Reader Request Week 2006 #6: Paranoid Parents

Thoughts on childhoods past and present, from cisko:

Why have we changed so much, in the past 20 years, about how we protect our kids? And what is (or would be) going too far?

One example: As kids, my brothers and I would spend all day riding our bikes around the neighborhood, playing with other kids and generally having a ton of self-directed fun. Today, that just wouldn’t be acceptable — kids need to be supervised all the time, seemingly into at least middle school.

Is your experience similar? And what do you think it means for the kids and parents, both now, and as the kids grow up?

Related to this, this question/comment from Eric B:

Some time ago my brother posted some pictures online of our older sister’s two children, including their full names. My wife saw it, freaked out, notified older sister about it, and within a few days the pictures were taken down.

When I heard about the situation, I at first was a bit curious why it was a problem, since I’d been reading about Athena here on the Whatever all the time. So I wonder, what fast and hard rules do you think there are to putting kids’ information online. Granted, a parent should have more control than other family members in such matters, but does it make a difference if one lives in a rural or (sub)urban location, has an unlisted number, or other factors.

It’s interesting. Toward the last of these, every few months or so I get an e-mail from someone genuinely concerned that me posting pictures of Athena is an open invite for the pervs and freaks to come down to the Scalzi Compound and stalk my little girl. Typically speaking I appreciate the concern (except the one guy who said something along the lines of "I hope you don’t ever have to live with the regret of having been able to have prevented your child from being molested if only you’d not posted pictures of her online," to which my response was, hey, fuck you), but I’m also not overly worried.

I’m not overly worried (which is not the same thing as "not worried at all") for a number of reasons: I’m a stay-at-home dad, so I have a really excellent idea where my kid is all the time. Athena is very smart and knows about the potential danger of strangers. Our home, by virtue of being removed several hundred feet from the road (any road, on any side), and by being the home of a dog who sees it as her job to alert us when anyone approaches on foot or by car, is not one which is easily approachable by stealth, and I’m home almost all the time in any event. Athena’s school won’t let her leave the school with anyone without me or Krissy having come in and approved it. Finally, Athena’s online presence is now and for quite some time will be mediated by me and Krissy, and aside from knowing where she is online at all times we’ve also been not shy in telling her that pervs and jerks exist online.

And of course, I’m also not entirely stupid in what about Athena I post online. It’s one thing to show Athena hungrily eying a cat or suffocating dear old dad or posing as a vampire; it’s another thing to show her in the tub. You’re not going to get any of the latter. But this is all of a piece anyway, and something I’ve been very open about here at the Whatever, which is that I’m perfectly happy to share any number of superficial things, but my private life — and the private life of my family — is (no offense) none of your damn business. I’m happy to tell you how my book is doing and how I feel about my work. My personal relationship with my wife and child: not so much, other than in generalities. Athena’s pictures here tend to be silly and fun and I’m happy to share surface-y anecdotes and such, but there’s lots you don’t know about her, nor are likely to. Not because I’m worried about freaks and pervs using the information to gain her confidence, or any such thing. But simply because she deserves to have a life that’s her own and not available for general comment.

On her side, Athena is pretty savvy about what’s going on; she understands the concept of a Web site and she understands that lots of people check in here to see what I and occasionally she are up to. She will in fact from time to time suggest a picture for me to take or ask me to take a picture of a drawing for the purposes of displaying it online, which is why you get the occasional monster collection. I also clear with her anything about her I want to put online — and yes, she’s exercised a veto before. Is Athena being aware of this stuff make her safer? Yes, to the extent that understanding any process can make one safer. It also gives her a measure of control over her own life, and commensurately an expectation that she should have some control and that this desire should be respected. It’s not the same as giving her mace and instructions to spray pervs in the eye if they rush her, but it’s not insignificant.

Now, the thing to note here is that this is my kid I have on my site; as a general rule I don’t put other people’s kids on my site without explicit permission from the parent(s). Why? Because they’re not my kids, and people have every right not to have their kids’ pictures plastered about teh Intarweebs without their permission. So, Eric B, I think your wife’s reaction is not entirely out of line — not because suddenly a Web of pervs have a line on those kids (which is unlikely), but simply because those responsible for the well-being of the kids didn’t get a say about whether they were out there on the Web. I’m confident I am not at all endangering my child with the occasional picture of her on my site, and I feel likewise confident that the vast majority of kid pictures put up on the Web are not perv magnets, but you know what? What I think about other people’s kids and their pictures/info online doesn’t matter. It’s up to the parents.

