It’s Pornographer Barbie!

Hi Readers — Thanks to all of you who sent in the wackiest “What If?” worry of the weekend: News reports that the new Video Barbie — a Barbie with a built-in video camera — “could” be used by child pornographers.  The key word for us is “could.” The key words for the media? “Barbie,” “child porn,”  “danger,” and, of course, “parents.” The whole thing was just a big Christmas gift for the news, which jumped all over the story.

What happened was this: The FBI, which clearly has too much time on its hands, sent out a warning to law enforcement officials saying that though there have been NO reports of Video Barbie being used to make kiddie porn, it could be, right? WHAT IF it was? Then we’d all be sorry!

The FBI warning was accidentally also sent to the press, which is always thrilled to remind parents that creeps are out to violate their kids. And lickety split, Barbie was added to the growing list of newly terrifying, child-threatening items. (A list, by the way, that also now includes Horsie-on-a-Stick.)

Anyway, I’d feel bad for Mattel, except the Video Barbies seem to be flying off the shelves. (The perfect gift for that child pornographer on your list!)

Now, coincidentally, I wrote a column about Video Barbie when it — she? –was introduced a few months ago and I had a different take on the toy.  I was psyched that mastering technology (movie making, editing, sharing) was now a normal part of girlhood, same as playing house and dressing Barbie in a gown.

So there we have it: Two different takes on a toy, one celebratory, one speculative, sick and salacious. I think you know which one sells.

How Do You Change a Lily-Livered School?

Hi Readers — Here’s another plea from a Free-Ranger trapped in a helicoptering vise. Do you have any suggestions that have worked at your school? Please share them! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Something terrible has happened at our school.

I wrote to you a while ago about how wonderfully free our village kids are.  Things are changing….. and not for the better.

My children are 7 and 9.  I live 1 mile from school, and our route takes us through a nature reserve, so no traffic and no road crossings necessary.
I have been taking baby steps towards letting my children walk to/from school.  I started by walking the children to school and then I started leaving the children at the school boundary approximately 50 meters from the school gates, they then walked over the boundary line by themselves.

That’s as far as I got…. they walked 50 meters unattanded (but I watched them).

I have received a letter from the school explaining that children have to be taken to and picked up from the school gate. I challenged the school on this rule, and asked them why.  They said, “It’s not worth the risk, SOMETHING TERRIBLE COULD HAPPEN.”  Though they would not spell out what that something terrible could be, and neither has anything ever happened before.

The head master also indicated to me that other parents had been reported to social services for allowing their children to walk to school by themselves.

Please note that the majority of the children live within a mile of the school, and we really do live in quite a safe village.

What can I do? Are they really allowed to dictate to me how my children get to and from school? — Rachel

P.S. I have heard that this has nothing to do with insurance!