only present Ralphie wished to receive on Christmas was a Red Ryder Carbine
Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this
thing which tells time” (A Christmas
Story). Sadly, this desire is rejected by his mother, teacher,
and even a department store Santa Claus; all of whom warned that it was too dangerous,
and that he would shoot his own eye out with it. Fortunately for him, on
Christmas morning, Ralphie’s father surprises him with the Red Ryder gun he had
hoped for. As it is well-known, guns are very dangerous, and it must be hard to
understand why a young child would receive one for a present on Christmas Day
from his or her parents. This here is the problem: parents are misinterpreting
how dangerous items and activities are because society determined what should
be worried about and what is not necessarily as important for child safety. In order to solve the problem of
ignorant parents, research should be done to determine the most dangerous
activities for children and the results should then be presented to all parents
in order to keep their children safe from what is truly a threat.

            First off, the main problem with
child safety norms is that parents have the wrong ideas about how to keep their
children safe, and how to protect their children from dangerous things. For
example, an article on dangerous teenage trends describes activities such as
“Vodka Eyeballing,” pouring alcohol into one’s eye, and “planking,” laying
face-down in random locations, as dangerous activities that should be prevented
(“Top 10
Dangerous”). One may think that activities such as these are not as
detrimental to children as other activities, so it would seem useless to focus
on them. However, because parents typically follow parenting articles to help
determine how they should raise and protect their children, parents are left
ignorant when it comes to what the true dangers, such as riding in a car or
swimming in a pool, are for their children. This is a result of the influence
that society has on parents; a false influence that causes them to focus on the
wrong dangers that do not need to be worried about. This point is further noted
by Levitt
and Dubner when they write, “The typical parenting expert, like
experts in other fields, is prone to sounding exceedingly sure of himself. An
expert doesn’t so much argue the various sides of an issue as plant his flag
firmly on one side” (148). Evidently, the current parenting norms when
it comes to child safety, have been determined by society – a collection of
“typical parenting experts” that argue for what has been deemed as the most
important aspects of protecting children. Unfortunately, parents are so easily
convinced by the dangers deemed most important to worry about for children by
society because they are bad at assessing risks themselves. So, Vodka
Eyeballing, a seemingly rare and unlikely activity for a child, and a not-so
harmful Planking game are deemed as unsafe and have higher priority than any more
common dangers, like accidental drowning, to children.

            Notably, a large influence on how
parents decide to raise their children is based on incentives: moral, social,
and economic. In their work, Levitt and Dubner provide definitions of these
various types of incentives, where “morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like
the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work” (11). These definitions may easily
relate to parenting incentives that influence how parents decide to protect and
raise their children. The moral incentive comes from how parents want to raise
their children, the social incentive is based on what the local parenting
community thinks is the best way for one to raise a child, and the economic
incentive is based on how parents end up raising their children because society
itself determined how. Clearly, parents will want to protect their children
from any and all dangers that come throughout their childhood, so they will do
whatever society tells them they can to do so. This problem with society
determining how to successfully raise a child has grown tremendously over the
years and the media is one to blame. Evidence of the detriment of social media
is described by the fact that “with the rapid rise of information industries,
the speed at which information become obsolescent is escalating and the need
for a commitment to lifelong learning is an increasingly important reality both
socially and economically” (Weil 482-483). This is the core of economic
incentives for parents because they are doing what every blog, newsfeed, and
book on parenting tells them to with their child’s safety. Unfortunately, the
media is being wasted on dramatic and less common trends than what should be
truly focused on. However, it is still very easy for society to influence all
parents through the media because of what Levitt and Dubner denote
as a familiarity factor; which describes how familiar activities, such as
driving a car, seem less dangerous because people experience them more often (152-153).
This factor, along with the unfocused media influence on child dangers, causes
truly unimportant dangers to be given a priority over dangers that are more
likely to harm a child. At this point, hardly anyone is benefiting from the
disorganized and unfocused ideas on parenting that is portrayed by the media.
Therefore, something must be done to determine what dangers should truly be
made aware for all parents.

