Now Our Kids are Too Delicate to Handle the Glare of Notebook Paper?

Readers — I just got some “helpful” back-to-school tips from a famous sunscreen company. (Hint: Think dog and little girl and bathingsuit.) Not only does that company really want kids to wear — this’ll surprise you — sunscreen when they go out for recess, but it had some other suggestions. Well, two, actually, one of which was for kids to wear a comfortable (as opposed to uncomfortable) backpack. Never woulda thought of that! The one single other “tip”?

Students spend so much time staring at paper, it may surprise you to know that the higher the contrast, the more strain on your son or daughter’s eyes. If the school allows it, give your child yellow or green paper. These colors actually offer reduced contrast and brightness, easing the strain on their eyes.

So basically, the sunscreen company is suggesting that, ever since Guttenberg, our kids have been going blind, or at least under difficult visual duress, thanks to that darn white paper.

As for the sunscreen company: I understand that you have to gussy up your “tip list” with other ideas, so it didn’t look like all you care about is selling more sunscreen. But it sure looks like all you care about is selling more sunscreen (and coming up with ridiculous new worries, so the idea of kids slathering themselves in sunscreen for 15 minutes of recess seems less extreme.) — L

143 Responses

  1. In high school, 20 years ago, I often purchased (very) recycled paper because it was a light gray and indeed had less eye strain late at night under a bright desk lamp. Critical? Of course not. Based in reality, yes.

  2. Oh, they could have done this one much better. Did you know that the glare from the white paper can actually burn the skin? Better wear sunscreen in the classrooms!

    /Obviously I’m kidding/

  3. How about not staring at paper all day long??

  4. That’s it, I’m getting my kids a slateboard, no glare there 🙂 I purchased a box of mac n cheese yesterday. On the back is a “fun craft idea”, there is a rectangle frame that kids are supposed to cut out to make a picture frame. Directly on the frame it says “Keep kids safe! Blunt tip scissors should be used. Children should be seated and supervised when using scissors”. Really?!!!, anytime missionaries from jungle areas come to our church they show pictures of the native children as young as 3 wielding machetes. How did these third world countries children become so advanced and capable while America children are only able to use blunt point scissors, while seated, with an adult over them???

  5. As John said, this tip is actually based in reality and could save parents some money down to road in reading glass purchases. Changing to lower contrast materials actually let me stop wearing my glasses as I got older (instead of the other way around).

  6. I think SKL has the best idea yet 🙂

    In all seriousness, the tip about colored paper isn’t necessarily coming from nowhere. Dyslexic students sometimes find it easier to read from green or blue paper (or with a green/blue transparency over a white paper) because the stark black/white contrast of normal notebook paper sometimes makes the letters seem to “move” more.

  7. I gotta say, as someone who stares at computer screens all day and fears for the future of my eyesight, that’s not a bad idea. Human eyes evolved to constantly dart around checking the horizon for prey or predators, not trace back and forth on a small grid 1 foot in front of your face. IMHO, anything you can do to preserve your eyesight is a good thing!
    Love the blog and your message! Keep it up!

  8. Wow. I’ve read our kids are spending too much time inside or wearing ultra-super-liquid shirt protection and actually NEED some outside time without sunscreen to get the necessary Vitamin D–about 15 minutes, coincidentally.
    Given school starting soon enough, won’t recess be their only time outside? Unless they *gasp* WALK to school?!

  9. “Paper”? What is this “paper” you speak of?

  10. If the contrast is the problem, shouldn’t we give our kids pink and green and orange pens to write with? The teachers will want to kill us of course but we’re not buying their future glasses.

  11. How about not being in a classroom?

  12. Kids are suffering from eye strain more and more lately. However, most reputable educators and researchers contribute it to nutritional deficiency, lack of exposure to sunlight on a regular basis and . . . wait for it . . . too much screen time. While there are some exceptions, I don’t think the paper is going to be to blame for the majority of students having eye issues.

  13. My 9 year old daughter said today… in a very sarcastic (and rightly so) tone… “OH EM GEE… they let us sew with real, actual, pointy NEEDLES!”

    I enquired as to what she meant by said sarcastic remark and she went on to tell me a few other snippets… like that only THIS year they have been allowed to USE THE CLASS STAPLER… last year they were obviously incapable of doing so safely.

    My personal favourite is the banning of cart wheels… because one kid got kicked by another cart wheeling child. Don’t teach them to look out for bystanders or GET OUT OF THE DAMN WAY… oh no, just ban it… much better… and they wonder why we have a child obesity problem… because alls they are allowed to do is sit and talk nicely!!!!

    FFS!

  14. Funny–when I was a kid I longed to buy the colored notebook paper but my Mom forbid it because she had heard that THIS was bad for children’s eyes.

  15. I admitted this weekend to our twelve-year-old that I had subtly been exposing her to more and more sun before reminding her to wear sunscreen all summer, so that she wouldn’t get sunburn when she did go out in the sun. She said, “So basically it’s all a devious plot?” I said, “yes, but I was mostly concentrating on the two-year old. You were just a side effect.” She was suitably amused.

  16. I do think sunscreen for the tiny 15 minutes my son gets of recess would be overkill. A little bit of sunshine is a good thing.

    But the paper bit is not completely made up. We noticed last school year that my son really does have more stamina for reading when the conditions are not as bright. (Of course, we just stopped turning the lights up on him.)

  17. To be fair on sunscreen if it was summer in Australia, yes, kids would need it for a 15 minute recess. As it is many kids aren’t allowed outside without a hat on in summer here due to high risk of skin cancer during those months (when UV levels are 3 and above).

    A knee-jerk reaction would be to not let them outside at all, but of course you need vitamin D to be healthy. Common sense and a bit of headwear is usually enough.

    But yeah… sun glare off paper… when was the last time you saw a kid using paper outside?

  18. reduced to looking for articles about sunscreen now are we? Not every comment put by outsiders to free rangers is outlandish. 50 years ago we didn’t know about back strain like we do now and like many people here, if they’ve discovered more about eye strain, wouldn’t we want to know so we can avoid glasses in the future? Or maybe you think that’s an infringement on your rights to choose, so hey, just ignore it!

  19. This was put in the list to make it seem like they actually had something to say besides “buy more sunscreen!”

    But yes, as some have pointed out, kids with dyslexia, or those who have the symptoms of dyslexia and need vision therapy, sometimes this can help them concentrate a bit longer before their eyes tire out from concentrating so hard to do what is asked. In reality though, paper is not the cure. If they have dyslexia, they need to be getting special services in the resource room. If they have vision convergence issues, they need vision therapy. Paper color is not the cure all.

    The sunscreen crap has me annoyed. If we are going to be out in the sun for extended periods (like the tractor show the other day, or extended hiking,) I put it on us all, along with hats. But for the in and out the door 15 times a day, when outside is 1/2 hour or less before they are back in for about the same time, I don’t use it. My oldest, girl, age 11, thinks she needs it for short times too, but I refuse, saying she needs to get her vitamin D naturally. I worry about the chemicals later being found to cause cancer. We will use in extreme moderation. Times outside at school for most kids it is not needed here in the northern US.

  20. I got non-white notebook paper for myself in college – because it was recycled and non-bleached. I think it is better. And eyestrain can be a problem, but it is more likely caused by screen time than paper time!!!

  21. Well, darn it. I’m going to sue the school system for all my vision problems. I am now 100% certain that white paper was the cause.

    We aren’t a daily-use sunscreen household, either. It aggravates me to no end that the summer camp requires it for going out on the playground for 30 minutes. I swear next year I’m going to send regular old lotion in a sunscreen bottle. The only time we use it is at the beach and it’s more for ambiance than anything.

  22. This is nothing new, people and schools have been recommending not-bright-white paper for many many years, if needed. Some kids are more sensitive to it than others, why would anyone be so offended by the suggestion?
    And, “ever since Guttenberg” people haven’t been using ultra bleached-white paper in artificially lit classrooms.

  23. I’m not too stressed about the color of paper my kids use in school just now. I’m currently more frustrated that their school has the slides and swings off limits because they’re short one yard duty. I get complaints from my kids daily on that score.

    They still have the lawn and blacktop to play on, but my kids much prefer to climb.

  24. I admit white paper is really really bright outside in the sun, but that’s why I don’t look at it while in the sun! (paper being the mail)

    I probably use too little sunscreen…. I really only find myself using it once I’ve been sunburnt, helps get rid of the pain and discomfort. It also prevents more damage maybe.

  25. Yikes folks! Some of actually need sunscreen if we’re going outside for 15 minutes. I’m one of them. I’m super pale (I like to say translucent) and I burn in 15 minutes. It’s not pretty. When I was a kid, my parents would send me outside with no sunscreen and I’d come back in burned. Then I would peel. Then they’d send me back out again with no sunscreen, thinking that *this* would be the time I would tan. My dad typically burns once at the beginning of summer and then tans after that and my mom turns brown after two minutes of sun exposure. I do not take after my parents. Once I got old enough to do it myself, I slathered that sunscreen on. I’m terrified that I’m doomed to skin cancer because of all those summers spent sunburned.

