Do Those “Family Stickers” on Cars Lure Creeps?

Hi Readers — Here’s a piece I wrote for ParentDish about “Annie’s Mailbox” (which seems to be filled with nuts). The question — or really statement by an Annie reader was — “Don’t put those little decals on your car that say your family members’ names or you will be followed by predators.”  To which Annie replied, “That’s paranoid! Is a predator really going to schlep around town, following your car? Don’t forget that MOST child abuse occurs at the hands of someone the child knows.”

No, she replied the usual, “Can’t be too careful” and “Just in case” and “What if???” party line. My favorite quote of hers: “While it is extremely unlikely….”

Why can’t we leave the extremely unlikelies alone, instead of altering our entire view of society, and good parenting, to accommodate ‘em? — Lenore

101 Responses

  1. I have to admit would not let my children have t shirts with their names on the front

  2. The concern about bedroom window stickers seems idiotic to me. The car stickers slightly more worrisome, but more because I’d rather have more privacy and anonymity than they afford.

    I don’t think you furnace/amputee analogy is a very good one. That example doesn’t suggest you premptively amputate your arm, but rather that you don’t undertake home repair without a helper or a phone nearby, which really isn’t a terrible idea.

  3. I was behind a car with these stickers yesterday; I got as close as I possibly could and still there was no way that I could read any of the 5 names. Which then leads me to believe that predators would have to be lurking in parking lots, reading/memorizing the child’s names, waiting for the family to get back to their car, following them on their errands, and then waiting at their house for a chance to call one of the kids by name and immediately gain their trust and “snatch” them. Sounds exhausting. Now, I’m not a pedophile, but surely this is a pretty laborous process even for them.

    Why not just teach our kids what to do if someone approaches them and uses their name (which is the big panic on Parent Dish) rather than worry about names on stickers, backpacks, T-shirts, etc.?

  4. My kids do have back packs, trick or treat bags and other things with names on them – mostly so they can keep track of these items. I agree that we should just teach them if ANY stranger approaches you – regardless of whether he / she knows your name or not – you should run away. I mean, if we are afraid of these stickers on cars or names on shirts, etc. luring “predators” then we would even have to be careful not to utter our kids names in public or disclose them at all.

  5. What sort of predator picks his victim based off a name on a sticker?

    …the imaginary kind.

  6. How funny. I JUST saw a car with those stickers on my way to work this morning and wondered the same thing.

  7. That’s what good parenting is. Teaching your kids “how to fish”. You know, that old parable. You can give a man fish and he’ll eat for a day. You teach a man to fish, he’ll never grow hungry. It’s like what I call the bandage approach, these parents use these “preventive” measures much like putting a bandage on a gash, instead of stitching it up. U may help it a little, but you aren’t solving the problem. How are those for anologies? ;-)

  8. Oh c’mon Lenore. That’s why you never use real names in public. For example I often refer to my son as ‘Ben’, but of course his real name is ‘Micheal Carmichael Zutt’.

    And I’m Dave Zutt.

    Once a predator knows your real name, he has power over your soul.

    Oh, wait…

  9. I do agree with Lenore that those name cards are harmless. If someone really wanted to take your kids, there’s really not much you can do, short of handcuffing your children to you and locking yourself in a secret place in some remote unknown part of the world. But that would be just insane wouldn’t it? That’s the mentality of helicopter parents though. However, in this day and age of free information, I too prefer not to “advertise” personal info about me or my family, unless it’s necessary. As some have said, it’s not about safety, but a matter of privacy.

  10. I’ve never really understood the fear of people knowing your kids’ names. Do people really teach their kids that anyone who knows their names must be a friend?

    My kids are too young for this too have been a concern yet, but I’ve never envisioned being protective of their names – how can they develop good relationships if they can only share their names with people who are already vetted and approved?

  11. Oh my goodness. More of this? Good grief. These are the same people who think you shouldn’t put photos of your kids on a Flickr or other photo-sharing site. And don’t get me started on how much they really freak if their kids visit you and you–egads!–put photos of THEIR kids on your site.

    Thankfully our friends aren’t like that. They’re not going catatonic and even see it for what it is–an expression of the joy & enrichment bought to your life by their presence.

    And that’s just what these stickers are–an expression of pride in your family. Maybe we need to get some for OUR cars.

    Sorry, but I’m not going to go all “Anne Frank” here and act like I’m a Jew in 1930’s Germany hiding out from the Nazis with some sort of elaborate scheme of communication with the others, complete with secret door-knocks etc. The others can do that all they want, but we choose not to participate.

  12. I’ve decided not to participate in Parentdish anymore, after a single post. Their registration/login system is just brain dead.

    I think this says something about our ability to assess the cost/benefit of a security decision. Many people are quick to accept low cost/low reward actions. The ‘cost’ of not putting stickers on your car is pretty minimal. Negative even if you consider not having to shell our what I presume is too much for stickers. And even the people who propose it, I think if pressed, would say there are bigger issues. It’s a “just in case” or “you never know”. (Although now reading some of the comments on Annie’s Mailbox…. IDK)

    But when it comes to our favorite poster-risk, kids in cars, the cost of not putting our kids in cars is too great, so we don’t even consider it.

    So what’s the problem if people don’t put kids’ names on cars and backpacks? For me it’s the overhead cost of stressing and worrying about every little thing, no matter how unlikely. It’s the environment of fear. It’s the hundreds and thousands of person hours we (including I) spend even discussing such stupidity.

    Now I need to take my own advice and think about something more important.

  13. To play Devil’s Advocate for a bit…

    It’s one thing to keep your kids indoors all day, or otherwise deprive them in a real way to try and keep them from getting abducted. They pay a real cost for your paranoia.

    But it’s not like you’ll traumatize your kid by not buying one of those stickers. Personally I find them rather smug. “Look at me! I’ve got kids!” There’s no cost incurred by not buying one, so if it decreases the chance of abduction from 0.00001% to 0.0000099%, why not go for it?

