Readers — This comment came in from a 16-year-old. Seems to frame the problem of overprotection and parental fear pretty darn well. Read on!
Dear Free-Range Kids: Tell me about it. Kids need more freedom and less worry.
I live in a neighborhood where the violent crime rate is a small decimal. It’s a safe, cushy suburban neighborhood. The last violent crime happened because someone was mentally disturbed, a few years ago.
My friend’s mom wouldn’t let her go on a walk at 8pm on a Saturday with a group of 4 friends (several of whom were trained in martial arts, mind you) because she was afraid her daughter would get hurt. She watched over her via iPhone, texting her nonstop– the invisible leash, or so it seems.
Similarly, when my mom doesn’t want me to go out because she’s worried about me, she always pulls the weirdest defense. Last time, she said, after I got upset at her not letting me leave the house (I love to wander), “Well hey, just be grateful you’re not someone’s sex slave.”
W-whh-what?! I can’t leave my house because I might become someone’s sex slave? What, do we never get in our car because we assume every time we drive we will get in to a massive collision? Do we never leave the house because there are axe murderers on every corner of suburbia?
I was so disgusted when my mother said this to me, it made me really angry and violated, actually. Simply, she watches way too much Law and Order Special Victims Unit– a TV universe of rape fables and sexual violence that distorts our reality. Every episode is another rape. It follows the lives of detectives who have to deal with prosecuting/investigating rape every day and we enter their world through the screen. Every episode has to be entertaining, so anything possible can happen in the episodes– the more extreme the better. Some days it’s a normal rape, sometimes it’s a serial rapist, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to come across an episode where the rapist tortures his sex slaves. Exciting, isn’t it?
We forget that we live in the safest possible neighborhood on the planet, that we moved in to for the very purpose of giving children freedom and safety to play on their own. Absurd.