(Some of you may ask: All this talk is about you and Athena, John — doesn’t Krissy get a say? The answer: Well, obviously. If Krissy were ever uncomfortable with a picture of Athena or something I wrote about Athena online, it would come down instantly; moreover if she decided that there was to be no more Athena on the Whatever, there would be no more Athena on the Whatever. This is all axiomatic.)

"Up to the parents" bring us to the first question, which is, essentially, whether today’s parents are overly paranoid about keeping track of their children at all times. Well, to begin, if you read the paragraphs above detailing how I pretty much know where my kid is at all times, then you know that I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have your kids’ whereabouts down to a science. Second: Yes, I suspect we probably are paranoid as hell, and probably overly so. When I was Athena’s age I essentially roamed the neighborhood at will; I don’t think my mom had the slightest idea where I was most of the time. Second and third grades I would get on my bike and disappear for hours at a time, tooling around the entire city. And of course I was generally getting into things and places that would have given my mother an absolute stroke had she known.

And I’m still alive, as are most of the former kids of my generation; most of the kids of recent previous generations also managed to make it to adulthood despite the lack of almost-constant parental supervision. Thanks to a media cottage industry in making parents feel inadequate no matter what they do, today’s parents certainly feel like the world is more dangerous than it was when we were cruising around on our Huffys, but I’m pretty sure that statistically and overall, this day and age is actually safer than the mid-70s, early-80s world in which we grew up.

I suspect that somewhere along the way, the framing of childhood shifted from the actions of the kids to the deficiencies of the parents. A good example of this was a term that became popular when I was growing up: "Latchkey kids." These were the kids who came home to empty houses after school because their parents worked during the day; without that parental supervision, you see, it was natural the kids would be up to no good. The thing about this was that even the kids who weren’t latchkey kids were up to no good — mom or dad may be at home, but as soon as a kid said "I’m going out with my friends" and they kicked open the screen door, the kid was still going to do what the kid was going to do, for hours at a time, away from the parents. But the point of view was shifted to suggest that kids were suffering because of lack of parental supervision. Undoubtedly some were, but I think most kids were not in a rush to have parents hovering no matter what. Go back in time and you’ll realize you probably didn’t want to hang with your mom or dad all the time either. But when my generation started doing that "Gen X" thing we had going there, blaming absent moms and dads for our hip cultural alienation was sure useful.

Gen-X parents want to be more engaged than they remember their own parents being, which I think is well and good, but wanting to tag our children with tracking devices to know their whereabouts 24/7 — or alternately, scheduling them with so many structured activities in and out of school that they don’t have time to breathe, much less get in trouble — is very likely to backfire. Look, I’m in the same boat here: I’d like to have a cute little GPS device my daughter would be delighted take with her always, so no matter where she is I can track her location with Google Maps. On the other hand, I also fully expect that if I did that, sooner rather than later my adorable little daughter would tell me to go fuck off. Kids want and need their space and the ability to do things alone, or at least, without constant adult supervision. And they’ll carve out that space whether we want them to or not. I think we all think we’re hip to our what are kids are up to, but come on, people. Think back on all the things you did when you were a kid and a teen that you know your parents had no idea about. News flash: You’re as clueless now as your parents were then. Sorry, but it’s true.

Athena is easy for me to watch now because she’s seven and I’m at home — and she actually likes spending time with me. When there comes the day when she wants to hang with her friends and do her own thing, I’m probably going to hate it, but I’d rather have her believe that I and her mom are willingly giving her space than have her believe she has to take it in spite of us. The positive benefit of that is that then when we ask her "where are you going?" we’re likely to get a more expansive answer than "out." And maybe then she will take that cell phone with the GPS chip in it, because she’ll know it’s not that I want to track her every move, I’ll just want to know where she is if she falls down a well. That seems reasonable.

34 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2006 #6: Paranoid Parents

  1. Well, stuff like this doesn’t help calm fears:
    http://republican.sen.ca.gov/web/36/projectkidsafe/stats.asp

    Generally, we ARE safer than when we were kids, but in the 90s there was a spike in violent crime, particularly among teenagers. Violent crime is down in almost all age groups, according to the DOJ:
    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/vage.htm

    The irony, of course, is that statistically speaking, child victimizers are rarely strangers. But the very notion of some stranger harming our child is an instinctive fear. It’s icy clutch is POWERFUL. Growing up with movies like 1983’s Adam colors our perceptions…and how many TV shows or movies play the child victimization card, which strikes me as a cheap tactic to affect the audience?

