In the US we are becoming a nation of control freaks; there are laws for everything from telling us all about what we choose to put in our mouth, to what we choose to wear on our bodies, to what we engage in, in our own home behind closed doors. America is no longer a land of freedom but a land of big brother, the land of all government control all the time. There is no sanctuary for people even in places meant for cutting loose; a woman right here in America was arrested, in a small town, for imitating the style of dancing depicted in the movie Dirty Dancing, while at a bar. And now it seems we are exporting the trend; tight jeans were banned in England, France has recently considered law to ban the full berka warn by Muslim women, even though the women who wear them choose to and feel safer in doing so. Those who have kids have become a different kind of prisoner to the things you no longer have control over in raising your child that laws, ordinances and rules have decided for you.
It seems to have gone past issues of health and safety into the realm of the ridiculous when we start regulating what clothes adults can put on their body. The irony is not lost on anyone that they banned the wearing of thong underwear, something not usually seen in public, while allowing barely there bikinis and Speedos on numerous beaches; it is not just laws, rules aimed at curbing behavior of kids and teens when we start fining adults for the wearing of so called baggy plants, when we dictate what underwear someone can put on and fine then or haul them to jail if they bend over to get something from a shelf and someone sees a thong especially when the body is covered with fabric, garments as per the laws regarding incident exposure. Likewise the hypocrisy of France, should they pass legislation banning the berka, has been pointed out considering they have nude beaches. According to French authorities there are security concerns with full berkas that cover the entire body, including the face, such as at air ports; however, the woman who choose to wear this form of attire are not demanding to be able to flout laws surrounding security protocol, only to be able to wear what feels comfortable to them in their daily life.
At the same time, here in the US, an official in New York is joining the movement in states, cities and counties across the nation campaigning to get youth to pull up their pants, this time calling it “raise your pants raise your image”. Raise your pants raise your image, who are we kidding; the idea, get young people to stop wearing this style of clothing and they will do better in school, get better jobs endure less social scorn and harassment from authority. But let’s be real, raise your pants and your image for what, so people can go back to judging, primarily blacks, on the dreads or cornrows in their hair, where they live, where they grew up, all things we judge this particular group on even when considering them for jobs. Legislation on the issue impacts adult freedom to wear whatever you want, providing your body is covered. It all screams people with too much time on their hands like a similar proposal to ban wearing flip flops at the White House worn not by White House personnel, not individuals there by personal invitation of the president, but by tourist and visitor groups, at most, a young intern. Yes we should respect the White House, but no one visiting or on a tour should be turned away for what’s on their feet or not on their feet unless it poses a legitimate security risk. Some people may choose to wear something others consider to be in poor taste, but in a free country, and those based on democracy, that is their right.
Rules and regulations targeting young people have gotten even more far-reaching and pervasive, worse yet, ineffective. We all are aware that schools have long been the defacto parents of children for decades, and for those decades, many have questioned how far is too far for entities to go? We have all seen the things you must sign when your child enters kindergarten, with a list of things your child will not bring to school or do on school property but regulating your child’s lunch is another eye popping example of the iron fist attempting to be exerted over people at younger and younger ages. No not on things like forks, knives and other utensils children could potentially use to harm themselves or others, but actual food items. Among the now banned foods: fruit snacks, canned fruit, popcorn, string cheese, nuts, such as almonds and cashews, baked goods i.e. for class birthday parties.
What’s worse the story aired and the anchors presenting it were left to their own speculations as to why these items were no longer allowed; they reasoned the nuts were banned do to allergy concerns along with the baked goods and fruit snacks. Popcorn and string cheese were deemed possible choking hazards and the canned fruit a possible danger because of the can; aside from the fact that most parents do not ordinarily put caned fruit into a child’s lunch still in the can, those who do are typically buying brands with easy open lids that are no danger, have no sharp edges, one of the anchors had it right when he said no one should be telling me what I put in my child’s lunch.
Obviously schools are free to choose what they put on their menus, what they put in their vending machines, even to impose restrictions on utensils that could be used to harm others but they have no right to say what food kids bring from home, considering most of them listed are healthy. Allergies are a big concern but parents should be teaching their kids what they are allergic to, to not take food from friends or ask what it contains, tell them if they are unsure not to eat it. Preschool and kindergarten age kids can be taught what foods they are allergic to using pictures and those with severe allergies should carry an epi pen at all times. Teachers, particularly those of younger grades, should be informed of all allergies defiantly those that are severe enough they could be deadly. Reminders should be sent to parents of kids at the start of preschool, kindergarten and each new school year asking parents to teach their child their allergies and to inform their teacher so that the child can protect themselves and teachers can advise other parents, when planning class parties, what not to include. That is all the action they can take and all that should be needed.
And it goes on, recently one school principal sent home a letter almost demanding parents keep their tween children, roughly ages 9-13, off of social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook citing that they are not emotionally mature enough to handle it; detailed was an incident of cyber bullying involving a 9 year old. Included in the letter and the interview given to Good Morning America were tips for parents such as what age kids should be allowed to have a social networking page (16) and things like not letting children have technology in their rooms, not even letting them charge the electronics there. His reasoning, parents had been asking school counselors on an individual basis for years and he wanted to give it to all parents; as to his tip of not leaving charging gadgets in your child’s room, he pointed to the times bullying messages were posted 1 a.m. 2 a.m., times when children should be sleeping they are sneaking onto computers, smart phones and leaving devastating messages.