  26. But, but, but…! I’m staring at a computer screen all day long! A computer screen is luminous, it gives off light! I must be going blind! Blind, I tell you!

    *runs around hysterically, waving arms*

  27. the sunscreen thing for 15 minutes – if you’re super sensitive, have at it, but collectively? The instructions usually say to apply and wait 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun. So when’s that supposed to happen during the school day?

  28. I don’t deny that the color of paper can make a difference. BUT I am not sure it’s the same for everyone. Some readers may need the contrast to be greater, some less.

    But I agree that unless “that company” has recently become a nonprofit, the motivation to include that in its marketing materials / packaging is profit. Not that there’s anything wrong with profit! But there is also nothing wrong with acknowledging a profit motive.

    Even though this particular tip might actually be helpful for some people, the fact remains that skepticism serves us well in a situation like that. Becasue there are plenty of times when “do this for your children’s happiness and wellbeing” is complete BS. And it’s scary how many people just blindly accept it.

    PS, I used to set my computer screen to light green or light orange, which were easier on my eyes and my stress level. Once I got my laser surgery, the eye strain seemed to go away.

  29. Call me crazy, but I really don’t want my kids’ teachers to be spending school time on sunscreen application. I could understand it for a child who is unusually sensitive, but not for most. In fact, if parents are insisting on sunscreen for recess, I could see why a school would be tempted to cut recess all togther.

  30. I and my three kids reflect our Celtic hertiage and we are SUPER pale and prone to burning. We live in Southern California – 15 minutes out at recess is not only long enough to burn, it is long enough to burn horribly. My first sunburn was at 6 months old, after 10 minutes in the shade of a tree. I do not develop a “protective tan,” I burn, I peel and I’m pale again…my kids are the same.

    Of course, we also know now that tans are not protective and a lot of people who tan really well from my Mom’s generation and now dealing with skin cancer, including a couple who have had malignant melanoma. I will probably end up with skin cancer too from a childhood of burning at recess. If slathering my kids with super-expensive, physical sunblock every morning spares them of malignant melanoma when they are 50…GREAT!

    We don’t use Coppertone though, since it does not work for us. I will burn even with 100 SPF after just 15 minutes in the sun. I have to have a physical sunblock… But I cough up the big bucks so that I can slather the kids and then go and let them be free range – climbing trees, turning cartwheels and even playing tag [gasp].

  31. So when’s that supposed to happen during the school day?

    Do it before you send your kid to school, and when possible dress them in protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible or at least as reasonable. (This assumes you’re worried about UV exposure. Obviously if you were just being snarky, you can ignore this and not take that advice.)

    Really, though, it’d be to everybody’s benefit to design these playgrounds and yards with ample shade. I mean, that should be just plain common sense.

  32. I have a better idea: recycled or unbleached notebook paper. It hasn’t been bleached as much, so it’s less bright white, and it’s better for the environment! 😉

    (I actually do have trouble with bright whites — I have to futz around with the settings in Windows so that I’m not looking at a bright white background in Word all day, or I get headaches. OTOH, I’m 37 and have pretty lousy eyesight, so YMMV.)

  33. Hot button topic for me. I have told Lenore before that I do put sunscreen on my kids for the 30 minutes of recess. If I did not my ginger would burn. He turns red even with sunscreen. He burns in less than 15 minutes of direct sunlight. My husband is not even a ginger and he is the same way.

    So while I don’t know about the eye strain and colored paper, I have ZERO problem with suggesting to wear sunscreen for recess since we do and many more kids than don’t probably should. Skin cancer is at a high rate right now and you get it from childhood sunburns. Many playgrounds do not have shade.

    It does not take long for some kids to burn. I would rather lather my kids up with sunscreen and let them play outside than keep them inside all day long to hide from the sun.

    So sorry, but I am not in agreement with this topic. It is easy to laugh and poo poo sunscreen when you have dark skin and don’t burn easily. Also sunscreen use has NOTHING to do with free range kids.

  34. What about the color contrast on the keyboards kids use? Should these be exchanged for white letters on gray keys, or black on brown? Kids will be using keyboards way more in their lives than writing paper.

  35. “[…] the higher the contrast, the more strain on your […] eyes.”

    In a word, nonsense.

    The greater the contrast between text and background, the easier it is to read.

  36. If you or your children need sunscreen for 15 minutes in the sun, then please put it on. But please understand that not everyone does. And many of us would like our families to get some vitamin D. Therefore, schools shouldn’t be making requirements for all children in this regard. As far as I’m concerned, it IS a free-range related issue when people tell me how to parent.

    As for the paper – some kids need it – true. But I until I see the hard (un-manipulated) data, I’m going to say there is no correlation between white paper and deteriorating vision. Most kids I know don’t spend quite that much time staring at notebook paper. People’s vision changes as they age – it can get relatively better or worse. There are MANY factors that can be associated with this, including but not limited to genetics, diet, and other environmental factors.

  37. For those who burn with even the mention of sun light you might try supplementing with vitamin d3. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/?o=1444 There are more references to this just google vitamin d prevent sun burn. Even if it doesn’t completely prevent the burn there are other health benefits to vitamin d and unless you go around practically naked without sun block you aren’t even getting your daily dosage of vitamin d with normal sun exposure.

  38. I think Lenore’s point was: here’s another company subtly encouraging the idea that we must continuously scour our kids’ environment and eliminate anything that could possibly create a risk or even a real challenge.

    My kid has vision issues, so I of all people understand how little details can creat challenges. However, my child is not allergic to challenge. I welcome it on her behalf. She needs to get practice in dealing with it and learning that she can surmount it.

    Which brings up an off-topic but, for me, related issue. My other kid, who has no such challenges. Due to an arbitrary date cut-off, the “gift of time” has been imposed on her. (Some educator is patting himself on the back right now. Pat away!) Oh goody, she won’t have an actual challenge in school until . . . well, ever! Lucky her, what a gift! And if I go along with this, in a few years her brain will have atrophied enough for people to observe, “see, in time, kids all tend toward the norm.” After all, what do moms know?

  39. I used to solve the problem of high glare paper by reading with my head in the shade and the rest of me in the sun.

    At least before 10am or after 4pm. I live in New Zealand where even in Autumn the UV is higher than the Mediterranean in High Summer. Burn time is seriously something like 8 minutes in summer. As with the poster from Australia our schools won’t let kids out without a hat in the summer terms.

    Is there really anything wrong with turning the light down anyway? that prevents glare too.

  40. Dear Lord, and now they have to stare at whiteboards instead of black chalk boards all day long…it’s the end of the world I tell ya~

  41. I would really like to see the study on this one because it sounds like total bunk. Gimme the citations!

    Our eyes are designed for edge detection and contrast assists in that. At what point, exactly, is there a reduction in eye strain? Is it down to where the contrast is similar to reading light grey font on dark grey background? Because while I don’t have any studies I can say that has always felt much tougher to do than black text on a pure white background.

    My guess is that if there is actually a problem (which I highly doubt) it is not with the contrast but with glare. Which isn’t so much a paper problem as it is a lighting problem.

  42. “I don’t deny that the color of paper can make a difference. BUT I am not sure it’s the same for everyone. Some readers may need the contrast to be greater, some less.”

    That’s what I’m thinking. Isn’t lower contrast harder to read in other ways, just because there’s less….contrast? I can see where the glare from a paper is a problem, but isn’t working harder to to make out each letter just a different kind of eyestrain?

    And as others said, are they really spending much time reading things written on notebook paper out in the sunlight? I doubt this can be very much of an issue under artificial light.

  43. I’ve never seen tinted notebook paper for 3 ring binders. It could be helpful for certain vision problems and dyslexic/dysgraphic students. The same idea as using an overlay when they are reading. Most regular students don’t need it.

  44. If a kid needs sunblock because they burn to a crisp upon opening the door, then that kid needs to learn how to take care of themselves. A teacher should not be applying sunblock to 35 children before recess… there’s much better things to do with the precious time at school, not to mention the classroom management nightmare. Children are more than capable of taking care such things, if their parents bother to teach them.

    I’m not sold on the so-called benefits of tinted paper for all students. Besides, I haven’t seen bright white notebook paper in, gosh, I can’t remember. Our school order regular paper and it’s more of an 80-something brightness (using the printer paper scale), which is not very bright at all. Certainly not as bright as the actual printer paper we use (which is usually 92). Students don’t spend hours at a time staring a paper– not like they do with TV, phone, and computer screens– they write for a while, then think or change tasks or whatever. This is not constant exposure, so I would think that any ‘risk’ would be ameliorated by the constant shifting attention while working. (What next, gentler pencils and scheduled writing breaks so no one gets a sore arm?)

