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Keep Your Kids Safe. No One Else is Gonna Do It.

Companies and the federal government are dropping the ball on children's safety. You should be pissed. You should also be careful.

fatherly logo Opinion

The Consumer Product Safety Commission received hundreds of reports that the Britax B.O.B. jogging stroller was losing the front wheel and injuring children. As a result, they sued Britax to force a recall. But then Ann Marie Buerkle took the helm of the CPSC and quietly ended the suit, ensuring kids would remain at risk.

The Trump administration wasn’t thinking of my children.

As YouTube exploded in popularity, employees became aware that people were using the platform to spread damaging content, including vaccine conspiracy clips and kids videos encouraging self-harm. Proposals were made to police the content and rejected by executives in favor of pushing “engagement.”

YouTube executives weren’t thinking of my children.

In a recent hearing on vaccines in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Senator Rand Paul, an actual doctor, gave an anti-vax speech rather than ask experts questions. Paul spoke of vaccines injury payouts, the “false sense of security” of flu vaccines and the importance of personal choice.

Rand Paul wasn’t thinking of my children.

Who is thinking of my children? Me. I was locking YouTube out of my house and getting my children flu shots and doing my damnedest to make sure the products brought into my home weren’t going to shatter into sharp pieces. Is this my job as a parent? Sure. But it’s getting way harder. Where it used to feel like professionals and regulators had my back, it now feels that I’ve been left alone to protect my kid from advancing dangers. Though some of this is surely the product of the way media coverage works — executives who make responsible decisions don’t often have stories written about them — it also seems to be a product of broader indifference to what has been historically anathema to American adults: hurting kids.

Oh, the multinational companies and senators and government agencies say they have my back. They want my money and my vote and my trust. And, let’s be real, that’s how you get it. But what do I get for giving them my trust? Pedophiles running rampant on the world’s second largest search engine. A measles outbreak. A stroller that trips.

Parenting is already very intensive. I have to invest more time and money into my kids than my parents did if I want them to have any kind of successful future. That’s simply a reality of the current economy and the increasingly competitive nature of education. But I used to think that, when it came to my children’s health and safety, there were powerful protectors looking out. Was I naive? Perhaps, but I don’t really think so. I think something changed.

The old “children are our future” line has hung on for decades because it’s non-metaphorically true. I suspect that the issue now isn’t that our leaders are less interested in children, but they are less interested in the future. Our economy, tipping back and forth between extreme expansion and contraction, and our schismatic politics, vacillating between the center-left and the far right, have encouraged a certain type of opportunism and the rise of a certain type of opportunist.

For parents, this is bad news. We can talk about our poisonous political culture and we can talk about the imbalance of the economy. But the ways in which these things are manifest in the broader world aren’t limited to the discursive. There are new dangers and there are fewer people looking out. Parents have to recognize this and grapple with the demand that it places on them to be constantly wary.

Parents should resent this and they should demand better. And, in the meantime, they should be hyper-vigilant. It’s a sad reality, but a reality none-the-less.