Besides the obvious point, that if a parent says their child can have a Facebook page then they can have a Facebook page, schools have no right to place demands on or strong arm them regarding what they do with their child while not on school grounds dealing with those things that do not fall under the heading abuse or neglect. In addition this principal shows a lack of understanding of both kids and technology if he thinks that removing technology from the child’s room will stop them from creeping down to the family room, the living room wherever the computer is while everyone else is asleep and posting whatever they want. The same is true for sneaking a cell phone off the charger posting whatever message, putting it back and no one being the wiser. The 9 year old probably created their Facebook page without parental knowledge, as parents are usually at least one step behind kids in this arena. If they want to do it, kids will find a way.
Not to mention with the technology demands today, kids have their own e-mail accounts at school as a way of doing everything from communicating with teachers to turning in homework; school directories no longer just contain phone numbers but personal and school e-mails. There is nothing to say that a kid could not use the school email to harass, bully another student or use it as a rumor mill to say something negative about fellow classmates. And the targeted kid has to deal with the fallout, whether they have anything more than school e-mail, whether they have a social networking page or not. Punishments can be enacted by the school for kids who engage in such behavior, but the damage may already be done; plus many times it’s not just the hurtful things posted on-line, it’s the things said at school as well. Case in point, Phoebe Prince, who tragically hanged herself; the final straw, was her being taunted on the way home from school after both online and in school bullying. Fact is the school she attended may face civil action for not intervening in the known bullying situation. A better solution, lessons on proper internet behavior, how to handle cyber bullying, proper uses for school e-mail and what to do when it becomes a rumor mill, having a plan in place to deal with in school and online tormenting.
Law makers and municipalities are no better; they are in fact worse when it comes to the out of control, overbearing statutes placed on kids and teens; we’ve all seen the signs posted in various places asking parents to please watch their kids and those lucky enough to visit places like The Mall of America, your aware of the regulation that during certain hours minors must be accompanied by an adult. Yet it is one thing when businesses are seeing crowds from all across the country, the world, quite another when you are a small town of people typified by grouchy old folks who don’t want to deal with young people, imposing restrictions that not only retard the growth of minors, when they have no place to go for age appropriate fun and independence away from parents, but also stands to put you out of business. Rather than letting the mall police call the parents of problem youth, ban them from the premises or arrest them, towns chose time limits that create nothing but busy work for security.
The problem goes deeper than just how to get your kids out of your hair on weekends, bigger than businesses that depend on kids and teens to thrive; it indeed stunts the growth of young people, when they are given no freedom from their parents, are denied socialization opportunities, because there is no place to go, basic skills for getting by in the world are snatched from them due to laws and ordinances like the one here. Kids don’t learn how to walk up to a counter and order food, how to manage money, if they are given X dollars or saved that much in allowance, how to make it last the day, how to walk into a store and purchase something, all skills they pick up, or don’t, from fun at the local mall.
Leading smart people to wonder if this isn’t currently, or soon to be in the future, part of the roots to social anxiety disorder, part of the reason why 18 and 20 something’s are afraid of growing up, why more and more young people aren’t exhibiting fully adult behavior until age 30, perhaps it is because we give them no chance to grow. On the business side, hang out and merchandise hubs such as malls will see a drop in profits due to kids having less time to spend there. Such an ordinance impacts families particularly out of towners and vacationers who come to the town for a day, do their shopping and go home; this specific ordinance prevents family members from splitting up to do the shopping they wish to, in order to save time, without a police officer marching your child back to you and saying is this yours, not because they did anything wrong, but because the child was alone in a store after the non supervised hours expired. Some families, in light of that situation, will choose to take their business and their money elsewhere to a place with less restriction; thus businesses lose potential customers.
Curfews have become a popular teen control mechanism as seen recently in the Florida area instituting an 11:00 curfew for all those under 17 on weeknights midnight on weekends and holding parents liable for their child’s noncompliance; reportedly the action is in response to violence often committed by minors. Here again instead of getting a profile of who these people are, minors or not, if it was gang, drug related, what areas were most affected, they chose a blanket curfew. Exceptions include school and community activities, jobs along with emergency situations. Under the law police who find a minor out after curfew will drive them home and the behavior does not become finable until the 4th or 5th offence. So now young people who work must have some sort of confirmation from their employers that they did work 5 p.m. to close; police who should be deployed to violent areas will now be tasked with the job of ferreting teens home? If the problem is drug or gang related, a curfew will not fix it, as young people will simply avoid being caught shield their faces as they attempt a drive by shooting and if the parent is so unconcerned, uninvolved that their child is out causing mayhem, getting into trouble then child services should be called in to deal with the family. But more police should be put in violent areas, more extensive investigation done before such sweeping decisions.
Also it becomes a question of who these statutes really punish the responsible kid working a job, the parent who works 3 jobs and can’t watch their teen as close as they would like to, the parent who has tried counseling, boot camp, treatment facilities and the behavior still continues. To say nothing of usurping parental choice to decide how long their kids can stay out, good parents with law abiding teens who earned a trip to the mall or a movie or extra time with friends by getting good grades, staying out of trouble. One parent pointed out that if the kids went to a 9:00 movie they would be in trouble (by the end) for being out too late. Now if a teen in Florida wants to see a midnight opening of popular films like Harry Potter, Twilight, Iron Man they must have and adult with them. Usurping family choices about where they go to shop or vacation because of the inconvenience. Ordinances for the stupidest things, punishing people for their choice of clothes; people’s basic liberties are under siege over underwear and dancing style. Not only is this not America, but it’s not the conduct of any nation upholding democracy.