    The problem with these “take no chances” lists is when parents don’t take these as often trivial suggestions, but when it becomes mandatory. And those sort of parents are the ones who can’t simply enforce such “rules” on their own child, but must take up the battle cry for ALL children and then, someone like me, who doesn’t worry so much about sunblock (long exposure, yes, playing outside while dinner cooks, no) or doesn’t want to spend extra money on colored lined paper, that I don’t have to be corralled into this. Whatever happened to the notion of people doing things differently? Are we afraid the children can’t handle differences? Must protect their fragile egos from any differences? (The short story Harrison Bergeron (sp?) comes to mind!)

    And, it’s not easy to find colored lined paper. When you do, it’s WAY more expensive. I’d rather the school spend that money on other things, especially the quantity of paper schools use.

  45. I’m sorry. We’re supposed to be getting our advice from these people? If your child is having trouble with their eyes, wouldn’t you be going to, oh, I don’t know, maybe an eye doctor? If my doctor ever said, “Well I read on a Coppertone bottle that colored paper will help…” I’d leave his office pretty quickly. Why do we need all of this advice? Can’t we figure anything out for ourselves anymore?

  46. This from the same sunscreen company that changed the picture of the little girl on the bottle from her bottom showing (dog pulling down her bathing suit) to now be wearing a full covered bottom because god forbid if people saw her cute lil’ butt, all the pedophiles in the world would go after YOUR child. Am I the only one that noticed this change?

  47. @Kathy McC– I noticed it too. Though I figured it was more of a OMG kiddie porn!!1!1 reaction.

  48. Wow, I’m shocked. I’ve been using paper for 48 years and I write books and stuff, and now I have to stop. Oh, thanks so much for that helpful advice, sunscreen company. I owe my life to you. Well, my eyesight, anyway.

  49. Who said anything about making all kids wear sunscreen against parent’s wishes exactly?! Oh wait no one said that. Some of us just stated that it is not anti free range to want your kid to wear sunscreen either. Especially since people have different burn thresholds and different skin tones. Duh.

    I apply my son’s sunscreen myself before school. When he was at camp in the sun for three hours straight I applied it in the morning and then asked the counselor to do a reapply around 11. She happily did so and I gave her a nice review and tip at the end of the week for doing as I asked. Once he is school aged I will send sunscreen with him to school depending on what time of day his recess is and he can apply it to himself. I am more worried about them not letting him carry it since schools don’t like kids to carry anything that might remotely be considered a medication or some such.

    If the school does not allow him to do it himself than the teacher better be darn sure applying it.

  50. ps all milk has vitamin D in it to help with the D deficiencies. My kids drink a crapton of milk so I am not worried about that. Plus just being outside even with sunscreen on is enough to get some D that way too. Sunscreen does not keep out all the sun. We use SPF 50 so that means he is still getting 50% of it.

  51. I understand there are places in the world where sunscreen is a year-round necessity, SoCal and Australia being but two. I’ve got that Celtic freckled skin someone else mentioned and have had blisters twice in my life from sunburn (the first time I was too young to remember; thanks Mom). My husband and I took our October honeymoon in Michigan’s Thumb because I knew if we headed somewhere tropical–even in October–I’d need a burka or it would be a distinctly unromantic memory.
    That being said, I don’t think the glare off snow-white paper is enough to merit additional application of sunscreen, and it’s a distasteful marketing ploy to say so.

  52. IMO, this is simple to understand. Does said sunscreen company own part of a colored paper company? Colored paper is WAY more expensive than regular white paper. I buy supplies for 3 kids and usually buy at least 10 packs of white paper every July/August for $.10 to $.25 apiece. Normal price for white is $.75 to $1.00 and colored paper is even more expensive.

    Sounds like a great marketing ploy to me.

  53. Lenore,
    You overlooked the effect of the ozone hole. That ozone will come right thru the classroom window and bounce around off that bright white paper and give ervwryone melanomas. Not only shouldnour school children wear sunscreen in class, but they should wear SUNGLASSES too!

  54. Not sure why sunscreen company is commenting on paper color but as the mother of two boys who are partially color-blind, white background and blue or black ink is best. The contrast between white background (think whiteboard) and red or green dry erase markers isn’t enough to see very well.

  55. Yeah, like there’s no glare on a computer screen! Hahaha… Liberalism really is a mental disorder.

  56. Why are we actually reading tips like this in a sunscreen ad, anyway? Why are we reading the ad at all?

    Though I gotta say, there are lots of badly designed backpacks for kids out there, but put the right logo on & many kids are going to want ’em. So it’s not so far-fetched that a back pack might be uncomfortable. Or too heavy, but that’s another topic altogether.

    Also…since Gutenberg, Lenore? Um, no. Most rag paper isn’t bright white even now.

  57. John is quite correct. Highly bleached paper is uncomfortable to look at for long periods, especially under the high glare of banks of fluorescent lights which are the main lighting in most any school and corporate setting.
    I much prefer slightly tinted paper for that reason, just as I much prefer slightly off-white or otherwise darker colours for computer applications and websites.

    While seeing such advise from a sunscreen company is weird, it’s certainly not incorrect.

    What is incorrect is your own assumption that ever since Gutenberg paper has been highly bleached like it often is now. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paper has gotten ever whiter over the last several decades, and high bleach paper more widespread as production has become cheaper (due to production methods and larger scale both).
    Gutenberg printed his works on paper that was yellowish, almost light ochre, what nowadays would be sold as “parchment”.

  58. Tracy, the issue isn’t necessarily so much of “what we know now versus what we knew then” as it is the belief that what we know now somehow makes that much of a difference.

    I had 20/20 vision growing up–in one eye. The other eye was worse because I got hit in the eye with a snowball. And yet I always had nice bright and shiny paper. I also grew up using a computer (this was before the days of personal computers–I used mainframe terminals at the local college when I was 6). And yet, somehow, at age 47, my eyes are still pretty good. I do have some problems reading my iPhone 3GS on occasion (hooray for zooming!).

    Yet, somehow, I survive. I don’t know how. God must be looking out for me or something, because by using white paper in school, I should have surely been blind as a bat by now.

    I don’t argue the potential benefits of paper with less contrast in reducing eye-strain. The question is, does it really make any difference in life whatsoever? Is my child going to go blind in six months because they read and write on white paper?

  59. Agree with MartinB above, if it was summer down under (and especially if you were Pakeha, though recommended for all skin colours) you would need sunscreen for 15 minutes of ‘recess’ – totally off topic, we call it play, or morning tea – and the glare thing is based on fact, but enjoyed the article anyway, always interesting Lenore, ta very much.

  60. Maybe the sunblock companies have made a bet with each other. The – scare the absolute begeebas outta em, so that they believe they need sunblock every waking hour of their lives (and sleeping, if they’re napping in the sun) – campaign was such a runaway success, they’ve decided to set themselves a challenge. They’re ratcheting up the nonsense quotient, leaving scare quotient on same setting, then sitting back and watching the sparks fly. Each company will choose a different stupid “health” issue to get folks’ undergarments in a twist about. The company which is the most successful at getting the most people the most hysterical about the random-est issue will win the One Born Every Minute award. A trophy which the industry has (secretly) been awarded its members since 1955.

    To out smart-ass the smart-asses of leave it be? That is the question.

    Oh, what the heck. To those who are relishing their “got ya!” moment regarding the Guttenberg business: Have you never come across, in the written word or otherwise, the satirical device of using hyperbole to make a point? Apparently not.

  61. It must be an American thing this aversion to sunscreen. In NZ in summer you would be burnt to a crisp if you didn’t wear sunscreen for 15 minutes. So for us (and our Aussie cousins) this makes sense.

    The paper thing is just odd. And how many kids are staring at books that long anyway? I remember way more mat time and things without books. Computers would be more a concern I would think.

  62. Dolly@ I can address _my own_ concern regarding the tip of putting sunblock on at recess. The sunblock company doesn’t say WHO is putting sunblock on kids at school, and since most parents don’t teach their young children to do so, that would leave the teacher. *I* brought it up! Just as you can bring up the need that some people need sunblock for even 15 minutes, *I* can bring up the issue of how to get it applied at school. You are not the only one with valid opinions… though you certainly portray that in your words. Either you communicate poorly in the written form or your are just so used to being holier-than-thou that you don’t even realize your own self-righteousness bleeding into your communication. FFS, you’re not the only person who can decide what a valid opinion (or child rearing technique) is.

    We’re all going to have slightly different opinions about the ‘crime’ of fear-mongering in this sunblock advertisement. Some will think it’s acceptable because of these things are based on fact– while others of us question not so much the fact, but the impact. So, using colored paper can reduce eyestrain… but is that reduction statistically significant? That’s the key– are these tips going to make a significant difference or are they “feel good” tips that have no real impact, but make parents (and schools) worried.