            So far, there have been a few events
in the history of the United States that have recently helped provide a
solution for the given problem. However, they have not necessarily solved the
problem of child safety awareness, as they are only focused on small parts of
the whole issue. One event that helps solve the problem of parental awareness
for mental health only is an annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day that
is sponsored the United States’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA):

In 2011, May 3 had been set aside to promote the theme
Building Resilience for Young Children Dealing with Trauma. Activities will
raise awareness of effective programs for children’s mental health needs;
demonstrate how children’s mental health initiatives promote positive youth development,
recovery, and resilience; and show how children with mental needs can thrive in
their communities. (Pizzolongo and Hunter 67)

this event, SAMHSA has been able to build stronger public awareness on the
importance of behavioral health, while also providing more programs and
services to help parents in need of assistance when it comes to raising their
child. Undoubtedly, the purpose behind this event is successful in helping
promote better awareness of child safety and resilience; however, it only
focuses on the mental health aspect of the greater issue. Another helpful
solution to the problem of ignorance of true dangers for children is parenting
groups, which typically bring awareness to its local community. These groups
contain parenting experts that are helpful in providing more personal and
helpful information when it comes to each parent in his or her experience of
raising and protecting a child. Unfortunately, these experts may not always be
focused on true dangers and are more likely taking advantage of parents’
ignorance for his or her own paycheck. Overall, measures have been taken in the
United States through SAMHSA and parenting groups as an attempt to solve the issue
of awareness on dangers for children, but these alone are not enough to fix the

            Aside from what has already been
accomplished in an attempt to move towards a solution, the first step to
prioritizing child dangers would be statistical research. This extensive
research on child dangers would use past data of how many children a year had
died from various causes. Then, each danger would be ranked more or less
important to be made aware of based on how many children had previously died
from each respective danger. For instance, with the data gathered by research institutions
on dangers such as Vodka Eyeballing, Planking, Gun suicide and Accidental
Drowning, it could be determined which dangers are more common and therefore
more important to be brought aware to the public. An example of this ranking
process can be seen by comparing data of accidental drownings and planking. Statistics
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that “from 2005-2014,
there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating
related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day” (“Unintentional
Drowning”). Planking, a fad that only begun in 2011, had caused a
few deaths, but there is no statistical value on how many children died from it
because it is so rare. Therefore, between drowning and planking, drowning is
the danger that should be brought more aware to the public than planking. Using
this process, more awareness will be brought to more common, and possibly
unknown, dangers because of how many children died from that activity in the
past. When an official list has successfully been made of the most accurate
ranking of child dangers, then better advice may be provided to all parents.
With this re-prioritizing in mind, one must understand that it will not
completely get rid of the awareness of the more unlikely dangers because they
are still a potential threat to children. Agreeably, Levitt and Dubner describe how “it’s the imminent possibility of death that drives the fear – which means
that the most sensible way to calculate fear of death would be to think about
it on a per-hour basis” (151). Obviously, parents are terrified of the
possibility that their children could potentially die from any form of danger
and will constantly worry about what things are truly dangerous for their
children. The purpose of making this list is to prioritize awareness of dangers
so that parents will know which ones are more likely to kill their children.
Because more children are dying from what is currently not-so important dangers,
parents need to be brought aware of them so that they have a better chance at
helping more children survive.

