Thinking About Predators and Bullies All the Time
Last summer, Dear Abby suggested that every day, before your child heads out to school, whip out your cell phone and take a photo.
That way you'll have a picture to give the police when your child is kidnapped.
That advice is one of the more corrosive ideas I've ever heard. About 115 kids are kidnapped by strangers a year, according to FBI stats. Meantime, about 115 people die in car accidents every day. And yet we feel terrified sending our kids out the door, and very relaxed driving them to the skating rink. Seems like we should be 365 times less terrified about kidnapping than driving.
Abby's advice reinforces the notion that every day our children are so likely to be snatched that we'd better prepare for it. "Bye, hon! I've got your picture in case you're thrown in a trunk!"
Now comes the latest "Kids in danger!" wrinkle: A company called iSafe is selling a backpack with a built-in alarm a child can pull when being stalked or even bullied. According to the company: "Parents need to consider the danger that happens within school walls and take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their children."
Got that? If you're reckless enough to send your kids off into that maelstrom called school, consider the danger. Worry every day.
Miffed, I called the iSafe folks, who gave me the phone number of the one mom they knew of whose child had actually deployed the bag. I called her.
"My daughter was cornered in the girls' locker room," said the Florida woman, speaking of her sixth grader. "As the bullying progressed into pushing and shoving, she grabbed her bag, pulled the alarm system and teachers and staff come to her rescue."
Thank God! Bullies defeated! So maybe it does make sense to carry an alarm at all times? Or is the alarm alarmist?
Well, it was the backpack that gave the mom and the daughter the courage to return to normal after the attack. It gave them the same confidence I got from carrying my keys brass-knuckle style between my fingers back when I first moved to New York years back and the city was out of control.
So skip the morning photo -- it doesn't prevent anything, it just turns the world into an Amber Alert waiting to happen. But as someone who wants to see kids outside again, walking to school, or skipping to the park, I think carrying an alarm, or a whistle, or learning some self-defense makes sense: It gives kids (and their parents) the courage to go out and seize the day, instead of constantly worrying, "Is this the day I'm going to be seized?"
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.