    And yes, there are parents how read/ hear things in ads and take them as required, feeling guilty if they can’t make sure Little Billy (or rather little Aiden) has sunscreen on for his recess, and they contact the teacher who doesn’t have time, then they contact the principal and the school board until it’s mandated that all kids have sunblock put on.

  63. When I say that I don’t put sunblock on my kids, it doesn’t mean that we don’t take precautions. My kids wear hats, and we do most of our sun time early or later, not mid day. Mid day, we wear sunblock.

    When I was a kid, I got at least one blistering sunburn per summer, usually two or three. My kids have had none. And not entirely because of sunblock. We use other methods to keep us healthy, like long sleeves and hats. I never wore a hat as a kid, my kids do all the time. For my kids, 15 minutes of sun at our latitude (and not under the ozone hole – what happened to that?) before 11 am, they are fine. What I dislike is the fear mongering that makes my daughter think that we are not doing it right, when based on how I was raised compared to them, is very different. I was raised when sun lotion was designed to GET you a tan, not the other way around.

  64. […] So basically, the sunscreen company is suggesting that, ever since Guttenberg, our kids have been going blind, or at least under difficult visual duress, thanks to that darn white paper. via freerangekids.wordpress.com […]

  65. Living in the northern US where we don’t get a lot of sun, I’d rather my kids get the vitamin D than put on sunblock. I avoid sunblock unless they’re out in the middle of the day for a long time. And there isn’t enough vitamin D in milk to make up for the lack of sunlight on the skin. http://gizmodo.com/5823058/tanning-can-cause-cancer-but-not-tanning-could-cause-a-lot-worse

  66. By the way, sunblock is full of chemicals that are best not used just for the sake of conforming. IF and WHEN you need them, THEN use them, but each parent needs to make this decision separately for each child.

    My kids’ preschool sends out various memos and asks the parents “where is her sunscreen?” My answer is “we don’t use sunscreen.” When the girls were younger, I made them wear clothes that covered their shoulders, and that was all for day-to-day purposes. I would use sunscreen in the rare case that we were out in the sun for hours upon hours (as I’d use it on myself). But they have never had a burn. Putting sun-blocking chemicals on them would be wrong.

  67. When my daughter (now 10) was an infant and toddler, I remember tons of information (articles, etc) on using sunscreen at all times, applying sunscreen before leaving to go out, and avoiding mid day sun…then info about chemicals in sunscreens to avoid, then I read an article on rickets in the US due to increased sunscreen use and breast feeding (damned if you do…)

    I agree with others that deciding to apply sunscreen based on location/length of exposure/season/time of day and your OWN child’s tendency to burn makes sense. My son is allergic to many sunscreens.

    Saying sunscreen has NOTHING to do with Free Range parenting when the head of the Free Range movement posts something about it on her blog is insane. Not to mention other posts earlier in the summer about counselors not being ALLOWED to apply sunscreen to kids at many camps, or schools with “absolutely no touching policies”. It is Free Range in that it has to do with parents assessing risks and kids being able to do things themselves and fear of other adults touching kids, among other things.

  68. “We use SPF 50 so that means he is still getting 50% of it.”

    That’s not what SPF means at all. SPF has nothing to do with the percentage of UV rays blocked. It measures the time it takes the average person to start to show signs of rednesses with the sunscreen as compared to without sunscreen.

  69. @SKL — there are many physical sunblocks available on the market that are not absorbed by the skin. We will all make our own choices based (I hope) on climate & skin type, but the medical science comes down pretty firmly on the side of sun protection…and vitamin D supplementation. Which is why northern grandmothers were such fans of cod liver oil. Thank heavens there are more palatable choices now!

    @Tuppence — of course we are all familiar with hyperbole. But if we are going to criticize an advertisement for the accuracy of its advice, hadn’t we also better be accurate in our criticism? Especially since one of the basic tenets of Freerange Parenting is to assess risk based on reality, not the kind of hyperbole the media likes to use? There’s an old saw about good for the goose, good for the gander…

  70. SPF does have something to do with the amount of UV rays you absorb, but it’s not a “SPF 50 means I’m still absorbing 50% of the rays” kind of thing.

    http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/sun-care/spf.htm

  71. “but the medical science comes down pretty firmly on the side of sun protection…and vitamin D supplementation.”

    Until they don’t. Further, medical science is generally in favor of medical intervention over natural methods of … well, anything.

    I have a real problem with the idea that we should completely cut out a naturally occurring method of getting vitamin D – the way the species actually evolved to use vitamin D – for a synthetic substitute. Particularly since it does not require burning to a crisp, or even at all, to get our vitamin D requirements met.

    I think this sunscreen fanaticism is simply a symptom of the current societal attitude that everything must be 100% good or bad. There is no sense of a happy medium or moderation anymore. Too much sun (junk food, TV, alcohol … you fill in the blank) is clearly bad so absolutely no sun whatsoever must be best. We can’t say “hey hang out in the sun without sunscreen for a little while every day to get your vitamin D requirement but don’t overdo it and burn.”

    Helicopter parenting is all part of the same course of thinking. Extreme risks are bad so no risk must be best. Safety is good so the more safe you can be the better. Not letting your 9 year old hitchhike to the beach alone is good parenting so not letting your 9 year old out of your sight ever must be even better parenting.

    Yes, there are people with skin disorders who really should have no sun exposure. My brother is one. There are probably places on the planet where the sun is so strong that there is no way to meet the daily requirement without getting burnt. Those people should be encouraged to stay out of the sun, use sunscreen religiously and take supplements. The rest can actually handle enough sun exposure to provide vitamin D and still remain skin cancer free.

  72. It is called the Nanny State for a reason. When legislation and over zealous watch dogs over take common sense, we need to be wary of more than just what colour paper our children use.
    I think the sunscreen company was just trying to be helpful, but the end result is a whole whack of paranoid, insecure over protective parents who wrap their children is so much bubble wrap, is it a wonder there are so many dysfunctional people in the world!

  73. @ FrancesfromCanada – Um no, I don’t think we need to be accurate in our criticism when we are making fun of – what is common parlance is also known as, “having a laugh at” – something we deem to be silly. And in fact, hyperbole is THE most effective way of conveying one’s mirth at a ridiculous assertion.

  74. Working in an outdoor profession for five years I adored the supervisor who made sure all of our forms were printed on beige paper. But we are talking about paper being used inside, aren’t we?

  75. Frances: Medical science measuring only whether or not sunblock statistically reduces skin cancer probably does come down on the side of sunblock. However, there are other things to consider. Like the value of being carefree, having more time to play (or work), not having man-made chemicals on one’s skin, not having smelly goop all over your skin and clothes, natural vitamin D, the benefits of natural tanning, learning to use common sense survival techniques such as wearing proper clothing and playing in the shade, saving money, saving space, saving natural resources . . . . Like I said, use it if the individual needs it under the circumstances, but let it end there.

  76. Put factor 20 on them and let them run around?

  77. Least anyone forget (or be unaware) there was recently a HUGE shift in sunblock. Previously, it was thought that blocking one type of ray–UVA, the kind that is more likely to cause sunburns, as sunburns were thought to be a sign of increased skin cancer. Now, there’s evidence that it’s other ray(s) that is more likely to cause skin cancer, you know the ray that wasn’t blocked by sun block, and so you now see “Broad Spectrum” sunblocks. Except, I’m not sure science really has the answer yet. If one reads the real research (and not in 30 second news snippets) it seems that science doesn’t entirely know what causes skin cancer– and that includes whether or not sunblock contributes to getting skin cancer.

    I also agree with the concern that out corporate-driven society shies away from all natural solution, encouraging people to shun the sun (some websites even go so far as to recommend putting sunblock on while indoors because UVA rays penetrate window glass) and instead purchase costly supplements. And then there’s the question– is the risk of skin cancer higher than the risk of dying or being injured in a car wreck? One we’re told to fear for our lives and the other we dismiss as a negligible risk (because we are, of course, in control of our car, but no the sun.)

    I don’t care if others want to rigorously rub chemicals of unverified toxicity into their children’s skin for even the shortest sun exposure, but, as always, please do not require that I do the same. I won’t push my beliefs on others via rules and laws, and respectfully request that others not do the same… except they do.

    It is, by the way, a beautiful sunny summer day in SE Michigan today. I’ll be taking my son outside to play later.

  78. Swaddle and Twaddle, they rhyme for a reason…

    Jesus H. Jehosiphat on a rocket powered pogo stick!

  79. We’re going to doom ourselves to extinction. We made it all this way by using our brains – now we’re regressing. Yep. Soon enough we’ll drown because we’re staring up at the rain wondering what this wet stuff is since we’ve been coddled into staying indoors at the slightest drop of water. Doom, I say. Extinction and doom.

