by Cindy Bowers
A second area of unethical behavior involves the use of children in the field as a potential attractant through their laughter or through crying. This practice poses a risk to their safety, both physically and mentally. A crying child might attract Bigfoot, but also might attract the previously mentioned predators, and the fear they feel while out in the field may cause physiological damage to the child. Twenty years of therapy for a chance at a photograph simply is not right, and it borders on child abuse. Peter Muris and Andy Field, specialists in children’s psychology, had this to say regarding children’s fears: “Evidence from the literature on adult phobias also shows that fears during childhood should be taken seriously...and noted that specific phobias tend to begin at a fairly young age: animal phobias had an onset age as early as 7 years” ( 130). Children who are watching TV shows or movies that feature roaring, teeth barring Bigfoot may develop fears before ever entering the forest. Muris and Field continue with “The media represent a notable way through which children might be exposed to threat information” (131). Add to this the stories recounted by parents or their friends, and the child may potentially develop a phobia or extreme fear. Muris and Field also conclude that: “Factors that contribute to the origins of extreme fears in children generally fall in two categories, namely genetics and environmental influences” (131). It is the parent’s duty to ensure their child’s safety not only predators, but also their psychological well-being. Children should be taught to respect nature and be made aware of the dangers, but at an appropriate age. Children should not be used to lure in Bigfoot, children should come first, Bigfoot later.
Young children should be removed from the field as a precautionary measure, for their physical safety as well as their mental well-being. At least until the child understands the inherent dangers, armed with the knowledge of known animals and how to react in any given situation. Here education is key, parents should teach the children about the environment, the known animals and what to do in cases of emergency. Parents should allow children to explore the topic, but in a healthy and limited way as to avoid any fears. The Boy and Girl Scouts of America have a wonderful educational program called The Wildlife Safety Trail which is designed to teach children how to avoid conflicts with wild animals. Vivica Crowser, a writer for Montana Outdoors, the online magazine for Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency, experienced the wildlife trail first hand, and had this to say: “The Scouts stationed along this wildlife safety trail, are teaching me and the 7- to 9- year old students I am with how to avoid conflicts with wildlife.” Crowser explains in her article how the Scouts teach the children not only to avoid dangerous animals but how to identify them as well. The program is age appropriate and matches the psychological timeline for children mentioned by Muris and Field. This is a wonderful program and a safer alternative for the children. An ethical researcher would educate children before taking them into the field.
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