A Little Perspective on Child Safety

Hi Readers — Here’s a letter from a United Nations worker in Italy. Kinda puts our fears for our kids in perspective:

Hi Lenore! UNICEF just published their 6th report on what the world is like for children. It is a scary one, but I would like to draw attention to what makes it scary for them. It is NOT:

– The male teacher / Sunday school  helper giving them a kiss (most of them
would wish they had one that did give them a kiss)
–  Nor is it the dangerous homemade cupcake (many never even had one)
– Or whether to bike to school or be driven (they don’t go to school, and do
not have a bike, much less car)

Their problems are more simple, but so much harder to solve. Below is an extract from the index of the report. I do not want to belittle anybody’s problems or fears, but sometimes we really do need to see ourselves from another perspective.  I hope you take the time to read it and I hope each one of us does something that will make the next report a bit better.

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Achieve universal primary education

Promote gender equality and empower women

Reduce child mortality 

Immunize against pneumonia

Improve maternal health maternal mortality

Combat HIV, AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability

Ensure safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Protect against abuse, exploitation and violence

Protect and aid children affected by armed conflict

End child labor, child marriage and female genital mutilation

Whew. Thank you for this list, Lene! And here’s one way we can actually help out, almost immediately. Halloween is just around the corner. Order your UNICEF boxes here and have the kids you know Trick or Treat for the cause!

Which reminds me…I’ve got to order some, too. (If you need 10 boxes or fewer you can pick them up at Hallmark Gold Crown stores, Baskin Robbins or Pier 1 Imports.) —  L.

16 Responses

  1. Keeping things in perspective is always very important. The other day my neighbor was aghast about the fact that I let my seven-year-old bicycle around the neighborhood unaccompanied. I reminded her that, a hundred years ago, he would have been working in a factory or on a farm, either of which was infinitely more dangerous than anything our kids do today.

    When I travel to lesser developed countries, I routinely see children engaging in activities that would be illegal in the US because they are so dangerous by our standards, yet for the vast majority of children around the world, that’s their reality. Somehow they manage to survive childhood and have families of their own, while we agonize over whether our kids used hand sanitizer after touching the grocery cart handle.

  2. Every parent and school official in the industrial world should read that report. Then we could all stop worrying about whether or not the parent volunteers at school have had their background checks or not.

  3. The UN Millennium goals in general are awesome. Look for Jeffery Sachs ‘The End of Poverty’ for a world-altering read – he chanced my opinion on plenty of things.

  4. Thank you for this list! I am tweeting it… and printing it out to put above my computer & help keep my own perspective.

  5. I always recommend remembering other places when gauging safety. Yes, the US isn’t as safe as, say, Japan. However, the US is also significantly safer than most of the former Soviet countries, Africa, and the Mideast. I saw somewhere that the US is even safer than the UK and Ireland (do not quote me, I do not remember). So it’s by no means a dire risk to your health to live here.

    Though if you think the US is the worst country on earth, by all means, move. I hear Gaza has fireworks every night.

  6. It’s a lighter note than this (and not to downplay the serious and important value of Lene’s message), but I am reminded of traveling in Eastern Europe shortly after the wall fell and swimming in a public pool that had a bed of nails (I am not kidding, big rusty ones) around the base of a statue in the pool (the base wasn’t in the pool, you’d have had to climb out to get on it, er, onto the bed of nails … but it was surrounded by the pool). I pointed it out to an (American friend I was traveling with and said, “Wouldn’t a ‘keep off’ sign have been a safer choice?” He shrugged and said, “Eh. That’s comprehensible in ANY language.”

  7. Anyone who is interested in learning more about how to help a child in the developing world with pediatric HIV/AIDS; please check out my blog http://www.PositivelyOrphaned.com.

    Thanks Lenore for this extremely important post.

  8. […] 9, 2009 by Bethany Lenore at Free Range Kids has another brilliant blog post about child safety and how it compares to the recent UNICEF Progress Report on Child […]

  9. “female genital mutilation”, yeah. We also need to end MALE genital mutilation. 50% of males in the U.S. to this day are still circumcised at birth. It’s a human rights violation and it needs to end.

    And Blake, take a quick read at this.
    What did you say about Japan being safe?

  10. @ Vedrfolnir

    When I said “safer”, I meant it. Crime just is not as high in Japan, which I personally attribute to a more homogenous culture that shares a vast cultural reverence of authority. I don’t see that article arguing crime is higher.

