Sunday, February 12, 2012

Child Not Abducted---Film at 11

A story about a 7-year-old girl in Georgia named Brittney was on the Free Range Kids (FRK) site. Here is the link:  Brittney was with her mother at Wal-Mart. While her mother was a few aisles over, Brittney was in the toy section by herself. A man came up to her and tried to carry her off. Brittney kicked, screamed, and ended up running away from her would-be abductor. The kidnapping attempt was captured on security cameras and the man was arrested within the hour.

My initial reaction to reading the post on FRK was that someone did a great job teaching Brittney what to do if someone tried to grab her or ask her to go away with him. Brittney's mother felt that her daughter was capable of being by herself in the toy aisle. Young Brittney was obviously well-prepared for what to do in the very rare situation of a stranger trying to abduct her and she did a beautiful job executing what she was taught. No harm came to Brittney because she did all the right things.

I have read many comments on various sites about this situation. Most people said that Brittney's mother was negligent for leaving her alone in the toy aisle. They use this incident as a lesson in why a mother should never take her eyes off of her child for even one second. Their logic is that there are predators and abductors lurking everywhere. One of them can snatch your child in the blink of an eye.  Just look at what happened to Brittney, whose mother was not glued to her side.

By the way, abductions by a stranger are very rare. Most children who are kidnapped are taken by people that the child knows. Only about 100 kids a year are abducted by strangers in the States. These abductions are considered newsworthy because they're so rare. I'm sure that there are many other kids who thwarted kidnapping attempts by screaming or running away. But they happened out of view of security cameras, so they weren't reported on the evening news.

Other people have commented that this incident is a good reason why parents should never let their kids talk to strangers. "Stranger danger" is taught to kids without teaching the difference between a good stranger and a bad one.  Young children may easily get the impression that a "stranger" is a man who looks and talks like Snideley Whiplash. But a stranger is really anyone that a child doesn't know. Instead of a blanket, "Don't talk to strangers," kids should be taught that they can talk to a stranger like a salesperson at a store, a policeman, or a cashier at the movies. But they should learn never to go off with someone that they don't know personally. Again, Brittney incorporated the lesson of not going off with a stranger. She made a big fuss and ran away.

Instead of vilifying Brittney's mother as a negligent parent, we should be praising her for teaching her child what to do if someone tried to grab her. Brittney's mother knew her daughter would not be "vulnerable" if she was a few aisles away in the store. She decided not to hover her daughter. Instead, she gave Brittney the skills to be on her own in a store or other public place.

I have a feeling that stores will soon start passing age restrictions for kids being unattended because of this incident (Brittney's Law of course). Instead of letting parents be the judge of when a child can be a few aisles away in a store, there will be legislation requiring kids under 13, 15, or 18 to be with an adult at all times in a store. This will only serve to infantilize kids and render them even more unprepared to handle life when it's time to leave home.

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