Of Porn, Principals and Yearbooks

Hi Readers! Allow me to direct you to my piece on ParentDish today (gotta spread the word beyond these pixels!): “Yearbook Blacks Out Kids’ Eyes for Fear of Porn Potential.”

And that’s really what it’s about: A principal in England ordered the students’ photos disfigured in the yearbook so that no one could cut and paste their innocent little heads onto child porn and post them on the Internet.

Talk about a pervert. Her! What kind of creep even THINKS like that?

And, in a related finding so new and surprising that I don’t even have an opinion about yet, this study came out today saying that in countries that decriminalize child porn, child abuse goes down!

We are living in a strange world. But you knew that. Off to disfigure my darlings’  photos (cause nothing says loving like Magic Markering black bars over their eyes) — Lenore

Fearmonger Weighs In on “Don’t GPS Your Kid”

Hi Readers! I have a piece running on ParentDish titled, “GPSing Your Kid is Crazy.” It argues that, far from really giving parents “peace of mind, “GPSing does the opposite. It reinforces the idea that our kids are in danger every second they are not in our line of sight. It makes us distrust our community, which means we hold our kids even tighter.

The constant connectivity of GPS also makes us panic whenever we CAN’T reach our kids — an experience I’ve approximated when I couldn’t get my sons on their cell phones. It’s the same panic you feel when you turn around and suddenly don’t see your toddler at the grocery. And, just like that panic, it’s usually unnecessary: the vast majority of times,  your kid shows up soon after. But the fear is overwhelming, and now — THANKS to electronic connections — it happens all the time, even with older and older kids, the second we don’t know PRECISELY where they are.

My piece added that GPSing doesn’t even prevent “the worst” — abduction, ‘natch, — from occurring. It just goes along for the ride.

And while I appreciate my sons have cell phones, I think “tracking” them is going too far. Anyway, here is what one guy wrote in response:

Thoughts from someone who sells GPS tracking devices…

“Peace of mind comes when we pretty much believe in our kids and our community.”

What community these days can be trusted?

These “evil” people can drive to anywhere and everywhere our kids go.

I do however agree with the cell phone trackers “going along for the ride” idea.

Whenever I sell a parent a system I explain the importance of the “panic” system that goes along with it.

What this does is proactively protect our children in case of an emergency. With a simple flick of a switch mounted by the cars blinker the car sends a panic message to the parent/guardians cell phone. At that point I usually tell my customers to call the child and set up a code… “everything OK”, “yes going to Cassie’s house for a few hours” Means I’m in trouble send help.

Its not a matter of false security, its a matter of safety…

Why shouldn’t we know where our kids are? Just like my commercial clients tell there drivers, If your not doing anything wrong theres nothing to worry about! — GPS-Mike

And there you have it (typos and all): The way at least some of the world is thinking about what makes for “sensible” parenting. — Lenore

Let Counselors Hug Campers!

Hi Folks — Here’s my ParentDish column on the sexualization of hugging. Ugh!!

If A Tree Falls…

Hi Readers — Last week I wrote a piece on ParentDish about the tragedy that happened here in New York: A mom was holding her 6-month-old, posing for her husband to take a photo just outside the Central Park Zoo, when a tree branch fell killing the baby and seriously injuring the mom.

Horrible.

My piece, however, dwelt not on the tragedy nor the sadness, but on the fact that the father — understandably beside himself with grief — is preparing a lawsuit against the city. This, even though the branch was leafy and seemingly healthy, and the tree had been pruned in March and found sound.

A lot of readers jumped on me for being cold and callous for saying,  I guess starkly, that sometimes we forget that fate exists. Fate is fickle, cruel — well, actually, it doesn’t have any feelings at all. It’s just a word that tries to explain  that terrible things sometimes happen and no human is to blame. People hate hearing this, or at any rate aren’t used to it, and they find it more upsetting than finger-pointing. Or maybe I just put it all badly, and the readers thought I didn’t feel anything for the parents.

Anyway, there were two responses that I really appreciated that I am reprinting here. First, from a guy named Rob C:

….The point of Lenore’s article wasn’t, “Aww, yer babby was killed, suck it up”, it was that sometimes horrible things do happen, but these horrible things are not necessarily anyone’s fault.

How do you propose to prevent a terrible accident like this happening again? Fence off all the damn trees? Then wait for somebody to sue the city when they’re injured climbing a fence to go sit under a tree?”

And from Gever Tulley, author of the book,  50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do):

Topic #19 in Fifty Dangerous Things is “Stand on the Roof”, which encourages parents to help their kids get up on the roof of their house and have a look around. A reporter recently asked me “What do you say to the parent whose child fall off of the roof and dies?” – this is the trump card of the narrow-minded. It is the same end-move in the game of escalation that happens when talking to administrators about letting children ride bikes to school.

The truth is that there are more than 81 million children living in the United States at any given moment, and chance plays a part in their lives. Someone in California will get bitten by a shark, someone will get hit by a piece of debris that falls off of an airplane, someone will be struck by lightning – for any given individual, the chances are infinitesimal, but when you multiply even the tiniest number by 81 million and again by 12-14 hours of activity, the chance that someone, somewhere, will meet an untimely end in a seemingly random manner becomes non-zero. As a physicist once told me, everything that can happen, will happen, eventually.

My heart goes out the parents of the child killed by the falling branch, but if they had been walking in a National Park, or hanging out in their grandparents’ back yard would we think of the “blame” equation differently?

That’s it. Just trying to talk about a tough topic — fate — and having a hard time. — Lenore

When are we ever completely safe?