    I WANT my children to be safer than I was in the 1970s (because I grew up knowing victimized kids). I wish I knew a way to accept that I can’t protect them when they’re not holding my hand…but that’s one of the trials of parenthood, I suppose.

  2. Excellent post, John.

    We are currently going through a thing with Puppy, who is clamoring to be freed from the hell of homework club and allowed, two days a week, to come home from school on the bus, let himself into the house, make a snack, and do his homework. One day would be for an hour tops, the other for about 3.5. I am four minutes away door-to-door at work. We are STRUGGLING with this and stalling, frankly. But we are probably going to cave, by starting out with the hour a day and seeing how it goes. This has earned me much derision from some quarters; yet from others I hear that I’m over-protective and I over-schedule and over-manage his time.

    I always think, “Get your own kid to warp, thanks, and I’ll warp mine in my own fashion.” If I didn’t think he’d be SAFE in the house for an hour, I wouldn’t leave him there. It will likely be harder on me than him. At his age, I was babysitting other folks’ little ones.

  3. Coming from Ireland, where it was more likely that the teacher/priest would be the one preying on your kids, I’d have to say that the only thing I feel is more dangerous now, is the traffic. More of it, going a lot faster. I don’t feel that comfortable cycling around myself now, let alone my daughter.

  4. My sister works from home too, and she makes her kids carry walkie-talkies when they’re out in the subdivision – not because she wants to stay in constant touch with them, but rather to give them the freedom to play in the neighborhood without having to be watched all the time. Not quite GPS tagging, but close.

    It’s fair to blame the media for the level of paranoia today – not just with parents, but in general. Bad events become media feeding frenzies, so it’s not wonder we think the whole world is falling apart. And it doesn’t help that our government fosters that fear for political gain.

  5. It’s a fine line we have to walk some days. I try to give my kids a little more freedom than I’m completely comfortable with, and a little less freedom than they want. Some days that means turning them loose but following a hundred yards behind, just in case.

  6. I was having this same discussion just the other day – during the 60’s I walked to school (about a mile) daily, routinely played out of eye-shot of the house, rode my bike everywhere without a helmet (which didn’t even exist), and managed, along with everyone else I knew, to survive to adulthood in spite of it.

    I’m hard pressed to believe that the world is anywhere near as dangerous today many people maintain. Could it be that it always was as dangerous, but without moment-to-moment news and Amber alerts we just didn’t know it?

  7. Thank you for your comments. It can be so difficult to know where to restrict my kids and where to let them be kids. Yesterday, for the first time, I let my daughter ride her bike to the park with friends. I think it shocked her to hear me say the infrequent “Yes, you may go”. She is almost 10 and has consistently followed our rules. So, I figured she had earned the opportunity to spread her wings just a bit more. When she returned home, she shared with me all the different ways she followed the rules. She did this with a sincere intent, not one trying to prove anything.
    I am grateful I am able to trust my daughter. That is as much power as I can hope to find in childrearing.

    On a side note, you taught me a new word in your post. axiomatic…great word..thanks!

  8. Yes. My parents were always very open about the fact that we could tell them stuff, could negotiate (within reason) a ‘no’ answer, and they usually got more than ‘out’ as a response because they trusted us. We knew, as much as we hated it, that they cared about us and weren’t just being control freaks. Trusting your kids is a VERY important part of getting them to be good kids. If you treat your kids like they are the spawn of Satan and not to be trusted… well… guess what they learn?

  9. WizarDru, yes, that page is designed to scare you, not to convey information. How they came up with 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 is particularly mysterious (this implies that roughly 19,000,000 of the 80,000,000 or so people under 18 will get molested at some point before they hit 18). Especially since all the other numbers are given attribution. They also conveniently ignore the fact that the perpetrators are strangers only 7% of the time (70% occur in the home).

    Anyway, where the hell did this claim come from? I poked around the BJS but without attribution I couldn’t really see anything that jumped out (admittedly, I don’t really work on the social sciences and certainly not criminal statistics so it may be hiding some place I wouldn’t think to look).

    I did look at the NBIRS reports though, here’s what they say:

    If you go back to the NIBRS reports they cite, in 1996 there were an estimated 307,000 sexual assault cases (around a third reported). Using a sample from ’91-’96 they figure about 2/3 of them around victims under 18, so around 205,000 for 1996 let’s say.

