A modest proposal: microchipping children

During our recent Iceland trip we learned they keep track of sheep using implanted microchips. We were familiar with this idea, since our cats have microchips in case they go missing.

Parents nowadays keep track of children using smartphones. But this is a very imperfect method, especially if kids don’t want to be kept track of.

Child abduction creates a big problem in today’s America. Not that abductions are common; to the contrary, abductions by strangers are so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. Instead, it’s the fear that’s the problem.

Human beings, even (otherwise) very intelligent ones, have a hard time evaluating dangers in proper perspective. Many of the biggest threats we scarcely even think about while obsessing over ones that are literally rarer than being struck by lightning. We have tied ourselves in knots in terror over terrorism (just look at airports) while every day we get in our cars and drive without a thought that highway death is at least a hundred times more likely.

Child abduction by strangers is even rarer than terrorism. It’s been calculated that, statistically speaking, you’d have to leave a kid out on a street corner for 750,000 years before it would happen. Yet it’s warped our whole style of child-rearing. When I was a little tyke, I walked to school, a goodly distance, through city streets, alone. No one thought this was crazy. Today a parent can be jailed for it. Some localities have found it necessary (and desirable) to pass “free range child” laws specifically to permit it.

But the great majority of American parents are still trapped in abduction phobia. The effect upon children is terrible. Over-protective helicopter parenting stifles a child’s development toward independence, self-reliance, autonomy, and a sense of capability. Children accustomed to living in cocoons of protection against an outside world seen as hostile and threatening cannot be expected to make their way in the world in a psychologically healthy way.

“Social trust” is the glue that holds society together. It’s the default assumption that people are likely to be trustworthy (and in fact the vast majority actually are). But we’re instilling kids with an opposite default assumption — to look upon everyone with suspicion. Polls unsurprisingly show that belief in the trustworthiness of people in general is declining. This is bad for the future of our society.

It’s no surprise too that we’ve seen this unfortunate mentality metastasize onto the nation’s campuses where, instead of exposing students to a diversity of ideas to broaden their intellectual development, we have a world of speech codes, “safe spaces,” and “trigger warnings” aimed at shutting all that out. Treating kids as fragile flowers who can’t survive contact with reality.

But what if there’s a way to neutralize the mindset of fear that’s behind all this?


Implant all kids with microchips, just like Iceland’s sheep, and our cats. Then parents can keep track of them — really keep track, 24/7. Remember those ancient ads, “It’s 10:00 PM — do you know where your children are?” Now the question would be moot.

The great thing is that this would become part of the background operating system of life — unobtrusive, taken for granted, never even thought about. Quite different from the helicopter parenting that’s always in children’s faces. And parents would not be staring constantly at screens to track their kids either. Knowing that they could would make it unnecessary to actually do so.

And obviously, in the (extremely) rare event that the bogeyman does strike, this system for tracking children would make resolving such situations vastly easier and quicker. A “missing” child would be a virtual impossibility. And abductions by strangers would become even rarer than they are already — likewise virtually impossible to perpetrate successfully. Why even bother trying?

And so at last the bogeyman would come to be seen as just that; not something to be feared in actuality. And maybe kids could once again walk to school by themselves like I did.

One Response to “A modest proposal: microchipping children”

  1. wolfgang Says:

    Well, it may not be that easy. Once kids get micro-chipped, evil doers would first find the chip (electronic detector or trial and error-ouch!), cut it out (ouch again!) and proceed to throw it down the nearest toilet. Then everyone would be in twice the tizzy trying to find the kid in the nearest water recycling facility when he/she is somewhere completely different.

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