  80. Not so much of an issue in my son’s school, where they use slates. Really.

  81. No comment on the sunscreen, but would like to address the paper issue. Bright white paper and florescent lighting can cause problems for a small number of people with scotopic sensitivy syndrome, aka Irlen syndrome. It is not the same as dyslexia but often dyslexic persons see marked improvement in reading and comprehension through the Irlen method. It’s fascinating stuff.

  82. In July, I went on vacation. For 9 days, I spent a lot of time in the sun between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. — in a place where UV 9 or UV 10 is common in the afternoon. I wore sunglasses, a baseball cap, shorts and t-shirts and would apply SPF 15 once a day, usually around noon; my biggest concern was getting sunscreen on my face.

    I’ve done this now for a few years, and what amazes me *every year* is how much *better* I feel when I spend lots of time in the sun. I suspect it’s because my body is producing vitamin D by the gallon. When not on vacation, I work indoors, and the UV index where I live is about 4 on the average sunny day.

    It does underline for me how totally inadequate my vitamin D3 supplements are.

  83. So nowadays kids are having to apply sunscreen before going out for recess? The only reason for this that I can see for that is that they are allowing the kids to come to school half-naked. If you’re wearing a shirt, what do you need sunscreen for?

    As a kid growing up in the 1970s, the worst thing about returning to school was having to wear a scratchy shirt and hot, stiff, pinchy shoes. It sure would have been more comfortable if we could have just gone to school barefoot and/or shirtless (especially since the school didn’t have air conditioning).

  84. I am more worried about frostbite at recess.

  85. For my kids we don’t put on sunscreen just to go to the grocery store or anything like that. That would be overkill because he is not getting burned in the 2 minute walk through the parking lot. He will actually absorb a little vitamin D that way. But if we are out playing or in the pool, etc then it will be applied. If the sky is super cloudy and we won’t be out long or the sun is going down etc than we don’t use it.

    Mostly I just use my discretion about when and when not to apply and reapply and they have only gotten a minor burn on their arms once and a minor burn on their face once. I would never let them get burned enough to peel or hurt or be bad off. Just some redness that tans later.

    It is not just about skin cancer either. It is about premature aging. My grandmother has the most beautiful skin for an 80 year old you have ever seen. Why? She never went outside without a huge sun hat on and stayed in the shade and wore sunscreen. She looks better than all the other old ladies her age. I also look younger than I am because I never tanned in tanning beds and stuff like all the other high school girls did. Skin cancer or not, sun does cause premature aging among other things.

    It is up to everyone to make their decisions about whether or not to use sunscreen and all that. I think we should just respect each other’s choices. I am not going to force you to put sunscreen on your kids and you better not criticize me for putting some on mine.
    ps my kids play outside more than ANY other kids I know. So you know, sunscreen use does not reflect fear of the outside.

  86. Just FYI Dolly, on a cloudy day, you can still get burned since up to 80% of the suns rays get through the clouds. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens.

    But you are right that we all have to make our own decisions about how we live and how we raise our children. Unfortunately, you do often come across as rather critical of other parent’s choices, making your statement about how others ‘better not criticize you…’ rather ironic.

  87. Super ironic.

  88. how really? is this why i wear glasses?!

  89. Hi Lenore,

    I read your blog regularly with great interest.

    Check this from across the pond

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8717174/Schools-milk-crates-fall-foul-of-health-and-safety-police.html

    No wonder kids these days have issues dealing with life’s challenges!

    Cheers,
    Sarada

  90. The hole in the ozone layer is affecting the Southern Hemisphere (particularly NZ) so sunscreen is a MUST for us. You all in States should be fine. But lay back on the chemicals you are pumping into the air! You are ruining it for the clean green Kiwis! 😉

  91. Sarada – very sad about the loss of their milk crates. What I find most disturbing is that they can’t play with anything not deemed a “toy” by some government agency.

    Uly – are kids allowed to have popsicles anymore? You know they could kill themselves with the sticks…/sarcasm/

  92. Hmm, the person who claims that it’s her god-given right to judge other’s parenting and tell anyone what she thinks of their parenting is now telling us that we “better not criticize” HER parenting.

  93. I judge parenting that is dangerous and neglectful or results in a child being killed or hurt or abused. We all probably should. Society will benefit from helping the worst of the worst when it comes to parenting. I don’t judge parents for little things. I might not agree, but I don’t think that makes them less free range or less awesome as long as it is not actually abusing the child. There is a big difference.

    This blog is all about judging. Just a couple weeks ago many on here were making fun of parents who use hand sanitizer and cart covers. So you know, getting on to me for judging on this blog is kinda hypocritical. This very post here is judging and pointing fingers at parents who might buy tinted paper or apply sunscreen liberally.

    I don’t agree. That is a benign thing and not worth judging someone over. As long as you don’t let your kids get seriously burned to where they are in extreme pain and even have to be hospitalized (Which happened to my mom when she was a kid and got third degree burns and now has moles all over her back-my grandparents had a major fail on that one), then I could care less whether you apply sunscreen or not.

  94. Dolly, I do think “you better not criticize me” was a bit much, especially since nobody here did criticize your choice to put sunscreen on your individual child if you have a good reason to.

    PS, your grandparents didn’t have access to sunscreen. Most likely they told your granny to cover herself with a towel or clothes, and she decided not to. Besides, maybe she would have had moles regardless. My kid and I have moles in places that never got much sun, LOL.

    My brother had sensitive skin. After one bad sunburn, he learned to wear a t-shirt.

    But no, I am not criticizing your choice. I criticize a society that decides that because sunscreen is a good choice for some, it must be the only reasonable choice for all.

  95. Can’t the kids just wear sunglasses?

  96. It was my mother who got burnt as a child and yes, according to her they did have sunscreen back then and her parents just failed to put any on her. She was at the beach with them so covering up is not something easy to do there. The funny thing is my grandmother was very good about protecting her skin because she always wore the giant sunhats and stuff but apparently not with her kids at that point. Getting sunburned badly enough to have to go to the hospital is just a parenting fail.

    I was speaking in general about someone better not make fun of me for putting sunscreen on my kids.

  97. Dolly, I would guess that I’m younger than your mom, and when I was young, sunscreen was never spoken of. Maybe doctors prescribed it for certain people, but it wasn’t like today where everyone would ask himself “should I?” before taking kids out for a long sunny day at the beach. Suntan lotion, yes, but that was mostly for cosmetic purposes in those days.

    And yes, you can cover up at the beach, and unless your mom was a little child, she should have thought of that before she got such a bad sunburn. If she was a little child, she should have been kept in the shade. That was how people handled sun risks in those days.

    Which reminds me of a pet peeve. Bonnets. How often do you see baby bonnets with actual coverage in stores nowadays? When my kids were babies, I could not find even one – I managed to come up with a couple of hats that offered some coverage, but not as much as I wanted. Retailers assume (or hope?) that everyone would rather smear chemicals on their babies than just keep their skin shaded from the sun.

  98. @ SKL – I would guess that we are fairly close in age and I remember sunscreen from my childhood. It was definitely not something that you wore to play outside every day, but it was available. I remember putting it on at the beach. Not SPF 100 as there is now but SPF 4 and 8 were available.

    But in our childhood sunburns were also not considered a big deal. The first sunburn was an annual rite of summer. The only reason we used sunscreen at the beach was because a bad burn on the first day ruined the rest of the vacation. It would not have been surprising or bad parenting for the time to not use sunscreen and to encourage a child to get burnt (build up a tan). In fact, many coated themselves in baby oil and sat on foil so to attract the sun.

  99. I am with you on the needing more sun bonnets that are actually shady. My friend found one for her baby girl and its big and cute. She probably had to special order it. I would wear a big sun bonnet myself if I found one!

    We wear the SPF swimsuit bottoms and shirts and that limits the actual amount of sunscreen I have to put on mine. We just do bottom of arms, bottom of legs, back of neck and face. The swimsuit covers the rest. I love the SPF swimsuits!

  100. Donna, you are right about sunburns being expected and no big deal after a certain age. (Mild ones, I mean. Not the kind that put one in the hospital.) With babies and wee tots, everyone kept their skin covered / shaded most of the time. Which would still work now, if we handn’t apparently forgotten that little trick over time.

  101. And also, when we were kids and came home with a sunburn after running around outside all day, our moms would say “oh well, you should have gone into the shade more often. Next time use your brains.”

    But now it’s a “parenting fail” if a kid gets a sunburn.

  102. Dolly, you judged a woman for having children even though she committed the ultimate crime of not having a car, which is not dangerous nor neglectful. It’s a little late for you to jump on the “I don’t judge and you’d better not judge me” train.

  103. I read an article in that paper a few weeks ago that recommended which SPF you should apply in different situations. It recommended an SPF of 30 for “everyday use”. Their description of “everyday”? Working indoors and walking across a parking lot twice a day.