    Back of the envelope here… (ages aren’t evenly distributed nor is the probability of being molested evenly distributed among ages)

    Let’s just do girls, the apparently higher risk group:

    So, around 40,000,000 of them each year (assume # of children stays stable for 18 years. Remember, back of the envelope!)

    NBIRS claims that in general, females account for 86% of the victims (the proportion actually goes up as they get older. 73% for victims under 12, 95% of victimes at 19.) so let’s call it 175,000 cases.

    Let’s be incorrect and assign females and molestations equally to each age group—i.e. 2.2M females per age and 9722 females molested per age. So each year a female has a .442% chance of falling into the molested group each year (this is with replacement which is probably not accurate since if you’re molested once by a family member and its not reported your chance of being molested again in that year is higher). So, we want the probability that a girl is not molested at age 1 and at age 2 and at age 3 and so on. (1-.00442)^18 = .9958^18 = .927. So, a 92.7% chance of making it safely to age 18. Or, a 7.3% of making it to age 18 unmolested.

    That number is a lot smaller than 66%.

    Again, this isn’t my area (my data rarely come from things larger than cells) and I’m doing this quickly so its entirely possible that I’m making a grievous error (this box is too small to think properly).

    However, I suspect that to be clear the line should actually read:

    Of girls molested, 1 in 3 of them were molested before the age 18.

    A statement that appears to be more or less true. However, it is also a statement that is less likely to induce panic.

    This is not to suggest there aren’t problems. There are, I was living in Boston around the time the whole Cardinal Law thing went down. However, the best bet is probably to make kids aware of the world around them and the people in it NOT to tag them like so much cattle. Technological fixes rarely work against social problems. Besides, if YOU can figure out where your child is 24/7 so can a child molester (What? You think that GPS transmitter your child is carrying is secure? I sincerely doubt it).

  10. Well said. I’m certain that I’ve read studies saying that these are, indeed, safer times for kids (certainly, at least, as far as kidnappings and the like go). I suspect that when I was growing up in the ’70s, the lack of CNN and the Internet meant that we simply didn’t hear about much of the bad stuff that was happening.

    We take roughly the same approach with our daughter. Cute anecdotes, quick updates on something nifty at school, and vacation stories are all perfect blog fodder, but the stuff that’s actually hers — her interactions with her friends, her writing, anything that frustrates her, etc — is hers, not mine or my wife’s. She has a mostly-unused blog account, and is aware of it. If she ever gets the yen to post something, she can do so. It should be her choice.

  11. Speaking as someone who has not spawned, it seems to me that the existence of the Whatever is actually far more dangerous than any particular pictures here. That is, as John’s profile goes up, the odds increase that some lunatic will think he’s the child of Satan, or has oodles of ransom cash, or whatever.

    For most of us, the dangers to children in our neighborhoods from accidental violence far outweigh the dangers of deliberate action. GPS devices are all well and good, but they still won’t help when a trucker falls asleep at the wheel. I think that Athena’s understanding of the world around her is much more certain to keep her safe than any bit of technology would be.

    Of course, if your own kids aren’t as frighteningly precocious, your mileage may vary.

  12. Byron: I wish I had the source data you were working from so I could appreciate your math more, but 1 girl in 10 being molested before the age of 18 seems rather low. There was a phrase in your post that I didn’t understand: “(around a third reported).” Reporting molestation as a crime is the obstacle that makes estimating this sort of statistic very difficult. Sociologists can only make guesses (educated guesses, but guesses nonetheless) on how frequently it does happen.
    Anecdotally, I know, in my elementary class of say 30 or so, two girls who *I suspect* (one obliquely confirmed) were molested by thier fathers (not necessarily in elementary school, but that’s the pool of girls I’m drawing from). They were friends of mine and thier fathers were people I never-ever trusted. That’s 2:15 and they were the obvious ones, at least to me. How many more? AND I grew up in an average rural area. Poverty and class probably affect the issue as well.
    I don’t know if the estimation of 1:3 is accurate, but I don’t agree with 1:10 either.
    I don’t think those statistics are designed to panic (while the watchdog ones where you can locate every sexual offender within a 2 mile radius are) but rather to make you pay attention and think about what you see and hear.

