I found this post about the statistics of on-line predators compared to the level of panic about on-line predators quite interesting. I’ve been aware for a number of years that focused media attention on any issue can greatly impact how people act, regardless of what the actual risk might be. How many people won’t travel overseas or do other things despite the fact that millions of people do it safely every single day, because of the impression they get of how dangerous it is? This is pretty similar.
It seems like the area of protecting children is especially susceptible to this sort of behavior. Naturally, most parents feel the need to do everything they can to protect their children, and that’s an instinct we really don’t want them to lose, for sure. But, it can be very easy to see the media stories about on-line predators, or registered sex offenders and conclude that your kids will be safe simply by moving to a neighborhood that doesn’t have any registered sex offenders in it, and keeping your kids off the Internet. The truth, however, is that you’ve actually done very little to protect your kids by doing those two things, because you’ve eliminated only two very small risks.
The truth is that, no matter how much you might try, you can never eliminate all the risks that your kids face. At some point they have to go outside your house, to school, to a playground, to the store, and they are at some risk then.
I’ve always been an advocate of teaching your kids to deal with risks as opposed to trying to hide them from all the risks. Let’s face it, many of you reading this were abused, and many of you were abused long before there was any such thing as the Internet, let alone on-line predators, and many of you were abused by people who had never been charged with a sex crime, heck many of you were abused by members of your own family. What would have served you better growing up, having your parents move you to a “safe” neighborhood and keeping you away from strange adults, or teaching you about predators, how to handle them, who to tell, etc.? I know which one would have done me more good.