Circle of Moms: Friendly Man Equals Child Predator

Child Predator at mall

We can all agree that motherhood and fatherhood communities are great. They’re a helpful resource of people who also have kids, and in them, you can learn informative things, like what sunblock SPF your baby needs in the sun, best bikes for toddlers, misandric paranoia, how to hide vegetables in fun foods…wait, what? One of those things doesn’t belong. But when my wife got an e-mail yesterday from Circle of Moms, that’s exactly what she got.

In an article called “How to Spot a Child Predator,” Sharon Silver walks us through a scene where a man in a a local eatery in public, in plain view, is loudly asking some children questions.

I know, you’re thinking – call the cops, lock this guy up, burn his penis off with hot pokers and make sure he can never do this again. The nerve! Talking to kids..in public? What is this, the 50′s?

So now that we have that out of the way, let’s see what really happened. Silver says the man is talking louder than the crowd, asking kids questions such as:

  • “What grade are you in?”
  • “Who do you want to marry when you grow up?”
  • “What’s your favorite subject in school?”
  • “Who is your teacher?”
  • “Do you like astronomy?”
  • “What’s your favorite planet?”

Now, I won’t say that all of these are totally normal questions. While questions about school and its subjects seem normal to me, asking a kid who they want to marry is a little iffy. You’ll get that much, Silver.

So, “like a thunderbolt,” Silver gets the feeling that the boys are being “groomed” – a term to describe when a predator predator familiarizes himself with the kids to gain their trust and make kidnapping or molestation easier.

She asks the kids a couple of questions, and the kids are more or less unresponsive. She has a staring competition with the would-be predator…and wins. “I promptly walk to the counter,” says Silver, “and say as loudly as I can, ‘Miss, I’m concerned about those two boys. They don’t seem to be with any adult. There’s a man over there, the one sitting by the door, asking them questions he shouldn’t be asking! Do you see them? Do you see the man? Please look after them and call the police if they leave with anyone other than a parent!’

Look. I get it: we need to be careful with our kids in public. We need to make sure no one’s going to snatch them up and drive off with them. I’m on board with that idea. But why’s this story have to be about a man, with no explanation later that women are also possible predators? As a commenter in Silver’s story asked, “Would you have had the same thoughts if it was a woman instead of a man talking to the kids?”

Here’s where I get kind of mean. You’ve been warned.

I have no real stats here, but what I see in the media is story after story of female teachers having sex with their students (except for this guy). These are community leaders who we trust (relatively alone) with our kids. But with such a high volume of female teachers having sex with our kids – am I suggesting we be wary of female teachers? Am I suggesting we pull our kids out of any classes with female teachers, or suggest that the principal sit-in on all female-taught classes? After all, it would seem that odds are, if you’ve got a female teacher, she’s having sex with one of her students – right?

No, of course not. And that’s not really what Silver is saying about men, I would hope.

Problematically, we can’t perpetuate the idea that a man talking to a kid in public is an automatic predator. In an age where fathers are trying to recoup their public profile and create a positive image of fatherhood (and manhood), you’re going to see a lot more fathers at the park. You’re going to see a lot more at the mall. You’re going to see a lot more talking to their kids, and – gasp – maybe even your kids. Articles like Silvers are well-meaning, but make people – many of her article’s commenters to start – uncomfortable with the idea that if they talk to a kid in public, they’re a predator.

Articles like this make men want to shut up in public, keep their head down and not make eye contact with mothers or their kids – and that doesn’t create a community. In an age where it’s easier to meet your neighbor on Facebook than just walking next door, it’d help to not cultivate fear in your community for all of its members every time someone talks to your kid.

Now, are there predators out there waiting for someone to drop their guard? Definitely. But these days, thankfully, more involved fathers means more watchdogs. What could be better? Now that dads are at the park more often, we’re keeping an eye out for baby-snatchers too. So don’t teach your kids that men talking to kids equals child predator. There are just as many women out there as dangerous as men. Talk to your kids about kidnappers of all shapes, colors and genders – but also teach them to make informed judgements about their conversations. We don’t need “stranger danger” – we need community.

Silver concludes, “I’m not writing this so we can have a debate about how to deal with predators or situations like this. I wrote this so you’d read about the types of questions a potential predator uses so you can prepare your kids.” This was after admitting she doesn’t know if the guy was a predator. So, really, she’s saying she doesn’t know also if these are the types of questions one would ask. So, that’s that. She’s not writing so we can have a debate. Sharon Silver knows, and you don’t. So shut up and tell your kids to accuse friendly men as predators grooming them for a kidnapping.

