Stranger Danger Esteem

Earlier this year, the Today Show aired a Rossen Reports clip discussing the perils of ‘stranger danger’ for college students. Yep – it’s just as rediculious as it sounds, but don’t take my word for it, take a few minutes and watch for yourself:

Even though the report misses the mark of scaring the pants off of college students’ parents, it does show just how easily young adults can be manipulated by the temptation of fame and accompanying validation of their snowflakey specialness. Some people might be put off by Rossen’s penchant for catering to the alarmist demographic. I, on the other hand, think it’s fantastic, and kind of want to dabble in fearmongering as a potential career option myself…I wonder if VICE is hiring.

For those who cannot be bothered to watch the clip, allow me to break it down for you. A man with a van and a camera parks near a university and asks passing students if he can interview them, presumably for television. He then asks them for their driver’s license and cell phone, has them complete a demographic form (including their social security number), and invites them to have a seat in the van.

The report indicated that an overwhelming number of students would do all of this, often without questioning any of it. Sometime even climbed into this stranger’s van while joking about kidnapping, murder, and/or identity theft.

It was easy to acquire this information and get these young adults into a van because of the camera. The carrot of fame was dangling just out of reach. Maybe this would be the interview that gets them discovered. Confident of their limitless value, all they require is a springboard to catapult them into fame and fortune, which might as well be this camera toting stranger and his sketchy van.

Without the camera, the whole scene would’ve looked more like this:

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I assume that you wouldn’t be as willing to jump in this van and hand over your information…

The report concluded by cautioning parents that they may want to remind their college age children about ‘stranger danger.’ But these aren’t kids. They are adults in every corner of the world, including our own not so long ago. What’s more, none of them would have gotten into that van had they been approached sans camera.

Potentially dangerous strangers are not the issue that needs to be discussed with people writhing in extended adolescence. Instead, parents should consider the benefit of educating their children about the perils of assuming you should be famous and abandoning all sensibility whenever someone is going to validate this idea.

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