Is My Child About to Be Snatched?

Filed under: Funny Stuff, Opinions

When you suddenly notice your child is not by your side at the grocery, or the mall, or the sidewalk, do you immediately think, "Oh my God! Kidnapped!?!" If so, you are not alone.

You are also not in your right mind. You are suffering from media-induced madness.

Here's the deal. We all know that when we turn on TV, chances are good we're going to see something horrific. The last time I watched "Law & Order," it was about a 3-year-old boy snatched off the street in the blink of an eye. The time before, it was about a teenage girl, snatched off the street in the blink of an eye. Watch any of the primetime dramas regularly –- or the news -- and your brain will soon be bulging with stories of kids kidnapped, raped and, of course, killed. The problem is: Those memories are like Styrofoam peanuts. They never wither away.

Instead, they get filed in the brain and consulted on a daily basis. So when we wonder, "Gee, is it safe to let my kid wait at the bus stop by himself?" up pops a file labeled, "KIDS STOLEN FROM BUS STOPS."

And even though it's filled with stories from 30 years ago (Etan Patz), or an ocean away (Maddie McCann) or fictional ("Law & Order"), they are often the only info on that topic that we've got. After all, our brains aren't filled with stories of the millions of children who never went missing. But Jaycee Duggard -- her, we know. She was snatched from a bus stop at age 11 and got away 18 years later. And that easily accessible story is what we use to make our parenting decisions. (Or at least, that's what our mothers-in-law use.)

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor at New York University Medical Center, is trying to help parents understand why that's a bad idea. In his book, "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear," he writes, "A lion is wise to be afraid of a lion, but not a lion thousands of miles away."

Trouble is, thanks to TV, the lion never seems thousands of miles away. It seems like it's one aisle over, in produce. TV wants us to feel that way. It keeps us watching. How else to explain this fact Siegel dug up? From 1990 to 1998, the murder rate went down 20 percent in America.

On TV news it went up 600 percent.

We can act like misguided zebras and live in constant fear for our kids. Or we can turn off the TV and reacquaint ourselves with the real world, where lions are not allowed in the grocery store.

And there aren't very many at the mall, either.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.