Free-Range Kids

Parents, Want to Attach GPS Monitors to Your Kids Every Time They Leave the House?

Paranoid parenting at its worst.



The paragraph below is from a press release about a GPS service parents can subscribe to. When would you need this service? How about when your kids are walking to school solo:

Sure, you only live a few blocks from school, but letting your kids make the journey alone seems terrifying.  Freedom is important, but before saying yes, show them how to send you a Glympse. You can ensure they make no stops or detours, and have peace of mind whether you are at home waiting for them, or at the office unable to concentrate until you know they are home safe.

But why is the walk to school so terrifying, so fear inducing for parents? Are the kids walking through a mountain lion preserve? Swimming through shark-infested waters? Or are normal people just supposed to be terrified every second their kids venture outside without them?

"Freedom is important," says the press release. But are kids truly free if their parents are tracking their every move?

This press release then has the gall to say that this service "can help keep parents sane, with limited helicoptering needed."

I resent the implication that this is not helicopter parenting. I resent any company trying to make it seem like this level of surveillance is just normal and necessary and not a big, childhood-changing deal. Imagine if your parents had constantly checked up on you as you walked home or played outside. I'm not talking about them requesting a call when you got to your friend's house. I'm talking about them checking in on you on your way to and from the friend's house, and at the friend's house, and everywhere else you went, all the time. "Are you safe now? Now? How about now?"

The idea that this helps keep parents sane is ridiculous.

I got a note this week from a guy who went back to his hometown after an absence of several years. The town, he said:

is lovingly preserved, so much so that about 90% of all the schoolboy haunts I remember are still remarkably intact.
In the entire weekend I was there, I counted exactly two small children playing in a yard adjacent to the back lane I used to take to school. That's it.

There was a kind of post-apocalyptic feel to the streets. A beautiful summer weekend –and nobody was out.

The apocalypse is fear.

A bomb of psychological terror has been dropped on our civilization, in part by "friendly" products and pitches like this, and its fallout means the kids have to stay inside. And now this conviction is seeping into law. Consider the Maryland Meitivs and Maria Hasankolli—investigated for letting their kids walk outside. Or consider all the parents harassed and even arrested for letting their kids wait in the car a short time. Society is becoming convinced that any unsupervised child is in immediate danger, which means that any parent permitting it is endangering their kid.

But let us remember this: The walk home from school, except in some truly sad neighborhoods, is no more dangerous than it was when we were kids. In fact,it's safer. The crime rate is at a 50-year low. Crimes against kids and adults are way down. Even childhood pedestrian deaths are a third of what they were in the early '90s. What has changed is our perception.

Stop peddling fear in the guise of reassurance.