A couple of months ago the lovely Cuddles and Muddles tweeted a link to a blog post about micro-chipping kids. The general gist of the post was that if micro-chipping our kids helped us find them if they go missing then why wouldn’t we? This is obviously assuming that these micro-chips had GPS tracking capabilities (something which I think is some way from being available) so this discussion was a completely hypothetical one. At first you might think ‘hell, yeah, of course I would’ but I have to admit this wasn’t my first thought. In fact the whole idea made me recoil in horror.
The thought of micro-chipping my child absolutely terrifies me and there are two reasons for this. The first is that by micro-chipping our children, in a similar way we do our pets, our phones and our cars, I feel that we are objectifying our children and reducing them to possessions. I believe our children are people in their own right and not something we need to claim ownership of. Secondly and probably more importantly is the issue of privacy. By micro-chipping our children with a GPS tracking system we are removing one of their basic human rights – privacy. What will stop some parents spying on their teenagers, preventing them from making the same mistakes we did as kids or learning how to make sensible choices? I have to admit there are a few mistakes that me and my brothers made growing up that I wouldn’t want Little Man to repeat, however, I also understand how the opportunity to make those same mistakes afforded us the chance to grow and develop. It helped shape the people we are today, and let’s face it, when I was a teenager I knew it all already and wasn’t listening to anyone’s advice! The thought of myself or someone else having the ability to track my teenagers movements, no matter how tempting, just feels wrong on so many levels.
After taking stock of my own thoughts on the subject I did do a little bit of Google research and was shocked at the amount of parents who were seemingly up for this option of control. Often the reason given for choosing to micro-chip was that any risk of their child being kidnapped or stolen, no matter how high or low, automatically trumped any potential negative outcomes of micro-chipping. For them it is worth the loss of privacy for their children, because their child might be taken. I get this, I really really do, the thought of losing my child is terrifying to the core, however, the risks of this happening compared with the potential negative consequences of microchipping is not a price I would willingly pay.
Whilst searching the net for micro-chipping discussions I came across the book Free-range kids by Lenore Skenazy. After reading the blurb I bought the book. It doesn’t mention the micro-chipping debate at all but it does raise some really important issues about how, as parents in the modern age, we have allowed fear to seep in. We are so concerned about what we hear on the news that our children are slowly losing their independence and their privacy with it. The main thing I took away from the book was that our reactions to risk need to be proportionate to the risk involved and that as parents, for obvious reasons we sometimes let the fear factor get the better of us. For example, allowing our children to walk to school. Many of us won’t because we believe the chance our children will be snatched by a stranger is incredibly high, when in fact the risk is actually quite low, especially if they are walking with friends on a route used by lots of other school children.
I know as a parent I can sometimes let the fear creep in. I’m not sure I will ever be ready to let Little Man walk to school on his own, however, I do hope that when the time comes and he asks for this little piece of independence, when I know deep down that he really is ready, that I will be brave enough to let him go. At the moment even letting him in the garden on his own can be terrifying. At only 2 and a half his freedoms are limited but I am already aware of his growing need for freedom and space. He will often ask me to leave a room so he can play on his own or head off to his treehouse if he needs some space. His independence is growing and I have to make myself step back at times and allow him to try on his own, even if sometimes I can see him struggling. I really hope I can continue to do that for him as he gets older and I don’t want to have to stop him from walking to school or popping to the shop by himself. I want him to be able to go and play in the woods or at the park with his friends without having to have a grown up with him all the time. I hope I can equip him with the knowledge and skills that will enable him to act sensibly and understand the risks for himself without having to resort to micro-chips or keeping him under constant supervision.
You hear more and more stories of police marching children back to their homes when they have been out den building or playing in the park on their own. Where I work there are often children out and about on their own and I always hear comments from others asking where the parents are and why they aren’t with them in disapproving tones. This saddens me because this world should be as accessible to our children as it is to adults but it slowly becoming a place where children aren’t allowed unless ‘accompanied by an adult’.
Wouldn’t we be better off dealing with the issues that make this world less safe for our children, for example, slowing down the traffic in areas where children walk to school, and equipping our children with information that would provide them with the confidence to get out of a tricky situation rather than excluding them from these activities or resorting to micro-chipping them?
What do you think? Do you let your kids out on their own? If not, why not? Would you micro-chip your little one? How do you see the world changing? I’d love to know your thoughts.