by Dr Peggy on June 20, 2012

BE SURE children know what to do in case of an emergency and how to reach you by phone. Children should have a neighbor or trusted adult they may call if they’re scared or there’s an emergency. (NCMEC Post)

We are all very connected these days. Sometimes we wish we were less connected. As adults, we talk about “unplugging” on our vacation so we can really get rest and relaxation. We have passed this sense of being connected on to our children. Most parents today want their children to have a cell phone – even one that has limited features and bells and whistles – so they can reach them in an emergency. Since pay phones have now disappeared, there doesn’t seem to be another way for a young child to be able to call their parents in times of trouble. And with all this talk about being safe and not trusting strangers, you certainly don’t want your child to ask a stranger if they can use their phone.

When I am walking around the city or my neighborhood, the most startling thing I see is people talking on cell phones while they walk around. When they walk their dogs, they are talking on the cell phone. When they push the stroller, they are talking on the cell phone. When they do the laundry at the laundromat or pay the clerk at the counter or wait for the buss, they are talking on their cell phone. Sometimes I wonder if we talked to the person next to us instead of the one across town if we would build a different kind of community.

It used to be you could teach your kid that the neighbor is someone they can go to if they are scared or in an emergency. The sad part is how many places where that isn’t the case. We need to be able to build communities where children can reach out to an adult and feel they will get help. The question is how. Get out of the air conditioned house and sit on the front porch? Have a neighborhood picnic and meet each other? Hang over the back fence – many of us still have them – and say hi. Put down the cell phone and see who is standing right next to you. Strike up a conversation. You might meet some folks who become friends and offer you regular support. Give it a try.

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