    Furthermore, psychologists have identified a phenomenon called “moral licensing”, where people who do one “good” thing feel licensed to do a bad thing. Hence they drive SUVs 10 miles extra to go to Whole Foods, or pair their Big Macs with a large fries and a Diet Coke.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/16/AR2010071606839.html?hpid=artslot

    Maybe if people think they’re protecting their kids by avoiding bumper stickers, they’ll feel licensed to let them play ball in the park.

  14. I think the issue is not that people TEACH their kids that anyone who knows their name is a friend. I think it’s that kids will ASSUME that. There are multitudes of “friends of parents” whom the kids cannot identify, and the kids know this. They go on errands with parents and run into the guy from work, or the lady from Bible study, and these people have heard the parents talk about the kids, and likely know their names. But the kid doesn’t have a clue who these people are.

    The fear is that some unknown person would see their name emblazoned across their shirt or backpack and use it. They may even tell the kid “I’m your mom’s friend and she sent me to pick you up.”

    Certainly we should teach our kids basic rules about even people claiming to be friends. Why make the whole job of personal safety harder by giving them shirts or backpacks with their names readable from 20 feet away?

    I think not putting names on ANYTHING is ridiculous. But I think keeping them to a size that allows for up-close identification of ownership, not long-distance visibility, is just common sense, in the same category as bicycle helmets and seat belts.

  15. What happens then, Wendy, when you call your child by his actual name in public? Some unknown person could hear that, hang around til your kid is unattended, and use the same line.

  16. My kid wanted his name monogrammed on his new LL Bean backpack. I hemmed and hawed over this then finally decided to let him. He knows not to go with anybody he doesn’t know. Should somebody he doesn’t know call his name, I’m sure he would stop and look back. The trick is, he wouldn’t go near them.

  17. Me thinks that someone watches too much Dexter. (If anyone watched last season, John Lithgow’s serial killer character used the information gathered from those stickers to lure in a young boy). It’s a TV show…you know, the better the imagination, the better the ratings! If you can’t distinguish fiction from reality…

  18. “I think the issue is not that people TEACH their kids that anyone who knows their name is a friend. I think it’s that kids will ASSUME that.”

    Look, if you really believe that your child will follow any stranger just because he knows your child’s name, then he/she really is not ready to be away from you, even for a minute. I am 100% sure that my grade-school age kids are smart enough not to be fooled. They know that there is no chance that I will ever send someone to pick them up that they don’t know – we have plenty of family members and good friends to choose from.

    Anyone who is really interested in keeping their kids safe, as opposed to just living their lives in fear and paranoia should read “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin De Becker. It contains the best information I’ve ever seen for teaching kids how to be street smart and avoid predators. It also helps parents distinguish between real dangers to their kids versus imaginary ones.

  19. There was a comment on a social news site I read a while back from a person who used to rob houses.

    He said that the best targets were people living alone without dogs. The more people who live there, the more likely someone is to be or come home unexpectedly. And he would never, EVER target places where children lived, because people who have children will FUCK YOU UP. He was once chased down the street by a 4’10” mother with a really big knife screaming “AYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!”

    You don’t mess with Mama or Papa Bear.

    So compare the likelihood of your kid being abducted with the likelihood of your house being a target for robbers who may be inclined to violence — but not so inclined to it that they’re going to pick a house with kids whose parents will be much more likely to use it. Seems to me that a robbery is much more likely.

  20. One of my hobbies on my evening commute is seeing just how much I can learn about a person from the back of their car. I’m not a fan of bumper stickers or personalized plates and I find it interesting how much people put out there to random strangers.

    Person in that gray car donates to horse rescue groups, has at least one pug, is associated with such-and-such college in some way, works in health care, and is probably female. But I don’t think that’s going to lure a predator with a thing for nurses to stalk that car and bring a drugged a doggy biscuit when attacking her in her home.

    I do think it’s useful for marketers. Door-to-door security system salespeople see all those kid stickers and think “fresh meat!” Because they love to convince parents their children will DIE if they don’t get that security system.

  21. @NettaBird
    I love it! New anti-theft device, toys in the yard!

  22. I saw a family sticker one time on the back of a minivan in which the daddy sticker was ripped off (part of one leg was still dangling). I wondered…ooooo what happened? Did mommy rip it off in a soap opera like fashion when daddy came home with lipstick on his collar, or was it something way less dramatic.

  23. Have you seen this article? It is about letting kids play in crazy “adventure-playgrounds”. It looks so fun I want to play! We are planning a road trip and may just put it on the list of places to visit. If we do I will let you know how it goes. See there are still sane people out there!

    http://www.good.is/post/adventure-playgrounds/

  24. I don’t have those stickers because it seems to be the giant flag of the soccer mom, and I don’t want to be one of those women. I see them at my daughter’s soccer games – cause I am a soccer mom, but not one of the capri-wearing, sunscreen-toting, loud-shouting (oxymoron, I know!), kid-herding ladies that barely talk to me because I don’t remember their kid’s name or invite them all out for ice-cream because they kicked the ball in the right direction.

    My kids have been taught that if they are ANYWHERE and someone comes to pick them up – if I have not given them the word prior – they don’t go with them. They are to go to a safe adult and have the person picking them up call us, or call us themselves from the location where they are. This cuts down on not only our not knowing where they might be if some well-intentioned parent goes to drop them off (which has nearly happened a couple of times), as well as ensuring anyone “strange” doesn’t just get to snatch them up with a lie… stranger must either know our number, or endure us talking to them. Even their aunt – they must have our ok.

    Those family stickers… gag me. *gack*

  25. I have the stickers (sorry to gag you, Nicola!), but without names. I didn’t know you COULD get the names on them! But I think having a mini van filled with four carseats/boosters is a dead giveaway….I don’t know that the stickers are going to make much difference!
    You’re right, though! I don’t think adding to the deep vat of fear is going to help anyone. And it will hinder all of us.

  26. You know, I really do think that one of the things that feeds into all this is the high-internet-profile of the people who appear to have child phobia– that is, they are disturbed by the presence or implied presence of children, infants, and in fact any sign that the human race reproduces. At one time there were some designated preserves for such people to live in, and, if rich enough, they could even reproduce without having to have substantive contact with children. Nowadays, it’s difficult for them to find safe havens away from the triggers of their phobia– but if they encourage people to hide their children, they can discourage appearance of their triggers.

