Life in Wartime (Is What Companies are Trying to Make Childhood Feel Like)

Readers — Sometimes I get so fed up with our fearmongering culture, I almost can’t take pen to blog. Or pixel to blog. Or whatever. But here I am. A reader sent in this link to an extremely popular app that not only TRACKS all your family members, it also alerts you to when they are anywhere near a registered sex offender. This might be helpful, were the registry not jammed with folks who pose no threat to kids at all, chiefly teens who had sex with their slightly underage teenage girlfriends.  (More on that here.)

Anyway, there are other buttons to press that announce the equivalent of , “I made it home safely!” as if the entire walk home from school, or to a friend’s house, was the equivalent of infiltrating behind enemy lines, bullets flying, landmines along the way.

I KNOW the argument is, “Better safe than sorry,” but, how can I put this? We ARE safe. Incredibly safe! Not PERFECTLY safe, but to act as if our children are under seige when we live in one of the safest times in human history is almost saying, “F&$# you!” to all the effort and pain that has brought us to this glorious time.

And so, I must grrrr. Grrrr.

But! Later on today or early tomorrow I have a very nice story to report. So come down off the ledge. As will I. — L

36 Responses

  1. Yes! I just got the proofs of my children’s school pictures back this week. They include a “free gift” of cards with my children’s photos on them complete with instructions on what to do if (or should that be “when”) they are abducted. Wow, thanks for the gift!

  2. this is a link to a forum i read> i used to live in dubai
    very multi cultural antI peanut butter and jelly
    ANTI PB AND J.. i am gi jane btw.
    its funny ,..if nothing else
    its frikin amazing ..i think it might fit here

    http://www.expatwoman.com/forum/messages.aspx?TopicID=127338

  3. huh! my kid (14) is out hunting right now on a nearby neighbor’s property. if he should shoot an elk he will call me on the walky talky and I’m to drive over and help him haul it home (he’s all of 98lbs)
    the walkies are getting low on battery so I guess I’ll just have to listen for a gunshot. If all else fails he’ll tag it and walk to another nearby neighbor and ask to call me. I’m convinced he is mature enough to handle everthing but the heavy lifting.

    No way am I going to put the equivalent of a radio tracking collar on my kid. the very idea is so dystopian I get shivers just thinking about it.
    though the training collars they use for dogs…. (a joke people!)

  4. Even if you filter the teens who had sex with their slightly underage teenage girlfriends out of the registry, you still have a whole lot of really dangerous people who still pose no risk to children because they have simply no interest in them at all.

    I find it really annoying that this registry equates “sex offender” with “person who poses a risk to kids”.

  5. Lol. Someone else posted about raising “minions” on another article here. I’m beginning to think that maybe this is the order of things. These kids brought up on fear and paranoia, will be the servants and minions of our kids who grew up learning the ways of the world, and over coming all obstacles in front of them. Classic case of survival of the fittest. It’s just sad these parents don’t realize they are raising their children to be weak. Mentally, emotionally and physically. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

  6. I live in suburbia outside chicago. On saturday 11/6 a car with an teen in it along with an older man pull up to a driveway with kids playing on it. One of them asks the kids to go get a drink with them. The kids run into the house and get their Dad. The dad follows on foot and calls the police.

    There has been another report of a similar incident in another neighborhood as well. Of course this cause tons of emails to be sent around the community.

    Someone thinks it is a registered sex offender that is in the area. They looked at a picture on the registery.

    What I am most interested in is how this will be played in the media if at all. I think we should celebrate that the kids did the right thing by running into the house and getting a parent. That won’t be the case most likely. They will probably play the fear card.

    I will keep you posted if I see anything in the media.

  7. Couldn’t agree more. There are certainly dangers but society and the media tends to magnify these rare incidents to such a degree that you would think that they are happening by the minute.

  8. On the flip side, I use the GPS tracker to track my dad when he’s wandering the desert. He’s in his 60s and not in the greatest physical condition. Plus it’s really fun to see where he’s exploring when I can’t be there with him. I know the territory, and can picture his travels as they day/weekend/week progresses.

    He introduced me to the tracker after my girls and I took a 10,000 mile road trip. Apparently (I had no idea) he was worried about us because we didn’t check in for days at a time (my husband wasn’t worried about it so said, don’t bother) and were camping alone in random spots across the country.

