These days you can’t turn on your television, open a newspaper, or check out an online news site without seeing stories that make you shiver.
Just this year, we’ve seen abandoned baby skeletons found on beaches, children murdered and stuffed into suitcases, pre-schoolers stabbed, and babies beaten and burned for seemingly no reason.
It makes you wonder: is it any surprise we’re a generation of helicopter parents?
News stories like these are enough to strike fear into the heart of even the most reasonable and calm parents. Yes, we know that the chances of something like that happening to our kids are low, but the fear remains. What about that small risk? The percentage chances are still there, even if we’d rather not think about them. Better safe than sorry right?
So we monitor our children, watch them all the time, manage their days and make sure they’re getting all the enrichment they can while not spending too much time in the dangerous wilds of the world. It’s the best we can do, isn’t it?
In the wake of a tragedy in which a child lays at the centre, people often question if the world is a harsher place than it used to be. We reminisce about the seemingly carefree days of our own youth. Long days spent unsupervised in public parks, riding bikes with friends around safe neighbourhoods, dropping into various houses just to hang out. We were told by our parents to be home by dark, and perhaps not to talk to strangers, but it never seemed so insidious as it does now. It was more of an after thought than a warning.
Now, we coach our kids about how to say no, about telling their parents when bad things happen, and about so many other things that we just never thought we’d have to do. And we watch them so closely, trying to walk the blurred line between carefree childhood and safety. But is it really our fault? Parental panic seems to be growing every year, but surely, the world can’t be getting worse and worse. It seems to us that there’s something else behind the change, something pervasive and difficult to keep out of our lives.
It’s All About The Media
News is all around us. We see it on televisions, it’s printed in newspapers and magazines, and it’s accessible all the time, thanks to smartphones and internet access on computers. At its core, news (and other forms of media) is intended to inform us about what’s happening in the world, let us know how things pan out and what is unfolding in our neighbourhoods, towns and countries.
In reality, news has become a vehicle for fear and panic, drawing intense attention to horror stories that represent the exception instead of the rule. It works by encouraging suspicion, nightmares and anxiety over the safety of our children the moment they’re out of our sight. Why? Well it’s hard to say. Certainly, drama and crime really sells, which means more money for the station, more people watching the ads that show in between the news, and more power to the broadcasters to show yet more scary news. But is this worth what kids are missing out on because their parents are anxious worrywarts always looking for the next threat?
Being A Conscious Consumer
Now, we aren’t saying that parents should stop watching the news all together.
There’s a benefit to knowing what’s happening in your area, and around the world. Being aware of these happenings is a part of being a member of society However, there is a way to ensure that you don’t get caught up in the hype. In particular with news, it’s all about being a conscious observer to the stories, and reading between the lines of the truth and media’s spin. Don’t get drawn in by dramatic language and exaggerated retellings of stories that in the past probably wouldn’t have made headlines at all. There’s no such thing as unbiased media, with people on all levels having their own specific agenda. It’s not perfect, but there’s no reason for kids to suffer from it either.
At the end of the day, being a parent means walking a tightrope between what’s right for your own anxiety and what’s right for your kids. Children need space to develop their own independence and form the complex personalities that will carry them into adulthood. Being a helicopter parent means risking your child’s future independence. Is that really worth it if all you’re protecting them from is an invented fear made real by a constant barrage of media coverage?
That’s what we thought.