  27. When I was a kid in the 70’s my sister and I had shirts with our names on the back. In the grocery store, this man came up and called me by name and told me to come with him.

    I looked him up and down and said, “Go away,.” and headed towards my Mom. He tried to stop me and I screamed, “LEAVE ME ALONE- HELP MOM,”

    Mom came running up. The guy introduced himself with his name as a cop and tried to warn her that I might have gone with him. Mom’s response, “Obviously she didn’t. You are lucky my younger one wasn’t here you would be in pain. (Sis was a soccer player and older bullies on our street could testify she had excellent aim with her foot) Don’t you have something you should be doing?”

    When we got home – she was going to complain but realized she had no idea which police force he was with if any. So she ended up calling two (Village cops, and Hedwick cops) of the 5 that were in that area and complaining in general about what happened. She thought those two were small enough something might be done, the other three (Houston, Harris County, and Texas DPS) were so large she figured it was useless.

    She also called our principal, and the district to complement our PE teacher on her street safety program. I did exactly what I was taught. Did not go with someone I did not recongize, and got adults attention by screaming leave me alone when he didn’t stop.

    We we had our street safety program each year – the teacher NEVER used the word stranger. She said Someone you do not recongize. Also that was a very small part of the program.

    Most of it focused on good road manners both for walkers and bike riders.

    Being polite in stores.

    Locking up your bike.

    Knowing how to get home from major landmarks in our neighborhood.

    Who to approach for help and how to get help politely.

    Knowing our address, phone numbers, parents family members full names.

    How to use a pay phone, including dialing the operator and asking for help.

    Basic 1st aid appropriate for the grade level. By upper elementary we knew CPR, Rescue breathing and reach from shore water rescue techniques. (Basically don’t go in the water throw out floation devices, towels, or use a shepards hook)

  28. “So compare the likelihood of your kid being abducted with the likelihood of your house being a target for robbers who may be inclined to violence — but not so inclined to it that they’re going to pick a house with kids whose parents will be much more likely to use it”

    I just like to put stickers with pictures of all my guns and their names on the back of my car.

  29. A friend went around with her inlaws on the window stickers. She has a sticker issued by the fire department on each of the kids bedroom windows.

    In-laws were sure it was an invitation for a kidnapper. Friend pointed out they have an alarm system that would go off if the window was broken or opened.

    Friend’s parents had a grease fire in the kitchen when friend was 5. She saw her father badly burned. She kept the stickers, because she knew the chance of kidnapping was practically nil. The memory of that fire still gives her nightmares.

  30. Honestly I just don’t get the family sticker thing….it’s like silly bands for parents; a simple fad. I really don’t get the point at all. Is it so when you get in an accident, the cops know how many bodies to look for?

  31. I don’t see any value in those stickers, and like many people, it’s against my sensibilities to exhibit everything about myself and my family that way. It doesn’t offend me when other people do it, but it is seriously “not me.”

    BUT, that has nothing to do with the point, which is that some people think those stickers pose a significant predator danger. I think the other commenters have amply mocked the stuffing out that idea. My favorite point personally is the one about never speaking your child’s name where it can be heard.

    Rich’s comment about ParentDish itself is interesting. It never occurred to me to view their requirement to verify EVERY comment as a reflection of their overall mentality, but of course it’s true. And, it also shows how effective that kind of “see, we’re doing something” measure is — there are still all kinds of obnoxious people, rude people, and evident trolls who comment there.

  32. Too funny! The only thing those stickers do is advertise a persons tacky taste.

  33. Forget about name stickers! Car seats are a dead giveaway. They should be stowed in the trunk of the car, lest they be seen by creeps who might lie in wait under the car while we buy groceries. You can never be too careful!
    ;)

  34. @Nicola, what’s wrong with capris? Off topic but geez, I love capris. They are comfy, and at my age and build (not big but not a stick) I feel better in them than in shorts. Are people making fun of me behind my back??

  35. @pentamom
    I didn’t know PD continued to moderate after your first post. I was actually referring to the fact that they send you your password, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to change it. Granted, I didn’t look very hard.

    I have unique strong passwords for my bank accounts, email, etc. But for an online comment forum? Puh-lease. If someone else wants to pretend to be me, go for it. Luckily I have a plausibly deniable common name. Keeping track of a hundred passwords to online forums would be a waste of time I could better spend actually ranting on online forums.

  36. I have to say I don’t like the idea of pasting kids’ names everywhere. Especially on stuff like their backpack, which they might be wearing while walking alone. Not that it’s “likely” to happen, but it would be easy for someone to come up and say “Hey, Jenny, ___” and not only does the kid think you know her (and thus you’re not a stranger), but everyone else around thinks the same thing. I know you can teach your kids to avoid this, bla bla, but what is the point of putting it out there in the first place? It serves no purpose other than to show off that the parent has the time / money to provide the fancy design for their kid. When we were kids, we put our names in hidden places on our stuff.

    I did get a chuckle out of the more extreme “concerns” I read. I mean, if a predator is out hunting for a family with kids to follow home, all he needs to do is look in the car windows, or hang out at pick-up time at the elementary school / daycare.

    But I do have a suggestion for anyone who’s a little concerned. Put the stick parents and kiddies out there, but instead of your tiny little stick doggie, add a HUGE, mean-looking doggie (bigger than Mom & Dad together). Maybe add a few stick guns as well. That ought to keep ‘em away!

  37. Yes, you have to verify EVERY post via e-mail link. So silly.

    I always just let Firefox track the passwords I don’t much care about. So I don’t have to remember all the dumb little website-generated ones.

  38. I hope no one thinks that family stickers (on cars) are really a safety thing in case of accident. The emergency personnel know they can’t rely on a semi-permanent sticker to figure out how many people are in the car at any given time — they actually have to LOOK, rather than assuming that whatever a sticker says, must be right. What if you’re out running errands alone, or you brought the neighborhood kids along in the carpool? Emergency services aren’t dumb enough to forget about those possibilities.

