Just in case Mommy is a pedophile

A recent report from UK news source the Daily Mail says two playgrounds have banned parents from entering the premises with their children. This was done to protect the children, aged 5-15 years, from potential pedophiles. The children will play instead with strangers called "play rangers," who have been okayed by the Criminal Records Bureau.

I don't know about anyone else, but as for me, when I have kids I'm sure not sending them off to play with, or under the care of, grown-ups neither I nor they have ever met, regardless of what some bureau says about them. From what I've seen, being a mom or dad to a kid as young as five is like being a mother bear defending her cubs. It's the parents' duty and honor to care for the children. In their eyes, one else will ever do as good a job as they would do themselves.

I babysit regularly, and it's my policy to be actively involved in what the kids are doing. This is an ideal anyone who works with children should strive for. Rather than plunking them down in front of the television, engage their imaginations. Challenge them to be creative. Encourage them to be active. All of this is done by example. From my experience, kids will entertain themselves with or without my help, but at their age we can have such a huge impact on who they become, how they see the world, their attitudes and values. It's far better to be involved, and this involvement is a privilege to be enjoyed by parents or caretakers selected by the parents, not strangers. Entrusting a child's lifelong identity to a supervisor with a non-parental connection to her charges seems utterly counterintuitive.

There are smaller-scale problems with this policy, too. What happens when the kid gets a boo boo? If the UK is anything like America, mom and dad will be filing lawsuits against negligent "play rangers" or attentive ones who simply had too many charges to watch. Again, this is from observation only, but parents generally seem determined to place the blame for harm that comes to their "baby" on anyone but themselves. And in this case, anyone but themselves deserves the blame.

And what happens if the child has separation anxiety or is afraid of strangers? He just doesn't get to play? I'm over-simplifying here, since of course there are other playgrounds where parents could bring their shy children. However, if this rule expands to cover other playgrounds, an exclusive environment is the only possible outcome, making it close to impossible for less socially apt children to find a niche with their peers. We've all seen how quick kids are to exclude each other without adults' help; please, let's not make this problem any worse.

Critics say the policy is "Orwellian." I can't think of a better descriptor myself. England, skim the contents of Mr. Orwell's 1984 and you'll find that this really isn't somewhere you want to go.


Stephanie Faris said...

That's just weird. How about hiring a security guard or two to stand guard at playgrounds to make sure kids are safe, rather than hiring these "play rangers?"

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