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The dangers of modern society or “why the Evil Ones want to use your kids as dog food”

Ok folks, time to put on the skeptic hat and rant.

For some reason, in the past week I’ve been exposed to 4 or 5 occasions where people have mentioned the drastic increase in day-to-day dangers that we are exposed to – especially with regards to the hazards out kids must be protected from. WTF? We and our kids are safer now than we’ve ever been before in history. Statistics for crime against children show drastic drops in the past 20 years, and violent crime against adults is also at near record lows. Of course, it could be argued that the reason we are so much safer now is because we all live ina state of constant fear and vigilance – our kids are safer because we never let them have an unsupervised moment, and we (as adults) are safer because ummmmm. I dunno, maybe because we spend all of our free time sitting in front of the tube instead of doing risky things like hanging out with our friends and neighbors?

Yes there are some”new” hazards that have presented themselves in the past 20 years or so – the ‘net is a great example. Of course, when I was a kid (when all we had was DARPA net), we didn’t have folks trolling the net for victims, or pushing porn in email. It was all available down at the corner, in the drugstore, or (if you’re catholic) from your local priest. The hazards aren’t anything new, but the advertising is. So why the freak-out? Well, in part, I think its simply because parents haven’t kept up with the reality of technology. When I was a kid, everyone knew where the “bad’ parts of town were, and could avoid them if they chose (of course, being kids, we HAD to explore them and see just how bad they really were – even then the perceived risks were overblown). Of course, now the ‘net brings the “bad” parts of town right into the living room – kinds like TV, but without the censorship it had in the 1960s. ‘Course, even in the 60s, my parents had TV shows that we weren’t allowed to watch (part of being a responsible parent is having some idea as to what your kids are doing). So, in the modern world of the net, why can’t we expect parents to have the same level of responsibility for their kids? You think facebook is full of pedophiles trying to lure your kid into a cheap hotel room? Simple: cut off Facebook. If you’re too lazy to bother keeping track of what your kids are doing online, you can download free software that will shut the sites off for you. Its called parenting, and it comes with having kids. Its YOUR job, not someone else’s.

OK, so much for the net. What about those predators that are lurking behind the bushes just waiting to grab your kid when (s)he’s waiting for the school bus? You know, the one that’s been out there just waiting for some irresponsible parent to allow a kid to be alone for just ONE SECOND because her Doberman Pincher needs some live food. Get real folks. The reality is that your kids are way more likely to be harmed by a FAMILY member than by a stranger. If you’re serious about protecting your kids, make sure they’re never left alone with their older sibling, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or other family members or friends. The kids are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted by one of them than by a stranger. Kidnapping? O.nce again, the most common kidnapping are by family members (often in cases of separation or divorce) or by friends.

Now don’t get me wrong: there IS random crime and violence, and there is no way to avoid it. Nut jobs will always be out there, and there will always be random violent crime. The thing to remember is that it is extremely rare, and in reality, there is NOTHING that you can do to protect your kids from it. Some wacko decides to crash her car into the a store front, and guess what? It doesn’t matter WHAT precautions you’ve taken – if you’re there (or your kids are there) you might get hit. Some kid at a school gets fed up with something and decides to take it out by building a bomb, and there isn’t anything you can do to protect your kids, the school staff, or the random person that happens to be at school that day. Of course, the most likely source of danger to your kids is the car. That cell phone call you make while driving, changing the radio station, or simply being in the wrong place and getting into an accident. The most likely way your kids will suffer a serious injury is in YOUR car while YOU are driving.

So there ya go. Next time you see some rating-generating horror story about the one kid that was used as dog food by some whack job, put it all into perspective by thinking about he tens of thousands of kids that were killed, maimed, and otherwise damaged by the accident in the family car, in the family kitchen, or in the backyard – all while under parental supervision.

Yes, we all want to protect our kids (and ourselves) from unnecessary risks. If you really want to live in absolute safety, lock yourself in a closet, avoid all contact with any other people, and pray that your house doesn’t catch fire. Otherwise, accept the fact that life is inherently risky, and focus on living an enjoyable life. Take a chance and let your kids go for a walk on their own. Go for a bike ride. Do some of the things YOU did as a kid (and let your kids do them too). After all, you survived, didn’t you?

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3 Responses

  1. I’d be interested to have this conversation with you in real life.

    My grandfather – an archetypal Yankee – commented to me not too long ago that he didn’t know how I managed to raise kids in this day and age. I contended that it was no harder for me than it was for him, and he disagreed. His claim was that he had something VERY valuable that I don’t, and that thing is community. When he was a kid – and when he was raising his own – he knew that every adult in the community was watching. If he was someplace he wasn’t supposed to be, his mother knew about it before he got home (and his house didn’t even have a phone).

    Today, we think people should “stay out of our business,” but the fact of the matter is that we don’t have a sense of community and shared responsibility for – and to – each other, except in our own little circles (you and O’Mama are part of my community, for example, but I’ve got to drive to get to you; it’s not like having an entire neighborhood looking out for each other’s kids). I really do think that my grandfather is right, and that may well be part of the reason that I keep my children pretty close to home.

  2. the loss of community is definitely real, and in some small way does add to the risks for kids. HOWEVER, the risk is still tiny. Think about it – you probably know at least one or two families that allow their kids some of the freedoms that we grew up with, and they are still alive and doing fine. (if you don’t know people like that, chat with other parents, and they’ll talk about the “bad” parent that lets their kid go play in the local woods/vacant lot whatever without supervision….)

    Personally, I think the loss of community is a bigger problem for the adults than the kids. Many adults are socially isolated (other than their work ‘friends’), and the loss of that social interaction is A Bad Thing (for everyone). Coming from an anti-social grumpy old sociopath like me, this Means Something….

  3. Oh, I TOTALLY agree with you that the loss of community is a problem for adults; that\’s why I\’m so rabid about maintaining MY community, both online and in real life. I recognize how vital that network is in my life, and I\’m pretty protective of it.

    All that being said, I\’m allowing Punkin\’ Pie a lot more freedom than I\’m comfortable with, but I\’m also recognizing the truth of what you\’re saying here. Striking the balance, though, is always the trick.

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