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Do Male Strangers = Potential Predators?

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry and a blog of the same name, writes a thought-provoking essay in this week’s The Wall Street Journal on our society’s tendency to see all men as potential kidnappers, pedophiles or perverts. She shares a disturbing anecdote from Massachusetts lieutenant governor Timothy Murray, who pulled two small children out of a smoking van that minutes later exploded, only to find himself almost punched in the face by the children’s grandmother, who assumed he was kidnapping them.

She goes on to write:

“…almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it ‘Worst-First’ thinking: Gripped by pedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.”

In a time where so many moms wish their partners would take on a more equal parenting role, many parents also have this underlying assumption that male caregivers or those who just take a special interest in kids are somehow a potential danger to them. We’ve blogged about fears surrounding male preschool teachers before. I confess that although I had no problem with a male teacher in my daughter’s school, I also found myself wondering what a 20-something guy was doing teaching little kids, something that never crossed my mind with the female ones.

Do you find yourself leery of men you don’t know hanging around your kids? Do you think fears about male strangers are justified, or have we gone overboard?