Item #1: Condoms for 1st Graders
When I read this story out of Provincetown, Mass. a few weeks ago I thought, surely, there must be some kind of mistake. It couldn’t really be true that school officials had authorized the in-school distribution of condoms to students, to children as young as first graders, could it?
As I read the quotes in the news article from educational officials saying that parents could do nothing to stop this, that the school staff would hand out condoms to students even if their parents had requested that they not get them, I hoped that this had been taken out of context, perhaps misinterpreted somehow.
After all, schools won’t do the following without first obtaining parental permission: Let an elementary school student go home with a friend’s parent for a playdate without prior notification, take medicine in school (anything from Tylenol to cough drops, usually the school nurse has to hold onto medicine) and go on field trips.
In Massachusetts, children under the age of 18 cannot get body piercings, obtain a tattoo or patronize a commercial tanning booth without parental permission. This state law says that “inducing” someone under age 18 to engage in sexual intercourse faces potential fines and/or imprisonment.
So surely this story about condoms for grade schoolers must be a mistake.
Only it's not.
Earlier this month, the Provincetown School Board approved such a policy, according to media reports. Here's an excerpt from the Boston Globe:
"Students in Provincetown — from elementary school to high school — will be able to get free condoms at school under a recently approved policy that takes effect this fall. The rule also requires school officials to keep student requests secret, and ignore parents’ objections.
'The intent is to protect kids,' said School Superintendent Beth Singer, who wrote the policy that the Cape Cod town’s School Committee unanimously passed two weeks ago. 'We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?'
The policy, first reported in the Provincetown Banner, keeps parents from knowing if their children receive condoms, and mandates that school officials can choose to supply them even if parents object."
What say you, Picket Fence Post readers?
Item #2: Facebook for 11-Year-Olds
A British mom recently wrote a column in the Daily Mail, “The horrifying week I spent spying on my 11-year-old daughter’s Facebook page,” and confirmed for me that children at this age -- with little to no impulse control, with few to no executive decision-making skills -- shouldn’t be afforded unfettered access to something like Facebook. They're not mature enough to handle it.
No matter how many ground rules they agree to in order to get their parents to agree to allow them to have a Facebook account (like not having strangers as friends, informing your parents if you're bullied on Facebook, etc.), as the author of the Daily Mail article said she did, it's highly likely that the kids are going to mix it up online anyway. And you, the parent, will have no clue about what’s going on.
The author -- who realized her daughter’s Facebook page had been accidentally left logged on after her daughter used Mom's mobile phone -- spent a week “spying” on her daughter’s activities and was astonished by what she saw. There were physical threats leveled at her 11-year-old, who engaged in verbal sparring while liberally using obscenities and casually directing and receiving words like “whore” and “slut.” The writer’s daughter also referred to her mother as a “f***ing cow,” and broke most of her parents’ initial rules about using Facebook. In the end, the mother who wrote the column didn’t make her daughter delete the Facebook account, but insisted that she be her daughter's Facebook friend and know her daughter’s Facebook password.
At what age do you think it's appropriate for a child to have a Facebook account, given that Facebook itself says users must be 13 or older?
Item #3: ‘Friendship Coach’ for Kids
Free-Range Kids Queen Lenore Skenazy has challenged a notion advanced in a recent New York Times article: That children should be discouraged from having a best friend and that “friendship coaches” can help children engage in healthy social interactions with their peers.
No I am not joking.
First the New York Times piece. An excerpt:
“ . . . [T]he classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
'I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,' said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. 'We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.'"
The article then highlighted a New York co-ed sleep-away camp where “friendship coaches” have been hired “to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else.”
Here’s where Skenazy’s common sense irritation comes in. Writing on the ParentDish blog, Skenazy said:
“Friendship makes us better, not worse. But like everything worthwhile in life, it is not always perfect. And now the professional fretters have decided kids can't handle a friend who turns on them (I had two of those!), or the pain of being rejected by a pair of friends who don't want a third wheel. I dealt with that, too! I cried. I raged. I used a lot of exclamation points in my diary! What I did not do was end up emotionally crippled for life!!
These 'friendship coaches' buy into the current belief that kids can't handle any adversity. Kid loses a soccer game? Give 'em a trophy anyway. Kid's friend says, 'You're not my friend anymore?' Send in the grief counselors with a five-part friendship plan.”
Do you share the concern of the folks in the NYT article that having a "best friend" is bad for kid?