Archive for the 'Risk your child's safety' Category

Halloween. It’s dangerous too!

October 19, 2009

I came across an article from Single Minded Women about Halloween safety for kids.  Maybe I’m just nostalgic or maybe I’m careless, but I thought most of the tips were a reaction from media fed paranoia about our kids’ safety.  One of my favourite memories from Halloween inovles going into a stranger’s house with my bestfriend.  We were in grade 9 and weren’t trick or treating, just walking around in costume having fun.  We were both dressed as Charlie Chaplin and someone thought it was really creative and funny.  He called us over and asked us if he could take our picture.  So we stepped into his house and he took a couple of pictures of us and then we left and went on our merry way.  I often wonder if that man still has those pictures. Weigh in on whether or not you think this was dangerous.  If I found out that any of my kids went into the house of  someone they didn’t know so he could take a couple of pictures of them in a costume on Halloween, why I’d… laugh.

Here are the tips from Single Minded Women’s article and my commentary because it’s my blog and you want to know what I think.  Yep.  You do. Because you’re awesome. 😉

1.) Select a safe and bright costume. Make sure your child’s costume (including beards, masks and wigs) is clearly marked as flame resistant or look for flame resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester. If the costume does not have any reflective fabric, add your own reflective tape on the back and front. Avoid billowing or long trailing features, especially those made of lightweight fabrics or materials. Your child should wear well-fitting shoes to prevent trips and falls. Costume accessories, including swords and knives, should be soft and flexible.

Completely reasonable advise for the most part here.  I like the flame resistant suggestion.  No snark there, I really do.  Halloween is a time when kids are likely to come across dozens of candles. It’s not something I would sweat over if I couldn’t find a flame resistant costume, but it doesn’t hurt to try to find one.  Well fitting shoes, well are we really that stupid that we need someone to tell us that our kids should be in comfrotable shoes?  The bit about soft accessories is way over the top, though.  Why should they be soft?  If a kid is going as a hockey player, does that mean a foam hockey stick? I’m not suggesting giving a seven year old a real sword, but surely a plastic one can’t be categorized as dangerous.

2.) Masks can obstruct children’s vision and restrict breathing. Consider make-up instead, checking all labels to ensure that it is non-toxic. If children do wear a mask, make sure they can see and breathe easily.

Remember those plastic masks that had those eye holes and the tiny little slit to breathe through?  Guess how many kids died as a result of not being able to breathe in one of those.  None.   Not being able to see, of course, is a bigger problem but kids are still able to, you know, take off the mask to cross the street.  Like we did as kids.  I wore mine only while walking up to the house to get my goodies.  Then it was slipped up over my head while I walked because those things were stuffy.  But, instead of teaching kids how to look out for cars or to take off the mask while crossing the street, it’s better just to not buy a mask of course. (Do they even make those anymore?  I was Yoda once.)

And seriously, who makes toxic makeup!?!  And who eats makeup?  Shouldn’t the masks be non-toxic too, just in case a kid takes a nibble?

3.) Do not let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult on Halloween night. For guidance and safety’s sake, accompany younger children to the door of every house they visit.

This gets the big ‘ol WTF! from me.  Yes, please make sure you go up to each door with your 11 year old.  Don’t forget to always hover no more than two feet behind him, too.  And, for the love of all things holy, don’t ever ever ever let him (or her) cross the street without you! Take him firmly by his 11 year old hand and don’t let him let go.  I know you let him cross the street by himself while going to school or to his friend’s house, but this is Halloween.  It’s dangerous.

I stand at the end of the walk for each house and send my kids up to get the candy.  I’m taking such risks with my own flesh and blood, for sure.  I mean, they could trip or bump into someone or something.  And we all know that it takes only a second for the guy to snatch up my kid and drag her into the house with everyone watching and knowing where he lives and all that.  Thank you Simple Single Minded Women for showing me just how dangerous I have been all this time.

4). Make sure your child has his or her own flashlight or glow stick to illuminate pathways and curbs.

Flashlights and glow sticks are just plain fun.  We actually need them here because the developers of this subdivision thought that streetlights were not necessary and the city planners agreed (and this was in the 1950s).  Seriously,  walking down the street at night here, there are places where flashlights are needed.  However, I do think streetlights are adequate if they are present.  But, like I said, what kid doesn’t like playing with a flashlight or glow stick?

5). Trick or treat with your smaller children during daylight hours.

