Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Unsupervised children

This post began as a comment on Redheaded Rover's post about the irresponsibility of parents who do not properly supervise their children. She mentions a recent negative experience at the movies, where she couldn't enjoy the film because she was so concerned about the welfare of some very young children who were running all over the place, unwatched by their parents. And also a sad story about a child who was abducted because her parents left her (and her 2-year-old twin siblings) alone and unsupervised in an UNLOCKED vacation apartment while they went out to dinner.

These stories, sadly, neither shock nor surprise me these days. I work in a relatively small community library, and I'm sure what happens at my library is small potatoes compared with larger libraries. But still, it is distressing to see how many parents leave their young children unattended, often for hours - and it's not as though we can really make sure they are safe. I'm not always at my desk - I'm often in the stacks helping people. Then there are the parents who sit at the Internet station for two or three hours - seriously - while their little children, bored out of their skulls, are strapped in strollers or wandering around on their own, completely unsupervised. Anyone could easily walk off with these kids; who knows how long it would be before the parent noticed?

I'd feel more sympathy for these Internet parents if they were working on resumes or searching for jobs or apartments or something. But they are playing computer games, doing Internet quizzes, looking at celebrity and fashion websites. And they come almost every night. One little boy often comes over to the reference desk to show me a drawing he's made on scrap paper, or ask me to find a book for him. He is clearly yearning for attention, and I do what I can, but often I'm busy and there's not much I can do. He sits and reads books, and at the end of the night he always begs his mother to let him check one out. I know she has a library card - she uses it to get on the Internet. But she never lets him check out a book. Tonight he cried because he wanted one so badly - it was heartbreaking when she dragged him out, after he'd sat there so quietly for such a long time - she wouldn't even take the book and read it to him at home.

It is sad and frustrating.


  1. OMG! she wouldn't check the book out for him?? does she mistakenly think there's a fee involved for whatever reason? or is she just that self-centered? that's just heartbreaking. that's so sad!

  2. Yep. And he's such a sweet kid. Hate to imagine what he'll be like as a teenager, though...

  3. Oh, that's so heartbreaking. That poor little kid.

  4. I share your sentiments about irresponsible parents. At the bookstore where I work, parents somethings use the children books department as a childcare centre. They dump their children there and goes off shopping or whatever.

    One time, around closing time, I found a little girls about 4 years old who was in the store. Thankfully she was wearing a tag with her parents' contact details. We called her parents - and were shocked that the parents actually were on their way home. They "forgot" that they brought their girl out with them.

    How do you forget your child?

    And one of the most shameful and heartbreaking incident was when a 5 year old girl was molested in the store. The parents had left their child in the store while they did their errands - and only found out about the molestation a few months later.

    They came back to our store to blame us for what happened.

  5. Oh, you just broke my heart with the story about the little boy who's mother wouldn't check out the book for him. How terrible.

    He's being so good and discovering all the magic of books and she's not the least bit interested in helping.

    Considering that there are more kid's books checked out on my library card than adult books, I just feel for that little boy so badly.

    One of my main goals in life is to turn my son into a bibliophile like his mother.

  6. rebekka - yes, I agree. I hope he doesn't grow up to hate the library because of all this!

    dark orpheus - of course they blamed you! Who else could possibly have been responsible? Ack, that makes me angry - on behalf of the child, of course, but also because that kind of attitude is so prevalent. If anything ever happens to these kids at my library, I'm sure we'll be the ones they'll blame, too. Grr.

    And kerry - I guess the bright side of this is that at least the kid is getting some exposure to books, even if they are only an excuse to keep him quiet and occupied while his mom's online. Maybe it will develop into a love of reading - but unfortunately for now, he's too young to read, and no one is reading to him (at least not while he's at the library). So he flips through the books and looks at the pictures on his own, poor little guy.

  7. That's horrible :( I feel really bad for the last little boy! The internet is very addictive, I know - I'm addicted to it - but I'd never do any of that, sheesh. A shame.

  8. Erin - it is a shame, I agree. And tonight is one of their usual nights to come in. It is difficult to sit by and watch these things happen! :-(


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