Thanks to the relentless scare-mongering by our news media, parents nowadays are terrified that their children will suffer harm, either due to accidents or at the hands of strangers. This has led to them placing very strict limits on their children, to the extent of some never letting them out of their sight, not having play dates with other children, or letting them have sleep overs at friends homes, riding bikes, and so on.
Some parents, like those who let their children walk home from a playground and discovered that someone had reported to the police seeing unaccompanied children and had police pick them up, now find themselves investigated for negligence. Hanna Rosin writes about this and other cases of over-reaction.
Lenore Skenazy, who achieved some notoriety and the label of ‘America’s Worst Mom’ after she allowed her 9-year old son to travel alone on the New York City subway, has now started a show to help wean people out of being helicopter parents, always hovering over her children.
But one family seemed to have carried their fears to an extreme. They were concerned that their 6-year son was too nice and trusting of people and to persuade him otherwise, they got a friend to kidnap him on the street, tie him up, put a bag over his head, hold him in a basement, and frighten him with horrible stories of what was going to happen to him.
To be sure, every parent’s nightmare is to have their child be abducted by a stranger, but that is a very rare occurrence. And to be honest, we were quite protective parents too, not giving our children anywhere near the level of freedom I had when I was their age. Partly this was due to being immigrants and not being sure of the local norms. So I can understand and sympathize with those who worry when their children are out of sight in public places
But when parents are so concerned that they are willing to traumatize their children to make them mistrustful and fearful, we need to think about whether we have gone too far in emphasizing the dangers that society poses.