Should You Track Your Kids via GPS?

Hi Readers — Tomorrow I’m on Fox & Friends at 8:20 a.m. Eastern Time talking about the Little Buddy Child Tracker — a device that allows parents to track their kids’ every move. What upsets me is the rationale behind the product: That children are in danger every second they step out the door, and that any GOOD parent keeps them under constant surveillance — either in person, or, now, by GPS.

Not only does this reinforce the notion that we are living among depraved monsters, it also reinforces the notion that if, God forbid, anything bad DOES happen to a child, it’s the parents’ fault. They should have been there. They should have expected the very worst. Every parent should treat every day as potentially their children’s last.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood!

It’s not that I don’t believe in preparing children for the world. I totally do. I believe in preparing them for the dangers they are LIKELY to face: Traffic. Bad weather. A confusing change in plans. I teach them to look both ways, to stand up for themselves if they feel threatened, to ask for help if they need it. I’ve talked to them so much about sex and drugs and HIV, I can’t say the word “condiment” without them rolling their eyes.

Preparation is good. Paranoia is not. We all know that stranger danger is ridiculously  exaggerated by the media and that children face far greater threats from people they know. Little Buddy (which sounds like Big Brother’s Gilligan-like sidekick) preys upon fears that all strangers are out to get our kids. Parents pass that fear along to their children when they give them this device along with the unspoken lesson: You are not safe unless we are there with you.

No one is saying there is no danger in the world, only that our fears are out of proportion, and misdirected at that. The Little Buddy is not a buddy. It’s a fear monger. But since it just may give some parents the peace of mind that lets them allow their kids to walk home, maybe there is some Free-Range value in it. Right? Maybe?

I really don’t know. So, before I head off to Fox,   I’d love to hear your thoughts on this device. Many thanks!  — Your buddy (but not your Little Buddy), Lenore

Why I Rolled My Eyes On FoxNews Today

Now I know how Al Gore felt.

 Well, at least about playing to TV.

Remember how he was caught rolling his eyes during one of the Presidential debates, and that sealed his fate – for some folks, anyway – as a hopelessly smug know-it-all?

I rolled my eyes on TV today, too. Wish I hadn’t, because I don’t mean to be a know-it-all. But I’ve done my research and I do know some.

The show was “Fox & Friends,” where I’d gone to debate the idea of Free-Range Kids with a nice lady who believes that children are being snatched off the streets right and left. And to prove it she cited a statistic, “Every 2.5 minutes someone is a victim of a sexual crime.”

Didn’t say what age person. Didn’t say whether we were talking about Manhattan, or America or the big, round earth we live on. Didn’t mention whether she was talking about assaults by strangers, though that was the implication. Otherwise why use that statistic to explain why you keep your kids off the street? (But in fact, about 90% of the sex crimes against kids are committed by people they know.)

So I rolled my eyes and then tried to get in a statistic of my own. The one I had folks guessing about on this very blog yesterday when I asked the question: If you, for some strange reason, WANTED your child to be KIDNAPPED AND HELD OVERNIGHT BY A STRANGER, HOW LONG WOULD YOU HAVE TO LEAVE HIM OR HER OUTSIDE, ALONE AND UNSUPERVISED HERE IN AMERICA, FOR THIS TO BE STATISTICALLY LIKELY TO HAPPEN?

The answer, crunched for me by Warwick Cairns, author of How to Live Dangerously is this: 750,000 years.

Probably more than you guessed. More than I guessed, too. And probably quite a few more than my debate partner would have reckoned.

 She sees the world as filled with creeps. I see it as filled with humans, most of them decent, a small percentage of them not. It’s a percentage I have warned my children to beware of, and taught them to kick, scream and run away from in the unlikely event they ever come face to face, but not to obsess about.

Because of our visions, my debate partner and I are raising our children differently. She will not let her children out of her sight. I will. She would not trust a 13-year-old babysitter. I would. She thinks I’m cavalier about child molesters. I think she’s cavalier about the implications of never letting children try anything on their own, and teaching them to feel helpless and scared.

I rolled my eyes but I do feel that we both want the very same thing: The best for our kids.

Bush and Gore both wanted the best for their country, too. They just had different visions. And one of them rolled his eyes.

 — Lenore