FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Our Paranoid Society is Too Hard on Kids (and Parents)

In the latest sign that America has gone stark-raving nuts at the expense of its parents and children, the Rochester, New York Democrat & Chronicle reports that a “mother faces child endangerment charges for letting her 10-year-old hang out in a Lego Store while she shopped elsewhere” in the same mall.

Not a week goes by without a report of parents getting arrested, or having their children seized by social workers, for the “crime” of letting them walk to or from school or a local playground.

Despite the fact that violent crime — including crimes against children — has been on a downward trend since the early 1990s, we’re constantly propagandized about the danger of letting kids out of our sight.

Despite the fact that parents these days almost uniformly educate their kids on how to respond to being approached by strangers (don’t talk to them, don’t get in cars with them, move away from them, scream bloody murder if they touch you), the conventional wisdom is that our malls and playgrounds are veritable buffets for hordes of predators.

But that’s not true. According to Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids (citing US Justice Department Statistics), of the 800,000 children reported missing in the US each year, only 115 are “stranger abductions” (most are teenage runaways and 90% of abductees return home within a day).

I’ve been through this kind of freakish security theater myself. When my youngest was five, he wanted very badly to walk to and from the local deli and buy his own lunch. It made him feel very grown-up. And since the deli was all of 500 feet away over low-traffic residential streets, I let him do that a couple of times a week.

The first few times I secretly followed him to make sure he looked both ways when crossing the street and didn’t talk to strangers. After that, I waited on the front porch for him to return, with an ear cocked for any hint of trouble.

Then one day he was picked up by two strangers who scared him into entering their car.  Those strangers — police officers in uniform — drove him home and chewed me out for letting him make the short journey “unsupervised.” They weren’t pleased with my response, but fortunately chose not to escalate the nonsense when I pointed out that it was, indeed, nonsense.

Most of us who are, say, 50 or older, remember childhoods in which we were substantially free to wander within a reasonable distance of home. Our parents gave us rules, of course, but it was understood that roaming one’s community was part of the process of growing up. They didn’t worry about us unless we were late for dinner.

These days, allowing a kid to leave the house alone if he or she isn’t old enough to drive is treated as a bad idea at best and, at worst, as criminal neglect. That kind of fear-mongering is bad for kids, bad for parents, and bad for society. Let’s stop encouraging, even demanding, parental paranoia.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail