Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh, The Irony Of It!

Last night's Cutting Edge, 'Cotton Wool Kids' (C4), was about parents with an exaggerated fear about the safety of their children, believing a paedophile, rapist or murderer was waiting on every street corner.
The children led lives that were little different from 'house arrest'. Some of the parents had given their children remarkably detailed descriptions of what could happen to them. One small girl said her mother had told her that if she was snatched 'they' would probably put a towel round her mouth to stop her breathing. In my book, feeding very young children that kind of stuff is child abuse itself.

A few minutes into this programme, I realised I was watching the mother and father of all ironies. For these parents who were obsessive about their children's safety were happy to put them on TV at peak time and show considerable detail about their lives.

Let's put this in context. A lot of library footage of schoolchildren used by news programmes doesn't show their faces because of concerns about privacy and safety. And children are urged not to put personal details on social networking sites.
Now consider the case of a 13 year old boy featured in the programme whose father was one of the most obsessive about his safety, never letting him go anywhere unaccompanied.
We were told that they live at the Pere Michel Restaurant in London W2. We were shown shots of the street and the restaurant. We were shown identifying shots of the boy's school and the car in which his father drives him there.
Any child putting that amount of detail on a networking site would be naive and foolish, although in most cases it would be seen only by a handful of friends. Yet his neurotic father was happy to sign release forms for a TV company to broadcast this information to a potential audience of millions.

If someone is in the grip of an irrational fear, you might expect them to behave irrationally in a more general sense. However, you might expect their particular obsession to have some internal logic and consistency. So if I believed that murderous zombies had taken up residence in my garden shed, you might expect me to always keep the back door locked and not invite them in for tea.
So the unjoined-up thinking of this father and the other parents left me gobsmacked.

One hopes that these desperately unhappy children can use this against their parents: "so I can't walk ten yards down the road without an escort but it's OK to put me, my house, my school and friends on television. What fucking planet are you on?"


On a related theme, the funniest headline this week was 'Pupils Posing As Paedophiles'.
It was hard to believe this hadn't been written by Chris Morris or Armando Ianucci.

The story itself was not funny at all, since it referred to a new form of cyber-bullying with children as young as ten posing as paedophiles on social networking sites to frighten the wits out of other children.
But it shows the ingenuity and maliciousness that the little angels are capable of.
The greatest risks to children's safety come from, in no particular order: other children, their parents and traffic accidents.

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