But Wait! Fox News! Do You Really Believe —

Hi Readers — First of all, thanks for all the help on the post before this one, when I asked for ideas and zingers. I printed out your responses and they really helped. Alas, as anyone who chanced upon my 3-nanosecond appearance on Fox & Friends this morning knows, the event did not go quite as well as I’d hoped.

The topic was whether or not parents should track their kids via a new GPS device, the Big Brother. Oh wait. Sorry. It’s actually called the “Little Buddy.”

While I think I managed to stammer out the fact that Free-Range Kids believes in training our children to be self-reliant rather than keeping them on a leash (electronic or otherwise), I don’t think I managed to get across my other big point: that the whole push behind a product like this — and so many other new “safety” products — is fearmongering. The underlying message is that the world is suddenly so dangerous, our kids’ very survival is threatened on a daily basis.

And oh how I would love to have had more time and presence of mind when the host, Gretchen, mentioned that extra surveillance sounded good to her because just the other day her 4-year-old opened the door and there was the UPS man!

My “debate” partner — a guy who sells another kiddie GPS device — sympathized with her terror and they both paused to dwell on the “fact” this child could have been gone in just a second. And how lucky that didn’t happen! And then it was my turn.

It is always my turn when folks talk about how quickly a child could be snatched up and disappear forever.

This image –the snatched child — is as American as apple pie. It is as common as Christmas cards. It is accepted as just the way life is, and to try to stand there (on Fox News, no less) and say, “Wait! Before we thank our lucky stars that somehow your child was NOT kidnapped from your front door, in broad daylight, in 2 seconds, while you were home, by the UPS man, let’s think how unlikely that scenario is!” sometimes feels like saying, “Wait! Can’t we all agree you’ve been BRAINWASHED by your own SENSATIONALIZED NEWS SHOWS to the point where you have a COMPLETELY WARPED, HORROR-MOVIE VIEW OF REALITY that you then COMPOUND with stories like THIS?”

In other words, it doesn’t feel like I’m delivering a message that is going to be embraced with a grateful, “Wow! Come to think of it — you’re right!”

And, in fact, embraced I was not. I was reminded by the hostess at the end of the segment that abductions happen all the time, many with unhappy endings.

And so the cycle begins a anew: Children in peril. Be afraid! After all, we are! Details, right after this commercial. — Lenore

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