  39. I just love the comments that start with “While it is extremely unlikely” and end with “but you never can be too careful.” it is extremely unlikely I’ll be eaten by an alligator this year. Should I still alligator-proof my house?

    I don’t have any personal concerns about family stickers or names on them, but I still wouldn’t do it, mostly because it just isn’t my style to advertise my entire family on my car. Anyone who needs to know has the names of my family members. Plus, anyone who looks in the car will clearly be able to see the toddler seat and myriad of cheeto crumbs and guess I have a kid. And anyone within a 50-foot radius of me will know my child’s name anyways because it seems I’m always yelling at him to stop climbing on something.

    Rather than take the “you never can be too careful” approach of never uttering his name in public or keeping anything name-related off his personal belongings, I prefer teaching him about people he can go with (e.g. friends, family, uniformed police officers) and people he may need to be a bit more cautious of (strangers).

  40. When I was a kid, my sister and I had tons of personalized stuff. I remember being out with my dad in NYC when I was seven and I had on a fanny pack (I was seven!) with my name on it, and a man on the street said, “Hi, Ricki!” and it freaked me the f*** out. I was in no danger at all, being with my dad and everything, and the man was in no way trying to harm me, but from that day forth I wouldn’t wear anything with my name on it in public. Even when I was a teenager and those name necklaces came in fashion, I didn’t want one.

  41. Heck, let’s scrub the yard of all toys and play equipment, take car seats out of the back and/or tint our windows, remove any evidence of our children from our lives whatsoever JUST IN CASE a pervert happens by and notices there’s a child in this home.

    OMFG.

  42. Hold on – on ParentDish, you only have to verify on email if you don’t use the email/password combo. I used to do it the “hard way” but there wasn’t enough immediate gratification in that, LOL. It used to be a much better site in my opinion.

  43. It also used to load faster. Once it got to where a page wouldn’t load in under a minute, I stopped going there.

  44. The only problem I have with those stickers is that they inspire a nearly overwhelming urge to help slow the reproductive urges of any family with more than 2 kids and a dog. You know what the greatest risk to all our children is?
    Over-population and all of the ills that come with it:
    Food scarcity, water scarcity, global climate change, over-consumption of everything of value on our planet.
    You want to save your kids – stop having so many. PETA urges us to spay and neuter our pets so that they can’t breed out of control. Perhaps it is time we do the same for people. China’s one child policy failed, but perhaps we could impose a 2 child limit. Is over-breeding really a right? Sorry, a bit off topic but that’s all I can think about when I see those silly stickers.

  45. SKL — I didn’t realize that. I guess I wasn’t logging in or whatever.

    Yes, the slow loading is horrible. As are all the posts you have to scroll past about how to play basic games and the latest useless kiddie gizmo.

  46. While it is *extremely* unlikely that a child predator is going to pick a victim in this manner….I still wouldn’t put my children’s names on stickers on a car. It’s just something that I wouldn’t necessarily want advertised all over the freeway, you know? Just as a matter of discretion about my chldren’s privacy rather than any significant risk of stranger danger.

  47. Driving on the freeway is what’s gonna harm your kids, you know.

  48. Uly — in the spirit of accurate risk-assessment, driving on the freeway isn’t “gonna” harm your kids. It risks harming your kids. The freeways have been around long enough that people have lived entire lives without suffering any morbidity traceable to driving on them. :-)

    While I agree that blasting people’s names for all and sundry to see is indiscreet, I still can’t see how it really, tangibly “harms anyone’s privacy” to have their names posted out there to be seen by people with whom they will never have any other contact, who will not be able to identify the names with any faces, or locations, or anything other than “these are the children of people who drive a blue minivan, but I don’t even know what ‘these’ means.”. And the people with whom they will have contact, will learn their names anyway.

  49. A- “While it is extremely unlikely…” that a predator may snatch your kid based on a sticker… “we can’t be too careful. Ban them!”

    Yet

    B- “While it is extremely unlikely…” that a plane could crash…”the odds are so low that I’m flying anyway.”

    When it comes to kids, everyone chooses A. Let’s relate that to the rest of life. A plane crashed? No more air travel. Car accident? No cars. Tripped on broken pavement? We’re all better off in our houses anyway.

    B makes sense. We apply that logic everywhere else. Why do people become so illogical when it comes to children?

  50. Whoa, thinkbannedthoughts! Do the Duggars have one of those stickers? I’ve never seen one with more than 4 kids. The US birthrate averages out just perfect (replacement rate). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (Aside from the implications regarding freedoms, etc.)

    PETA says a lot of things but PETA abuses animals, so . . . .

    We still have lots of elbow room in this country; I don’t think it’s time to get claustrophobic yet . . . .

  51. Rich: I think that the old superstition about having control over someone simply by knowing their name is really at work here. I recently read (can’t remember where) that about 17% of Americans actually believe in the Evil Eye. I’m pretty sure that the notion that child molesters have supernatural powers, while a minority one, isn’t a fringe one either.

    Nicola: You’ve got the right approach: give your kids a (fairly small) list of adults they can go with; everybody else needs to get specific permission from you. That also helps with potentially embarrassing situations like your best friend who’s a great person but a rotten driver.

  52. “I know you can teach your kids to avoid this, bla bla, but what is the point of putting it out there in the first place? It serves no purpose other than to show off that the parent has the time / money to provide the fancy design for their kid. When we were kids, we put our names in hidden places on our stuff.”

    Really? Because when _we_ were kids every time we went on a trip we were accosted with junk in gift stores bearing our names. Pencils, keychains, jewelry, magnets, barrettes, etc. It was a sad day when your name was not made or sold out.

    Kids LIKE personalized stuff. That’s the point. Your name is probably the first word you learned to write. Just today we were in museum gift shop and my eldest was agonizing over whether to purchase a solar powered keychain that flashed her name while my youngest pouted that they didn’t make his (not at all unusual, fairly common) name.

    The scuzzy dude at the school bus stop learned my kid’s name from eavesdropping on all the kids’ conversation. It’s really not that hard to get this info if someone is motivated. I personally know every kid at the bus stop although I’ve never laid eyes on 90% of the parents. Heck, most kids will just tell you who a kid from school is if you ask; our school is not so large they don’t know most of the other students. Why not tell your kid that anyone they don’t know is still a a stranger even if they know your name? If you’re really freaked out, do the code word thing like someone else mentioned.