Bwahahahahahahahaha!  And if you have older kids you’re taking out too?  Yeah, they need to go in daylight with the little ones too.  Or you need to go out in daylight and at night because you can’t let a kid under age 12 trick or treat alone.  Oh, and don’t forget to mention to all of your neighbours that you will be out at 4:00 so they can be home from work early to give out the candy.  (Yes it’s on Saturday this year but not every year.)  How does this even jibe with the advise to give kids flashlights?  And really, it is such a huge deal for the little ones to be out after dark! ” OMG! How cool is that?  It’s past my bedtime and I’m outside in the dark walking down the street!” I don’t see the risk if you’re, you know, hovering two feet behind them at all time, right?

6.) Teens should always go trick-or-treating in a group. Advise them to only stop at familiar homes with an illuminated outdoor light. Remind teens that they should never enter a stranger’s home, car or walk in unpopulated areas. At least one child in their group should have a fully charged cell phone.

Cell phone, not a bad idea I guess.  But, can’t we just let teens use their common sense as to whether or not a situation is dangerous?  Like my story above.  Never did I think he was a dangerous person and if I did, I would not have entered his house.  I do think all kids should trick or treat together, but more because it’s just more fun that way and a larger group is easier to see.  But I’m a big Halloween curmudgeon and don’t think anyone over the age of 13 should be going door to door anyway.  Dress up and walk around, sure.  Get free candy?  Nope, go get a job and buy your own candy.  And why would anyone be walking around an unpopulated area on Halloween?  How do you get candy that way?  And yeah, don’t go to that house where the person you don’t know lives!  In todays withdrawn society, we live in a whole neighbourhood of unfamiliar homes so that’s really limiting.

7). Make sure you know where and when your teen will be trick or treating and with whom. It’s also a good idea to have the phone number of their friends’ parents in the event of an emergency.

Sound advise, even for when ti’s not Halloween.  Nothing wrong with knowing where kids are supposed to be – I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they’ll actually be there.  I do think it’s a really good idea to have the phone numbers of your kids’ friends.  So, hey, I agree with them here.

8). Illuminate jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks. Avoid candles as they can pose a danger for trick-or-treaters who may come in contact with the open flames and ignite their costumes.

But then why the need for the flame resistant costurems?  I don’t really see anything wrong with this advise.  If you’re not going to be out front with your pumpkins in sight, it is best to use a flame free candle.  It does lose some of it’s festiveness that way so we just make sure we’re able to keep an eye on the pumpkins.  I may be a bit over cautious on this one, but a friend of knocked over a Jack-o-lantern when we were young.

9). Advise your child not to eat any of the candy until you have inspected it first. This is especially important if your child has any food allergies.

Children with food allergies are usually overly aware of the risks of eating something that could hurt them, but it is good to remind them that they can only munch on the licorice while out trick or treating.  However, there is no need for anyone to inspect the candy.  None.  At all.  Ever.  You know all of those stories about kids who ate poison candy on Halloween?  Want to know how many of them are true?  None.  Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.  There are two reported cases of poisoned candy killing kids and in both of those cases, it was the parents who killed the kids and blamed it on poisoned candy.  So, let’s all throw caution to the wind and let the kids eat a bag of chips while they are trick or treating, shall we?

10). Monitor their candy intake too. You’d be surprised at how much sugar, fat and calories a single, snack size candy bar has.

Um, no I won’t be surprised at the amount of sugar, fat and calories in a single, snack size candy bar.  I don’t monitor their intake because the faster they eat it, the faster it leaves the house.  I have a sneaky suspicion that regular meals of take out, fast food and prepackaged meals contributes more to the child obesity rate than Halloween candy.

 The world is a crazy place, but it’s not as dangerous as people would like us to think.  This particular article was partially written by Debra Holtzman, author of a book called Safe Baby.  Perhaps someone who has a vested interest in keeping parents paranoid is not the person we should be turning to for advise on Halloween safety.  After all, if we as parents are no longer paranoid, will we still want to buy her book?

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On another Halloween note, has any one heard about the candy goblin that comes and takes the candy away and brings a toy for the kids instead? I have heard of two families who do that and they’re quite proud of themselves. I personally think it’s a huge waste. Why would you be proud that you’re throwing a bunch of candy out that you didn’t need to get in the first place? I mean, would you proud if you bought a bag of Skittles just to throw it out? No. Why not just go door to door, sing a Halloween song to the people and then get a toy at the end of it all? Plus, Halloween = candy. And candy != evil if it is not an everyday, all day thing. These families could give their kids three pieces of candy a week and it would last a year. Is it just me or is the candy goblin really a stupid and wasteful idea? (Not to mention that it is more than likely bringing in another piece of cheap plastic crap (CPC) into your house that your kids don’t need. There will be more on CPC from me as Christmas approaches.)