  13. I wonder if there has been an increased trend towards making parents solely responsible for their children’s well-being. If a child is hit by a car while riding their bike to the park, it seems that the question that will be asked will be “Why was that child riding their bike without a parent?” rather than “Why wasn’t the driver paying attention?” This example is purely hypothetical, based on my impression of the level of responsibility I feel is expected of me, that is, that if something happens to my kid, regardless of the circumstances, ultimately I am responsible for safeguarding them. I feel that there is not a strong sense that we all have a responsibility to watch out for the more vulnerable members of society. As a parent,I feel that I can’t rely on the general public to, for example, keep an eye out for small kids on bikes as they drive through a neighborhood. Since I can’t trust the general public to watch out for my kids, that places the burden entirely on me, so, my almost-8 year old can ride her bike around the block, but she doesn’t bike across streets out of my sight.

    Having said all this, I’m hesitant to make broad generalizations one way or the other. I’m not convinced that parents today are more protective and likewise, I’m not entirely persuaded that the “general public” I cite above was more attentive to watching out for kids 20, 30, 50 years ago than today. I survived my childhood. I expect my kids will survive their childhoods as well.

    ps John, I’d really like to hear, if you don’t mind sharing, some of the specifics of how you’ve talked to Athena about pervs and the like.

  14. The world may or may not be any less safe, overall, than it was when I was growing up (in the late 1960s and 1970s) in the then far-less-developed suburbs of Lawn Guy Land. However, by comparison with then and there, here and now (Queens, NYC) is significantly more dangerous for kids, and they require more oversight. Fortunately for them (and far less so for the adults in our family), I work weekend overnights, so the adults’ schedules dovetail and we always have one parent or the other available.

    More on this when and if a move to the current suburbs happens. I understand they’re far more easygoing than the city, still, but less so than they were when there were still large tracts of woods behind the houses, rather than other houses.

  15. My mom is a bit protective of her kid’s online presence, and I’m 27, so I don’t think it’s just paranoid Gen-Xers. I keep reminding her that the top information people can find about me personally (as opposed to professionally) is that I live with two large, protective men who work from home (as do I), so really, I might as well hang a “find your victims elsewhere, assholes” sign.

  16. Anne, these reports and data are all publicly available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/). Census data comes from the Census Bureau (i.e. how many kids there are in the U.S.). Depending on the type of data you can also typically get your hands on raw data for analysis (privacy issues are sometimes a problem). Simplified spreadsheets are also often available (you’d rather work with these for ‘causal’ analysis since cleaning raw datasets is a complete pain). The US government has a mandate to make data available, we all paid for it after all.

    In the KidSafe scenario, it seems that they pulled most of their information from this report: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cvvoatv.pdf

    I primarily used a newer report, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf, from June 2000 that employed the dataset in the earlier report as well as a second dataset for analyzing offenders themselves. I found the investigation of offender age (and its relationship to victim age) and the time of day data particularly interesting. This is also where the “about one third reported” comes from as the 300,000-ish number is derived from a much smaller number of actual reported incidents.

    However, I agree that good estimates the actual rate of incidence is going to be very difficult. So, let’s triple the incidence rate to 1.32% of being molested in a given year, we’re still talking an expected 21% of girls being molested. Not good, I thought close to 10% was pretty horrific myself, but still markedly less than 33%. A number which I still think was intentionally chosen to mislead (whether through true concern or crass political manipulation still remains to be seen. I hope for the former as the latter is truly despicable) as what it says, though strictly true, will not be the default interpretation of most readers.

    We have to take it up to 2.6% chance of being molested in each year which means that the projected estimate is low by a factor of almost 6 larger than a number that is already a factor of 3 larger than reported incidents (i.e. 18 times more than number of reported incidents).

    Again, I’ll note I’m doing things like uniformly assigning abuse across all ages

  17. I’d have to say that the only thing I feel is more dangerous now, is the traffic.

    Exactly. Your child’s chance of being attacked by a Scary Stranger is so much less than her chance of dying in a car accident (on foot or otherwise)–but people fixate on stranger danger. Gavin de Becker has some very thoughtful writing on the stupid pointlessness of worrying, instead of expending energy on actual dangers–because it’s so much easier to fuss about child molesters behind bushes than to admit “I really don’t like the way Child’s Best Friend’s mom acts when I send Child over for playdates.”

