Guest Post: Danger Sells

Hi Folks — Here’s a little essay reminding us that the push to sell ever more things dovetails with the push for us to fear ever more  new things. It comes to us from Kassandra  Brown, who says she “supports women in transition and conscious parenting.” – L

Danger Sells

The biggest backlash to Free-Range Kids is safety. Lenore talks about the perception of danger induced by news and media. The media offers us an onslaught of information about how unsafe the world is, how unsafe our children are, and how much they need protection.  I won’t replicate her information here. Instead, I’ll introduce another factor in the danger debate.

Danger is big business. We are presented with devices and services to buy in order to make our children safer. If we feel like there is danger out there, we are more likely to buy things to make us feel safer in here. We are less likely to think for ourselves, take our time making decisions, or weigh the choices. We are more likely to stick with the herd. Creating a perception of danger is amazingly effective crowd control.

What can we do?  Well, what if we just admitted the world isn’t safe? That it’s mysterious? Amazing? Tragic? Beautiful?  Because it is. Life is never completely without some chance of defeat, or even death. Life is not safe. Our desire to make it so means that we create more numbing-out, less honesty — and a lot more trash.

What if we admitted we can’t control everything our children experience? Children are people too. We cannot shield them from every upset, every hurt. Their hearts may break. They may suffer. But we can offer them loving presence. We can offer them the role model of ourselves living full, vibrant lives. We can get back up and try again after we fail.  We can let them see us risking our own safety by being emotionally vulnerable and honest.

What if we admitted that we’re being manipulated by marketing, government, and propaganda? When our economy is based on continuous expansion, the government is not neutral. It wants us to buy the new product in order to grow the economy. And if it’s supposed to make us safer, then government agencies can feel like good parents protecting their children.

I invite you to be brave. Take the time to know your own heart and listen to your own deep yearnings. Turn off the TV. Look yourself in the eye and then meet the eyes of your child. Step into the realm of real human connection. It’s messy. But you’ll feel more alive than you do watching the best reality TV show. — Kassandra Brown

Made Me Think!

Hi Readers! There have been so many thoughtful comments about the post below this one — the one about the mom charged with neglect because her toddler slipped out of the house while she was napping. Here’s the one that gave me a jolt of insight. Two jolts, in fact: 

By SKL: I am just saying, and not to anyone in particular, that the mindset “kid did ______, need to buy a safety product” is becoming the kneejerk reaction, and it concerns me.

When this exact sort of thing happened decades ago, the parents’ first thought was usually, “How do I teach her better?”  It was even common practice for all preschoolers to be taught how to find their way home safely, just in case.

What I’m saying is, before, safety solutions were child development solutions.  And now, safety solutions are child restraint solutions.  Anyone else see why this is troubling?

(I’m not talking about a precociously mobile infant who is really too young to learn to choose well.  And yes, I support a mom’s right to pee in peace, even if that means having baby gates for a while.)

Lenore here again: Yes, yes! I see how we have moved from “teach” to “buy” and/or “restrain” in many parenting situations. In fact, “buy those door handle thingies” was my solution, too. Thanks for this reality check: Why DO we automatically think of new things to BUY or activities to CURTAIL every time we parents worry for our kids? — L

You Know You’re Making an Impact When…

Hi Readers! You know you’re making an impact when marketers start to try to make a buck off you, as did this one. A friend who runs a parenting magazine got this public relations pitch:

Dear _______:

There has been a lot of discussion about “free range parenting” — letting your kids wander to the park or take the subway alone to build independence. I’m wondering if you’re be interested in writing an article about how cell phone GPS locator services make it easier for parents to let go.

A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that 75% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 own a cell phone — and some 48% of parents use a cell phone to monitor their kid’s whereabouts.

On Tuesday, our company [I took out its name. I’m not giving them free publicity here!] will announce its latest cell phone Safety Plan for kids. In addition to other features, the plan offers unlimited online GPS locator services for parents. Would you be interested in speaking with a mom who relies on our company’s unlimited GPS locator services to make sure her 6th grade daughter is safe throughout the day? This parent perfectly illustrates the challenges faced by busy modern families. In an era where sending even 6th graders to the park without an adult can feel risky, GPS locator services are giving kids greater freedom and parents much-needed peace of mind.

