Never Post a Baby Photo on Facebook?

Hi Readers — It’s nice to hear of sanity taking root!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I just had my first child 6 months ago and I never thought I’d even have to worry about Free-Range Kid topics until he was at LEAST 3 years old, but I was wrong.

I posted an adorable picture of my son on my facebook page 2 days ago of him having tummy time on a towel; diaper free.  Lo and behold, this morning in my message box on Facebook I have a concerned ex-co-worker warning me about the dangers of putting naked pictures of my child on the internet and that pedophiles could get ahold of the photo.  I don’t know how I would have responded a few years ago.  Perhaps I would have sheepishly said I was not worried and in the back of my mind wondered if I was right.  Thanks to you and this wonderful community of fearless parents this was my response:

Oh, you can’t see his front bits. I’m not worried. Perverts can make
something sexual out of ANYTHING. Even feet, or eating cake. We lock
our doors at night, try not to drop our baby on his head, and don’t look
for babysitters on Craigslist. Most sexual abuse happens with family
members, friends, and teachers/ religious leaders, etc. So the best
thing we can do for Ari is make sure that growing up he feels comfortable
talking to us and is raised to fearlessly express his boundaries. In
addition, crimes of that nature in this country have actually
gone DOWN in the past 20 years. I respectfully appreciate your concern
but life’s to short to deprive my family members of that cute little
tush. — A Less-Worried Mom

Hey baby! It's nice to see you (here, on the internet).

Moral of Story: When 8-year-olds Are Silly, The School Goes Nuts

Hi Readers — Here’s a cautionary tale for parents whose kids sometimes do dumb things. But that can’t be many of us, right?

Dear Free-Range Kids: We are devout Free-Range parents and our 8-year-old son walks to and from school nearly every day alone.  We gave him a pre-paid cell phone so he can check in with us if need be.  Long story short, he had a playdate with a friend where they took silly 8-year-old pictures using the phone, one of them a picture of our son’s penis when he was on the potty.

A few days later our boy showed the picture to about six older boys on the playground after school.  At home he told us what happened and we immediately had a very serious conversation about these kinds of pictures and considered the case closed.

Ha.

The next day we got a call from the principal saying that our son had been expelled from school because she felt he was an “immediate and continuing danger.” She charged him with Lewd Conduct (a charge a good step above Sexual Harassment) and felt we should submit all of his physical/psychological records to the safety office at the school district. She also requested he undergo a mental evaluation before he would be allowed to return to school.

We appealed her actions, but the school district upheld her decision. We worked our way through the bureaucracy and finally found a higher-up to meet with our son, who immediately realized he’s just a regular kid. In the end he missed nearly two weeks of school.

Our son doesn’t understand pornography or even knows what sex is.  There was no consideration given to the normal, natural fascinations of an 8-year-old boy.  His principal didn’t call us or talk to any of his teachers before taking action.  She was great in covering her back, but wasn’t able to distinguish an 8-year-old boy from a sex offender.

Just one week later, we witnessed another bit of school insanity, this one having nothing to do with the photo. It was this: our son’s Chess Club teacher escorted him to my car because he was afraid he would be “liable” if our son was kidnapped.  This, even though every day at recess the kids have to travel much farther to get to the playground than they do to get to the drop-off zone in front of the school! It’s right there!

My husband is from Germany and we spent 1+ years travelling in Mexico and Central America.  Free-Range is a given in these countries and we’ve happily let our kids take part.  They ask us why so many people don’t let their kids do anything on their own here, and the only answer we can give them is, “Because it’s America.”

Isn’t there a better answer? What is happening to our country? — A&M

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

Why Would You EVER Put Your Child’s Photo on Facebook for the CREEPS to See?!?

That’s what scared folks ask all the time, believing that predators have a lot more patience than the rest of us and are willing to look through ALL those family photos, just to glimpse your adorable child and plan a trip across several state lines to kidnap him/her.

Next time you hear all that, remind them of this story.

As Free range reader Michael in California points out: “Thanks to Facebook, a child is alive:  Win.  The mother has a live child, not a dead one:  Win.  The friend who noticed the problem knows she saved a life:  Win.

“Child’s picture on Facebook:  Win, win, win.”

Amazing Photos of Childhood from the Last Century

Hi Readers — I loved scrolling through these old British photos, some heartwarming, some harrowing. Here at Free-Range Kids we talk a lot about how childhood has changed since when we were growing up. These show how childhood has changed since our parents (and maybe even grandparents?)  were growing up. Particularly striking was the photo of a classroom full of children sitting at their desks, each kid bundled in a blanket. The open windows indicate that they needed fresh air despite the cold, which probably means they all had tuberculosis.

As 2010 parents worry whether a child can be alone in the car while mom picks up the pizza because life is just “too dangerous!” and “times have changed!” and “anything could happen!” these pix provide a quickie lesson in perspective. And gratitude. — Lenore

What A Wallet Photo Proves About Humanity (Something GOOD!)

Hi Readers — In response to the story somewhere below, about “Annie’s Mailbox” spreading the belief that a family decal on a car could delight, incite and invite predators, another reader sent in this wonderful study about wallets.

Yes, wallets. Researchers in England “dropped” 240 wallets outside, to see which ones would be returned. Forty of the wallets contained a baby picture, 40 had a family photo, 40 had a picture of an elderly couple and another 40 had a puppy pic. Then there were 40 with a receipt from a recent charity contribution (but no photo). And the final 40 had nothing special in them at all. All of the wallets contained the same business cards and identification, none held any money.

Result? The ones with the baby picture had the highest rate of return! They were sent back almost 9 out of 10 times. The return rate was next highest for the puppy, then the family, then the elderly couple. The charity receipt and wallets with nothing special in them at all had the lowest rate of return.

What the researcher, Dr. Richard Wiseman (perfect name!), concluded from this is that, “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people.” He added that, in evolutionary  terms, this just makes sense: We are genetically coded to care for our young and seeing pretty much any baby jump starts that feeling. (It’s not like we’re coded only to care for a handful of particular baby faces, which happen to be our own offsprings’. Any young faces make us feel protective.)

Let’s remember this hardwired connection to all kids when we think about the world. More and more, especially with the advent of GPS for backpacks, and laws keeping adults without kids off of playgrounds, and restrictions on the photography of random children, and advertisements that suggest predators are all around, we are being brainwashed into believing the world is awash in perverts and it’s the rare adult who does not harbor creepy feelings for children.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. It is a lie that is making us suspicious, disconnected, miserable, pliant and frightened. We must fight to help each other  — and especially people who don’t visit this site — remember that the vast majority of  humans would rather HELP children, than hurt them. — Lenore

We are hardwired to love and protect young 'uns.

“Take Our Kids to the Park Day” Photo Request — And Where Send ‘Em

Hi Readers — Just talking to a reporter who wondered: Are there any photos of “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day”? If you have some, and if you’d like to see them in the newspaper, or even here on the blog, could you please send them to me at freerangepics@gmail.com?

As I told the reporter: “But the parents weren’t THERE! So how could they take pictures?” But maybe, somehow, somewhere, some pictures were snapped. And if not — there’s always next year. Thanks!  — L.

Kid, 18, Sends Stupid Photo via Email. Now He’s A Sex Offender

Hi Readers: This is a GREAT column about a truly insane decision by a parent, a prosecutor, a judge and a jury. In other words, by modern day America. (It’s also a good way to remind your teens: Do NOT send sexy photos.) Read it and think how the Puritans are running the ship. — Lenore