Hi, Free-Rangers! Leaving behind the topics of politics, feminism, environmentalism and all that, here is a comment from a few posts back:
“I work in law enforcement in the child predator unit in a mid-size city. Kids meeting people on the Internet is the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t sound like anyone here has any idea of the extent that perpetrators use new technologies to victimize. I won’t “bore” you with details since you don’t think this stuff can happen to you anyway. No one does.
“But it is kind of sad to me to see how proud people are to wave off their responsibilities to keep their kids in check.”
I’d like to respond. And I will!
First of all, I don’t know of any Free-Range parent who is “proud” to wave off the responsibilities of parenting. Free-Range is not about negligence or sloth (well, maybe a teeny bit of sloth, but is that so terrible?). It’s about trying to assess reality and figure out whether the world has really become so much more dangerous in just one generation (since those carefree days of the Cold War) that children cannot be afforded the same kind of freedom we had.
Our parents granted us this simple freedom not because they were lazy or neglectful, but because they didn’t think absolutely everything, from using a plastic drinking cup to selling Girl Scout cookies without an adult escort, was so dreadfully dangerous. They also saw some worth to having their kids learn how to navigate the world.
Free-Range parents may harbor a certain nostalgia for simpler times. It’s hard not to, when just 20 years ago you could be toasting marshmallows and nobody would be simultaneously talking on their cell, or dowloading videos, God help us, sexting. Fewer marshmallows shriveled into black nothingness.
Fewer weekends, too.
But beyond that stabbing feeling of loss, which could just be age, there is also a hard-nosed anger at all the fear that is being dumped on us. Some of the dumpers are well-meaning, but some are sneering blamers who refuse to accept the fact that children are not more threatened today. The crime rate is back to what it was around 1970. After that it climbed till 1993 and has been declining ever since, according to hardnosed numbers from the Department of Justice. So if you were a child anytime after Nixon resigned, the crime rate is actually lower now than when you were a kid. (So, for that matter, is infant mortality – four times lower than when I was born.)
As for the supposedly heightened danger presented by the Internet, I must refer to my own piece in yesterday’s Daily Beast, “The Myth of Online Predators.” Pedophiles are not combing MySpace or Facebook for victims any more than they are calling random numbers out of the phone book and trying to get a date. It’s a technique that doesn’t work and they know it – and that is according to head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. So the idea that any child online is easy pickin’s for perverts is just wrong.
I’m going to assume the law enforcement fellow who wrote to this site was well-meaning. He thinks he is giving us a wonderful gift: A little more ice-cold terror where our kids are concerned.
But it is a gift I’m returning. It’s useless, it’s ugly and I already have about a million.