Perverted Kindergarteners?

Hi Readers — Got this note and had to vent. I am SO SICK of everyone thinking of everything in terms of perversion. It is a perverted way to think!! Here goes. — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This isn’t strictly a Free-Range issue perhaps, but it illustrates the nonsensical trend of treating inappropriate but harmless behavior with fear and suspicion.  The following is a quote from the training module that every parent who wishes to volunteer at our school must endure, even simply to serve cupcakes to a class.
.
The policy of requiring training and background checks on all parents is odious in itself, discouraging parent involvement and wasting precious money which could be used for actually educating children, but the message the training conveys is even more sinister:

The first step to preventing sexual abuse between children is to know that it can and does happen.  It’s hard to believe that a group of kindergarteners would take turns urinating on the playground and daring each other to play “stinky butt.”  From then on, you will need to pay particular attention to these children, since you now have warning that they may be at risk for further inappropriate interactions.

Good grief, that is beyond ridiculous. First of all, it isn’t hard for me to believe that a group of kindergarteners would do such things.  I wouldn’t like it, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly dangerous or rare.  I could easily imagine such a story being related with exasperation and, yes, even humor.  But simply beginning the sentence with “It’s hard to believe…” leads the audience’s perspective to consider it something so outrageous as to warrant deep, dark concern.
.
I don’t know what to say about the implications of the last sentence.  What next?  It chills me to think that a registry (lifelong?) for such deviant kindergarteners is not outside the realm of possibility.

Thank you again for providing a rowboat against the tide! — Noël in Houston

Outrage of the Week: Dear Abby!

Dear Abby:

I have a problem. I read a supposedly “helpful” advice column yesterday about public bathrooms and whether children are safe from pedophiles if their mom is waiting right outside the door. The piece said no! No way! As a matter of fact, it added, slightly off tangent, “Children have been violated in a matter of seconds in the play areas of fast food restaurants with the parents RIGHT THERE!”

Now when I think about McDonald’s “ball room” it has a whole new meaning. Ick.

 Signed: Newly Scared of Fast Food Playspaces That Seem Too Small For Most Grown Men to Squeeze Into, But What Do I Know in New York

 Dear Newly Scared:

Oh! That was actually MY advice column you read. I’m flattered! It had a lot of tips like that. Tips based on nothing more than base fearmongering passed off as gospel. It’s a living!

In case you missed them, here are the biggest doozies I ran yesterday with nary a hint that bathrooms are, in reality, very safe places for boys to go pee. No, I made sure never to question the basic premise of my tip-givers – regular ol’ readers — that predators are lurking in pretty much every stall. What can I say? They hear scary stuff, they pass it to me, I pass it along, they hear it again. Vicious circle, but boy does it sell! Read on! — these are the wackiest reader tips that appeared yesterday:

* I have a 7-year-old son and I do not allow him to go unsupervised into a men’s room. Anyone could be behind that door and anything could happen in less than a minute’s time. We must protect our children even if it means that sometimes they have to suffer embarrassment.

A friend with two sons offered an interesting alternative. She would allow her sons to use the men’s room if they talked to her while she stood outside the door. If they stopped talking, they knew it meant she was coming in. — DONNA IN TYNER, N.C.

*When my son was 7 or 8, he, too, was embarrassed about going into the restroom with me. I gave him a whistle with instructions to blow it if anyone bothered him while I waited outside the men’s room. The whistle also came with additional instructions: “Never blow it as a joke just to see if I’ll come running, because if you do, you are in DEEP trouble!” — LORI IN TEANECK, N.J.

*Lisa should invest in a pair of two-way radios. This way, her son goes into the restroom with an additional layer of protection. She should also inform him to always use the stall so he can lock the door. — MARK IN GATOR COUNTRY

Dear Abby:

Millions of people must be thanking you for these! But I hope you don’t mind that I called Dr. Amy Baxter, a pediatrician who did a fellowship in child sexual abuse. Now she runs a sex abuse clinic once a week down in Atlanta. I wanted to confirm just how common the crime of bathroom pedophilia is.

 Dr. Baxter said that she has seen about 500 children who’ve been sexually abused. Terrible!

 “How many of them were abused in a public bathroom?” I asked.

 “Nobody.”

 She then contacted two friends in the same field. One had seen an instance of this, which is horrible. Another – a biggie in the field — had seen none.

My point is not to say there is NO danger in public bathrooms. NO place is ever 100% safe. My point is that there is no reason to make public bathrooms seem any less safe than anyplace else. Especially since 96% of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows (according to Dr. Baxter), not a stranger. So why whip up the fear of stranger danger any more than it is already whipped?

I think it is good advice to tell parents to teach their kids to stand up for themselves. But it is bad advice to make parents think the world is so chock-full of predators that even when we stand a few feet away from our children, they are still in mortal peril. Your job is to preach common sense, not recycle paranoia.

On the other hand, I do generally like your advice about teens, affairs and politeness. And in-laws! Love the in-law stuff. Have a good weekend.

Signed – FREE-RANGE KIDS