The Disneyfication of America

"Won't somebody think of the children?" has become such a cliche. People constantly use this line to mock overprotective conservatives who think kids need to be protected from every little danger the world presents. While the idea of children being harmed in any way is distressing to just about everybody, the solution to the problem is not to coat every surface with six inches of foam padding, dammit. There are things in this world that are inherently dangerous, and some of us like it that way.

Think back to when you were a kid. There always seemed to be that kid who got hurt (or worse) and jump-started some sort of revolution among parents in the community. Some kid would get hurt riding a dirt bike, or a toddler would wander somewhere and have a serious accident. When these things happen, usually entire communities rally around the notion of banning whatever it was that hurt the kid, appealing solely to the emotions we all feel when there is a tragic accident involving a child. Instead, these folks should look to the parents of the child and closely examine just what the heck kind of supervision the kid was under when the accident happened. That's usually where a deficiency is found. Instead, motivated solely by emotion and very little rational thought, parents crusade against things in our society that are potentially dangerous for children.

Take swimming pools, for instance. In New York State, all swimming pools have to be surrounded by an enclosure at least four feet high, with self-latching gates, no openings bigger than 4 inches, able to withstand minimum pressures, etc. Why? Because someone's toddler might wander into a yard with a pool and drown. Does this seem a little silly to you? Instead of blaming someone for failing to keep an eye on their child, we blame "unsafe" conditions on someone else's private property. As if there's some reasonable expectation that the world needs to be safe for other people's children...

Here's another example: Adult images on the web. Once again, conservative legislators are crusading against Internet porn, on the grounds that it's too easily accessible by children.

Once again, we're placating the parents who are too lazy to supervise their children's computer usage or set parental controls with their ISPs. Instead of addressing poor parental supervision, we focus instead on kiddie-proofing our entire environment.

Now, I'm not saying it's okay to, say, go to the park and sprinkle carpet tacks all over the ground. We don't need people unnecessarily making the world a more dangerous place. But the solution to lazy parenting is not placing unwarranted restrictions on the rights of adults to make the world safe for kids.

We're always hearing crusading parents using lines like "We just never want to see another parent experience the pain we've experienced" in justifying their kiddie-proofing crusades. Many times we cave in to this display of emotion because it resonates with us. After all, who wants to see a child get hurt? But there's a danger in letting unbridled emotion rule our legislative process.

How would you like to live in a world in which you're not confronted by anything remotely threatening because certain parents are too lazy to supervise their children? Sounds silly to me. But if we don't start telling the lazy parents to clean up their act, this is the direction in which we'll continue to go.