Dear Abby: "Lisa in Phoenix" (June 12) questioned whether taking her 7-year-old son into the ladies' room would be better than having her wait outside the men's room. You advised her to stand outside the men's room and announce loudly that she will be "waiting right there." Abby, children have been violated in a matter of seconds in the play areas of fast food restaurants with the parents RIGHT THERE!

As a mother, I feel the advice you gave Lisa will give her a false sense of security and put her child in danger. I would have told Lisa that before they go anywhere, she should make sure her son goes to the bathroom at home. If he has to go while they are out, she should go to the men's room, knock on the door and announce that she is with a child. If there is no answer, GO IN AND BE SURE NO ONE IS INSIDE. If she's uncomfortable doing it, ask an employee to check. Then wait outside the bathroom. If a man needs to go in, she can explain the situation.

Never assume that simply standing guard outside the door will deter a molester. They couldn't care less.

— Vigilant Mom in South Carolina

Dear Vigilant: Your suggestions are helpful, and thank you for offering them. Other readers volunteered alternative solutions to Lisa's dilemma. Read on:

Dear Abby: I have a 7-year-old son and I do not allow him to go unsupervised into a men's room. Anyone could be behind that door and anything could happen in less than a minute's time. We must protect our children even if it means that sometimes they have to suffer embarrassment.

A friend with two sons offered an interesting alternative. She would allow her sons to use the men's room if they talked to her while she stood outside the door. If they stopped talking, they knew it meant she was coming in.

— Donna in Tyner, N.C.

Dear Abby: Your advice strikes a balance between common-sense safety and "helicopter parenting." Having been a teacher for 42 years, I see an alarming increase in the number of parents who want to be in lock step with their children 24/7. It can be stunting, and it does not prepare them for life in the real world. Of course, parents should take some precautions for the sake of safety, but don't be so paralyzed with fear that you keep your children from becoming self-directed individuals.

— Manhattan, Kan., Teacher

Dear Abby: When my son was 7 or 8, he, too, was embarrassed about going into the restroom with me. I gave him a whistle with instructions to blow it if anyone bothered him while I waited outside the men's room. The whistle also came with additional instructions: "Never blow it as a joke just to see if I'll come running, because if you do, you are in DEEP trouble!"

— Lori in Teaneck, N.J.

Dear Abby: Lisa should invest in a pair of two-way radios. This way, her son goes into the restroom with an additional layer of protection. She should also inform him to always use the stall so he can lock the door.

— Mark in Gator Country

Comment on this story

Dear Abby: Your advice to Lisa was good, but she should also discuss personal safety with her son. He needs to know exactly what to do if anyone says, or does, anything inappropriate. As parents, we can't be everywhere our children are at all times, and that's why we need to equip them with life skills to handle/avoid dangerous situations.

— A Boy's Mom in Rochester, N.Y.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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