    It’s a cool toy, but I wouldn’t place one on my kid and watch her roam town. http://www.findmespot.com/en/

  9. I just LOVE how the reviewer calls this the “Family & Offender Tracker”, lumping the two together as equally needing tracking/concern. 😉

  10. I will leave the issues of :

    – Life in imaginary abduction battlefield
    – Strike to mom cause of a battery getting low and going off radar
    – Constant soul strain to every user
    – Education to “behave well ’cause youre under surveillance, not ’cause youre educated to”
    – Turning this into norm
    – It only tracks the phone, an abductor would discard it immediately, and rebellious (read : healthy-minded) kids would as well

    . . . To the other commenters there, its all quite obvious (though amazing why isn’t obvious to the target audience of this app)

    Instead, want to point a risk which is inherent to this system : The kid might not escape in case he is in danger from somebody else

    Imagine common bullying event or sequence of events, where the kid runs and hides to escape the bullies. Common, happened to most of us at some point

    Most personal computers are not protected well, and it poses very little difficulty to break into one even by school kids. The bullies can “hire” a geeky kid from the very school to do just that to the home computer of the kid in question

    Using their own home computer (and cell phone to direct the bully agent), the bullies can track this kid thereby making him unable to escape the bullies unless he realizes what/how is going on, which is not trivial

    This looks remote risk, but is in fact less remote than the risk the system is supposed to deal with in the first place

    PS. nothing prevents you from describing the adult abductor as a big hacker when speaking to a non-free range parent, to deter him from stuff. You know that they dont understand statistics

  11. As children, my brother and I would spend nights/weekends at our friends house, they had boys and girls our age. It was always a great time to be at their house and we enjoyed it immensely. My family moved away and we didn’t see our friends for several years. When I was visiting, I ran into one of the girls, and started catching up with her. Come to find out, her father had been sexually abusing them all for years, and the only time they would get a break was when my brother and I would come stay with them. He was never turned in, never convicted. After the wife divorced him, he left the state and was never heard from again. THESE are the men who are dangerous, not the ones on the “registry” (well, most of them)……..and if he would have ever tried anything with my brother or myself, we would have told and he knew it and that is why we were safe. Because our parents raised us to know when something is wrong and to say something about it. THAT is your child’s best weapon. Does it scare the crud out of me that my brother and I were that close to someone like that? YES. Will I allow my children to spend nights at their friends house? YES. Because I know it was rare, and my children will know what is wrong and that it’s ok to tell me about it. That man never touched my brother and I because we were those kind of kids……UN-GROOMABLE!!!!! Will I be nervous?? Of course!! But to stifle their entire childhood because of a rare encounter in my own childhood would be wrong, too.

  12. “A reader sent in this link to an extremely popular app that not only TRACKS all your family members, it also alerts you to when they are anywhere near a registered sex offender.”

    Man, that thing would go off anytime my kids were at our church, because our church is three blocks from the jail, which is stocked full of registered sex offenders. (I’ve seen the iPhone sex offender ap turned on while at the church playground – and it lists about 30 registered sex offenders – all with the detention center as their current address.) And no Catholic priest jokes, please.

  13. Anyone watched the South Park episode where the residents feared child abduction so much they strapped these outlandish GPS devices to their children?

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/episodes/s06e11-child-abduction-is-not-funny

    I’m not usually one to promote a show like South Park but they hit the nail on the head with the child abduction fear.

    That Duracell commercial with the “Child Find Locator” device illustrated our fears quite perfectly:

    I absolutely despise this commercial.

  14. I’ll share a nice story of my boys today. They are 11 and 8. We went to Sports Authority where my 8 yo bought a new ball and bat. He wanted to try it out so I dropped them off at the school. (School closed – Veteran’s Day). I told them to be home in an hour. We live 1/3 mile away.

    They ended up coming home 30 minutes later because my 8 yo got stung by a bee. My 11 yo rang a neighbor’s door asking for help. The nice neighbor gave them ice in a wash cloth. Then they came home. All the nieghbor asked was how far away they lived.