  53. Well, SKL, I’d be happy to see the worldwide population go down proportionately, because the way people *like* to live is not sustainable if expanded to the population of the entire world. (It’s not even sustainable with the people who live that way now.)

    But with that said… yeah. It’s seriously skeevy to talk casually (or even not casually) about taking away people’s reproductive freedom. Ick. It’s just… not right.

    It’s really not that hard to get this info if someone is motivated.

    There’s the thing a lot of people don’t like to think about. If somebody is bound and determined to harm you, they WILL find a way. Yes, even if you are with your kids 24/7. Carrying around enough weapons to defend Fort Knox might help… or it might not, if they’re smarter, or faster, or better armed than you are. Or just luckier.

    That’s what really gets me about the “NO STICKERS!” idea. At that level of risk (nil, no “virtually” about it), anybody who really is going to use car stickers to harm kids would never, ever be deterred by not having the stickers to help.

    Happily, those people are few and far between.

  54. Uly, the problem with the worlwide population is that it’s not worldwide. It’s country / region specific. Some European countries have a birth rate that is so low, it’s causing problems and the government is trying to figure out ways to increase it. Then you have the Indias of the world, where the last time I checked, population density was 9x what it is in the USA, and increasing. Even within a country, you have demographics that reproduce far more than others. There are many suggested solutions, but limiting Americans to 2 kids isn’t going to fix anything.

    I always wonder what believers in population engineering would think of a requirement to have “exactly” 2 kids whether you want them or not.

  55. “Kids LIKE personalized stuff.” I know, but in my house, that doesn’t carry the argument.

    I am not saying all kids are doomed if their name is out there. But personally, I won’t buy gear with their name plastered in big letters all over it. I have other reasons besides safety. It tends to encourage focus on one’s “unique” material self which I personally don’t like to push. If my kid wants to earn her own money and buy (or make) something with her name on it, that’s a different story.

    It’s fine to say “teach your kids not to ___,” but many little kids will still tend to “obey” an adult who is talking directly to them. It’s hard to get a little kid to buck human nature. Also, I’m not all that comfortable with the “manipulative stranger” discussion at a very early age. I can just hear my kid asking for a detailed explanation of why someone would want to entrap and kidnap her. (Though when I was a kid, I had images of being enslaved and made to do heavy housework all day, LOL. “Scrub that floor!”)

  56. I always wonder what believers in population engineering would think of a requirement to have “exactly” 2 kids whether you want them or not.

    Cap and Trade?

  57. Rich, now you’re talking! Ha ha! Make the procreators pay more instead of less, like they do now.

    But what about adoptive parents – do they pay, or get paid, or just call it even??

    I know you’re joking, but that’s kinda scary if you think about it. We have a perfect birth rate now, but “cap & trade” would tend to bring it down, since the people who tend to have more kids are the ones with less money. Right now, of course, we have reverse cap & trade – give tax breaks / subsidies / public assistance to people with more kids, and charge more taxes to people with fewer. Interesting thought.

  58. I went through a similar argument with some fellow moms a few years back when I got ID bracelets for my boys. They were 3 & 4 and in speech therapy. They couldn’t say their names yet much less any other information. So in case they got lost (because my boys did like to run) I got ID bracelets that had their name, our cell phone # and the fact that they had speech issues.

    Many moms told me how they would NEVER get their child an ID bracelet with the child’s name on it because then everyone would know the child’s name. WHAT?!?!?! I argued back- don’t you call your child’s name out at the park? They always gave me this wide eyed look and a “but that’s different!”
    sigh….

  59. Oh and I should mention that the name and info was actually on the inside of the bracelets, the outside had an etching of a train. The other moms thought it was just too dangerous….

  60. In Italy it is very common to see children with gold ID bracelets with their name etched on them.

    I know there is the danger of strangers approaching and molesting our children … most kids are molested by people they KNOW AND TRUST. So we must teach our children to be wary of unwanted touching etc also by people they know and love.

  61. @Beth: LOLOLOL, totally not making fun of you! Only if you’re doing everything else included with the wearing of capri’s! ;) I won’t knock you for comfort. Heaven knows long ago when I wanted to be comfortable I wore the ugliest sweatpants… big oversized things that I thought were just the greatest and I didn’t look bad in… I’m not doing well keeping my foot out of my mouth, am I? LMAO! Wear those capri’s, Beth, and don’t let me or anyone else stop you! Freedom!

  62. @Adriana What a brilliant idea for children with communication problems. When we travelled Dad always safety pinned the name of our Hotel/or address of the family member we were staying with in our pockets. My sister does the same with her little one + their cell phone numbers.

  63. @SKL “It’s fine to say “teach your kids not to ___,” but many little kids will still tend to “obey” an adult who is talking directly to them.”

    How likely is it that any child too young to make that distinction will spend sufficient amounts of time unsupervised by ANYONE old enough to know better, to get into such a situation?

    And even a fairly young child who might still reflexively “obey” an adult out of courtesy or respect, will be able to draw the line at going somewhere without permission from a parental or other caregiver figure — at least by the time they reach the age where they’re going to be spending time out of sight of either caregivers or other kids old enough to say “stop.”

    I agree with you about the social/moral/psychological reasons for not liking plastering your name on everything (though I don’t think a single ID bracelet or personalized bag puts you into that territory) but I just think that the “danger” discussion should not be ANY part of it. It’s just too remote and speculative — part of the “well it COULD happen so I’ll order my life around vanishingly small possibilities” mentality.

  64. My kids don’t have anything much with their names on (unless we write it on, like their backpacks for school/camp) because their names are too unusual in US. But I wouldn’t object otherwise (at least to first names). But I do have an aversion to putting too much information on my car because I think it’s unnecessary and possibly inviting to road rage/vandalism (for political views etc) or identity theft (full names, schools etc). For the same reason I don’t put my full name here, or allow my daughter to put her fullname or address on her web page. Identity theft is real, and I personally know several people who’ve been victims.