    John, to be honest, while I think the current level of supervision expected of parents is too high, I think the level in your day and mine was too low. Yes, most of us came out OK, but a lot of us didn’t, and a little more parental supervision would probably have helped. I grew up in a neighborhood where all my friends had stay-at-home moms whose attitude was “I don’t want you messing up the house, get out until dinner,” and didn’t much care where the kids were or what they were doing otherwise.

    I mean, we were playing on construction sites, fercrissakes. That’s a little too much in the ‘unsupervised play’ realm for my adult tastes.

  18. Mythago:

    “John, to be honest, while I think the current level of supervision expected of parents is too high, I think the level in your day and mine was too low.”

    This is indeed possible.

  19. “John, to be honest, while I think the current level of supervision expected of parents is too high, I think the level in your day and mine was too low.”

    I agree. The amount of shit I got away with and the kinds of shit I pulled make me shake my head and wonder WTF my parents were doing.

    Being the parent of a hyperactive 10 year old boy, I can see why my parents were as lax as they were. They had 4, I have 1. That said, I recognize that I needed more supervision than they provided – and so I now do that for my son.

    I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I suspect that follows for most other parents of our generation.

  20. Mr. Scalzi, I’m about the same age as you (and getting too old to address people by first name..) and I also roamed wild as a kid. But I grew up in an orchard & henhouse village, and no matter where I roamed, I was always within sight of a housewife or a husband. THen when I moved the the city, again, roamed wild and loved it, and again, everywhere I went, a housewife was by an open window. But now we have two income families and suburbs that are bereft of adults from 10 to 6 every day. That changes things. I don’t think kids should be watched over as intently as they are nowadays, but they do need to be watched more closely than they were in my day.

  21. Scalzi, youre my favorite writer you need more love, so hope you post this up for more love lol.I agree with evrything you have to say like this blog. Got to watch out for those creeps who feed on the young.

  22. We recently moved out of Deepest Whitest Suburbia into more of a city setting (but still somewhat suburban) here in Michigan. To an area where it’s a mile walk to downtown, through residential neighborhoods, etc.

    My daughter’s school is less than a half a mile away, and we’re at the outer edge of the residency area.

    And NONE of her classmates walk to school. Come 8:30am, there is a huge line of cars, dropping kids off. Including one woman who lives half a block down the street, but gets in her SUV and drives her son to school.

    When we were preparing to move here, I was excited at the prospect of her walking to school. During a short stay in Nashville, all the kids in our neighborhood walked, and it was a fun experience with her to get with a group of kids and head off down to school.

    Whereas now, none of them walk. Ever. She’s upset, because i am less comfortable with her walking now that I know she’s one of maybe three or four kids that actually walk home. Safety in numbers, and all that. We’ve reached a compromise – the path to school is an L, and I walk down to the bend of the L and watch her walk from school, and then we walk the rest of the way together. But I find it really sad that parents have gotten to the point that a 10 minute half mile walk is more than they feel safe letting their kids have.

    (She’s 11, and going to middle school in the fall, btw.)

  23. “I don’t want you messing up the house, get out until dinner”

    That was my friends’ mom to a T. No shoes in the house and all the furniture was covered in plastic. She was more concerned about the furniture and carpets than what her children were up to.

  24. About the walking to school thing, my older brothers grew up in the 60’s, and were permitted to walk to school (grade school) and I grew up in the 70’s, and wasn’t allowed to.

    I used to argue with my parents about it sometimes, all the things they were allowed to do that I wasn’t, but they kept insisting that “things weren’t safe anymore”. I know part of it was some thinly veiled racism (the neighborhood started to integrate when I started 1st grade). They could have paper routes, join the boy scouts, etc but my parents were super over-protective of me. My parents would counter the argument with the cool things I could do that my bros. couldn’t (play in the school band, etc)I don’t dwell on it anymore, its all in the past.

    Another issue, was they were always afraid that older men were “out to get me” (if you know what I mean). Any male teacher or adult male that had contact with children was suspect. The truth is, no one ever molested me, and I still grew up to be gay. Maybe they “knew” when I was little that I was different in that way and just wanted to look out for me. If so, they were probably more astute than other parents.

  25. When I was a social worker, our case histories bore out our general feeling that horrible incidents involving children were down on a per capita basis. What was up, about ten thousand times, was the reportage of such incidents.

    We noticed a couple of trends. First, too-close supervision often had an equal and opposite reaction, and the lengths some kids went to escape it were staggering. Second, more insidiously, there was a rising number of teenagers whose parents looked out for their every interest, and were thus utterly incapable of doing so for themselves when released into the broader world. That created a whole new set of problems.

