The Urban Air Child Predator Situation Reminds Parents To Stay Vigilant
It's only been a week since the bombshell accusations against some of the Lawton Urban Air staff members hit social media. Since that time people have debated, contributed, Karened, attacked, and defended Lawton's trampoline park over a situation some say never even happened.
If you didn't know, as the story goes... an Urban Air employee was allegedly soliciting children out of the fun zone with the promise of giving them a cell phone if they'd just come out to the parking lot with them.
Those words are enough to raise the red flags of even the dimmest adults. Even if it's not true, it's a tale that shines a light on our modern era's embarrassing huge problem with human trafficking, and even more so on how important it is for parents to remain vigilant and involved with their children, even in a place where kids are supposed to enjoy a little freedom.
I've watched my nephews grow up in this world, and I couldn't tell you if they ever had even a single moment to themselves outside of their own bedrooms to this point. It's not a problem with their mother smothering them... it's the world we live in. It's not safe to allow our kids the same independence we had growing up. I didn't even realize it until recently on a motorcycle trip with those boys.
My younger nephew was ready to get off the trail for a snack break but the older wanted to keep riding. I told him "You don't need me, go ride." It was met with a look of shock. "You mean, like, by myself?" he replied. I offered enough encouragement to get him back into the woods on his own and as I sat there with the little one, I could hear that fifteen year olds first real taste of freedom echoing from every corner of the wooded off-road park. I almost felt guilty having had my own freedom upbringing as a kid if it weren't for the pure joy of hearing him experience his.
I'm what Zoomers call an "Elder Millennial." I grew up in an analog world that became digital. Whether or not the 90s were as threatening to kids or not, we went outside when the sun came up and didn't come back home until the streetlights came on. That was the rule. Our parents never knew where we were, nobody had cell phones, and it wasn't weird to see kids riding their bikes miles and miles to Walmart, Kmart, Hastings, Wendy's, the park, etc... Our personal freedom as kids was almost completely dictated by our gumption and courage if we weren't grounded for having done something stupid the day before.
Before you make a comparison that I grew up in a town where everyone knew everybody, it's the same small town they're growing up in, and it's getting smaller every year.
So what has changed?
I'm no expert on people or their villainous vices, but one can't help but wonder if the internet has a lot to do with how the world is today. Between the web making anyone's deepest, darkest taboo's readily available to them at the click of a mouse and this whole idea of "We should accept anyone as they are no matter what" blind mentality of anti-judgment and false trust, it's no wonder the worst of humanity has slithered out of the hidden places they used to hide their real selves in.
While I enjoyed a childhood of pure freedom outside our home in that small town, I also had a mother that always let it be known that we had no privacy in her home. She read my sister's diaries, snooped through closets and drawers, she'd even occasionally smell our breath when we got home from parties just to keep us on our toes. I and my siblings used to think it was torture like we were living under a communist regime... but as we've grown into adulthood ourselves, that parental vigilance is probably why we're of the very, very few members of our family without prison records.
If anything, the Urban Air story is a solid reminder that the worst of humanity is everywhere now, empowered by their easy-to-find circles of like-minded people, prepared to pounce when the moment is right. It also reaffirms how important it is to remain vigilant and involved in our kids lives, even in the places where they're supposed to have their care-free existence and freedoms. Keep teaching the old standards of stranger danger Gen-Xer's developed, and trust in yourself to keep them safe.