Risk your child’s safety, for the sake of their sanity – Part 3 Let’s talk about sex (offender registry)

September 30, 2009

People who commit sexual offences against children are probably the most hated people around.  And they should be.  To take the trust of a child and abuse that trust in such a way to create emotional damage from which a child will likely never recover takes a certain kind of evil.  To look at a child’s innocence and want to gain power over them in a perverse way is such a serious crime the the public needs to be informed when a person has in the past been convicted of such a crime. The sex offender’s registry is a good tool for a parent to use to keep their children safe, right?

Not necessarily.  If the registry were designed to include only those who are a threat to children it would be a good tool.  However, the way it is designed now, a child of 14 can end up on the registration for life for having sex with his 13 year old girlfriend.  The 14 year will be labelled as the most dangerous of sex offenders due to the nature of their “crime”.  Please read the following links.  They explain the failings of the sex offender’s registry better than I can.

Classically liberal writes about children labelled as offenders and in another post clarifies and backs up her statements.
Read about Ricky who was labelled a sex offender at age 16 for having sex with a girl who told him she was 16.  He will be on the registry for life.
Read about AJ and List Dameree who were at risk of being put on the sex offender’s registry for taking bath time pictures of their three daughters.
And then read about the residency restrictions these “offenders” will have  – even the “offenders” who are not convicted may end up on the list.

Add to the above the fact that the registry only includes those who have been caught and most abusers will have hurt a dozen children before they are caught, and we have to ask ourselves just how effective such a registry really is.

Proponents say it’s worth it if one child is saved from abuse. I say if we are willing to let innocent people suffer for crimes they did not commit then we don’t deserve to call ourselves a free society.

Negligent  mother example #3

The risk: Not knowing if someone convicted of a sex offence involing children lives near me or has contact with my kids.

I have never looked at a sex offender registration and so I have no clue if the man down the street that my kids talk to from time to time is a convicted sex offender.  I have never taught my kids to stay out of strangers houses if they are invited in for a cookie.

The precautions: Instilling a healthy respect for their bodies and talking to them about what to do if they feel uncomfortable in any situation.

I know that my children are most likely to be abused by someone they know and so have taken the route of telling them to put up a fight and run away from anyone who is doing anything to them that they feel uncomfortable with.  I have not put a fear of strangers into them, nor have I instilled a fear that everyone is out there to get them.  I have taught them to respect their bodies and that no one has a right to touch them anywhere if they don’t want them to.  They identify their genitals and man’s genitals using proper terms.  Cute names like “pee pee” and “tinkle box” give children a view of their body the is unrealistic cute. We have an open attitude about sexuality in this house.  If I make it taboo, then how likely are my kids going to come to me to tell me if anything does happen?

The reaction from other parents: None because I don’t talk about it with them

I will admit to keeping silent on my beliefs that the sex offender’s registry is more harmful right now than it is helpful.  Many parents are supportive of the sex offender’s registry and it’s not an argument I want to have while sitting chatting over a cup of coffee.

Why it’s worth the risk:  Fearful kids will grow up to be fearful adults

I have no stats to back me up on any of this, but Helene Guldberg, Ph.D. in psychology and the author of Reclaiming Childhood: freedom and play in an age of fear, has written an article on the consequences of teaching children to fear all strangers.  Here are a few excerpts from that article:

Inculcating children with a fear of all strangers is counterproductive. The message this imparts to parents and children is to be suspicious of any adult who wants to work with children.

The sad consequence of all this regulation is that, one way or another, children will pick up signals about stranger danger, the problem of photography, the implications of vetting – and the only message it is possible to draw from this is that it should not be taken for granted that you can trust adults.

Another side effect of today’s culture of fear – and in particular of the paedophile panic – is that adults no longer feel confident to step in to help children in trouble.

 Want to take a risk?:   Don’t look at the sex offender’s registry

There is nothing I can say or do that will convince someone to let go of their fear of paedophiles.  All I can do is to say that there is a certain freedom in trusting people.  Not only for my kids, but for me too.  I am free not to worry about the dangers lurking behind the closed doors of a neighbours house.  As Helene Guldberg says at the end of her article:

If we can harness a more positive outlook about our fellow human beings and challenge institutionalized suspicion and state-authorized scaremongering, then we really might free up our children’s lives and allow them both to enjoy themselves and to learn through living.

Part 4 Turning parents into criminals – coming sometime this century