    I park in a parking garage and walk through a tunnel to get to my department, which has no windows. I recently started parking on the top floor of the parking garage so I could at least get a little sunlight through the glass of the elevator on my way down. So, what, should I be wearing SPF 15? Oy.

  104. Also, as an afterthought, I got a blistering sunburn as a kid that nearly required hospitalization, when I was around 9 or 10. My mom was a wonderful mother, and it was in no way a “parenting fail”. I was old enough to understand the concept of consequences, and I knew what sunblock was for, where we kept it, and how to apply it. I doubt my mother even considered for a second that she had somehow failed me. It was on me for not taking the time to use it. And guess what? I never did it again, and find myself a skin-cancer-and-mole-free adult.

  105. We’d probably all be better off if we practiced the keep covered and stay in the shade ways of preventing sunburn more often. The thing about sunscreens is that they are prone to user error. The last really bad sunburn I had was while wearing sunscreen. I must have gotten distracted and missed an ankle and foot while I was putting it on. Thinking I was protected, I sat in the sun all day – something I never would have done had I not thought I was fully protected by sunscreen. My foot and ankle were beet red and swollen. I was miserable.

    That’s the thing about sunscreens, safety devices and even technology. They allow us to become lazy. But as humans, we will all one day miss a leg while putting on sunscreen, fail to completely latch a baby gate or need a phone number when our cell phone is not with us.

  106. Dolly– the problem is that you judge based on your criteria of what is “child abuse” or “dangerous.” This blog and philosophy are trying to question and challenge what is really, actually dangerous. You stated out right that you would judge me if my child got out of my house and managed to get a 1/4 mile a way, through the thick underbrush and drowned in the lake… you decided that any house ‘near’ water or other hazards is dangerous and therefore parents are worth only your contempt– unless they apply your perfect solutions of A/C and a prison environment.

    You are the type of self-righteous, judgmental person that destroys communities instead of building them. You have decreed yourself the sole arbiter of what is “safe” and what is not. Car, safe. Unalarmed doors, unsafe. YOU and others like you are are the reason we have to have a free-range movement!

  107. There ya’ll go inserting extra meaning or getting what I say wrong. I said its a parenting fail if you let your kid get a sunburn so bad that it causes extreme pain or hospitalization like my mom’s did when she was a child. Way to ignore what I wrote.

    Also I said I do judge parents who neglect or abuse their kids in such a way that extreme harm or death is the end result. Letting your kid get hit by a car because they have to cross a dangerous street everyday because you don’t have a car, falls into that category.

  108. Really so called author? So you are the judge of who is allowed to be free range? Funny because Lenore herself has emailed me multiple times saying she agreed with something I had to say. She probably has disagreed with me a time or two as well, but to say what you just said about me is just wrong or she never would have taken the time to personally email me and agree with me. Has she ever personally emailed you to agree with you?

    I know a lot of moms and most of them do not take their kids outside everyday like I do. Some never go outside. That is one thing I love about free range movement the best is having kids outside to play. I see how suburban parents have become like opposed to outside and it just makes me sad and upset. I fight for our kids to be able to play outside! So does Lenore!

  109. ps so called author: The whole destroying community thing you accused me of is also total bs. I am always outside to greet my neighbors and everyone knows us. The other parents who never take their kids outside don’t know their neighbors. So now who is more about community? The parent who never goes outside with the kids or lets the kids outside but doesn’t have baby gates? Or the parent and kids that are always outside greeting neighbors and waving at passing cars that has baby gates installed inside? hmmmm????

    I also get a bunch of moms together regularly to play at our house so they can get out of the house and have some adult conversation. But no, according to you I am just not community based at all. LOL! I totally let 10 kids trash my house so that I can do something nice for my mom friends and their kids.

  110. I am surprised and disappointed that Lenore has agreed with you on anything, Dolly. You have done nothing but completely tear down the community of posters on this blog.

  111. Oh, no, buffy. If anything, she’s united us all. Without her to argue with, half the time we were busy arguing with each other! This may actually be better.

  112. @Dolly: Yes, I have gotten several personal replies from Lenore, praising and agreeing with things I’ve posted. We ALL have gold stars! What is this, f*cking middle school?

    Being outside means nothing if you pass judgment on the people you meet, or those you do not meet. Community is more than just knowing your neighbors, in real life or online. It’s about kindness, respect, and, when tragedy strikes, not judging them by your arbitrary standards of what is acceptable child rearing/ child proofing, but rather empathizing for the loss.

    Dolly, I don’t know what you do in real life, but I see the way you act here. Your words here are NOT community building. I don’t know what you get out of your time on here– the only thing I can guess is that it’s some smug superiority because you’re SOOOOO much better than the other free-range parents. You know EXACTLY what’s “okay” and what’s not. So you gloat and judge and offer “perfect” solutions and anecdotal evidence. I would be worried about any mom’s group at your house… the judgment is sure to follow!

  113. And what do you get out of here socalledauthor? Oh yeah, the same thing the sanctimommies get when they look down on free rangers. You are attacking other mothers and attacking anyone that thinks differently than you. Middle school is right. You are acting like a mean girl from middle school and all your little clique jumps in too to jump on someone who dares to disagree with the clique.

    I have more respect for Larry than I do you that is for sure. He gets jumped on a lot too but at least he is able to admit when he does agree with me. Many of you completely ignore what I say when you agree with me but then the minute you don’t you jump all over me. Totally middle school.

    I have been talking to my mom friends who are probably more conservative about free range and getting them into it a bit. The movement needs people like me who are able to still get along with the more conservative parents without making fun of them for buying hand sanitizer like so many of you seem unable to do.

  114. Please find an instance, Dolly, where I made fun of anyone. Read through my posts and find an instance, please.

    I’d be surprised if you can, though it’s possible. I am very careful with my words, careful to NOT criticize. I may not agree, I may not understand, but I don’t hold that against other people. I question and challenge, but I do not criticize. I realized a long time ago that I do not know or understand everything and that using my own filter to judge people was erroneous, at best.

    What do I get out of here– when, aside from you, I get to read and share opinions with others who are trying to figure out how to raise our kids free range. We mourn tragedy and share our stories and ideas together, generally without bashing those who don’t necessarily agree with us. There are some posters I like more than others, and in general, I like that most posters here are respectful in their disagreement, usually using facts and supported arguments rather than high emotion and anecdote.

    If you think you need to share the ‘free range’ movement with more conservative mothers, you can do so without being a jerk to those of us more liberal parents on line. I’d prefer it, but cannot control your actions.

    I have not found anything that we agree on, Dolly. More importantly, I find your tone and attitude repugnant.

    But, I’m done troll baiting. It was amusing while it lasted, and a way to burn of frustrations after losing my job.

  115. Dolly, Lenore is PRO kids playing, especially outdoors – something I know you value very much for your kids. That is just one small part of Free Range Parenting. I know your children are 4, but how often do they play outside without you, even if only in your yard? Maybe a lot, I don’t know. Maybe there is a real risk that makes it impossible.

    There are many people who are admittedly and proudly NOT free range who come to comment on parents being negligent, about how accidents could and should be prevented at all costs; but, you, as a self proclaimed Free Range parent, often seem to agree with “them”…

    Although you will often “agree” that a mom/caregiver should not be criminally charged in response to the “Outrage of the Week”, you will comment on how the risk SHOULD have been anticipated and how the accident SHOULD have been avoided (at times suggesting that parents with fewer resources should not have children or should give them up for adoption) — Posts on toddler escaping while mom napped, toddler drowning, 4 year old being hit by a drunk driver, and “parenting fail” resulting in sunburn to name a few.

    There are many self proclaimed Free range parents who will adamantly defend their use or a safety product or two that Lenore has poked fun at- leashes, shopping cart liners, juice box holders, sunscreen (for me, it would be that I carry a mini first aid kit on my person). You have commented not once or twice, but many times, through many posts, about things that seem “anti free range” (sunscreen use, leashes, and baby proofing aside). Your children are 4, but you still have “child gates” (aka baby gates) at the top of the stairs and blocking outside doors in your home, your kids use sippy cups, they wear water wings and water rings when swimming with you. You think church volunteers should be trained for on-site volunteer babysitting. Babies should not be left in strollers outside shops/cafes…

    When it comes to your kids you should parent as you see fit (feel good about it and not care if others judge); however, other than your shared belief that kids need plenty of time outdoors, I don’t often see where you agree with Free Range philosophy (maybe you do, maybe I missed it, or maybe you just don’t comment on it much here).

    I didn’t go looking for things to pick on. I have a good memory (especially for things you have said since you called me “snarky and obtuse”…as well as calling others “an ass” and “an ass and a half”… while stating that people should apologize to you). I see how often you are arguing with many different posters here and think about a comment Donna (I think) made about not going to a bungie jump enthusiast blog and commenting that bungie jumping is dangerous.

