5 Laws That Are Ruining Our Kids’ Childhoods

Consumer protection, Freedom, Healthcare, Injury, Politics, Rights

child safetyBeing a kid is dangerous.

A review of websites devoted to child safety (like this one) reveals a perilous world full of tipping bookcases, lead paint, prescription drugs and dangerous seat belts. It’s astonishing that anybody over the age of 25 managed to reach adulthood, seeing as how their parents had to rely on common sense instead of the Internet.

Given the infinite hazards, both real and perceived, that go along with being a youngster, lawmakers and school districts across the country pass more regulations ever year in the name of children’s health and safety. Occasionally, these well-meaning mandates go beyond a utilitarian concern for kids and start infringing on privacy or restricting parents’ rights.

Here are just a few of the standouts in the pantheon of ridiculous rules that are attempting to legislate childhood.

1. Forget Those Second-Hand Toys

The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which went into effect in February, requires that products intended for children aged 12 and younger be tested for lead (which can cause brain damage) and phthalates (which can cause low birth weight, but obviously not after the child has been born). In many cases, this is good news for parents and children, since it holds manufacturers accountable for creating safer toys and clothing.

Unfortunately, the Act has been disastrous for second-hand retailers of children’s products and the parents who depend on them — that is, poor and middle-class families. According to this article, most second-hand storeowners simply don’t have the resources to conduct expensive testing of the toys and clothes they sell. This law couldn’t have come at a worse time for American families and their children, not to mention the stores that have been put out of business.

2. Teens’ Naughty Self-Portraits = Child Pornography?

Everyone (we hope) can agree that child pornography is bad and that laws protecting children from sleazebags are good. But what happens when the laws are turned against the people they are designed to protect? Last year, prosecutors charged six Pennsylvania teens with child pornography after they texted naked pictures to each other. This was discovered by a teacher, who had confiscated the phone of one of the girls for unrelated reasons.

In 2007, a Florida court found a 16-year-old girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend guilty of “producing, directing or promoting” child pornography because they took pictures of themselves having sex. (The kids didn’t distribute the photos, but one of their parents found them on the computer.)

The moral: Taking naked pictures of yourself is stupid; but it seems like facing pornography charges in court could present a bigger invasion of privacy than the actual pictures.

3. Let No Tooth Go Unbrushed

neon tooth and toothbrushGood oral hygiene is a beautiful thing, but is it worthy of legislation? The good people of Massachusetts think so: Since January, every daycare provider in the state is legally responsible for brushing the teeth of the children in their care. The state is providing the toothbrushes and toothpaste, but the daycare workers are in charge of making sure the teeth get brushed. According to the comments of this article, orchestrating mass toothbrushing in a daycare setting is a logistical nightmare, especially for very young children who can’t operate a toothbrush on their own.

4. Bottoms Up

It used to be that car seats were just for infants and toddlers. Now, in every state, children as old as 8 (if you live in Wyoming and Tennessee) must use booster seats, which may protect their internal organs from being injured by seat belts in the event of an accident. But in a study of 71 booster seat models, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave only 21 the highest safety ranking. Depending on the model of the car and the age of the children, the “wrong” booster seat can actually increase a kid’s chance of being injured. But if parents forgo the booster seat, they run the risk of a hefty fine.

5. Even Walking is Against the Rules

kid walking to schoolParents attempting to walk their kids to school in certain of the nation’s school districts have been met by admonishing security guards and school officials.

Citing safety concerns (traffic, sex offenders and whatnot), some schools do not allow children to walk or ride their bikes to school, even if their parents accompany them. This seems at odds with national concerns over childhood obesity and international panic over global warming. Surely there must be a compromise?