  65. There are many suggested solutions, but limiting Americans to 2 kids isn’t going to fix anything.

    I always wonder what believers in population engineering would think of a requirement to have “exactly” 2 kids whether you want them or not.

    Well, in my “Connie Rules The World” scenario, where I don’t worry about petty things like *morality* because I’m the dictator of everything, people can trade off. If you don’t want kids, but your neighbor wants three, you can give or sell one of your slots to your neighbor. And if your neighbor wants four kids, you can give both slots over. Like adoption, but without having to have the kid FIRST.

    Also, we have invested a lot of money into colonizing other planets. Why not, this is all make-believe anyway!

  66. So Uly, isn’t that pretty much how it is in the US already? Without the Big Brother aspect?

  67. Pentamom, I don’t think I mentioned reordering my whole life. Most people in fact don’t buy their kids personalized stuff. So my point was that in deciding whether or not to say “yes” to that frivolity, I weigh the pros and cons. Cost? Con. Social effect, in my opinion? Con. Safety? Well, even though it’s not a “huge” con, it’s still a con. Kids’ delight? Pro, until they get used to it. Then con, once they start expecting it. Hmm. Decision? No.

    Since I see NO good reason to do it, even a small safety “con” is enough for me to say no.

    I am not saying you are a terrible mom if you say yes.

  68. Sorry I don’t see any social or safety problem with having things with names on them. By all means if you personalize EVERYTHING then there’s a problem but the occasional backpack, pencil, or hairbow is not going to doom you to a life of materialism. Young kids take great pride in their name and do enjoy having things with it on them (an enjoyable period before the tween years when they start to detest their names). And I’m okay with saying “yes” sometimes and “no” sometimes. If I refused to buy anything for my child that she then expected me to buy again, she’d be naked, toyless and starving. She knows very well that she doesn’t get everything she wants.

    And, since my 4 year old is well aware of who she knows and who she doesn’t regardless of whether they know her name or not, I don’t think there is a great problem of kids being suckered into actually believing that they know someone simply because that person knows their name. They may make a bad decision and choose to go with a stanger but they are well aware that they don’t actually KNOW that person. Seems like the remedy is to teach your children not to go with people they don’t know, not to hide your kids’ names as if they are state secrets.

    And Uly, I definitely agree that the world – and the US – are overpopulated. We don’t have elbow room in the places where the largest number of people actually want to live and, more importantly, we’re overextending resources. I don’t think that we need to become India-like before we say that there’s a growing population problem.

  69. Well OK, I think a lot of people are overreacting to “my” preference not to put my kids names all over the place. I go back to the studies that show that even after being taught conscientiously not to go with strangers, most kids DID. So all that teaching is NOT fool-proof.

    Look, I’m the first person to tell you that danger is NOT lurking around every corner. I let my 3-year-olds walk through parking lots and cross streets with me at a distance. I let them wander a half mile away without an increasing heart rate. I let them cook (with supevision) and play outside alone. They’ve had the run of the house, unsupervised (with me sleeping upstairs), since before they were 2. Maybe that’s why some of my personal rules are different – because I’m not planning on keeping my kids attached to my hip until they are several years older and can really understand when it’s appropriate to say “no” to an adult.

    Even then, I don’t see the point of putting a kid’s name out there. It just doesn’t feel right to me. For that matter, I don’t walk around with my own name plastered on my shirt. Do you?

  70. “We don’t have elbow room in the places where the largest number of people actually want to live”

    Where is that? I thought the American Dream for most people was to have a little property out in the country where it’s quiet, where we can enjoy nature. I think most of the people who “want” to live in the crowded cities already live there. And some of them are just waiting for a chance to move out.

    As for resources, I am all for conserving resources. Actually, on average, a kid in a “big family” uses a lot less resources than a singleton. My 2 kids use about the same resources as would be used if I only had one. And when I was growing up with 5 children, the individual impact was even less. As an adult, I live largely according to the way I grew up – “less is more” is my motto. You really can’t base these arguments on a mathematical equation. There are too many factors at play.

    I would, however, advocate for adoption in case anyone is wavering over whether they should conceive another life.

  71. I can’t have those stickers for two reasons:

    1. The sets come with parents, 2 boys, 2 girls. I have THREE boys and one girl, so I would have to buy two sets. And those things are expensive!

    2. My rear window is already taken up by a bumper sticker that reads “We are the proud parents of a child whose self-esteem is sufficient that he does not need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.”

  72. Jules, LOL on your #2!

  73. I wonder if there’s a link between vanity family stickers and road rage. http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080613/full/news.2008.889.html

    (Also love Jules’s sticker)

  74. “Where is that? I thought the American Dream for most people was to have a little property out in the country where it’s quiet, where we can enjoy nature.”

    Hmmm, that may be the American Dream for you but certainly not the majority of the US. If that was truly what the majority of the US population was looking for then property in rural Missouri would be highly desireable and cost more than property in NYC or LA – clearly not so. Personally, a little propery out in the country where it’s quiet is my American Nightmare.

    “I don’t walk around with my own name plastered on my shirt. Do you?”

    No, because I think it’s idiotic to walk around with your name plastered on your shirt at 40. I did, however, think it was very cool when I was 5. We can’t equate what we want to do as adults with what our children – who are both not us and not adults – enjoy.

    Personally, what any one person does with their own child is their own business and I couldn’t care less. I was responding to the statement that there is some negative impact to society in putting your child’s name on something. At 5, it’s just cool that it’s THEIR NAME on something. It’s one of the few words that my 4 year old can read so she LOVES to see it places, so if she wants a backpack with her name on it sobeit (if I’m buying her a backpack anyway; I’m not going to make a special purchase because it has her name on it). She’s not going to become materialistic simply because she is indulged in a short term fascination with her name.

  75. I guess we could do a poll on the “American dream.” I’m sure there are lots of people who prefer the city and many who prefer the country. Most folks I know like the country, but I know it’s not for everyone. Anyhoo, I was not the person who made the sweeping statement that most people want to live in places that are currently crowded. Personally that would be the last thing I would want to do.

