Seems the risks are higher than ever as a parent. We’ve become nervous vigilantes as our children trundle off to school and suffer intense angst when we can’t get them to answer a text. But the truth is, the physical world is a safer place than it’s ever been. The digital world, however, is like Georgian England: pockets of intellectual and artistic expression, surrounded by cesspools filled with pedophiles, drunks, dodgers and charlatans. It’s not a place we would want any child to wander around alone.
And yet, we parents are more likely to give our 12-year-old child a smartphone before we’d let them go to the park with a couple of friends unsupervised.
As parents, we have to be intentional about the decisions we make.
We can’t over-worry about friend groups or how fair cheerleading tryouts are and at the same time grant 24/7 access to the Internet and unfettered app downloads. Being intentional means weighing risks and making deliberate decisions. And that requires us to know what the risks are. Here are some numbers:
78% of all kidnappings in the US are by a known family member, usually a parent.
Nearly 90% of child sexual abuse is by a family member, trusted friemd, clergy or youth leader.
Chances of being victim of a violent crime in the US: 1 in 9000.
500,000. Number of sexual predators online everyday.
95% of all Americans between ages 12 and 17 are online everyday.
1 in 5 report that they have received at least one unwanted sexual solicitation (only 25% told their parents).
80% of school-aged children (10-18 years old) report seeing unwanted pornography while doing their homework online.
What these numbers tell us is that our fears are out of balance. The real stranger danger lives on the Internet. It’s passed around on apps like snapchat, and downloaded from cafe WiFi. It lives in the hallways of our schools, pumped in from the dank basements by lecherous adults who should be locked up. If we fear our 6th grader walking three blocks to school, but are fine with her having a smartphone “just like all of her friends” then we have lost sight of what the role of a parent is: to educate, nurture and protect.
It’s time for us to be more intentional about the decisions we make concerning our children.
We hope this helps.