Please let me know if you are interested in talking to our CEO and this parent. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi — Lenore here again. Grrrr! Only with kiddie GPS does a parent have ANY peace of mind? Otherwise, the mom is constantly worried that her 6th grader is in harm’s way? Otherwise, letting her 6th grader play in the park is too dangerous? And how does a GPS prevent anything “terrible” from happening, anyway, you fearmongerers out to make a buck?

I understand how Free-Rangers can embrace cell phones some times. My kids have them now and it’s helpful to connect, from time to time. But I am not tracking them throughout the day and I sure don’t think I need to that, for me to be a “good” parent or for them to be “safe.”

So no free publicity here, guys! Go stalk parents someplace else! — L.

Scariest Place of All: An Parenting Editor’s In-Box

Hi Readers! Ever wonder why we parents are so scared all the time? Maybe it has to do with the incessant din of marketers predicting DOOM unless we buy something. Something they just happen to be selling!  Take a look at this blog post by Carolyn Graham, editor of L.A. Parent, and you’ll see the kiddie safety industrial complex in all its glory. This is an excerpt from Carolyn’s blog, “I Don’t Have Time for This.


Then today, I got to work and opened my email. It’s scary, and not just because there’s so many emails that I’ll never, even in a couple of lifetimes, be able to read or respond to it. But many of them are trying to scare me and make me, a serial worrier, even more freaked out.

I’m sure that even if I didn’t work for a parenting magazine and wasn’t constantly bombarded by pitches about new products, Web sites, parenting experts and other stuff designed to “keep our kids safe,” I’d still check Jack’s breathing at night and sweat till Kate’s school bus arrived at her field trip destination.

But I decided to do a little experiment and see if my email might be contributing to my worrisome world view. Here’s a sampling of subject lines and opening sentences in some emails that I received in just one – ONE – 24-hour period:

  • Could an Electromagnetic Pulse Wipe Out Civilization? New ‘End of the World’ Scenario Gets Serious Attention
  • With Halloween being one of the most dangerous days of the year for children – children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than the rest of the year according to Safe Kids Worldwide – it’s important for parents to prepare their children to stay safe while trick-or-treating [this was a pitch from a cell phone company]
  • Teen Attitudes Toward Smoking Linked to Likelihood of Drinking and Using Drugs
  • Suffering at the Hands of a Bully
  • New book uses psychosynthesis as means for families and individuals to reach their full potential
  • According to the FBI 2008 Crime in the United States (CIUS) report an estimated 2,222,196 burglaries occurred in that year. 61.2 percent involved forcible entry, 32.3 percent were unlawful entries without force, and 6.4 percent were forcible entry attempts. Burglaries of residential properties accounted for 70.3 percent of all burglary offenses. ( [this was a pitch from a blinds/window coverings company]
  • We’ve all heard the horror stories about bad babysitters and dangerous daycare centers.  I am sure you remember the story about the dad who found a sitter on Craigslist who then abducted his son.  And who can forget about the four toddlers who wandered away from their day care facility in the blistering July heat.  It’s very hard today to know who you can trust. [this was a pitch for a babysitter-finder service]
  • Forget chocolate and cookie dough, here’s a great school fundraising idea that also aims to keep kids safe. The Amber Alert Registry School Program (a no cost program to the school) allows parents to sign up for this important safety tool while providing significant funding to participating schools.
  • WWI Chemical Found in Air Outside 15 Public Schools

Is there any wonder I’m worried a good percentage of the time?

It’s not that these issues aren’t legitimate and need to be addressed. And I’m all for hearing about great products, books and other helpful items – and if we truly need to make sure parents are aware of a very real, harmful danger out there, I want to know about it. But can we please cut down on the fear tactics as sales or public relations pitches? Either that, or I’m just going to stare at the ceiling all night wondering when that electromagnetic pulse is going to strike …