Just When You Thought Free-Range Kids Was Catching On…

Hi Readers — Here’s a link to my essay on ParentDish, “Can a Mom Leave Her Kid Alone at the Library for Three Minutes?” It’s about a mom who left her kid in the children’s room to run upstairs and check out a book in the adult department. She told the librarian she’d be back in a few minutes and the librarian warned her that this was okay, but that the dangers of the real world lurk in the library too.  My piece said that while I don’t think librarians should be treated like babysitters, this seemed like a fine, short, safe thing for the mom to do. And by the way: There was no one else in the children’s room!

Well the piece has garnered 1300 responses so far.  Here’s a typical one:

“A REAL MOTHER WOULD NEVER LEAVE HER CHILD ALONE FOR A SPLIT SECOND LET ALONE 3 MINUTES. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN IN 3 MINUTES. WHAT IF A PERV WALKED IN OFF THE STREET TOLD THE LIBRARIAN HE WAS AN UNCLE BROTHER OR EVEN FATHER HOW IS THE LIBRARIAN TO KNOW IF HE IS LYING OR TELLING THE TRUTH AND IN THE TIME IT WOULD TAKE TO FIND THE MOTHER AND ASK THE KID COULD BE GONE.”

And another:

“Here is an example of the social contract. When you decided to become a parent, you accepted that being a parent means Every. Single. Second. There is no such thing as a free range parent.”

And another:

“WHEN ARE PARENTS GOING TO LEARN THAT LEAVING YOUR CHILD WITH ANYONE OTHER THAN YOUR HUSBAND OR TRUSTED FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND, FOR EVEN ONE MINUTE IS PUTTING YOUR CHILD AT RISK. WAKE UP PARENTS!!! YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO PARANOID WHEN IT COMES TO THE SAFETY OF YOUR CHILDREN.”

Personally, I’ve gotten so used to reading the comments here on Free-Range Kids that I was stunned anew by the  conviction that children are in grave danger for their lives EVERY SECOND their parents’ eyes are not upon them.

Not to mention the usual vitriol, and the joy in blaming a mom for something that did not end up tragically. But, you know, COULD have. — Lenore

Job description: Have child. Never let go. Ever.

Killer Kids: Blame the Parents?

Hi Readers — This note came in response to my ParentDish column, “New Study: Parents Stink.” Sometimes I am just, well, blown away by the logical leaps people take:

“I am a mother of a 26 year old man and a 13 year old boy. I give my 13 year old as much freedom as I think he needs but I always know where he’s at and who he’s with. This may be hovering but it’s better then him showing up at school one day and blowing everyone away and I had no idea he had been planning this.”

I agree: Most things are better than having one’s kid wake up and kill everyone at his school. Especially when it’s a big surprise. (I hate surprises!) And of course, if he does indeed do this, it’s all the parent’s fault.

That belief — that everything my kid does, good and bad, stems directly from MY parenting skills — is the kind of belief that drives us nuts to begin with. I wish she’d read my book, or at least Chapter 11:  “Relax! Not Every Little Thing You Do Has THAT Much Impact on Your Child’s Development.”

Meantime, whatever this woman thinks of “Free-Range Kids” (and me), I actually don’t condemn parents who want to know where their 13-year-old is and who he’s with.  I just think it’s pretty wacky to believe that if a parent is a little less informed, that kid will wake up, go to school and kill all his classmates. — Lenore

Hey, Dad, Thanks for the Blow-Up Doll

Folks — Here’s a post by my friend, Tom Henderson, at ParentDish. I admire it and him.  You may too. It’s about how he taught his teenage son about sex and sexism at the same time, with the help of, yes, a blow-up doll. And a Playboy. Just wanted to pass it along. (The story. Not the doll.) — Lenore

Do We Really Have To Worry About Kids Impaling Themselves on Batman Dolls?

That, my friends, is the question I ask today in my alternate life on ParentDish.com. I am really getting sick of all the warnings about dangerous toys.

On a very related note: Today there was a report about all the hideous dangers of holiday  ornaments. I agree: You probably don’t want to put a hand-blown crystal ball from Bavaria in the crib next to the toy hammer.  But please. The report  mentions 76 Xmas-occasioned hospital visits over the course of 13 years, or about 7 a year.

Maybe while we’re at it we should start issuing  warnings about holidays requiring dress shoes, because of the danger of tripping over untied laces. Or holidays where the family gathers together in a single room,  as overcrowding on the couch could cause someone to slide off.  And let’s not forget the very real dangers of candy canes!

There must be some very real dangers of candy canes, right? — Lenore

Some Parents Aren’t Ditching Their Maclarens — Despite Recall

Oh do I love this piece, Recall Rebels: Moms Fess Up to Using Recalled Maclaren Strollers, on ParentDish. (And not just because I’m about to start writing a weekly post for that site. Yay!)

The piece is all about parents who, strangely enough, managed to keep some perspective after Maclaren recalled about a million trillion strollers because, sadly, some kids’ fingers got severed in them over the years. Best quotes that the reporter dug up:

“I’m not trying to pooh-pooh it,” he says of the stroller recall, “but it’s not something you need to cease using your Maclaren over. These things are opened millions of times a day, all over the world, and most kids are fine.

And:

“These incidents are called ‘accidents’ for a reason. To me, the logistics of what kids would have to be doing to get injured is not very likely. Granted, we all want to make sure that our children are as safe as can be, and we want to protect them as much as possible, but we all know that nothing and no one is perfect. A kid could choke on a penny, but are we going to recall money? No.”

And finally:

“It just goes to show that buying the trendiest baby gear isn’t always the way to go.”

This is a great, rare piece because it presents the other side of a YOUR BABY IS IN TERRIBLE RISK! story  — the side that is not going nuts with worry (to coin a phrase). The side that says it’s true that nothing is perfectly safe and it’s time adults realized that.

Oh wait. I’m veering off into tort reform. Let’s just stick with a kudos and call it a day. — Lenore