Provocateur Joey Salads, a comedian who doesn't seem to care about sowing paranoia, keeps making videos about extremely rare and unlikely crimes to "teach parents a lesson." That lesson is inevitably: Your children will be snatched the second you take your eyes off them.
It doesn't seem to matter to him that he is reinforcing an idea that is already both rampant and untrue: Everyone is just waiting for the split-second opportunity to steal our kids.
Stranger kidnapping is the rarest of crimes. Even if you wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, you'd have to leave him outside, unattended, for 750,000 years before he'd be statistically likely to be snatched.
But you wouldn't know it from Salads' shame-spreading, fearmongering videos, including his latest, in which he and a dad decide to teach the dad's wife about how horrible she is for letting their baby wait in the car for the few minutes it takes her to pay for the gas.
Salads and the dad trail the mom to the gas station. As you might expect, the minute she goes to pay the cashier, Salads grabs the baby.
He is lucky the mom did not have a heart attack.
Or a gun.
Or a good lawyer. Personally, I would charge Salads with kidnapping. (I would also charge him with making a suspiciously "perfect" video, because how likely is it that all this — the gas station visit, the baby in the car, the mom sounding strangely rehearsed when she is admonished by Salads at the end — happened to be unfolding just as the cameras were rolling?)
Spreading danger hysteria is good for clicks and bad for society. One reason we arrest parents who let their kids play outside or wait for a few minutes in the car is that we have come to believe the vision Salads delights in reinforcing: Any mom who isn't handcuffed to her kids 24/7 doesn't give a darn about their lives.
This strange conviction — that simply waiting in the car for a few seconds is automatically a death sentence — requires only a moment's reflection for one to realize it's not true.
First of all, more kids die being dragged across parking lots than die in parked cars. It is safer for them not to leave the car.
Secondly, if simply sitting in an unmoving car equaled instant death, we'd all die the first time we come to a freight train crossing. Kids die when they are forgotten in cars for a stretch of time (the average: 4.6 hours), not when they wait for three minutes for Mom to pay for the gas.
And finally, if kids are being kidnapped from cars all the time, what are we to make of the current FBI crime stats, wherein we're back to the low levels we enjoyed when gas was 29 cents a gallon — and you could pay for it without someone fake-kidnapping your baby?
If Salads really wants to make kids safer, he should make a video teaching them the three R's that help kids avoid abuse:
—Recognize. They should recognize that no one can touch where their bathing suit covers.
—Resist. They should resist anyone trying to do that — by running, kicking and screaming.
—Report. Tell your kids that they can and should tell you about anything upsetting they were asked to do (or even did) and that you won't be angry with them. Tell them this applies even — perhaps especially — if they promised to keep it "secret." Keeping the lines of communication open takes away predators' best friend: silence.
Most crimes against kids are committed by people they know, not strangers.
Not even strangers with video cameras and a desperate need for clicks.
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.