    No calling me, no escorting them home, no calling the police for abandonment. Just a neighbor who knows how to be helpful and when to leave well enough alone. And two boys who survived a not so great event all by themselves.

  15. This is for Heidi, and her Elk hunting son… High Five!

    My husband grew up the same way, headed out in the morning with a shotgun, came home at sunset with dinner.

    I think you win the award for free range mom of the week!

  16. Hi Lenore,
    I clicked to your website from elsewhere.I was just curious to know what ”freerangekids” is all about.I have been here,looked around and felt at home.I now live in Sweden but was brought up in Kenya.I just realised something I have never thought of,I was a ”freerangekid” when I was growing up!!
    We were never escorted by our parents to everywherewe went…
    Those golden days are not available to children anymore.My kids are still small,be sure to see me here more oftenly coming to steal a few tips time and again.This place is awesome!

  17. Never quite sure where to post these…
    Apparently, a couple of families were trying to stop the Renault car line from naming one of their cars Zoe, because they have daughters named Zoe Renault. I think it’s a little ridiculous that we can name cars after Native American Tribes and various other cultures around the world but heaven forbid one of our precious angels should share the name because, as the dad says (and this is where I stopped watching) She could have people asking “how are your airbags today?” Seriously?

    http://news.yahoo.com/video/world-15749633/judge-rejects-effort-to-block-a-car-named-zoe-22963274

  18. Didn’t Mrs. Weasly have somethng like that in Harry Potter? A clock that pointed to “at work”, “on the train” and “in mortal peril”?

  19. And for exactly how long do they think kids will keep using this app until they switch it off! Anyone watching tv dramas knows kidnappers toss tracking devices onto a passing truck.

  20. I have a friend with a boy with high functioning autism whom she homeschools. He is never with anyone else because he may have a tantrum/meltdown, and no one else can handle him, except maybe one grandma. The mom wanted to get him a cell phone. “In case he needed to call her.” What??? She doesn’t have the money to spare on this, and it would NEVER get used, or would have batteries run down the one time he needed it. I convinced her not to do it.

    The people I worry about are the ones who are not the registered people, or are, but not living where they say they are. Our ex-neighbor had a daughter the same age as mine. They were best friends. We did a couple of overnights, when they were about 6. Then mom went back to college. And let a bunch of college kids crash, at any time, at her house. My husband asked the girl what she thought of this, she said “I don’t mind too much except when they sleep in bed with me.” Umm, alarm bells??? These were not all sober people, and couldn’t control their conversation in front of kids to be appropriate. I let my daughter play with the girl outside or at my house. Sleep overs were at my house. Sorry. And yes, one of these “students” was on the registry, for sex with a girl not much older these girls, when he was 21. So yes, I was protective…same goes for my son doing a sleep over at friend’s grandpa’s house down the road – Uncle just got out of jail and is living there. When I asked the mother of the kid if he would watch the boys when they were down there playing, she laughed and said that all of his kids were taken away from him. Didn’t say why, but some alarm bells here too.

    So yes, I am going to go with some common sense (as I see it – no 20 year olds I don’t know sleeping the same bed as my daughter!) At the same time, I did ask the mother to be careful (I wouldn’t let anyone but me sleep with my daughter) and I had no proof of anything bad happening. But, no, I am not going to get a tracker for my kids. Observation can be a better bet of what may happen than relying on the false security of electronics.

    What I want for my kids? I want a dinner bell that I can ring to call them home from their various friends yards for dinner!

  21. Cheryl — On that last bit, I got a whistle. Works like a charm.

  22. I gave my boys (5 and 8) a walkie talkie. They can take it to the park, and call me if there is an emergency. I can call them when it’s time to come home for dinner.

  23. I found your blog because it was Freshly Pressed. Congrats on that BTW. This is a great place! I have raised/am raising free range kids, I just never had a name for it beyond,”Go play, have fun, and call if you change houses, so I don’t have to call every parent in the neighborhood to track you down for dinner”. I taught my kids the magic phrase, “I have to go check in with my mom” for use in situations that made them uncomfortable or if they were just sick of playing with that friend. It worked pretty well.

    My 16 YO is currently living with family friends because her dad and I are living in China (long story). They are NOT a free-range family and it has been very difficult for her to adjust to the restrictions. She’s learned a new appreciation for her (formerly unreasonable) parents now and we’ll be back home in the U.S. in one month – yay!

