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Family Forum: Neighborhood Watch

Wishing for your child's safety when the world at times seems unsafe.

Port Washington is a community with a low-crime rate and its own .

Regardless of that sense of security on the peninsula, the news of Leiby Klestky, the 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who was abducted and murdered on a walk home by himself from camp, and the shooting at a youth camp in Norway by a man dressed as a police officer, has parents revisiting the issue of safety and their children.

At dinner with friends in Port, the conversation quickly turned to safety and a discussion about implanting a VeriChip (a rice-grain-sized personal identification device) into our kids so we can track them in case they got lost or worse, abducted. While the V-Chip is FDA-approved for tracking pertinent medical information, it's not yet a GPS honing device.

And tempting as a V-Chip might seem, are there drawbacks for being too safe with your children?

As , author of "Free Range Kids," put it: “In our desire to eliminate ALL risks, we create new ones, like the risk of kids not getting a feel for what’s safe or not, and not feeling confident about facing the world in general.”

Even after addressing ,  and , the world never seems safe enough.

Regardless of crime rates, we must still teach our kids street smarts, “stranger danger” and most importantly to trust their instincts.

We teach our kids to seek out police, firefighters, security guards, life guards and other adult authority figures in case of danger or if they get lost. Still, like defensive drivers, children must be on guard. What if their authority figures engage in inappropriate behavior?

Whether children engage in sports or leisure, or is simply walking down the street, there's a host of rules and safety protocols to follow. In obeying the rules children learn responsibility. In proving responsible they earn independence.

Each child's "readiness" for new responsibilities is very subjective. Yet we impose age requirements for universal risky ventures like driving as well as drinking alcohol.

Will the latest atrocities in the news prompt you to delay your child's independence?

What would you let your kids do by themselves? Perhaps ride their bikes along the ?  They may be armoured with a helmut, elbow and knee pads, water and phone, but even with  adhering to the safety rules, they can still fall off their bikes, into traffic.

As parents, we can remain ever vigilant, and even check on our community in case any registered sex offenders move into the neighborhood. We do what we can, perhaps knowing that there are some risks that we hadn't yet considered.

Yet eventually your kids will be on their own, and you – like your parents and theirs before them – will sit back and pray that you raised them right and that their guardian angels will watch over them, the same way yours have guided you through life.

Alexandra Zendrian July 27, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Leiby Klestky's story is certainly devastating and I'm sure making lots of people think about how safe their children are. It pays to go over routes with your children. Does the idea of "stranger danger" still apply?
Debbie O'Brien July 27, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Children need to be watched. There is safety in numbers. Lazy parents should not depend on cell phone, tracking devices. Get someone to meet your children if you're not available. Alexandra "stranger danger" still applies.
Dolores Kazanjian O'Brien July 27, 2011 at 08:51 PM
I plead with you young mothers to keep things in perspective. I see many children taught to be so frightened of strangers that when I (a 77-year-old gray-haired) try to engage them in conversation, they give me the "deer-caught-in-the-headlights" look and then Mom comes quickly to yank them away. The children pay a tremendous price for going around dependent and fearful. Teach your children to trust their intuition, to take sensible precautions, and teach them how to fly. I know it's hard - it's supposed to be hard. I have to point out that the overwhelming majority of childen who are physically or sexually assaulted are victims of family, relatives, and/or close friends - not strangers.
Cynthia Litman July 28, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Dolores you raise a most important statistic in that most abuse is carried out by someone the victim knows whether a counselor, relative or even friend. It's so key for children to have their intuition tuned in and frightening them is a way to make an initial point of a possible danger but fine tuning their senses is a constant practice.

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