Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kids: Body Scanner or Pat Down?

We rarely fly.  The increasing airport security since 9/11 hasn't bothered me simply because it hasn't had had much of an impact on me personally, positively or negatively, aside from knowing that measures are being taken to make air travel safe.  I simply haven't put much more thought about it, until now.

My 14-year-old daughter is flying on her own to attend a convention in CO.  She's flown solo a couple of times, so that part doesn't bother me as much.  Plus, she'll be traveling with another young teen and will have company.  It isn't that I don't worry about her getting to her destination, but what is bothering me more is the security measures taken in the Detroit and Denver airports before she even steps foot on the plane.  Both airports have the new body scanners.  In the case of Detroit (and likely Denver, too), everyone has either go through the scanner or opt for a pat down.  It isn't random like other airports. Neither of these options is acceptable to me.

I have concerns about the potential future health risks of the body scanners.  Some say the backscatter machines may cause risk for skin cancer in the future, but the impact won't be known for many years.  The millimeter wave machines use different technology that doesn't seem to be causing as much concern. These are the kind they have at Detroit, but I'm not sure about Denver. I understand it would take many, many repeat exposures, but I try to avoid any unnecessary risks to me kids. Aside from health risks, this is a virtual strip search.  I know they say they don't keep the images, but I find it entirely too creepy the potential to keep them, in addition to the fact that some stranger is looking at the image in another room.

However, the new "enhanced" pat downs didn't sound like a decent alternative. I know that female TSA agents are used for pat downs on females, but I've read accounts of males patting down females unless a special request is made.  It isn't like a female is going to make the process comfortable either. From my understanding, the pat downs are quite invasive and sometimes done in a private room. What if the child's parent isn't present (such would be the case of my daughter)?  What then?  I couldn't find any guidelines regarding a parent being present and I suspect there aren't any rules requiring one. Furthermore, when someone opts out, I've been told they announce it rather loudly and redirect the person.  It seems like a lot to ask of a 14-year-old traveling without an adult.

What it came down to was a refection on what situation could require more advocating, possibly have more things go wrong, or potentially be traumatizing. Emotional health was a consideration just as much as physical health.

I made my decision, but it wasn't easy.  I decided my daughter would go through the body scanner.  Out of the two choices, that was also the one that made dd the least uncomfortable.

I do understand the need for increased security measures.  I just don't like them, especially when my kids are subjected to them.

What would you have decided if it were your kid?

1 comment:

Tristan said...

We're flying in October with all the children. Body scanner is what we'll go with, I can't see explaining a pat down to my children who have always been taught that strangers should not be touching their bodies. Of course, mine are younger... making it harder to explain security measures to.