Here's how parents are being brainwashed into fear for their kids and contempt for their communities. Remember: This fear is new. Our parents weren't browbeaten into thinking that anytime a child opened the door and stepped outside, the parent was a negligent hussy and the kid was dead meat. But here's how Julie Chen, co-host of "The Talk," introduced Utah's new law regarding free-range parenting:
"A new law has passed in Utah encouraging, quote, 'free-range parenting.' The law, which takes effect next month, specifies that it is not a crime for parents to allow kids who display maturity and good judgment to walk to school alone or play outside unsupervised. Lawmakers say the legislation was introduced to encourage more self-reliance among children. However, some critics fear the new legislation could put kids in harm's way. What do you think of this law?"
Chen's disgust for the law — and for anyone who trusts kids to do anything on their own — was palpable, and the audience understood its job. A Greek chorus hissed the crazy idea that mature children with good judgment should ever be allowed to venture beyond the couch. Then Sharon Osbourne — yes, rocker Ozzy Osbourne's wife — piped in:
"Is this a joke? I mean, it's ridiculous. That's what it is. Free-range parenting? That's a joke. There is no way that you're going to let your child go off to the park. ... Perverts hang out in park. We all know that! 'Oh, just go off with your little friend. Go play for a couple of days. See you after the weekend.' You know, it's ridiculous."
Finally, a third panelist referred to the case of Etan Patz, who was "the very first milk carton kid. He had been begging his mom and dad to let him walk to school alone. It was just two blocks. ... And they finally one day ... let him walk to school alone — and he disappeared."
The Etan case happened in 1979, or 39 years ago. That means that more than 150 million American children have been born since then. If we mention Etan's tragedy — which we all remember because things like it are so rare — why are we not also mentioning the thousands killed by car crashes?
They don't count because we can't shame the parents.
Just once I'd like to see a talk show open this way:
Up next, a proposed law would allow parents to drive their kids to the dentist! (Audience boos.) Some critics are saying this could put kids in danger. After all, the No. 1 way kids die is being a passenger in a car. We'll talk about one mom's tragic decision to get her son's cavity filled 39 years ago. (Audience hisses.) Here's his picture.
Panelist No. 2: Don't parents know that streets are for accidents? Let your kid sit in the back seat while you drive someplace? It's ridiculous!
Panelist No. 3: Yeah, great idea, Mom. "I'm going to drive my kid to Dr. Pruzansky." What was she thinking?
Panelist No. 4: Maybe in the old days you could get on a horse and ride your kid to the dry goods store, but those safe, happy, zero-accident days are gone forever.
"The Talk" might look like innocent chitchat to pass the day. But in reality, it is filling our hearts with fear and remaking childhood into prison, thanks to the unquestioned notion on the set that children are automatically in danger whenever they are unsupervised and the parents are automatically to be scorned.
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.