I’ve been called an overprotective father more than once. But eagle-eyed, and let’s face it, borderline paranoid as I can be, my blanket-coverage overprotection apparently is nothing compared to the eternal vigilance of Don Keenan, founder and executive director of the Keenan Kids Foundation.
A trial attorney and consumer rights advocate based in Atlanta, Keenan brings to bear the exhaustive documentation and killer instinct you’d expect from years of court experience taking on large companies and the governments that are often so reluctant to regulate them.
In his latest (Oprah-recommended!) book, 365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe, Keenan painstakingly documents specific threats to your child’s safety -- yep, one for each day of the year! -- and provides checklists for overcoming said threats.
The thing that sets Keenan’s book apart is that, unlike any cable news channel you might care to name, it does not simply scare the crap out of you and leave it at that.
Oh, it’s scary all right, but Keenan also offers practical suggestions about what to do in certain situations and steps you can take to make your child’s environment, if not perfectly safe, as safe as you can reasonably make it.
The looming disasters range from the obvious (gun safety) to the less-obvious (window covering pull-cords) to the distressingly commonplace (power windows in cars, which apparently close on children’s heads and necks with alarming regularity in this country).
Some of the factoids in this book are intriguing and quite unexpected. The highest child fatality rate of any sport? Baseball, with 3-4 children dying each year from related activities. (Cheerleading, what with all the throwing girls into the air, is dangerous too, with 25,000 injuries requiring ER care in 2001.)
Over 80 percent of auto child restraints are used or installed incorrectly... Taxi passengers are three times more likely to suffer serious injuries than in other vehicles... Twenty percent of drowning victims at pools drown in the presence of a lifeguard..... The list goes on and on.
Keenan is always quick to point out that, contrary to public opinion, government’s role in your children’s safety is anything but Big Brotherly. Often, Keenan says, elected officials are simply unwilling to offend corporate interests by regulating them unless their hands are forced by a high-profile incident.
For example, Keenan says that there is almost no federal legislation regarding gun safety at all (gee, I wonder why that would be?) He lists all the potential gun safety bills that never even made it out of committee, much less to a vote.
As someone who was beyond outraged by the Catholic Church’s recent molestation scandals and subsequent cover-ups, I was happy (if that’s the word) to see a chapter devoted to child safety from molestation by church officials -- who in protecting each other, often warn potential plaintiffs that all the embarrassing info will become public in a trial, and that it would be a “a sin” for parents to allow such a thing.
As is always the case with consumer protection data, the devil is in the details. While I have no basis for thinking Keenan’s data and numbers are anything but accurate, in my experience one should always be skeptical of quoted statistics (though to Keenan’s credit, when an industry has countering data to his own, he often cites it).
Some might say that we get quite enough alarmism from the media already, and another warning about our dangerous world might just prompt you to take your iPod and spend the rest of your life under the bed.
But as Keenan himself writes in the foreword: “Risks are all around a child’s world and most often, risks are just fine... This book will not discuss nor propose any preventions for the normal risks of everyday child life.... Hazards such as the 365 listed in this book are dangerous and should be removed. They have no place in a child’s world and need to be recognized and eliminated.” ƒç
Don Keenan will sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. Friday, July 28, at Barnes & Noble at Oglethorpe Mall.