How Dangerous Is Childhood?
By NICOLE NEAL
Palm Beach Post
August 13. 2006
Adam Walsh’s childhood wasn’t the only one that ended 25 years ago.
Childhood – and parenthood – would never be the same.
On Aug. 10, 1981, the severed head of the South Florida boy was found in a canal in Vero Beach.
If a 6-year-old could be taken from a mall after being out of his mother’s sight for just minutes; if he could be murdered and decapitated; if his killer could elude authorities, then our world must be a truly dangerous place for children.
It’s an understandable response to what was surely one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century.
But the fallout – a culture of parental paranoia that has become the norm today – may be just as tragic.
The casualties, beyond the death of one innocent little boy, are many:
The death of simple childhood pleasures.
The death of peace of mind.
The death of common sense.
The death of self-sufficiency.
Just last month: “FLORIDA PARENTS FEEL THE WORLD IS GETTING RISKIER FOR THEIR CHILDREN” bellowed a press release on the Web site of theNational Center for Missing & Exploited Children, one of the organizations formed in the wake of the Walsh murder.
But how dangerous is childhood?
And just as important, how dangerous is the pervasive belief that childhood is dangerous?
In our effort to protect children from even the most remote chance that they might be harmed, in teaching them that danger lurks around every corner, have we reared a generation of overly fearful young adults, emotionally tethered to their parents and seemingly incapable even of walking across a college campus without holding someone’s hand via cellphone?
Of course, not every woe in the overparenting saga can be traced to Adam Walsh’s tragic death. Sharing the blame: The relatively new tendency to focus on and over-analyze kids, and a social sea change that has devalued self-reliance and resilience and encouraged everyone to see themselves as victims of something.
But there’s no doubt parenthood has changed dramatically in the past 25 years, and little Adam’s murder was among the first turns of the screw.