Coincidentally, there was a guy who was “grooming” my kid at the Zoo yesterday, asking him which animals he liked, if he had lunch yet and which animals he was going to see next. Also, he looked like a disheveled Tony Bennett and gave my kid a high five (and then five more as “change”):

He was awesome. Suck it, Sharon Silver. Love, 8BitDad.



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WSJ Says: No More Treating All Men as Potential Predators

Author: Zach Rosenberg View all posts by
is married and has one son. You can also find his writing on HLN, The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post. He is an avid gamer, rides unicorns, and loves rainbows.
  • http://www.butterbeanandcobra.blogspot.com/ Betadad

    Nice. I do have to add, though, that I suspect the female teacher/male student relationships are more highly publicized *because* they are less common, and therefore more titillating.  I have no data to back that up, but as Ms. Silver demonstrates, our gut is our best research tool.

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Yeah, I don’t know about the ratio of male/female teacher-perverts. You’d think in a society that loves to see men fail and believes firmly in the gentile of women that they’d hide female rapists behind the “she needs help” curtain while excoriating male rapists as perverts to be locked away. But – you’ve got a point – you show the mugshot of a doe-eyed blonde female teacher and it makes people watch the rest of the news. You show a man and people say “ugh, another pervert” and change the channel.

  • http://www.BloggerFather.com/ BloggerFather

    You have to applaud the woman! She saved a child from having to talk about astronomy!

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Astronomy was the only class I failed in college. Joke’s on them, we didn’t have grades at ol’ UC Santa Cruz.

  • Canadian Dad

    While I can’t say that I’d be cool with a random dude, with no kids, chatting up my son while I wasn’t watching; I will admit that even at playgroups, I feel really uncomfortable interacting with other kids, for fear of looking like a creeper. There’s rarely another Dad to hill with at those places during the week, so it feels like a Circle of Moms! Hopefully the stereotype continues to change for the better, otherwise this Silver woman will have every man castrated for even glancing in the direction of a child.

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      This article definitely makes me wary about being a normal, fun, talkative guy at the park. I usually engage with the moms RIGHT away so they know I’m my kid’s father and that I’m outgoing…and not just “out, going” to rape their kid.

  • Raul Colon

    Zach,

    I remember as a Kid having many encounters with fatherly figures who where critical to me being who I an now.

    My next door neighbor use to bring me treats in the afternoon! He was like another granfather to me since he could hardly ever see his grandkids I filled their spot.

    In our culture its a lot more normal to see this type of interactions. I think instead of reaching conclusions people need to take the time to study people and get to know them. Living on an island of 4 million people helps with that!

    Great post!

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      We’ve got a woman across from our apartment that gives our son lollipops almost every day. Society’s taught me that if it was a man, I should be wary of him, but since it’s a woman, she’s perfectly fine. Come to think of it…what’s in those lollipops?! haha

  • rantravewrite

    So glad to see this post. My husband has been on the receiving end of the Goolah eye because of the way he interacts with unknown kids on many occasions. We have been in the frustrating position of having playground Moms eye him watchfully as he plays with our son, clearly thinking he may have already nabbed a little one, and their own could be next. If he tries to engage their kids in either conversation or a game with ours, the children get ushered away, or the Moms hover to the point of making play impossible. Only when I make an appearance do they let down their guard enough to let their child play with mine.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      It’s sad – and I don’t know the answer. We don’t want to be afraid of everyone. We don’t want to just be afraid of men. But we don’t want to let our guard completely down. Thanks for noticing that your husband’s in this place – because no doubt, he has an internal conflict about it. It’s tough for a man learning how to be a 21st century father to think that a whole gender doesn’t trust him.

      Thanks for reading – and being wary of these types of issues!

      • ForEngland

        Women need to TALK to the men. There’s no reason to be rude. I’m a paranoid person by nature, if I have my kids at a park and see a guy there, the best way to figure out what’s going on is to strike up a conversation. Hey, which one’s yours? How old, blah blah blah, parenting talk. 

        These women are afraid of a boogeyman. They frightened of the great unknown. The best way to get rid of it is to get to know the people there. If they took the effort to find out who people were in their community a lot of the fear would fall away. But it takes a little nutting up, but it’s better than living in fear.

        • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

          For sure. I always think these are the kinds of parents who also don’t let their kid play and have fun for fear that they’ll break an arm or fall and hit their head. But that’s just speculation.

  • MatthewMancino.Com

    I can totally relate to this post. I’ve been a SAHD for 3.5 years. When my first was born I was shunned by many moms. Times are changing. I’ve got lots of SAHM friends now. Although, recently I was with a dad at a park and there were two moms and their kids who moved to another part of the play ground every single time we came their way. We were just following our kids around. Just so I knew I wasn’t imagining things my SAHD friend and I talked about it.  It’s still annoying!!

     

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      It’s definitely annoying. And ultimately, you’d think having men and women interacting at the park would lead to having GOOD and PRODUCTIVE conversations with different points of view that you might not ever have considered. Sadly, we sometimes don’t get to have those conversations. Thanks for reading!

  • cutemonster

    Stereotypes perpetuated over decades tend to seep into the unconscious to the extent that women reflexively think “pervert” first until proven guilty when a man is addressing a child.  No doubt there are predators out there, both men and women, but time and time again it’s been proven that they never fit any particular description.  It’s more along the lines of he/she looked so normal.  So does that mean everyone fits the profile?  Or should parents just be more engaged, be mindful of their children’s whereabouts and social interactions, and not be distracted by chit chat or an electronic device.  

  • http://8bitdad.com Bryan Ferguson

    lol

  • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

    omg so fucking win

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1221957969 Allyson Davis Nyman

    I am guilty of this. I feel badly about it, but I admit to it. My son has special needs, and every male van driver or male aide makes me suspicious. I dont know how to get over it, but I will say that this year I am doing much better. I am so fearful of someone taking advantage of him, I just keep an eye on everybody, and to me, being a part time van driver of special needs kids is more typically a job for a stay at home mom who can strap her baby in and take it along, than it is for a 45 yr old man..I know this isnt fair, but I always wonder why they chose the job they did. Its also difficult realizing that many have taken these jobs simply due to the economy, which makes me wonder how much they really want to be there, and what the level of care is. This article makes me think about it from a different point of view. I am really trying to work through this! I swear!

    • kosiwago

       No, it isn’t fair at all. It’s sexist.
      Men are just as important for kids as women are, and all kids need male rolemodels too.
      The world would be a better place if all kids had more contact with their fathers and other male rolemodels etc.

  • sisix

    I’m glad this website exists. My husband is a wonderful father and he loves children! Whenever we go out with friends who have kids, you can find him inside the dollhouse or at the swings surrounded by kids. My 6 month old was hospitalized today and I couldn’t spend the night with him because I injured my coccyx and sleeping on a chair just wasn’t in the cards for me. Turns out, my husband had to ask permission to the couple who was sharing a room with us so he could be the one staying over (hospital policy), then a supervisor had to OK it. Apparently, if he were a single dad and the couple had a problem with it, he would have to suck it. Nowadays, men are more involved in their kids’ lives and society should get with the program. For women, its a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kinda thing. If men are more interested in kids, they’re predators. God forbid they would find a child interesting enough to have a conversation with him. Geezzzz…

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Thanks for reading, and sorry about your coccyx!

  • Travis Holmes

    I love the way she sets herself up as some kind of hero, doing what nobody else in that sandwich shop had the courage to do and standing up to the big bad astronomy geek.

  • kosiwago

    Maybe we should stop children under 18 from spending any time at all with grown ups over 18? That would surely protect them from pedophiles. Oh wait, pedophiles can also be under 18… Maybe we should just put kids in a prison until they’re 18? That’ll be great.

    • http://www.8bitdad.com Zach Rosenberg

      Guarded by giant turrets of justice!

  • Chris Bernholdt

    Nice Job 8BitDad! As a Stay At Home Parent, I constantly get the stink eye at the park, playplace, or any public gathering where there are children. Unfortunately that perception is there. While DTA applies in the WWE, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a man who is also at the park with his children is just trying to demonstrate how to socialize and make friends. My kids often want to play with other kids but are afraid to do so, so I coach them on how to do it. Introducing oneself to someone on the playground whom you don’t know is the easiest way to allay those fears. Don’t assume just because he is a guy, that he has ulterior motives beyond just being there with his kids.