From last week's Dear Abby comes this pointless fear-mongering:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I disagree about how to handle taking our children shopping with us. I believe that, especially while our children are small (they are 3 and 5), the adult with them should keep them in sight at all times, or at least the majority of the time. If a child moves out of eyesight, the adult should find them within a minute. Are there guidelines on what is appropriate by age or developmental stage on this issue? -- HELICOPTER MOM AND FREE RANGE DAD
DEAR HELICOPTER MOM: Your husband is an optimist, while you are a realist. Common sense should prevail. When you take your children to a public place, they should remain under your or your husband's supervision at all times until they are aware enough that they can't be lured away by a stranger, and big enough to fight off a predator.
According to this, I should go dig up my mom if I want to go to a public place, as I remain not "big enough to fight off a predator." If you're determined to snatch me and over 5'6", I'm sunk.
Of course -- and obviously -- when kids are 5 and 3, it makes sense to keep an eye on them, mostly because if they wander off, it is a miserable experience for all involved. But the idea that stranger danger is ever-lurking has been debunked even by the group that put the kids on the milk cartons:
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is now encouraging parents to steer away from using the phrase "stranger danger," a slogan that has been taught for decades to emphasize to children the potential threat posed by strangers.
So far from being a "realist," this mom -- and Abby -- are victims of a society that has had its risk analysis so screwed up that even a very safe situation -- being in a store with a parent -- is seen as being in a vortex of danger with kidnappers all around.
Remember that 2017 was a banner year for safety! According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School:
- The overall crime rate in 2017 is projected to decrease slightly, by 1.8 percent. If this estimate holds, 2017 will have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990.
Beth Boggess, the FBI supervisory special agent who heads Colorado’s violent crimes against children unit, told 9NEWS that human traffickers tend to lure vulnerable teens over time.
“It’s a completely different crime,” Boggess said. “We don’t see kidnapping for human trafficking.”
Neither Boggess or the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated this claim and a similar one in May, had heard of a single incident where a young child was kidnapped from a store for the purposes of sex trafficking.
And versions of this scenario have been debunked by other law enforcement officials across the country, including Michigan and California.
My guidelines would be: Allow your kids to be elsewhere in the store as long as they are old enough to understand when you want them back, and that they aren't allowed to leave. Also, you'll have taught them that they can TALK to anyone but cannot go OFF with anyone.
Remember that by age 5, many of us were walking to school not so long ago, and certainly by age 7, most kids around the world are walking to school. That should give you some feel for when kids are ready for some independence.
As for Dear Abby's "realist" advice, it is based on what?
A completely unrealistic view of the world, at least according to actual crime stats and actual people working in crime prevention. - L