November 15, 2012

By BTS Prevention

“Is it safe?”—This oft-quoted line from Marathon Man is one that is being issued not by Nazi Doctor Christian Szell, but by parents throughout the country.  Our fear-based society propagates the containment of middle and upper-class children into a bubble of safety.  Safety is the number one concern of parents—rightfully so—but it is often espoused even at the expense of our children’s identities.

Kids can’t play catch with their friends because a kidnapper might be lurking behind the residential bushes.  Sons and daughters can’t hang out at the mall because of 20/20’s exposé on food-court peril.  Parents test their children’s Halloween candy, throwing away the poison-susceptible jujubes.

This is creating a world of trapped children.  On one hand, they are told that when they grow up they can be whatever they want to be.  On the other hand, they are told that they can’t go anywhere without a tracking device.  Eventually, children must leave the bubble and venture off into the world by themselves.  And they are not prepared.  Kids call from college cafeterias to ask their mom what kind of salad dressing they should put on their chopped salad.  They don’t know how to take the bus (note: you put money in the machine and sit down until you get to your stop).  And they don’t know how to deal with the world on their own.

The parental reasoning for their child’s imprisonment is typically a nostalgic, “The world is more dangerous than it was when I was a kid.” In our media saturated world, where kidnappings are live-streamed and terrorist threats are given the colors of a Crayola crayon box, the representation that our world is more dangerous is quickly accepted as fact.  But the containment of children can be more dangerous than the real or imagined fears that exist outside of a home’s locked and alarmed doors.

Yes, the world is dangerous.  Yes, terrorism is real.  Yes, random kidnappings occur throughout the country.  But protecting children from these threats often precludes them from the beauty of living. Perhaps Szell’s line “Is it safe?” should be reframed.  Maybe it is safer to let your child take the bus and play in the street than it is to keep them inside of a bubble.

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