    I think the biggest disincentive to living where you can see the sunset is the lack of access to jobs. Hence a dream that we aspire to someday when we no longer have to run in the rat race.

    Let me just say a little more clearly that I don’t care if everyone else on this thread puts their kids’ names in big neon letters on everything they own. I personally choose not to do it. I think I’m entitled to my personal obsessions as much as anyone else is. I don’t think FRK means everyone has to make the same parenting decisions on all matters.

    Regarding the adult name on the shirt – in MY MIND (if not yours, that’s fine) I do not want my name displayed because I know that even I, at 43 years old, would stop and turn around if someone called my name. My instinct would be to assume someone I know is trying to catch up with me. This could make even me vulnerable if I was in the wrong place and time.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve been accosted by strangers (with ill intent) on the street more than once. It is not a pleasant experience. I really don’t want to hear that “the chances are so remote” because it HAS happened no fewer than 4 times to me. Now I just feel it is sensible not to ask my daughters to do something I would not do. But please note that this explanation does NOT mean I think anyone who puts their kids’ name out there is nuts. I’m just saying how something makes ME feel. If it’s useful for anyone to know that, fine. If not, fine.

  76. “As for resources, I am all for conserving resources. Actually, on average, a kid in a “big family” uses a lot less resources than a singleton.”

    Two things wrong with that theory. First, a single kid in a big family does use less resources than an only child but a family of 6 still use more resources in total than a family of 3.

    Second, this impact likely is negligible for the immediate families while the children are living at home – a family of 6 does not use so considerably more resources than a family of 3 that the world’s resource pool is seriously impacted. However, a family of 6 produces 4 children. Those 4 children then grow up and set up 4 separate households (now a total of 5 for this one family), each consuming resources. While the family of 3 produces 1 child that grows to set up 1 separate household (now a total of 2 for this family). 5 households clearly use more resources than 2 households. And so on through each generation. Assuming everything to be average, ultimately, your 2 children and their progeny will use far more resources than my 1 and hers.

  77. SKL- These are all opinions that Little Brother will permit you to keep. Remember that for faster clearance of future opinions you can apply for the “Secure Opinion Fast Access Card”.

  78. Lily–well, yeah, that’s what I like to point out to people who are way too scared of so many things–that just about the biggest risk to your children’s lives that you can knowingly take is driving them anywhere.

    Again, it’s not for “safety” reasons that I wouldn’t do this, just for not needing to have that information advertised on my vehicle.

  79. Hmm. My parents had 6 kids. They have 3 biological grandkids. Half of the 6 live in shared homes with other families/unrelated adults, rather than separate family households. (We own our homes but share them.) In addition, half of us live off the land to a greater or lesser degree. And most of us run businesses efficiently out of our homes. Because of our upbringing, we know how to conserve, value immaterial blessings, abhor waste, and believe in sharing even as adult;, and we are imparting these values onto our kids. So while it sounds logical to assume a large family will grow and consume exponentially over the generations, this ignores the effects of lessons learned – especially in families where the parents actually support the kids, meaning that paychecks don’t go up in proportion to the number of kids they have.

    But again, I would be the last person to tell anyone they should have X kids. There are pros and cons to both large and small families. I just take issue with the simplistic way many people look at it.

  80. So Uly, isn’t that pretty much how it is in the US already? Without the Big Brother aspect?

    And without the space travel, and without people being limited in law in the number of children they can have (this is for the best – as I said, limiting people’s reproductive rights isn’t okay, though I’m all for more passively encouraging people to have fewer children, and yes, adoption can be great), but… yeah, I guess.

    Also, just FYI – I can totally see the sunrise and sunset from where I live. But it probably helps that I live on an island, and travel into another, very narrow island (sunset over Lady Liberty is not to be missed). Even Brooklyn is an island! If we were just in the middle of nowhere, without that natural boundary and end to the buildings, maybe it’d be harder?

  81. Uly, I never saw a real sunrise or sunset until I moved out of the city to a small town. I was about 13 and I was so enthralled with the sunrise every morning, I was always late to school, LOL.

    Thing about a typical city is, not only are there walls upon walls everywhere you look, but the pollution in the sky distorts/dulls the colors and smells of nature. You don’t realize it until you make the big change.

    The other thing I never really did before age 13 was look up at night and see lots of stars. I’d see a few, but nothing like what is seen far from the city. It’s kind of a shock when you realize what you’ve been missing.

  82. My friend and I have been talking about this particular subject, this is great site and nice text. I will add to my bookmarks, Thank you.

  83. Eh, honestly I just think it’s dumb, and that’s a good enough reason to see less of those stickers. Of course, now that everyone’s got one, they need to have something else that everyone’s just got to have. I guess it keeps us all employed and taxes paid.

  84. “However, a family of 6 produces 4 children. Those 4 children then grow up and set up 4 separate households (now a total of 5 for this one family), each consuming resources. While the family of 3 produces 1 child that grows to set up 1 separate household”

    You are aware, are you not, that as well as consuming resources, people also CREATE resources? That people are, in fact, resources? The idea that population increase will inevitably lead to decline in resources is an assumption that should not be an assumption.

  85. I read this article today and decided to send it to you. It’s about a true danger to our children – leaving them in a hot car, but the comment by the “anonymous” commenter is hysterical, both haha and over the edge fearful. Thought you would find it relevant to your predator discussion. http://www.turnto23.com/north_river_county/24505216/detail.html

  86. Sky wrote:

    “You are aware, are you not, that as well as consuming resources, people also CREATE resources? That people are, in fact, resources? The idea that population increase will inevitably lead to decline in resources is an assumption that should not be an assumption.

    What is your definition of resources?? More people means more land needed to house them, more land needed to dump their garbage etc., which leads to less farmland and less food resources — yet at the same time food consumption increases. What could create that makes up for the loss of land/farmland?

    It also means a higher consumption of fossil fuels, higher use of water/increase in sewage. The list goes on.

    Back to the original post — I don’t care either way about the family thing. I am not in favor of the stickers required in NJ for underage drivers. It opens up opportunities for harassment from police and others. It makes kids a great target for insurance scam artists. Who better to target than an underage driver with less experience?

