It’s taken over my Facebook feed. Share after share of the supposedly eye-opening video made by YouTuber Joey Salads, where multiple playground moms who thought they’d drilled the “stranger danger” thing into their little ones’ minds are shocked to see them walk away with a man and his puppy, without any hesitation. One share can a save a life, the video caption tells us.
Or, more likely, it’ll just give us all heart attacks and a new crop of premature grays.
The concept is sound: let’s illustrate just how easy it is to abduct a child even when said child has been lectured by mom and dad to never go off with a strange man. But that’s not novel — does anyone know of a kid who WOULDN’T think it’d be fun to go see this friendly man’s van full of fluffy, happy puppies? This is, of course, why the video is so terrifying (and why it’s receiving so many hits and shares). It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. But make no mistake, this viral video is no PSA.
As I watched the video and saw all of these mothers’ jaws drop as their children walked off in search of more puppies, I waited for the takeaway. Yes, this is horrifying, but what do we DO ABOUT IT? The answer was…well…there wasn’t one.
We see one mom, understandably flustered and probably terrified, lecturing her little boy about how he is always supposed to ask her first before going off somewhere. But let’s be honest: that boy wasn’t thinking about asking his mom at all. That man seemed nice! That puppy was so cute! My guess is that, if you put that little guy in the same situation ten more times, he’d just be on the receiving end of ten more lectures (“but puuuppppiiiieeeess!”).
The comments section of the video seems to have come to its own conclusion: the problem is that moms aren’t vigilant enough, that they don’t pay enough attention to their children at the park, that they’re too busy burying themselves in their phones. But is that really true? Parenting experts tell us the exact opposite — we are hypervigilant, we are terrified, we are so afraid of harm coming to our children that we won’t even let them play outside alone. The message we are left with is crippling: being a helicopter parent is bad, but, oh, by the way, if you relax one iota, your kid’s going to get abducted and it’ll be your fault. No pressure.
Regardless of your parenting style, everyone wants their kids to be safe. Nobody wants to be the mom saying, “but I just turned my head for two seconds.” This is why videos like Joey Salads’ hit such a nerve on social media — we are terrified. It doesn’t matter that, statistically, our kids are safer than perhaps ever before. It doesn’t matter because all it takes is one kid — our kid — to be the exception to the rule. Videos like these don’t help keep our children from being kidnapped; they just exploit our fears for clicks and shares, leaving us more afraid than we were to begin with.
Being a parent is hard, and the world can be a very scary place. But the last thing we need is someone pointing that out in a video on Facebook.
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