  116. Isn’t free range kids about letting kids play alone when they are older? Well I support that. I don’t think that 4 year olds are ready to be roaming the neighborhood on their own but I definitely leave mine outside for a bit while I run inside to get a popsicle for them or whatever. They can be outside for a bit alone. We don’t have a fenced in yard so I am not comfortable just sending them out yet. If we had a fenced in yard I totally would send them out.

    I do believe in free range philosophy because when mine are 8 or whenever they can handle it they will be walking to school alone and roaming the neighborhood to play and walking to the nearby store etc. Even though I don’t see many other kids doing so in our neighborhood minus about 3 families and even they don’t let their kids walk to school. That is one thing Lenore is really about is walking to school if it is possible and mine will be. At first with me and then once they got it and can handle it alone, without me if they want. I have said this before on here.

    I will be the minority for sure though. The car pick up line at that school is about a mile long.

  117. @ Dolly, that’s true, walking to school (and playing alone) are important to Lenore as well.

    As for free range being about “older children”, I guess I would say that children ideally become MORE free range as they grow as they are given experiences that increasingly build confidence and competence, but free range parenting starts (or can start) when kids are babies. Not that toddlers should be out on their own. But, the idea that parents can’t and shouldn’t try to eliminate all risks. It is important to not overestimate risks or underestimate kids abilities even when they are little and for parents to let go little by little. Having kids learn that they can “handel” situations themselves and don’t need you to handel everything for them.

    Sounds like you plan to prepare your kids to get to school on their own (with each other) and that’s great. I know “8” seems a long way off, but it will be here fast. There’s a long way between trusting your kids to be aware of staircases at 4 and getting to school at age 8. I blinked and mine are 10 and 7. Even though I am “more free range” than many of their peers’ parents here in nyc, I constantly worry that I am not doing enough to facilitate their becoming confident, competent, independent members of society…

  118. The average age kids seem to play outside without adults in my neighborhood seems to be about 4.5. They have maybe their own yard and the two adjoining yards at that age, and by 6 maybe 8 yards, and by 8 the whole neighborhood. So I don’t think 4.5 is too young for kids to play outside without adults, because my older one was at that age with her friends, and all the other neighbor kids seem to as well.

  119. Dolly, believing that your children can walk to school at 8 and believing in the free range philosophy are two different things. it is true that walking to school is something that free range parenting supports, but that is just an expression of the overall mindset of free range parenting. In general, free range supports the ideas that predators are not on every corner, the world is actually pretty safe, most people are good and can be trusted around children, that competent adults come from beginning to teach kids at a very young age to handle things on their own, that accidents happen and parents should not be judged for being human and less than perfect. (I’m sure I missed some things but those are the big points)

    While you do seem to agree that the world is safe enough for kids to walk to school, the remainder are the complete antithesis of everything that you present on this board. I won’t go into detail since I believe that Taradlion covered it very well, but it’s clear that you do not agree with most of what is said on this blog AND believe that you are a better parent than all of us.

    You need to raise your children as you see fit. At the same time, I’ve often wondered why you read and participate in this blog. While we all have differing levels of free rangeness and sometimes disagree with Lenore and each other, you disagree with the vast majority of what Lenore writes. You clearly believe that you are the perfect parent so you are not looking for tips on how to be more free range. All that I can surmise is that you are here because you enjoy antagonizing other people.

  120. I agree very much with most of the stuff here. I am all for getting sex offender registry laws changed so that only violent and the actual real dangerous offenders are on there. Not just guys who slept with their little bit younger girlfriend when she let him.

    I agree that the parents don’t often need to be charged when a horrible accident happens to their child. I may not say the parent is 100% blameless, but there is a difference between being not the most on top of it parent and being a criminal or completely negligent parent.

    You may not feel that I fit in here or follow the free range philosophy, but I do. Thus why I come here. I don’t have to have your permission to post here.

    Notice on the post about the popsicle test, what I posted was very pro free range. I talked about how I walked actually pretty far alone when I was younger to the store and how I will let my kids do the same when they are ready. Nobody notices when I post stuff like that though. They only jump on me when I post something they find disagreeable.

  121. @socalledauthor, you lost your job? Channeling my inner Dolly, I’d say it’s time to give your kids up for adoption since you obviously won’t be able to support them. People without jobs shouldn’t have kids.

    And in case anyone is wondering….the above is SARCASM!! Actually, I’m sorry that this has happened to you and sending good thoughts your way.

  122. @buffy: thanks for the good thoughts. Luckily, we live frugally, so we can scrape by on the Husband’s income for a little while.

    I’ll add low-income to the list of crimes that make me an unfit mother. ;-P

  123. Sorry you lost your job socalled. Praying you get a new one soon if that is what you want.

    Also the sarcasm is duly noted but let me counter that with one of my best mom friends and her hubby have been out of work for over 2 years and lost their house. She is still an awesome mom and they are making the best with what they have. I help them out whenever I can.

  124. Dolly, your last paragraph is the whole problem! Somebody posts something, and you can’t just let it be, you make it all about you. Socalledauthor lost her job, and your reply largely centers around how you know people who have been out of work longer and how knowing them gives you a chance to be just so awesome and wonderful.

  125. In fairness to Dolly, I think she was trying to counter the implied charge in buffy’s post that she would just think her friend should give up her kids — she’s actually doing what she can to help out. (And she used the word awesome in relation to her friend, not herself.)

    But this might get to the heart of it — Dolly’s actually better in the real world at dealing with people than when she’s armchair quarterbacking from the Internet. Take a real person with kids and financial difficulties, and her response is gong to be a lot more constructive than some know-it-all advice about how her situation could have been avoided. But aren’t we all like that? Or many of us, anyway?

  126. @pentamom. Perhaps. Personally, I think one of the big issues is how we say things on the internet. I don’t care if people agree or disagree with me– but it’s HOW people say things, or in particular write things online, that can color a whole argument.

    Maybe Dolly is really a kind, gentle person who is trying to better her community, but when she comes online, her word and phrase choices are often abrasive, at best, and often (though not always) condescending and judgmental… that’s what I have a problem with. I can’t stand when anyone comes here and say things like “Well, that’s a horrible way to do it and I will judge or criticize you for not doing it the way I decree it ought to be done” (to paraphrase some of the antagonist folks that come and go from this site.)

    It’s like when my students would say “I’m just being REAL.” And I’d tell them, “No, you’re being a jerk. You can say what you feel without being a jerk about it.”

  127. socalled, I didn’t mean that being obnoxious on the Internet but nice in real life was okay. I just meant that when you form a judgment about a person, it’s probably worth remembering that what comes out on the Internet is frequently worse than what the person actually thinks, because the luxury of the armchair is actually false and distorts the person’s thinking. “We’re all like that” wasn’t meant as an excuse but just as a reminder that we need to be humble about judging people by their typed words because it’s a common pitfall. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t judge the words themselves!

    And you know, I’m not one to frequently stick up for Dolly — I’m just trying to bring some perspective to what was said, what wasn’t said, etc.

  128. Dolly may indeed be the most kind, caring person in the world, but I don’t deal with her in the real world. My only interaction with her is here and that is highly unlikely to ever change. I’m not going to spend a lot of time making excuses for her and assuming that she is nicer in real life. She has consistently chosen to put forth a certain persona on this blog. That is all I have to go by. If she would like us to believe that she’s a decent person, she needs to figure out how to convey that in writing here since we’re not all going to go to her house to visit. If she wants to continue to communicate as she has in the past, I’ll continue to think she’s self-absorbed, judgmental and condescending in real life because I have no basis to know anything else.

  129. @Pentamom: Dolly is free to retract any misunderstood words. Instead, she backs them up with examples of how wonderful of a person she thinks she is. In doing so, she comes off not as a wonderful person, but as a judgmental and self-righteous one. Given that she’s been told that she’s coming off this way, she COULD attempt to be more careful about her words, but it appears she’s much more interest in further proving that she’s RIGHT in all she says and does. Which strongly suggest that it’s not merely a case of misunderstanding of the written form, but rather a willful desire to express herself this way. That’s her choice, but there will certainly be consequences for her actions…

    This is 2011, people need to learn how to evaluate their written word if they’re going to be writing on the internet. There’s no excuse, imnho.

  130. Dolly, I’ve refrained from getting involved in this business till this time, but now I’ll say my peace.

    Sometimes I do agree with things you write. Just now for instance, I agreed with you in regard to your remark that there is a clique-y atmosphere here. I think it can be intimidating to first time/infrequent posters because there are several people who regularly challenge what those outside the “clique” write. To my mind, they often challenge comments that were innocuous, or if they took a minute to consider, not meant to offend anyone. Apparently, this behavior is not unusual in Internet forums. Seems it is a kind of phenomenon:
    http://www.theadminzone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26193

    I know it does indeed feel like being bullied because I have been on the receiving end of it as a new-ish poster and that’s exactly what it felt like. But perhaps some people really enjoy a good fight for the fight itself, anyway they can get it (and with precious little to go on), and the Internet is a good place to seek out potential sparring partners.

