Simulating consequences

   Mary Poppins was great with kids; she advised that a spoonful of sugar would help kids take medicine. I wonder if she'd been in Florida this past May, if she'd have prescribed a spoonful of prevention for one pyro-curious kindergartner?

   A parent in Lee County asked a friend at the sheriff's office to talk to her 5-year-old son after he became preoccupied with playing with fire in his home, according to a Florida TV network. Upset neighbors allegedly reported the episode, with one witness stating the tactic is "not a way to teach a lesson," cited CNN affiliate WFTV.com. According to accounts, the boy was handcuffed and briefly placed in the back of a squad car, crying.

   A May 2003 bulletin from the DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention highlighted some numbers that validate the mother's concern, as well as the officer's participation. It states: "The number of child delinquents (juveniles between the ages of 7 and 12) handled in the nation's juvenile courts has increased 33 percent over the last decade (Snyder, 2001). This development is cause for concern not only because offense patterns reflect more serious crimes among these youngsters, but also because these very young offenders are more likely to continue their involvement in crime."

   Though this has little to do with this particular news bite, I can't help but think of simulated crime-spree games like Grand Theft Auto. Some folks think little of exposing a child to violent games or other media. It's important to note that though regulated, kids can easily simulate crime as entertainment; but in this case, pretended consequences were fired on by onlookers.

   If it's of no risk or detriment to the child, officer or agency, why advise against a chat with an uniformed authority on safety and repercussions from setting fires? It might not be the solution for every child, but with statistics like the fact that "child delinquents are two to three times more likely to become serious, violent, chronic offenders than children whose delinquent behavior begins in their teens," according the OJJDP, a carefully executed scare tactic like the one in question could serve as a healthy spoonful of prevention.

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