Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Disturbing Trend



Is anyone else incensed by the Abby Sunderland story? She is the young woman who attempted to circumnavigate the globe, solo, and non-stop. Caught in high seas in the Indian Ocean, she lost her mainsail and required rescuing. At age 16, she hoped to be the youngest to attempt this feat. Her brother, Zac, had already completed his globe-trotting trip and was selling his e-story, and other items, on his website.

It seems the family had shopped around for a reality series and had big money in sponsors. Wild Eyes was said to be tricked out with more than $400,000 in gear, while being touted as only a $90,000 boat. Does this smell to anyone, other than myself? The parents home-school all seven of their children, with another on the way. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, unless you are raising children to be daredevils in order to make a living. Which seems very much a possibility with this family. Son Zac is already planning his next adventure - a motorcycle trip from the furthest northern point of North America to the most southern point of South America.

It is said the rescue costs to rescue young Abby could top one million dollars. Not to mention the lives at risk to go out into 40-foot seas to find her. (One captain fell overboard during the rescue.)  Every year people climb mountains, sail the oceans, and do other dangerous deeds to outdo and break records. Hundreds of people put their lives at risk to rescue them, millions of tax dollars are spent, and yet there seems to be a never-ending supply of people willing to risk their lives, and others, to do what they want to do. Especially if it might lead to fame and glory, not to mention, moneyAustralia has current legislation in the works to pass on these costs. Which is only fair. If you want to attempt a dangerous and costly adventure, you should share in the liability if things turn sour.

Especially egregious are parents willing to risk the lives of their children. Anyone remember the little child killed trying to fly a plane at eight years old? It's really about the parent's ego, their desire to have their children accomplish what they could not. You see it in children's sports, and now with reality television you see it in the Indian Ocean during winter. They will tell you it is their child that wants to do the daring deed, but from a developmental point of view - that's BS! Young children do not have the capacity for understanding the risk. Period. That's why they need their parents. Adolescent's main developmental goal is social - and that's where most of their time and energy is directed, not wanting to spend weeks alone at sea in foul weather. In my opinion, Abby's parents should be arrested for child exploitation, not planning their next caper.

58 comments:

Paul C said...

What some parents put their children through for the sake of their mistaken notions...you're right. I also think there are quite a few parents who provide their young teens with too much freedom in making their own social, leisure, and ethical decisions. What they need is quality time spent together as a family to help them process and guide their experiences.

California Girl said...

You make thoughtful points. I was very surprised her folks allowed/encouraged her to make the trip. I heard her father interviewed and he was the proud somewhat smug peacock about it all. As for the million dollar rescue, up here in the White Mtn Natl Forest and on Mt. Washington & everywhere else, if you take unnecessary and/or foolhardy risks and need to be rescued, the courts decide whether or not you'll pay the rescue fees. That only seems fair as I have one very close friend who is party of the Mountain Rescue Team and he is an unpaid volunteer, I believe.

scarlethue said...

I agree with you too-- when I first heard this story, I wondered where the heck her parents were! My parents were wary to even let me drive a car myself at 16, and for good reason, much less circumnavigate the globe alone. 16 is simply not old enough to make this kind of decision.

BEAR's Mom said...

I couldn't have said it any better!
~victoria~

Bonnie said...

That's what inevitably happens in a culture whose main values seem to be celebrity and money. Shallow values seem to ultimately engender deep doodoo for us all.

Dudette said...

Very well said!! At 16 she is most likely a sophomore. I spent the last year working with sophomores in a high school setting, as a high school counselor and I can tell you they are not developmentally capable of seeing the risks in the majority of their actions. From my experience most of what they do is driven by a social need to impress without first considering the consequences of the actions they are taking. I would say this is very much the same...except that her parents haven't reached the point of being able to consider those risks either because they are seeking the same attention...either that or they just don't care.

Brian Miller said...

great post nancy...first i will say, i think it is interesting all the interest generated in her trip while things were going good and now some of the same people are outraged.(not saying this is you) i agree with bonnie's comment...and the more we discover the fishier it sounds...and if you put your life at risk and others have to save you, you should definitely foot the bill...natural consequence...

Single and Sane said...

I work at a high school and I don't even like to be in the parking lot when kids are driving to school. The thought of letting a 16-year-old girl sail around the world alone is irresponsible beyond belief.

Rob-bear said...