    Because of my own experience (o woe is me! sniff.) If I notice this (that is, think I notice, because of course none of this is overt) and happen to agree with some aspect of what the poster that is being “piled on” is saying, I may indeed comment something to say as much, although, to be honest, my natural inclination would be to let people settle their differences themselves. And although I once lost my temper with you in one of my comments about something you had written, as more and more people were speaking out against you recently, I keep my own council (even though I disagreed with you too) because it seemed like too much of a gang-up on you for my taste. I can’t stand the “us” statements that some people here make. The “us/we” stuff implies the “gang” is against you, and that is imitation, pure and simple. (And is esp. annoying since, really, with the Internet, it’s obvious this “us/we” sitting at the computer is ALONE typing that in.)

    If I remember correctly, I believe I wrote that I agreed with you, or could see your point, several times. At first. But then I got to know you better. Or at least the “you” you present here. You made some comments that were so abhorrent to me that it obliterated any tendency to want to take your part. In fact, one could say, or at least, I could say, you yourself moved into “bully” territory. Little empathy was shown in your remarks. (And that, only naturally, made me more reluctant to show any to you). You made nasty remarks about poor people. That was bad. But things got worse, much worse. You went on to assert that a woman should have her children removed from her and put into care because of her lack of money.

    You write that Larry and Lenore will let you know when you make a point that they agree with, and are confused that not more people do so because there must be something, somewhere in your remarks that someone, sometime can agree with. The answer is there is a point of no return for me. Do you not know this point yourself? Haven’t you had people in your life that did something (unrepentantly, I should qualify) that is so abhorrent to you, that pretty much anything they do or say afterwards can’t make up for it?

    What you wrote hurt ME. I empathize completely and fully with the woman whose child was killed by a car and then was charged herself with murder. Her pain is my pain. Her outrage is my outrage. When you say something nasty and demeaning about her parenting, you are saying that about my parenting. When you question whether or not a child of hers wouldn’t be better off in care, you are questioning whether or not a child of mine wouldn’t be.
    Those things you wrote about that mother, you might as well have written directly to me. For there but for the grace of God go I.

    Now do you understand how angry I am about what you wrote? Now do you understand why no matter what you write hence, I cannot be inclined to take your part?

    I’m not sure whether or not you are also a person that more or less just enjoys a good fight, regardless of the issue. If so, then you need a thick skin. If not, then my (unsolicited, granted) advice is – think about when and where playing “devil’s advocate” is appropriate. And lastly, if you weren’t playing devil’s advocate at all, then the wrath that’s come your way can only be expected. And if you feel it keenly, thank goodness for that. Because that was an example of a “humanity fail”.

    And to everyone: Wouldn’t we all do well to take Mom’s advice and “just ignore” those who annoy us?

  131. Wouldn’t we all do well to take Mom’s advice and “just ignore” those who annoy us?

    Tried that in school. Didn’t work. They just try harder until you react. That’s just what parents say when what they mean is “I don’t think I want to get involved here and I have no way to fix the situation, and I can’t or won’t remove you from it”.

  132. “The “us/we” stuff implies the “gang” is against you, and that is imitation, pure and simple. ”

    Sadly, Dolly has managed to independently insult, anger, disgust and annoy MANY of the regular commentors on this blog. And those regular commentors all seem to have extremely similar complaints and do frequently say the same thing. You can’t say something that actually pisses off 10 different people and then claim that those people are all ganging up on you for expressing that anger. If I were seeing alot of people jump in to defend one person who has an issue with Dolly, I would define a clique. However, a bunch of people all saying independently at different times and in different threads that Dolly has again managed to irk them in pretty much the same way does not become a clique. It indicates to me that Dolly has a problem communicating with a number of people here, not that she’s being picked on. Occasionally, someone here does use “us/we” to emphasize that fact that NUMEROUS people over MANY different threads are individually expressing the exact same issues with Dolly, thus, this is not a personal battle.

  133. Donna — agreed. I’m not necessarily saying that my thoughts should change how we react to her here, since what we see here is as real in a different way. Just that it’s something to bear in mind, for what it’s worth.

  134. The remarks I made regarding the feeling that there is clique here do not necessarily pertain only to Dolly. I have felt that way and therefore surmise that others may feel (or have felt) that way. Interestingly enough (see the link I posted above) this behavior has been frequently noted.

    I really can’t see a reason for ever writing “we/us” at any point. Firstly, as I pointed out earlier, unless you are sitting with another person at the same computer, posting together, with the same viewpoint, it’s just not true. Secondly, no one can speak for everyone. I consider myself one of the “us” here and I would prefer that others not speak for me when expressing their viewpoint. And lastly, as I also pointed out earlier, using the first person plural rather than the first person singular to argue a case will make one sound more powerful and more authoritarian than one actually is (since in reality one can only speak for oneself, not the many) and the person on the receiving end of this, accordingly, feels less powerful and less authoritarian. It’s not really good form.

  135. We use recycled and non-bleaches paper as a general rule in our house because it is less expensive and we also used colored paper because we have two children with vision and/or learning issues that are helped by colored paper or transparencies, but I think that a corporation putting out ANY parenting tips at all is just marketing and should be treated as such. I take my parenting advice from friends/family and on instinct.
    As far as sunscreen goes, I can see multiple issues with requesting the school to put it on children before recess. For one, it just takes one overly anxious mom (mainly of a girl) with an opposite sex teacher to raise a fuss over a supposed innappropriate action or some other issue. Two, recess and/or classtime would be taken up by application of the suncreen. I know in our school district the recess is between two and five hours after the school day begins, making application before school pointless. I do apply sunblock to the kids if we are going to be outside for a long period of time or in an area where there is little shade but don’t for school and have never thought of it. I am too busy stressing over back-to-school in general without the issue of sunblock coming up.

  136. Peter, you’re right. But as a mom with a kid who’s worn an eye patch for years and had 20/100 vision, we all make the call with the situation we’re dealing with. Lucky you having no effects of eye strain. I don’t even know what white paper REALLY does, I do know that I don’t disregard everything I read and attribute it to people trying to always shake us up tho.

  137. actually I’m pleased to hear people taking on the bullies. This is a public forum and everyone should feel free to express without the wrath of less discerning folks who don’t care how their comments affect others. Keep it respectful and then thinking takes place. Get in peoples’ faces and anger is stirred up and no-one hears your point just the crappy attitude behind it.

  138. Tuppence: I just wanted to say I am sorry that what I said hurt you. That was of course not my intention. Thank you for speaking kindly and airing your feelings in a respectful and intelligent way. I appreciate it. I also agree with you that if people spoke to me that way when they disagree I would respond better and also there is always that ignore option as well.

  139. I work with kids who need reading support. Over time I have found that if I copy text onto green or light grey paper, there will be certain kids who immediately comment on a perceptible reduction in what they call “the letters and sentences jumping around.” When I try green or grey paper I simply hand it to them without commenting on the change in paper color. If their reading pace/fluency improves (when reading the same or a similar difficulty text with which they struggled on white paper) then I know they are white-paper sensitive. Some of my students will start asking that everything be copied onto the colored paper, and they become far more compliant and enthusiastic about reading practice. It is a small thing I can do to bolster a child’s confidence. Even if there is a placebo effect, so what? Whatever works.
    Also I have terrible eyesight (severely myopic and astigmatic) and I don’t like bright white paper under bright overhead light either. I don’t see why this is worth snarking about. People are different.

  140. I use yellow paper as often as I can for my own classes and work. I’ve even got amber tinted glasses for computer work (my eye doctor was ever so impressed with me on that one, and confirmed that they were a good idea).

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea, especially if you can be comfortable while learning, and arming a kid with something new and cool like colored notepads may even make them more excited about taking notes.

  141. Regarding paper: This is silly. True maybe, I know that reading outside in the sun causes some great glare that strains my eyes, JUST as reading in the dark does (well, not the glare, the strain). But did anyone think that the ‘glare’, if in school, off the paper has more to do with florescent lighting???

    Regarding sunscreen: Do you know, ‘we/they’ have not even firmly established that smoking CAUSES cancer…’we/they’ don’t know what CAUSES cancer at all.

    CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION.

    If the sun CAUSES cancer, shouldn’t ALL of our grandparents have had skin cancer? Shouldn’t EVERYONE who gets a sunburn get cancer? Shouldn’t ALL smokers get cancer?

    I’m not advocating sunburns or throwing sunscreen to the curb. However, I think it’s just another product that makes a ton of money and feeds on people’s fears.

    And to the parents who want the teachers to apply the sunscreen before recess…ummm I think that would end in terrible lawsuits about adults touching children.

  142. Nowadays YouTube video clips quality is more superior and superior, therefore that’s the cause that I am watching this video at at this time.

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