I’ve noticed that this is a highly contested issue among certain car owners: are family sticker decals the greatest thing ever or do they make you want to join forces with the “No one cares about your stick figure family” club?
I won’t be attempting to settle the debate but here’s some food for thought: how much information is that smiling stick figure family providing the rest of the world? More than you might think. For the same reason my mum wouldn’t let me get my name embroidered on my backpack, a lot of parents are reconsidering the sticker family fad and law enforcement is started to encourage their removal (linked above).
When the fad began it seemed innocent enough. We put all sorts of other things on cars, why not display our family pride?
Here’s a possible reason why not to, from Sylvia Cochran (linked below):
“SUVs or minivans are the most likely vehicles to sport family car decals. They feature stick figures, flip flops, dog paws, fish, turtles and – at least in sunny Southern California – even skulls. The sizes vary and each is clearly identifiable as a mom, dad, kid(s) and family pet(s). In some cases, these car decals even supply the children’s names and hobbies.
The minivan sports family car decals that inform the reader of the family’s makeup: a mom and dad, an older boy, a younger girl, and an infant. There are also two dogs. Tony Ivey of the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office warns “that that could possibly be used for someone to gain some personal information.” Add names to the images, and would-be child abductors now have the children’s ages, possible hobbies, names and address.
Yes, address; after all, abductors and any other interested party can easily find out the home to which the minivan is registered simply by running the plates through a search site devoted to the task. If the minivan also sports one of the ubiquitous “My Child was Student of the Month at XYZ Elementary School,” he now knows the children’s names, address and school.
Armed with this information, child abductors can pose as ‘family friends’ who are sent to pick up ‘Billy (whose hobby is basketball)’ from XYZ School. Mom and Dad were allegedly in a car accident (yes, the abductor knows the make and model of the mini van and even the license plate number!) and won’t make it on time to pick up the child.
Beyond Dangerous … Are Family Car Decals Just Obnoxious?
Since there is a Facebook group for virtually everything, those who loathe car decals of this kind may join up “Death to Stick Figure Family Stickers!” to make their voices heard. Some 190 members strong, these drivers express their disdain for a wide array of reasons. While some find the car window decals “pathetic” or “arrogant,” others see them as exclusionary to single folks or non-traditional families.
A Common Sense Approach?
Although there is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s family status and offspring – sorry easily offended single people! – it stands to reason that advertising too much about the children can attract abductors or at least make their approach a lot easier. Use common sense when putting a child’s name, age and hobby on anything … even the family car.”
Now before you go try to peal your sorrowful stick family off the back of your minivan, know that they aren’t the only things which may be putting your child’s safety at risk: putting too much information on Facebook or in your blog, leaving them in the cart while you walk to the other end of the supermarket aisle, putting their name on backpacks or duffel bags, etc.
I have a good friend who avoids using her kids’ names while she’s alone with them in public; she’ll typically call them by generic nicknames like “Hey Bud, can you pick up your brother’s pacifier?” It may sound overly protective to some but it gives her a greater peace of mind. A man once followed her and her two toddlers through a supermarket and tried as many as three times to engage the little boys in conversation to learn their real names, their ages, etc. He even offered to take them with him to another part of the store while she shopped. She felt incredibly unsafe and left the store prematurely because of his behavior.
The best way to protect your kids: be proactive. Avoid things that could give the world extra information on your family. Teach your kids how to be careful, how to talk to strangers, how to be safer in public. If there is someone in the dairy section making your child (or you) uncomfortable, go back for the milk later. When it comes to your kids’ safety, you can never be too careful.
Related Post: Sexual Violence: Protection vs. Prevention