Over the past few days, there has been a lot of fuss in the media about the ‘Momo challenge’ which was proven to be largely a hoax. There’s no surprise that this rumour spread like wildfire; without wishing to offend its creator, the sculpture is one unpleasant looking beast!
It’s easy to see evil in things that look unappealing.
How many of us grew up expecting all ‘bad guys’ to look the same?
Bushy eyebrows framed beady eyes on the faces our imagination conjured up for kidnappers, bank robbers and general bad eggs.
Nobody told us that dangerous people can look harmless. Even now, there seems to be a bias. The unfriendly looking person is always assumed to be ‘bad’, while pleasant-looking people are labelled ‘good’ for no real reason other than looks.
It’s a dangerous trap to fall into and we need to teach our children that bad people don’t just come in an evil-looking package.
Take the Ted Bundy documentary for example. When that was launched on Netflix, Twitter was flooded with tweets from women whose hearts were a-flutter at the sight of the charismatic serial killer. Although his looks weren’t to my taste, I must admit that I wouldn’t have him pegged for a baddy at first sight.
While we’re talking about Netflix shows, it’s probably worth mentioning ‘You’. Penn Badgely’s portrayal of an unhinged, murderous stalker had fans swooning instead of recoiling in horror (which would have been a more appropriate reaction).
Disturbed 30-somethings don’t do it for me, but with his big brown eyes and warm smile, it’s easy to see why so many people were enamoured. Okay, so he’s just an actor, cast as a fictional man, but the message is still clear.
Anyone can be evil, no matter what they look like.
I’ve been following a missing person’s case for the past four weeks. A 21-year-old student seemingly disappeared into thin air from an area of Hull largely populated by students. It’s bothered me because Hull isn’t far from me, and because in eight short years I imagine my daughter will be going to uni and during that time, I’ll have no way of knowing she’s safe.
Police have arrested a person of interest (but charged him for unrelated offences – presumably to help buy more time until they have clear evidence he was involved in this lady’s disappearance). I don’t own the pictures so I can’t share them on here, but if you click the link in the paragraph, you’ll see what the man looks like.
The man arrested is a young father and husband, he has a baby-face, even for a 24-year-old and looks – dare I say it – entirely harmless.
He doesn’t look like someone who might cause harm to another person. He looks like someone you might reluctantly go on a blind date with because he’s the grandson of your nanna’s friend and is ‘such a nice boy’. I wouldn’t like to say whether or not I think he’s guilty of anything, but my point is, someone did at some point during the last month.
So how do we approach this with our kids?
The truth is, I don’t really know. I haven’t found a sweet spot between making them terrified that everyone’s out to get them and making them alert enough to spot danger.
It’s probably a little easier to teach them ‘stranger danger’ when they’re younger. It’s just one of those things with a blanket solution.
“If you don’t know someone, don’t talk to them. If a car pulls up to talk to you, run away. Don’t talk to strangers online, and if anyone tries to open dialogue with you, tell your parents.”
My daughter lives by these rules, I drop her off about 5 houses down the road from her school in the morning, then watch her like a hawk as she walks in on her own. I don’t let her play out in the street and I never let her out of my sight.
I know all of this has to change soon though. As she grows up, she’ll want her freedom and it terrifies me.
I don’t know how to approach this warning when it comes to young adulthood. Most situations in your late teens/early twenties require you to strike up a conversation with people you don’t know.
New colleagues, fellow students, friends’ boyfriends they met on Tinder. Everyone is new to you in early adulthood, it’s hard to tell who to stay away from.
We already know looks and charm don’t give a real indication of how safe a person is. If they did, then Ted Bundy would still be walking the streets, and it would never have crossed his mind to hurt anyone.
Is there an answer?
If we’re too cautious, we bring our children up in a world where they’re constantly looking over their shoulder, worried every charismatic pretty-face is out to get them. But, if we’re not cautious enough, we might end up regretting it.
The easiest thing to teach is that evil doesn’t have a ‘look’. It’s important to be alert for anything that rings alarm bells. Manners don’t matter if you need to get out of an uncomfortable situation, it’s better to be safe and mildly embarrassed, than polite and in harm’s way.
How do you warn your children about the not-so-ugly face of evil?
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