The next step in solving the problem with
unprioritized awareness of how to protect children is to use the root of the
issue itself, the media, to unleash the newfound information everywhere. It is clear that many parents rely
on the information provided by society through media when it comes to raising
and protecting a child. Various forms of media are commonly used as sources of
parenting information and, being as the media is the root of the problem in the
first place, it may be used to fix it. Agreeably it is stated that the United
States should “provide information about hazardous substances and conditions in
children’s environments to decision makers at the legislative, regulatory, and
corporate levels through coalitions of parent, consumer, and advocacy
organizations” (“NAEYC”
73). Of course, the extent to which different parents are exposed to
the media varies according to different factors, such as age, gender, or economic
resources. However, by using the media, the prioritized awareness would
eventually start becoming the new social norm for parenting and would reach
most members of society. Therefore, the old fears on less common dangers will
be replaced by news ones that are statistically proven to affect more children.
Likewise, the media has a strong influence on the United States government as
well when it comes to determining what issues should be brought to political
view. Evidence of this is presented by an article on Nongovernmental
Organizations’ influence as having a “strong influence on government, either by
collaborating with state or federal agencies in conducting local projects or by
independently encouraging the adoption of laws and regulations” (Schieber, et al.
124). These organizations have presence in the media because of the
projects and collaborations with federal agencies that focus on controversial
issues. The influence that nongovernmental organizations can have on the
government through media may help promote higher concern at the federal level
to solve the problem of bringing awareness of the dangers to children.
On the other hand, one may argue that society may not accept what the media, or
even these nongovernmental organizations, tell them to be important enough to
change the norms of parenting. However, this is unlikely because the statistics
behind the research will convince parents that what was discovered as a more
common danger is truly a one that should be worried about. In order to completely
make sure that most parents become more aware of the prioritized dangers and
accept that as the truth, more localized organizations should also promote the
same awareness. An article on more advocacy strategies for child safety states
that in order to bring more local awareness, “provide speakers for parent’s
groups and civic organizations. Develop and distribute media presentations.
Produce pamphlets and leaflets for wide community distribution” (“NAEYC” 72).
Ideas such as these would help provide more awareness at a local standing that
could provide a more trusting source for parents to accept and understand the
implications of the prioritized list of dangers for children. Overall, with the
media’s influence on society, the government, and local communities, the
research completed on determining which dangers are more commonly known to kill
children, will be released across the United States and would likely be
accepted as part of the new parenting norms for protecting children.

            The final part of the solution would
be meant to ensure that parents are given the correct information when it comes
to what activities are dangerous through legislation. This governmental
legislation would mainly require any parenting experts to inform parents of the
changes in the prioritized list of common dangers. As described by an article
on risk factors for children, “information about ‘risk’ forms part of a broader
analysis of the lack of fit between the resources required to meet needs within
families and the wider community (as defined by them), and the resources
actually available” (France, et al. 1202). Therefore, the problems
that are present with lack of acceptance by parenting experts of the newfound
information on dangers would cause miscommunications between society, parents,
and the experts. The legislation should set in place a protocol for what
parenting experts should bring aware to their clients and should prevent them
from falsifying information to parents. Evidence of this corruption is described
by Levitt and
Dubner as when “armed with information, experts can
exert a gigantic, if unspoken, leverage: fear” (67).  Because of the possibility of falsified information
given by parenting experts to parents, they must be held accountable for being honest.
Any person offering advice to parents must provide opportunities for them to
develop personal approaches to be able to understand and recognize hazardous
threats towards their children. By doing so, parents can wholly trust that
parenting experts will be providing the correct information and advice when it
comes to protecting their children.

All in all, the solution to the problem is easy: do
the research, present the data to society, and create legislation to require it
as a standard. It is clear that parents need help raising their children the
right way and should have access to the more common dangers that are present in
each child’s life. Research should be used to determine the most important
dangers that parents should protect their children from. Then, the media should
be used to provide awareness for all parents. And finally, legislation should
be formed to require a unified standard between government, society and
individual experts. Just as Ralphie knew he wanted that exact Red Ryder Carbine
Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, he went about trying to manipulate and
influence those he thought would be willing to purchase his gift. Although his mother,
teacher and the drugstore Santa shut down is request because it was too dangerous,
Ralphie’s father took into consideration the research he did on that exact rifle
and how much time he took attempting to convince someone to buy him it. Thankfully,
Ralphie’s research and influence on his father won him his fantasized air rifle
on Christmas morning.

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