Trying to sail around the world, alone, at 16, is a bit much. I have enough challenges trying to sail a small boat on a small lake on a semi-calm day.

I recognize the issue that California Girl raises, that "if you take unnecessary and/or foolhardy risks and need to be rescued, the courts decide whether or not you'll pay the rescue fees." The trouble is, how do you determine ahead of time what is "unnecessary and/or foolhardy." I can see it in this case; not sure about other situations, necessarily.

Marguerite said...

I totally agree with you, Nancy and I also think that they should lose custody of these children. This was a case of brainwashing and child abuse, pure and simple.

JC said...

I thought poorly of them when I found out about the shoping around for a show but I didn't know the boat was full of extras. Everyone now is looking for that quick way to make millions. I just feel bad for the girl and yes, her family should pay for the rescue.

Hilary said...

Agreed. The sense of entitlement so many kids have these days is astounding. Tricks like this epitomize that. It goes against everything a normal parent feels to allow and encourage their child to to something so incredibly dangerous like this. Alone. And when they get the wake up call as they did this past week, they simply hit the snooze button. Someone is footing the bill for the stunts and the rescues so why not?

Pat transplanted to MN said...

The first thing I said when I heard of her missing was, "who or what moron would allow a 16 year old to take off alone like that!" Then as you pointed out we learned the rest of the story. I do not watch any so called reality shows as I find them not worth the time, but it is a very strange world we have today!

CrazyCris said...

In SPain there's already a similar law in place for mountaineering: if the weather advisory is bad and the authorities say you can't climb a mountain... but you do it anyway and get into trouble... of course they'll come rescue you, but afterwards they'll send you the bill! (whereas if the green light has been given by the authorities and you're in trouble then they won't charge you for the rescue)

It's meant to avoid reckless people who sometimes think they're better than they actually are...

Emom said...

The whole thing makes me sort of sick.....I agree...

Jo said...

Nancy -- once again -- synchronicity between us. I did almost exactly the same post a few days ago.

The odd thing is, she has become even more famous by almost dying in her attempt to sail solo around the world. And after everyone worried about her while she was lost, and the huge cost to save her, she has yet to say "thank you."

Hilary said...

I just read this article.

DJan said...

When I read Jo's post a couple of days ago, I was appalled by this stunt. Now to learn that reality shows have caused parents to exploit their children like this on such a scale (remember "Balloon Boy" a couple of months ago!) -- I just don't know what to think.

There is something rotten in our society, and it is eating away at the fabric of our lives. Is there ANYTHING to be done???? I don't watch reality shows, although I have been known to watch a couple of the dancing ones once or twice. So I am really out of the loop.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Fascinating. I hadn't heard about the $ angle on this venture. Our daughter asked if we would allow her to sail around the world solo when she was 16 and I just laughed. Right. I was a wreck as soon as she got her license.

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

of course, the parents are denying the reality show rumors but even still, to allow your child to do something this dangerous because she wanted to is just plain foolish. so what if she wanted to. i wonder if they let their children do everything they want to do. {shudder}

Leah J. Utas said...

It's so sad that our world now revolves around setting records and getting one's own TV show.

Meanwhile, you have an award at my place.

Whitney Lee said...

I don't get it; what's the appeal? Why do people feel the need to get their names in the record book? Why do they not have something more meaningful in their lives? There's something about competition that is becoming increasingly unhealthy. It's quite disturbing to watch these parents exploiting their children for fame and fortune.

A Year on the Grill said...

I was disgusted when it was first covered, and equally disgusted now.

When i was that age, I wanted to ride a motorcycle to visit my grandmother... Mom said no.

Nancy said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I was reminded of all the times my daughters wanted to do something that ended in - no! (Especially the semester break in Cancun.) I realize this is an opportunity to stand out, and that is certainly appealing to a teenager, but the risk is permanent - death. For most teenagers, that is a concept that is not "real" to them, (thus all of the risk-taking at that age). But for the parents who do understand the permanence of death, how they can accept possibility for their 16 year old is beyond me. Is that why they are having so many children? Just saying.

Pat said...

It does make you wonder about the sanity of people doesn't it? Just because a kid WANTS to do something doesn't mean they should be ALLOWED to do it.

The average age to get a driver's license is 16, but yet they have to have so many hours driving with their parents, etc. And yet, this young woman, brave as it may be, goes off on her own to sail around the world? Crazy!

saa said...

nice to know you, and glad to find such a good artical!.........................