  26. I just read something not too long ago that said that there are no more stranger crimes and abductions now than there ever were. But if you let your kids roam and no one elses are out roaming, then statistically does that make your child a bigger target? I think we all need to have the children’s version of “take back the night” and take back the neighborhoods.

    I was a latchkey kid, and I roamed the streets, but I really never (hardly ever?) did anything that dangerous. I was trusted not to get into too much trouble. I have a friend who was not even allowed to walk down the street to her friends house without a (male) escort and now she doesn’t think she can survive life without a man, so there’s that nasty side effect.

    It seems like some people equate good parenting with keeping the children wrapped in bubble wrap and packed away on a shelf and only allowed out for planned, special occasions. Since I don’t drive, my kids and I ride the bus and light rail a lot. Everyone tells me how dangerous this is and recoils in horror at the thought of it. So I did some research into the crime and injury rates of riding public transportation in my city. It turns out that only 6 people had died in 30+ years of the statistical period. And one was a suicide and two were jackasses trying to run accross the train tracks when the train arrived. Compare that to MVA. Also, the crime statistics were pretty decent as well. Something like 75 reported violent crimes in the same time period. Not even as bad as crimes committed against people walking to their cars in parking garages.

    I think the fear of public transportation is the same fear that we instill in our children which is all strangers are bad. Don’t associate with them, don’t ever sit next to them on a bus because they all want to maim and kill you. I think this works against our kids instead of help them. Sure a certain amount of caution needs to be taken among strangers, but it is more important that kids know their boundries and limits, know that they can use their voice and listen to that little voice in their head if something doesn’t feel right, but also if it does. A person mentioned above that he lived in a community where housewives were always out and about looking out for people’s kids. This comes from trusting strangers sometimes, not saying that all of them are bad. It is a more important skill to be around strangers and learn to handle yourself if something is making you uncomfortable than to just never be left alone and never talk to strangers. A cycle occurs, because then we still don’t know how to talk to strangers as adults and thus don’t know our neighbors, and thus create more strangers and more fear.

  27. “Second, more insidiously, there was a rising number of teenagers whose parents looked out for their every interest, and were thus utterly incapable of doing so for themselves when released into the broader world. That created a whole new set of problems” I couldn’t agree more- we have to find some balance between watching our kids and keeping them as safe as we can and completely destroying their ability and confidence to look after themselves. If an 11 year old kid can’t walk 10 minutes home from school in the suburbs, how is she going to cope when she starts college in a few short years? I also agree with Angie about safety in numbers- it would be great if there were loads of kids in the street, if only because of observant little eyes who might have spotted the car or driver if there is a danger.

    I’m torn though- recently my 6 year old has been insisting that she can go to the bathroom in a supermarket or restaurant without a parent to accompany her (and she is competent, so I have let her do so a few times)- but in the news in the UK this week is an 11 year old subjected to a pretty horrific sexual assault in a supermarket bathroom… plus where she goes her 4 year old sister soon wants to follow. Maybe I just have to hover outside without them noticing

  28. just picking up on idea of the cell phone with the chip in it- in the UK the commonest crime suffered by school age kids is the theft of their cell phone (normally by other kids). Plus I can just imagine that a potential molester’s first thought would be to toss that phone (ideally into a moving vehicle) just in case.

    Obviously the only answer is to implant the chip under our kids’ skin, and won’t they love that! (although I gather that some nightclubs are already doing this for ID/credit card info…)

  29. Just thought I would post this website:

    http://www.walkingbus.com

    It talks about how to organize kids into walking buses to school and back. Each parent volunteers for one day a week and walks around the neighborhood and “picks up” a group of 8-10 kids and walks them to school.

    It’s safe, gives you and your kids some excersise, social time, gets you to know your neighbors, and not too hard to organize, I wouldn’t think. Saves on that 1/2 block’s worth of gas fromt the SUV as well.

    Just an idea.

  30. mythago – I can understand the traffic thing, but we’re talking a residential neighborhoods here, and in the blocks immediately surrounding the school, there are 11-12 year old student crossing guards. If her school wasn’t smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, I might feel differently, but traffic around 8:30 in this neighborhood is pretty much nil – all the working parents have left for work hours ago.

  31. For tracking your kid in android platform without using internet, use “Ghostrack”. Its a super app full of useful features. You can define your tracking method by fixing time or distance. So just try it for once

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