Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Children must say 'no' to adult strangers

By Yoon Sung-min

Recently, I happened to watch a television program which aired on a major broadcasting company in the United States.

This program showed a series of experiments to see whether latchkey kids would open the door to their home when a stranger rings the bell. The children’s parents were watching on a hidden camera sitting in a car with television reporters and a child safety expert. An adult male stranger was trying to make the children open a door using alluding tactics such as disguising himself as an electrician or pretending to be an older neighbor whose wife is sick and is in desperate need of help.

Surprisingly, many children did open the door and allowed a stranger to come inside. This frustrated the children’s parents who were watching anxiously in a remote vehicle. One child did not open up and adamantly said no to a stranger who seemed to be a nice neighbor. His mother told the television crews that she had educated and trained her children not to open the door to anybody regardless of authority, age and type of emergency.

Generally, children show a tendency towards obedience to adult authorities. While some types of oppositional and defiant behaviors are discouraged, children are told to respect and follow rules and orders from adults. In Korean culture, this has been regarded as one of the virtues in which parents should teach children.

I, however, argue that this statement is not always true: Children should respect all adult authorities whatsoever. Children today are not living in a communal society where they know all their neighbors. They are now living with strangers who may have disgusting intentions. This somewhat saddens me to admit that we live in an untrustworthy and unsafe society. But this is the reality.

Quite a number of cases sexual in nature have occurred against minors in Korea. Many of them were committed by neighborhood strangers who threatened or coerced child victims exerting adult authority. Innocent children might follow them since the potential perpetrators were adults, and they had learned to be obedient.

There is no dispute that safety education for children is foremost important to prevent them from being victims of sexual crimes and other abuse. However, this is not enough. What if children cannot resist being coaxed by adults because cultural values do not allow them to do so? What if children are unable to say no against orders of potential perpetrators due to their imprinted propensity of obedience to adults? They might fall into the trap of being taken away and victimized sexually.

This urges us to teach our children to challenge authorities in case they are faced with strange or unjustifiable demands and situations. Children should know that it is okay to say no to adults discretionally and should not tolerate abuse or exploitation by their elders. I urge primary responsibility for parents, especially those who work long hours and are not home to supervise their children and instruct them to say no to strangers.

09-30-2010 17:28 TheKoreaTimes