On Nov. 1, 2010, Brian David Mitchell will be standing trial for the alleged abduction of Elizabeth Smart. The Elizabeth Smart abduction case first made headlines over eight years ago when the then-14-year-old girl was taken from her home late that night. The case gripped the nation as thousands of people tried to help find Elizabeth. Just as things were beginning to look grim, Elizabeth Smart turned up alive nine months later.
The reason this abduction case caught the attention of so many people is because it’s about something very important: protecting our children.
As a parent, protecting your child is the most important thing in the world. An abduction happening is the worse thing that could ever happen to your children. Protecting them is no longer an option. You’ll never know if they’re hurt, upset, hungry, or if they’re being tortured by whoever the kidnapper is. What the Smart family went through was a parent’s worst nightmare, but it’s unfortunately something that happens everyday. It seems as if the more you turn on the news, the more you’re hearing about young children who have become victims of abduction and have been tortured by some crazy person. With all this going on around us, has this changed how we’re parenting and protecting our children?
For me, I would have to say yes. The Elizabeth Smart abduction case has definitely changed how I’m parenting and protecting my children, but I’m not sure if it’s been in a good way.
Growing up, I would ride my bike all around town, play in the woods for hours, and never bother checking in. I knew it was time to go home when the street lights came on, and if I was late, it was just assumed I was not close enough to the streets to see the lights. No one ever worried about abduction or protecting children. That was just what was normal around those times.
Now that we’re in the age of technology, things are different. Parents worry more about protecting children from abduction and everything else. We no longer send our children out to play next door without making sure that they have their cell phone fully charged in case of an emergency. Many other parents have gone a step further and have installed GPS tracking devices in their children’s cars, phones, and cameras so they can find them if needed. But is this really the right way of protecting our children?
There are both pluses and minuses in this situation. While we’re trying to convince ourselves that we’re protecting our children by doing all this, are we really causing damage? On the one hand, we know that we can find our children if the unthinkable happens and they do become a victim of abduction. This gives us the feeling that we are indeed protecting them. On the other hand, we’re no longer putting our trust in the living human beings we’ve raised, but rather in the computer chips that we’ve created. Could this be the real reason abduction is on the rise? Surely protecting our children from abduction shouldn’t only revolve around technology.
I’m not saying that protecting your child by giving him a cell phone or having him play in a group instead of alone is a bad thing. But perhaps we’re not handling the abduction situation correctly. Perhaps instead of giving our children the option to call for help after the abduction has already happen, we should teach them how to prevent it instead. Shouldn’t we be protecting our children before the trouble starts, not after?
When I was around eight years old, I was shown a video in school that taught us the proper way to get away from an abductor before the abduction happened. The video taught me and my fellow classmates all about protecting ourselves should an abduction ever take place. We were taught that if a car pulls up next to you and tries to get you to get in, you should run the opposite way the car is facing. This will buy you time, because the car has to do a U-turn to catch you. I was also taught that if you’re grabbed in a crowded store or parking lot, you should start screaming “You’re not my parent!” or even “Fire!” because that gets more attention than just screaming. We learned all about protecting ourselves and preventing an abduction from happening.
None of my children have had these videos shown in their schools. With all the abduction cases we’ve seen in recent years, you would think that it would make us want our children to watch these abduction videos more. Yes, they’re scary, but they’re also useful for protecting our children. Instead, we don’t even stop to consider the possibilities. We assume that since our children have cell phones, since stop signs and stop lights have cameras, since they’ve invented the Amber alert, protecting our children is no longer needed. That if our children ever do become a victim of an abduction, they’ll be returned safely. We assume that other objects will be protecting our children from abduction instead of ourselves.
The Elizabeth Smart case was a rare example of all this. Sometimes children who have become victims of abduction will be returned safely, but most of the time, this is not the case.
What our children need is the happy middle ground of safety and knowledge. We owe it to our children to teach them about protecting themselves from abduction.
I’m guilty of it too. I would much rather give my children a cell phone than sit down with them and explain how to break out of a trunk, or the correct way to run away from a stranger if an abduction takes place. I don’t want to think about whether or not my children would be able to save their own lives if they had too. But the reality of the matter is as much as parents want to save their children from everything, protecting our children 24/7 is impossible. We can only teach them what is safe and what is not, and hope that they’re never put in a situation where they have to use that knowledge.
FoxNews.com, “Jury Selection Continues in Elizabeth Smart Kidnapping Trial”
Wiki, “Elizabeth Smart kidnapping”
Kidsgpsguide.com, “Tracking Children With GPS”
Pat Reavy, “17 prospective jurors selected so far in Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial”
Polly Davis Doig, “Judge Boots Elizabeth Smart Defendant From Court”
Steve Thibeault, “Tips on How to Prevent Kidnapping and Protect Yourself”