Hilary said...

I totally agree.......let's call this exploitation of children what it is, child abuse.

Jayne Martin said...

I saw the father interviewed on Larry King. That anyone would allow their teenager to do something like this is beyond me. I know another young girl recently completed the same journey and came home to lots of acclaim, but that still doesn't justify allowing such a thing. And if they did this just to get a TV deal, social services should remove all the children from the home.

Just nuts what this world has come to!

Jeff D'Antonio said...

I was going to write a similar post on my blog, but you beat me to it, and you said it much better than I would have.

I work with a search and rescue team, and we often have to go out and rescue people who should never have been out there in the first place.

I'm okay with people being adventurous and taking part in dangerous activities, as long as they are properly prepared and have all the right equipment and training. But there is no way a 16 year old can possibly have the training and experience necessary for something like that. Her parents should be taken out and beaten over the head.

And rule #1 in any dangerous activity? Never ever go alone. Ever. It is completely foolish to try something like that alone at any age.

I'm glad she's okay, and I don't blame the girl - she's too young to know any better. But her parents need to be beaten.

alaine@éclectique said...

That's a heap of sponsorship money lying on the ocean bed!!

Add to it the fact that the family immediately began a fund to raise money to salvage the boat, rather than repay the Aussie taxpayer!!

luksky said...

I understand your view...here is another view if you will...

http://lifelearningmagazine.com/blog/2010/06/13/normalizing-the-idea-that-kids-are-capable-human-beings/

R.J. Edwards said...

Putting money and fame over the safety and security of your children - its sickening.

Von said...

See my post of a few days ago with a few hypothetical questions.
Do like your post and all the details.
Kids need to do things to challenge their skills and learn to deal with fear but there is a limit!
If they wish to continue let them foot the bill and undertake the rescue themselve so as not to put the lives of others at risk.

MelRoXx said...

Thoughtful points, Nancy.My first time over to your blog. Love it! xx

L said...

Completely agree with you. In fact when I saw the newspaper story, my first thought was for those who will be risking their lives to rescue her....they won't be getting headlines or the big bucks.

slommler said...

I too was surprised that her parents were allowing her to take this dangerous journey. She is so young. I agree with you as well.
Wonderful post
Congrats on your POTW
Hugs
SueAnn

Kathy's Klothesline said...

All about the money. The parents should be charged with child endangerment. They have younger ones waiting in the wings, wonder what they will be doing to top this...

The Good Cook said...

Excellent post and excellent comments - I cannot think of a single to add.

Merisi said...

This story certainly makes me wonder. Ponder too.

But:
If "young children do not have the capacity for understanding the risk. Period" how come we let them drive at age 16? Why are the old enough to be sent as soldiers to fight our wars? Why are they old enough to be put to death for a crime they commit even younger than 16?

Are all those parents who let their children spend their lives in front of TV and computer screens more responsible than those who take the time and trouble to teach them a sport, even if it is sailing?

Merisi said...

Congratulations on your POTD AWARD! :-)

I forgot to say "18 year olds" sent to war.

Cricket said...

Interesting post. Congratulations on the potw.

I hadn't heard this story. I kind of live under a rock. You make a lot of sense to me, though.

Lori said...

I think it's a very sad story. I also think that most of these people that do these types of things don't stop for a second and think about how selfish their choices are. Yes this trend towards these things is disturbing but I wonder if these people get that?

gayle said...

Very well said!! I totally agree!

Land of shimp said...

This has been a much discussed story, but I really enjoyed your thoughts on it, Nancy. Personally, I think the family ought to be investigated by social services, and all proceeds from Abby's ill-fated journey should go towards paying back the rescue cost.

The reason I think social services needs to be involved is simply that encouraging children to take such risks is not actually a good environment in which to be raised. You're the parents, learn to say, "No, but when you're older, you can do what you like."

A sixteen-year-old literally doesn't have an adult brain yet. One of the last areas to develop is impulse control, and it won't be fully developed until the early, to mid, twenties.

I can't think of a worse thing to combine with thrill-seeking; not-as-yet developed impulse control.

Daryl said...

Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary .. you have a great blog!

Nancy said...