    In the scheme of things of what is likely to occur, I can see these stickers as an open invitation to a crime of opportunity. Lonely dark road at night — reflective red sticker indicating underage driver could become an opportunity for a predator. Yes, somewhat unlikely, but way more likely for a predator to prowl a dark road looking for a random reflective sticker than someone following a min-van all day looking for the kids (BTW — a mini van pretty much advertises kids anyway).

    It also opens up witnesses to bias interpretations. If you see an accident — many will have it in their heads that car A ‘s driver was underage & thus more at fault.

  87. elle, the increase in space used by people in this country over the past, say, 80 years is more due to greed and a sense of entitlement than the actual number of people. There aren’t that many more people in the USA now than when I was growing up, yet the typical family home is twice as big and houses fewer people. The percentage of people having central air conditioning, etc. has multiplied who knows how many times. Same thing for TVs and lights being kept on at all hours of the night. Kids playing video games instead of pianos. Hot lunch instead of PBJ. Being driven to school and “activities.” Hand-me-downs? You’re kidding,right? Sharing a room/bed/bath?? When was the last time you saw a kid moving snow with an actual shovel or trimming the lawn with a human-powered grass cutter? Now, given all that, is it your impression that kids from big families are more “entitled” than singletons? That’s hardly my experience.

    If a family is really concerned about the environment, they can have a below-average “carbon footprint” even if they have half a dozen kids. And if a family is not interested, they can have an above-average CF with one kid or even zero. If you really think about it, you can understand how.

  88. Regarding the sunrises, I’ll tentatively say “If you say so” to that.

    Though I already knew you were right about the stars. That’s more an issue of light pollution, but I remember visiting my grandparents in Belgium and being TERRIFIED at the sheer quantity of stars they had out!

  89. for sure. in fact, thats why we got rid of the swing set we used to have in our yard. we didnt want anyone driving by know that we had kids.
    and thats also why we make our 3 kids lay down in the trunk of our geo metro. yes, we did have a van for a while…but one day some guy followed us for 1/8 of a mile before i lost him at a stop light. he looked really creepy. i figured he was following our van because he knew we had kids and he was a total perv (he had a beard). and yes we should have those kids in car seats. but if we put the kids in car seats someone might see them.
    seriously, since we got rid of the van started stowing the kids in the trunk i havent more sure of their safety.

  90. @thinkbannedthoughts: The problem of population growth is mostly in the poorer countries; richer countries like the US are either at constant population, losing population (like Japan), or only gaining population because of immigration (I believe the US falls into that category).

    What we in the US need to worry about is our ever-increasing energy use, rather than our population.

  91. The idea that the stickers lure predators would only make sense if children were rare. They’re not! Everywhere you go, you see children; if a stalker is looking to attack a child they don’t have to follow a particular minivan or go through the trouble of tracing a child’s photo online to the actual child.

    What increases the danger of child rape more than anything, to my mind, is the demonization of pedophiles. People who are sexually attracted to children need help dealing with their urges, and society needs to learn more about how pedophiles think so that they can help them better and protect children better, but who would ever willingly sign up for a study of pedophiles? Who would dare admit to anyone, even their priest or psychiatrist or spouse, that they are sexually attracted to children? Who would ever join a pedophile support group? So they have to deal with it in silence, and so of course some of them slip up, and boom their lives are ruined.

  92. We always solved the “I want my things monogrammed” problem by putting initials or a nickname on the outside, and actual contact info on a smaller tag or in sharpie under a backpack strap (in case the item got lost). I think having a sticker on your car probably poses no problem, but I wouldn’t want my child to have a tshirt with their name in large letters…

    When I was growing up, we also had a “family password” in part to combat an abusive grandmother who lived in town.Because it was quite possible that someone I knew who did not have permission to pick me up might try, I was instructed to never go with anyone who came to pick me up unexpectedly unless they knew the password. We also talked about who was allowed to pick me up ie which relatives or family friends I could always go with. Seems to me that makes a lot more sense, gives the parents peace of mind, and is a hell of a lot easier that worrying about kidnappers who may or may not know your name…

  93. I’m not going to get into a big argument over what is, in my opinion, an extremely stupid looking item to put on your car, but I will pose one question….

    Many are saying, that it would take a very motivated pedophile to memorize the names in parking lot, follow you home and wait for the time a child is alone, that it is highly unlikely that the family car stickers lead any more to abduction etc….my question is: Why take the chance? Seriously, isn’t your child more important than telling the whole world that you have 4 kids, a dog and a cat?

  94. I actually am against the stickers. They’re tacky, for one thing. And while I’m against overprotecting our children, the stickers do seem a little foolhardy. It’s not taking a chance, it’s asking for trouble.

    At the same time though, I don’t worry too much when I see people with these.

  95. I will consider my life complete when I see a family sticker that fits any of the following scenarios: 1) Two women and four dogs; 2) Two men and an adopted baby; 3) A woman and eight cats.

  96. I will admit that when we are out driving, my husband and I always have a howl over the obnoxious minivan brag stickers that give the child’s name and his or her “sport” or activity. The offspring of those “My child is an honor student at Grade Inflation Elementary” stickers, I guess.

    Gee, Ashlee goes to South Middle School and is a cheerleader. Would a pervert be interested in this data?

    Or as PC jibes, “Ashlee, your Mommy sent me to pick you up, she’s in the hospital. The safe word is unicorn.”

    And then we laugh demonically, because we are awful people.

    No, I don’t think it’s likely that Chester the Molester will troll in that particular way. I guess we find it blackly funny because the parents are helicoptering in the sense of making their kid’s modest “achievements” a matter of in-your-face publicity. Guess what? We don’t care about your offspring. The only people who would be remotely interested in this information and don’t already know are not nice people.

  97. 1) Two women and four dogs; 2) Two men and an adopted baby; 3) A woman and eight cats.
    what it means

  98. I saw one with Mommy, Daddy, three kids, a puppy and twoT-Rex. Chester the Molester better stay away from THAT house!

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  100. قققق

  101. [...] Readers — In response to the story somewhere below, about “Annie’s Mailbox” spreading the belief that a family decal on a car could delight, incite and invite predators, [...]

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