    You don’t need a special tracker for your kids. You just need to teach them SKILLS. Thank YOU for a blog that promotes this.

  24. I don’t think a quick note that tells mom you made it home safely is that outrageous. If anything happens, it’s a good thing for a parent to sound the alarm as soon as possible. That said, the fact that people prey on fear and market apps that literally track people is way out of line.

  25. I agree that a quick note to say you’ve made it safely is a different matter – I always used to let my mother know I’d arrived safely whenever travelling, and even now, three years after her death, I still reach for the phone on arriving somewhere on work or holiday…

    My eldest (22) has just moved to London to start her first job, and has been flat-hunting. She’d text me the address before each meeting and then afterward to let me know how it went. I have to admit it was reassuring – images of Suzy Lamplugh, I suppose … another one of those cases that hit all the news.

    But as to knowing where she or her sister was at every minute … no way ! She had her first door key at 6, as the bus often dropped her home just before I got back from fetching her sister from kindergarten….
    However – I’d love to be able to track where my cat went sometimes…

  26. The article about the app says it will give “piece (sic) of mind”. Maybe that wasn’t a mistake. A whole mind doesn’t need the false peace the app pretends to provide.

  27. kcs — Yes, Mrs. Weasely did have that clock. OTOH, she and her family members were actually at war.

  28. Lenore, I would agree with you, except that I spent all my childhood hearing my grandparents telling us what real war was like, and my parents ranting about their childhoods during postwar.
    They managed to convey what it was like not being able to feed their children properly, or giving them medicines. Not sleeping due to the cold and hunger. My parents had home-made toys, actually my mother still remembers the paper dolls she made for her younger sisters. And she recalls it fondly.
    It made my siblings and me ashamed to complain about anything, and we learned to appreciate the small things.
    Just lately, due to the crisis, we (along with many families around us) have had to resolve to cutting budgets at home. I’m thankful that I still remember my mother’s cooking, and her ability to feed 6 people with food meant just for 2. As we are raising our children in the same spirit we were raised in, I am proud to say that they are living up to the new circumstances. But wherever I look, I see other kids whining about not having second helpings of everything, having to cut on chocolate and candy, and Heaven knows what their faces will look like this Christmas when Santa has to adjust his own budget, too (I know my kids will be happy enough with some marbles, skipping ropes and maybe second-hand story books).
    Life in wartime? No, I think this merchandising is meant more like protecting a prize-winning, pampered poodle with a very delicate ego, don’t you agree?

  29. Not sure what use a sex offender app that shows their home locations anyway, unless the kids are going door to door and asking to go inside. Don’t imagine the app tells you when the dangerous offender is lurking at the playground with a bag of skittles.
    What would be useful and save lives would be a drunk driver locater app – if only I were a genius programmer.

  30. I’m going to get heat for this but here it goes. A friend of mine brought up that he was concerned that his kids could come into contact with sex offenders while they were on their own. I tried to reason through statistics that this wasn’t too likely but he said that he wanted to keep them away from anything with a questionable history. I pointed out that he sends his kids to Catholic school, the same one were there was an abuser a while back. Suddenly, he was Mr. Statistics and said that there were very few priests (true – on a percentage basis) who were offenders and that the kids were safer now. I asked why he didn’t apply this philosophy on a broader scale and it was like I was starring at a blank wall. You really can’t reason with people being irrational about their kids (and aren’t we all sometimes?).

  31. Lola, I actually sort of think that’s the point. These gizmos are marketed as though we’re living under the conditions of being at war, but that’s because people have no clue what that’s actually like.

    My parents taught and gave me many good things, but sometimes I think their greatest gift to me was having lived through the Great Depression and WWII. They actually didn’t regale me with stories, though now and then they’d mention what things were like. But their overall approach was shaped by an understanding that you can do without things when necessary, without it being the end of the world, and that you should appreciate what you have.

  32. Hi, Lenore. I’ve been lurking through your site for a while now and wanted to post something that just happened last night.

    I’ve always raised my children to be free range. I was raised by parents who taught me to think critically. They taught me the basics and cut me loose. My childhood was great.