Meresi made a good point - why do we allow adolescents to drive at 16, fight wars at 18, and be put to death at 16 for murder? All good points! My thoughts are that driving at sixteen is risky business for everyone on the road, kids take more chances than adults, but our society doesn't have alternatives in many areas. Maybe if we had great mass transportation everywhere we could require them to be older. Maybe when that frontal lobe is intact...

As for fighting wars - 18 is the perfect age for the people making those decisions to mold and brainwash. Not to mention their physical prowess. They don't want older men, who might balk at being told to walk into a fire fight.

As for putting an adolescent to death for capitol crimes - that is hotly debated. Each state has it's own laws. My personal opinion, from a Human Development point of view? They know they are doing wrong - but they do not have the capacity to understand the consequences long term. Adolescents are ruled by androgens coursing through their body and a worldview that is egocentric. Which means they are often ruled by emotion, not higher thinking processes.

Thanks so much for all of your comments. Adolescents were my focus in college, and are very dear to my heart. They are often misunderstood. Giving adolescents plenty of outlets that are positive and physical is the way to make sure they flourish. Certainly sailing is one way - what I question is the motives of the parents in this instance. Abby was being a teenager - taking risks is natural for a sixteen-year-old. Of course she would want to do this - at sixteen she has the whole world ahead of her - and to be a record holder for circumnavigating the globe is heady. But the risks for people, other than herself, were accepted without thought to the consequences. The family has said they do not have the money to pay for the rescue, but were raising funds to raise Wild Eyes. What is the value system here?

Meeko Fabulous said...

My sentiments exactly. I would never need rescuing. Why? Cause I would never put myself in that position. It's just dumb.

Marisa said...

I agree 100% with everything you said...makes you wonder how some people's minds work. Great post!

Snappy Di said...

Bravo! If we would all just stop watching these so called reality shows they would go away...

Wonderfully written post.

Congrats on POTW from Hilary!

Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

Jeninacide said...

I am pretty sure I wasn't even allowed to go camping, 2 miles from our house at 16- and RIGHTLY SO. I think the parents should absolutely be responsible for paying for these kinds of costly rescues that could have been avoided had they not felt the need to exploit their children for fame/money/etc.

Gemel said...

Yes I feel I may have to agree with you. Making money from their kids is what they appear to be doing. Perhaps like you said these people want their children to do what either lacked the courage or funds to do themselves?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I haven't followed the story...but I enjoyed reading your thoughts...I've missed much of the news in the last couple of weeks or so...been swamped with work...and it seems I've missed some interesting stuff!! Sigh...I'd better get caught up so I can make an intelligent comment on your wonderful posts! Love, Janine XO

susan said...

You're absolutely correct about this. I hadn't read anything other than the headlines but it still smelled funny to me and now I know why.

Shrinky said...

Very well said, I couldn't agree more! There doesn't seem much I can add to the comments already made, but I didn't know legislation is being drawn in Australia for people to foot the costs of any rescue they might need - bravo to them, I only hope it catches on!

Great post.

linda said...

i could not have said it better, tho i didn't have these facts, like her age!!! what in the world is she doing or HER parents doing letting a CHILD go out in a boat in the ocean even for a little while!! am i paranoid =yes=but that's so ridiculous and then the having to be rescued, it does make you wonder about the costs....it seems to happen too often and costs so much, i cannot remember the name of the mountain in WA or OR climbers are always dying on because they insist on going out in a driving snow storm...sigh.

Linda Pendleton said...

I agree, Nancy. The parents need to take responsibility for the costs involved to rescue their young daughter. I can't imagine allowing a young girl to sail off into the treacherous sea, filled with nature's dangers, and those of humans...pirates, for instance...and the possiblity of an accident on board.

Crazy what some will do for attention and money...like fly balloons, sail boats, fly planes...and then us, the public, seemingly worry more about the child than the parents.

Jingle said...

awesome reflections.

Holly said...

I am frequently amazed by what parents will let their children do ... I agree the costs of the rescue should be passed on to the family. I think a county in Arizon has already passed a law that you do something and have to be rescued - you're paying at least a part of it.

Are the parents looking for glory based on the accomplishments of the kids? I get tired of the "look at me, aren't I special" articles.

DH's sister lets her kids do most anything they want ...she wants to be a friend, not a mom. And the kids have learned to use the "I'll call CPS if you don't let me do ..." card. It's sad.

Thanks for letting me vent.