    I’ve had a general interest in the country for a long time now, so I’ve known a while about the basics of their legal system. Probably from the remains of the occupation, there is no prohibition against what we would call “unreasonable search and seizure”, or police don’t need a warrant to search a home for contraband. Then there’s the lack of plea bargain as stated in your link. Seems that the new ruling party is trying to fix some problems with their legal system, though.

  11. People in this country don’t worry about those problems because it doesn’t effect them. They would rather have a panic attack about stranger danger and peanut allergies than volunteer in a soup kitchen or bother themselves about genocide in Darfur.

  12. Ved, while I agree that routine infant circumcision in the US is not good, I think it’s far better to concentrate on female circumcision if only because it’s usually done with unsterile equipment in less than sanitary conditions by untrained practitioners. At least we can say that circumcision of males in the US is generally done by doctors with clean tools in a hospital, and the option of anesthesia.

  13. […] Now let me take a break from my story to say that this “a kid could get hurt” / safety thing makes me totally insane.  First of all, if there is one goddamned person on this planet that knows if my son is going to get hurt running under clothing racks (P.S. he’s not!), it’s me.  My son uses real knives and saws and drills and he rides other people’s too-large bikes and crouches on my stove and cooks his own breakfast.  The amount of times he’s been seriously injured in his life? Once, when he was 2 1/2 – and by the way under the watchful eye of both my parents and Ralph – after he toddled right into the corner of a very sharply-mitered pedestal.  And by the way and somewhat anecdotally, in this Mama’s opinion “getting hurt” is a great way, within reason, for a child to discover without whinging and nagging from an adult why not to do something (no, I do not mean the aforementioned pedestal case nor allowing one-years old on the freeway, et cetera). And let me educate you on my favorite point: in general, I’ve observed people who claim children shouldn’t be allowed to do this-or-that for safety or just in case or liability reasons are A. people who don’t know shit about kids or who are terribly authoritarian, small-minded parents themselves and/or B. people who are continuing the status quo of ridiculous, over the top “solutions” resulting in a culture that, if parents such as myself didn’t speak up against it, helps conspire to eunuch our children’s abilities to actually grow up, go out, and be part of the world.  Safety. My. Ass. (Hey hand-wringers, do you really care about kids’ safety? Have you considered driving less? Volunteering to teach swim lessons?  Or maybe taking a less selfish point of view?) […]

  14. I agree with Uly on the importance of focusing on FGM because of the way it’s done. Also, I have seen both sides of the coin on male circumcision first hand and I think both sides have valid arguments. My father wasn’t circumcised and my brothers aren’t, either. The doc tried to tell my mom that not circumcising would make it difficult for my brothers to have kids. Clearly not, since their father wasn’t circumcised. There was then the question of hygiene and my father reassured the doc that he was quite capable of teaching my brothers how to clean themselves properly. So I am supportive of this position when the circumstances make for a positive outcome.

    However, the other side of it is this: when the father is circumcised and the child is not, there is no one to provide a proper example of proper hygiene. I have a friend whose husband is circumcised but her children are not. Her oldest developed severe adhesions and almost had to be circumcised at age 6 because he hadn’t been practicing good hygiene. His dad didn’t know how to teach him, not being experienced, and his mom felt that he was getting too old for her to do it for him (not to mention that she had 4 other kids to take care of and was exhausted). Problems are not solely childhood problems, either. My husband is a medical provider for the army and has seen lots of soldiers who aren’t circumcised and who developed complications due to poor genital hygiene. While some people scoff at the idea that penile cancer rates are elevated in uncircumcised men, it has been shown that poor hygiene in this population is linked to penile cancer. And before you cite the rates in other countries where circumcision is not the norm, you have to remember that because it is not the norm there, people are more familiar with proper genital hygiene.

    Everyone has to weigh the pros and cons. Women are more likely to be the ones toilet training their kids and these women need to remember that if they choose not to circumcise their male children, they are responsible for ensuring that these children know how to keep themselves clean and actually do so.

  15. […] safe and that you must stamp out even the smallest risk to make life easier and more comfortable.  You know, for your kids.  Like a friend who told me, “I want her to take risks, but while I’m watching […]

  16. […] My children are at no risk of that kind of exploitation or abuse. Like the Unicef guides indicate (“A Little Perspective on Child Safety”), the global community of children have many needs that aren’t being met; my children (and my […]

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