Thursday, August 4, 2011

Safety-obsessed parents are hurting their kids


By Dashiell Young-Saver
Back in the day, I was one crazy kid. I was an outlaw, a loose cannon, braving the cruel streets of Thousand Oaks at the age of 10.
I dared to walk home from school alone.
But many of my classmates were not allowed such freedom. Every day, 15 minutes before the end of school, SUVs filled with parents and hand sanitizer bottles circled Lang Ranch Elementary. The scene looked like the Secret Service attending a high-security baby shower.
When the bell rang, kids poured onto the street as the SUVs frantically jockeyed for position to get to their children at the curb. Along with my lifesaver, the crossing guard Bhojo, I dodged the war zone of minivans.
After school, instead of playing on the streets together, my friends and I were shipped off to some highly supervised, safe and structured activity like karate, baseball, knitting class, stamp counting club or the anti-jay- walking league.

Later, at Los Cerritos Middle School, I was allowed to bike to school, but most of the kids still had private security escorts.
It’s a privilege to grow up without having to worry about gangs or violence. I can’t criticize Thousand Oaks for being too safe; that would be like criticizing Angelina Jolie for being too attractive. But I will say there is such a thing as “too careful.”
In one of the safest cities in the United States, there’s no reason to forbid kids to play outside, scrape their knees or get into trouble. The safe environment of Thousand Oaks is a perfect place for kids to go out, make mistakes, learn and grow strong from those mistakes and, most importantly, have fun.
I’m not sure what parents are so worried about. Glancing through the Sheriff’s Blotter this summer, I’ve seen such sinister crimes as (these are all real) the theft of handicap stickers (two incidents—the old ladies are still on the run) and urinating in public (two incidents) as well as the heinous and paradoxical charge of “threatening to commit a crime.”
The blotter also shows how inept local people are at committing crimes. For instance, a couple of alleged robbers stole duffle bags from a store, then returned the stolen items and demanded a store credit. I’m not too sure about this, but I believe most flagged stolen items are nonrefundable.
C’mon, criminals, you guys can do better than this.
I am not a parent, so I don’t know how it feels to be responsible for a child. But I do know that I could have had a lot more fun with my friends if we were just allowed to go out and play.
As hard as it is to let go, I hope that the parents of T.O. spend less time worrying about the safety of their children and spend more time letting them live a little.
Dashiell Young-Saver will be a senior at Westlake High School. He was the managing editor of the school newspaper,The Arrow, last year. During the summer, he’ll contribute columns to the Acorn from the perspective of a teenager growing up in the Conejo Valley.


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