Editorial – Picture This

Nothing’s sure in this life except death and taxes, the old saying goes. A modern addition could very well be this: Every week, there’s sure to be a new Facebook thing making the rounds.

Sometimes It’s ?If you love puppies and rainbows and hate bad stuff, click Like. Only 10 per cent of people actually will!!!!? Other times It’s some heartwarming, if soppy, story about relationships. The funny stuff gets passed around too, but not to the same extent?unless It’s by George Takei (and even then). But what really gets us to hit our Share buttons are the scary posts, the alarming videos, the news bulletins about potential technology blips that could allow unsavoury persons to track our lives, kidnap our kids, and break into our homes.

They appear in our feed. We read them, because how can you not read something entitled ?WARNING!!! If you take pics with your cellphone, watch this!? And so we do, and we freak out, and we get scared, and we want to spread the scare because It’s only with information like this that we can protect ourselves and our friends. It’s our social obligation, really?though such thoughts are frequently obscured by fast pulse rate and brain in full-on panic mode.

The problem is that such links, articles, and news clips are designed to create that reaction. After all, panic begets readers, which begets advertisers, which boosts the blog or news station’s budget for another few months. And It’s our social obligation not to fall prey to that, especially because of what it means for our personal safety and that of our family and friends.

When we check the facts instead of giving into the Share impulse, we may find that in fact the ?new technology? is neither new nor even relevant; that the scary websites aren’t in use anymore; and that, in fact, the news clip embedded in the link was from a local TV station spot made back in 2010.

It’s easy to freak out over someone using some (long-outdated) website to figure out what school our kid goes to. We can do something about it. We can change settings, rail about technology, act offended, and, yes, share it. We feel like we’re accomplishing something?all the while secure in the knowledge that It’s probably not going to happen anyways.

What we miss in the meantime is our real social obligation: to spread word of the real risks, the actual dangers, even if they’re icky or uncomfortable or just plain scary to talk about.

Statistically, the danger to kids, teens, and even adults does not come from strangers hiding in the bushes outside our homes, waiting ?til lights out to break in. Has that ever happened? Yes, it has. But for the vast majority of victims, the aggressor?whether physical or sexual?isn’t a stranger. It’s someone they know. It’s someone their family knows. It’s someone everyone trusts. It’s teachers, coaches, neighbours, dates, and yes, even family members?people who already know our kids?, and our, schedules. People we know enough, we think, that the thought never, ever even crosses our minds.

And so we’re unprepared.

Should we go around in terror that every friend and acquaintance is a killer, kidnapper, or molester in disguise? Should we wrap our kids in plastic until they’re 40? No and no. But instead of clicking Share on every scary news bite designed solely for sensationalism, we should prepare our kids so that they know how to handle the trustworthy, the nice, the familiar?when those people act or speak inappropriately or out of turn.

We can’t protect ourselves and our families from everything. But if we refuse to give too much credit to media hype and instead focus our energies on real problems, we’ll be just one step closer to the safety we all crave.

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