Today's post in Free Range Kids was a link from Circle of Moms, which appears to be a site for helicopter parents (at least judging from the multiple "better safe than sorry" comments to various posts). Here is the link: How to Spot a Child Predator. The author saw an older gentleman talking with two boys who were eating by themselves in a sandwich shop. The man went over to the boys and decided to strike up a conversation with them. He asked them normal things that any adult would ask a child: what grade are you in, where do you go to school, what is your favorite subject in school, do you like astronomy? The woman "had an epiphany" and decided that the man was an obvious child predator who was grooming the two boys with his questions. The writer decided that those questions are exactly what pedophiles ask when grooming their victims. She asked the boys where their parents were, then told a restaurant employee that she was concerned about the man talking with the boys. The woman even told the employee to call the police if the boys left the cafe with someone other than their parents. The man ended up leaving.
Did this woman actually know that this man was a child predator? No, she just assumed it because he was an older man talking to children. A man having a pleasant conversation with two boys was publicly humiliated simply because he was older and liked kids. The woman also was concerned about a stranger talking to two boys whose parents, by the way, deemed them capable of eating in a restaurant by themselves. Yet she went up to them and talked to them. But she somehow didn't see anything wrong with talking to the boys herself even though she was a stranger to them. I guess "stranger danger" only applies to men.
When did it become so crazy in the States that every man is viewed as a pervert who only wants to molest children? It used to be an old stereotype about gay men that they were child molesters. Now that hysteria has spread to all men, whether they are gay or straight. Men who sincerely love children are now becoming afraid to approach them or talk to them for fear that they will be viewed as perverts and potential child abductors. Even the number of male teachers has shrunk to a 40-year low, one reason being that they are afraid of being accused of child abuse. See this abc news story about the low number of male teachers, especially in elementary schools. Of course a child's father should be a good male role model. But kids need to have other positive male role models as they grow up. But how can children have good male role models when men aren't allowed to be near them? It is sad that men who want to work with children are now afraid to do so because mothers like the woman who wrote the post in Circle of Moms would automatically accuse them of being pedophiles. One of my very favorite teachers was Mr. Ort, my 8th grade English teacher. He got me excited about writing. Mr. Ort sincerely enjoyed working with junior high students. His students also liked him because they could sense that he truly loved teaching. None of Mr. Ort's students would ever have accused him of being a pedophile.
I have taught my son to talk to strangers, just not to go off with them. In fact, I have told him that when he is out by himself and needs assistance, he needs to ask an adult to help him. He put this lesson into action two years ago, when he was 11. My son wanted to ride his bike to the grocery store to get an official World Cup football (soccer) sticker book and wanted me to go with him. I told him that he had to go by himself because I was cooking dinner. I didn't really pay attention to how long my son was gone. But when he came back, he apologized for being late. It turned out that the chain on my son's bike slipped when he shifted gears. The closest adult that he found to help him fix his bike was an older man. As the man was fixing the chain, he asked my son where he went to school and what grade he was in. It turned out that the man's granddaughter was one of my son's classmates! When my son came home and told me what happened, my first thought was, "How cool that the person who helped you turned out to be a classmate's grandfather." The second thought was, "It's good that my son actually listened when I told him to find an adult when he needs some help." The thought that the Good Samaritan who fixed my son's bike was a child predator never even occurred to me.
Whenever I meet a child for the first time, I ask him things like where he goes to school and what grade he's in. Those are normal questions to ask a child. Who in their right mind would ask a child about how to solve the Greek monetary crisis? In fact, the woman who wrote the original post sounded more like a predator to me by asking where the boys' parents were. I think that we all need to take a deep breath and realize that most men are good people who would be repulsed at the thought of molesting a child. As Sigmund Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." And most men who like children are simply men who like children.