Free-Range Kids

Good Morning America Shouldn't Encourage Parents to Worry All the Time

When we overestimate danger, we treat everyone like they are fragile and in need of supervision.


ABC News

Good Morning America did a follow-up story on The New York Times piece about Kim Brooks, who was arrested for letting her son wait in the car for five minutes.

In her piece, Brooks explored why we seem so determined to harass parents for leaving their kids in a statistically very safe situation. (How safe? Far safer than the kids were while getting driven to the store.)

Unfortunately, Good Morning America may have encouraged people to reach for their pitchforks. For the final word on this story, it turned to its expert, ABC News Senior Legal Correspondent and former Federal Prosecutor Sunny Hostin.

Hostin recalled a time she had accidentally left her child in the car for two minutes and felt terrible, which is understandable. She meant to take the kid but forgot. (Which is one reason a "never leave your kids in the car" law is pointless: the forgetters don't realize they have left their kids in the car). But from this she concludes:

Listen, I don't think you can be too nosy when it comes to little kids. I think we are a village…. Err on the side of protecting your child.

To which the host replies:

Correct, because that's the intention of anyone who's getting involved typically is to protect your child.

But of course, forgetting your kid in the car isn't the topic of debate here. Making an informed judgment is.

We should not err on the side of protecting the child in cases where the children don't need protecting—like when a parent knows they're running a short errand and deliberately decides to let the kid wait briefly in a car. If you're worried the parent isn't coming back, wait a little bit and see. Don't reflexively call 911. And when the parent does come back, don't treat them like an outlaw for doing something statistically very safe.

Defaulting to an absolutist position of safety first means we would have to keep our kids in bed in bubblewrap all day. It's ridiculous to remove good judgment from the equation, and yet that is what Good Morning America recommends: always assume a child is in danger and that the parents are bad.

When we overestimate danger, we treat everyone like they are fragile and in need of supervision. This is neither prudent nor kind.

NEXT: The New York Times Shouldn't Fire Sarah Jeong for Racist Tweets About White People

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  1. So, when Sunny Hostin applied for her prosecutor job, how did she explain her arrest on child neglect charges?

    Wait, I’m guessing she *wasn’t* arrested – but she was punished enough because she “felt bad,” which is sufficient for members of the governing classes – they feel more guilt than the rest of us and so it would be unnecessary to process them through the criminal justice system as if they were proles.

  2. As a soccer mom, I’m not about to tune into a television program that doesn’t reinforce my sense of superiority in the art of mothering.

  3. Really? ABC? And we are supposed to give even one damn?
    How about a few articles on the economy, or the party platforms, or the percentage increase in dandelion infestations?
    Anything but ABC

    1. Don’t you dare disparage ABC, that icon of 80s British pop groups!

  4. When we overestimate danger, we treat everyone like they are fragile and in need of supervision. This is neither prudent nor kind.

    But “Everybody Panic!!!” is what sells the eyeballs. GMA and ABC aren’t in the business of being prudent and kind, much less informative and instructive, they’re in the business of selling outrage and exaggeration and breathless drama.

  5. “I think we are a village”…Christ on a crutch. There went my lunch.

    1. Yeah, a village which obviously doesn’t lack for an idiot.

  6. When we overestimate danger, we treat everyone like they are fragile and in need of supervision. This is neither prudent nor kind.

    To be sure, it’s also profitable and comes with the warm satisfaction of both knowing one is superior and that one’s tribe is powerful enough to enforce that.

  7. Correct, because that’s the intention of anyone who’s getting involved typically is to protect your child.

    Well as long as their intentions are good, I suppose a little heavy-handed government brutality is just fine.

  8. Also, eventually there’s going to be some a discussion of some real threat to kids, and how will we know the threat is real after all the crying of wolf, since if everything is dangerous to kids, nothing is.

  9. “Err on the side of protecting your child.”

    The only real way to do that is to not have one in the first place.

    1. “Your safety is our top priority, so we’re dissolving our business.”

  10. I have a belief that comes from twenty years of adulthood and having friends with kids. People who stay at home with kids get dumber over time. It’s a combination of exclusively being around kids, kid’s programming, and the overall stupidity of daytime television (including the network morning shows). I’ve dated two women who at one time were stay at home moms when their children were very small. They were initially offended by my statement but then agreed with me (when they go back into adultworld they regain intelligence).

    I say that because most of these morning shows are little more than celebrity gossip, a couple of actual news stories, and then a bunch of stories to scare people (GMOs, stranger danger, sex trafficking). These stories serve to reinforce silly fears and superstitions and make them want to huddle in their homes away from the world as much as possible.

    1. Watching “the View” for an hour kills more brain cells than a gallon of cheap vodka.

      1. ^ This. Pretty sure that’s actual science.

    2. Not sure about your causality? But, I have seen studies, and heard many women basically say that they loose some IQ points having children. MY sister puts it best, Children steal half you brain at birth. Her theory is that now instead of thinking about your own needs, you are also using up some of your brains capacity thinking about what your kids need and what they might be getting up to, or what they may have forgotten and need reminding about. However stupid in = stupid out, so I don’t doubt that people that watch these stupid shows,are dumber as a result.

      Hmmm I wonder, could we rate shows on the IQ of their viewers, instead of the volume of viewers.

  11. It’s ridiculous to remove good judgment from the equation

    “But we left *common sense* in!”

    1. Giving common sense a bad name.

  12. Good Morning America shouldn’t let George Stephanopolous, the Kelly Anne Conway of the Clinton administration, pretend to be anything but a Democrat stooge.

  13. TO: ABC, Good Morning America, The New York Times, Sunny Hostin, and anyone who uses “we” when talking about some mythical collective parenting consciousness

    FROM: An actual parent

    SUBJECT: Go fuck yourself

    Love and kisses, CD

  14. Actually I do agree with GMA conclusion, with one very large caveat. That it assumes we still live in a sane world, were all that would come of calling the police out of concern is a thank you for your concern from the parent,, and a sorry for the trouble from the police when it turns out to be nothing. Unfortunately we do not live in such a world; if we ever did outside of TVland. Of course I think even Lenore’s advise of what to do if you really are concerned could be bad advise in the real world we live in. I can imagine a concerned adult waiting around to ensure a child is safe having the police called on them as a sex trafficker, stalking an unsupervised child, creating a busy day for Police, CPS, and more columns here.

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