Hump Day: Kids playing in traffic may be safer than those online

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Moncton Times & Transcript

Sorry to break everyone’s optimistic balloon about spring being here, but there are likely a few blizzards to come as Old Man Winter enters his cranky senior years.

Sure, he may be writing his will and prepaying his funeral because the warm weather is right around the corner, but he still has some gumption left in him. Before mid-April comes around and the nice temperatures hold, we’re bound to get hit over the head with his cane.

With that said, there are definitely signs of spring out there. It’s already March break for New Brunswick students, which is the last long rest anyone will have before the lead-up to the end of the school year in just a few months (already!). And in case you forgot, Daylight Saving Time returns this weekend, so be sure to move your clocks ahead by one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.

Yeah, it’s that time of year when it’s still winter but signs of spring make us hopeful. Even if the air is cold, the sun is growing stronger and the backyard rinks are well past rehabilitating after a bout of warm weather and the strengthening sun.

Of course, this also means that neighbourhood playgrounds will soon be filled with kids running around and playing. Some will be accompanied by parents. Some will not. And while I’m certainly not a proponent of helicopter parenting, I keep wondering how these kids running around unsupervised even survive into adolescence.

I’m being hypocritical, I admit, because when I was in the playground with neighbourhood friends in the early 1970s, we certainly didn’t have any parents hanging around. We went home when we heard our mothers calling for us from down the street or when our rumbling stomachs told us that it was time to eat.

We didn’t get kidnapped – unless we were abducted by aliens for scientific experiments and then returned after our memories were wiped clean. Despite that, we all turned out fine, eh? None of us became serial killers because our parents didn’t have us on leashes.
We left the house and eventually we came back home. The odd time there was any worry was if it was getting dark and all the usual friends were already home and there was still no sign of one of us. At some point we’d remember to call home or otherwise get tracked down and scolded.

Now that I think about it, it’s not the ‘kidnappers’ out in public that parents should be worried about these days. Neighbourhoods are probably the safest place your kids can hang out. The kids you need to worry about are the ones locked in their bedrooms all day with access to the Internet. Those online trolls (and other bad dudes) are the ones who should send shivers down the spine of every parent.

These days, it’s ironic that maybe your kids are safer playing outside – even if they’re where you can’t see them – rather than inside the house secretly chatting up some 40-year-old pervert who’s pretending to be 13. Outside, at least you can see the sketchy van (literally or figuratively) lurking.

Can hanging out at home actually be less safe than being outside and playing?
Can hanging out at home actually be less safe than being outside and playing?

Online, it’s all hidden from view with kids holed up in their rooms. Even out in the open, the screens are usually turned away from the prying eyes of parents. For all they know, their kids could be watching a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon when they’re actually being targeted by a criminal.

I realize it may seem counterintuitive to think that way. Can hanging out at home actually be less safe than being outside and playing? If your kids are too young for smartphones, being outside is a great way to take a break from the zombifying effects of the Internet, video games, etc. Otherwise, pray your teens have online street smarts.

I always felt very safe around my neighbourhood as a kid. Of course, there were a few bad pockets around here and there, but if you minded your own business, there was usually no trouble. Today, with the Internet, children can be online prey to anyone in the world.

Talk to your kids, folks! Parents need to take their heads out of the sand and have difficult chats with their kids – especially teens – about the potential risks of being online. Online activity can be great, all I’m saying is be realistic! Just because your kid is home doesn’t mean they’re safe.

And now that I’ve scared the living daylights out of all you parents out there, be sure to send your kids outside to play this spring and take a break from technology. They’ll be healthier – and perhaps safer.

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