    I’m determined to allow my kids the same independence. My kids love their freedom and are very well-rounded, respectful, self-sufficient people. They are well-equipped to deal with REALITY.

    With that in mind, let me say this: I HATE Daylight Savings Time.

    It gets dark at 5pm. My kids NEED outdoor play. All kids do, but for whatever reason the parents of the children my kids play with become paranoid freaks when it comes to The Dark. Case in point:

    I have three boys. I’m a full time pre-med student. Three boys just CANNOT be quiet inside while I’m studying for a biology exam. They just can’t. So I had to solve the “it’s too dark to play outside” issue. I went to the local Wally World and purchased a $10 worklight. It’s a completely enclosed flourescent light with a hook so it can be attached to the top of their “club house” (I use that term loosely, because we built it ourselves). It’s pretty bright, so that and the porch lights allow them some light in the front and back yards. Light = Kiddo Gathering Grounds. I’m fine with that.

    That light was a huge hit. Their little friends from down the street came over and nobody wanted to come inside for dinner. They ate their spaghetti outdoors. But, when it did come to the time where they needed to come inside and start the shower, PJ’s, teeth-brushing process, I was informed that Joshua’s mother had told him that one of my boys would have to walk him home “because it’s dark.”

    Joshua is 9 years old. “Home” is 5 houses down the road. Less than 1/16 of a mile. I laughed and told them that Joshua could walk himself home. My eldest asked “is he afraid of the dark?” I think, but don’t say: No, his mother is paranoid.

    So Joshua walked home alone. I didn’t hear any sirens or get any knocks on my door asking about a missing or squished Joshua, so I guess he made it.

    What are mothers like this thinking??? Why on earth would she make such an inane request? AND, if she’s so worried about a child walking alone…who was supposed to walk home MY child, who walked HER child home? (Confused? Me, too!)

    Sigh.

  33. ] “I don’t mind too much except when they sleep in bed with me.” Umm, alarm bells??? These were not all sober people…And yes, one of these ‘students’ was on the registry, for sex with a girl not much older these girls, when he was 21.

    Ummm…this is one of those instances when you DO call CPS. Consider being protective of that other poor girl, even if she’s not your own. Having drunk college men sleeping in your little girl’s bed with her is definitely negligence, especially when you know one of them had sex with a little girl when he was 21.

  34. On veterans day, we took our pack of cub scouts hiking at Minuteman National park here in Lexington. We had no less than 6 different rangers and interpreters telling us “Don’t let the kids sit on the wall – there are lots of ticks!” “Don’t let them run in the grass – there are ticks!” Don’t let them by the trees – there are ticks!” Literally, 6 different people warned us again, and again, and again about the horrible dangers of ticks.

    Now I get it – Lyme disease happens. I understand, you need to check for ticks when you get home. But for the love of pete, tick bites are not instantly fatal, and the tick needs to stay on for about 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, and it is in fact treatable. Unpleasant, but treatable. If we want our kids to enjoy nature, to appreciate it and want to protect it, then stop making it sound as if instant death will result from an insect bite.

    Oh, and not a single one of the kids came home with a tick, despite the fact that they were reinacting the entire battle of Lexington and Concord using sticks as muskets during the entire 3 mile hike.

  35. My college-aged nephew almost got on the sex offenders list when he was arrested for peeing in an alleyway behind a dumpster to 3AM. The cop called it “indecent exposure”. Luckily the judge reduced the charges to “public urination”.

    Since my 3 yr old son peed off a restaurant patio during a large family get together, (much to the other patrons amusement), I guess he could be considered a possible sex offender as well.

    This kind of tracking is insane. All it does is increase the paranoia of both the parent and child, and creates suspicion and distrust of all fellow human beings.

    If the child is actually abused or molested, it will not get caught by this devise, because it’s most likely be a family member, friend, or trusted adult who does the abusing.

  36. Regarding so-called “Daylight Saving Time”. It doesn’t “save” one microsecond of daylight. A more correct term would be “Activity Rescheduling Time”, since it just affects events and activities that are run according to arbitrarily designated times of day. Back when drive-in movie theaters were much more common, their trade associations would be out in force when the matter was under consideration in Congress or state legislatures. They’d have slogans like “let’s stay on God’s time!”

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