh no… let’s just keep the kids inside, under lock and key.

    No wonder young adults today are not able to function on their own…

  85. pentamom March 26, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Jen, I’m with you. I often think about how scatter-brained I am about not noticing what my kids are wearing. (After all, if we’re not helicopter parents, we’re probably not picking out our older kids’ clothing each day!) If we go somewhere where there’s even a potential of their being lost, I would usually not be able to describe what they’re wearing! So it could be useful and not paranoid in those situations, but I’d probably be too scatter-brained to remember to take the picture anyway, so….I’m just glad I’ve never lost a kid for any length of time.

  86. AnotherAnon March 29, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    The most ironic thing is, if the worst happened and her kid was one of the statistically insignificant number who do get abducted by a stranger, having a daily photo probably wouldn’t help more than having the typical parent’s archive of snapshots taken on a weekly/monthly basis.

  87. Paul Mayhan April 1, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    I don’t really see how this is an issue either way. It doesn’t take long or cost anything, and it makes mom feel better. Moms compete with each other constantly, and this is a way for this particular mom to get a leg up on her peers for the title of best protector. Unless the behavior is part of a much larger scheme of paranoia in her mind, the kids will grow up simply accepting mom’s little annoying but harmless quirk.

  88. Dolly April 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Yeah its kinda loony but to each his own. Criticizing another parent is a bad thing to do too. Just let her do her thing and you do your thing.

  89. bbbbarry April 8, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Say it clearly, say it every day: If you were *really* that concerned about your children’s safety, you’d never ever let them into a car.

  90. Dee at Deelicious Sweets August 11, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Wow, that’s a bit extreme! Talk about focusing on the negative.