Headline: Beach wristbands help keep track of children

If I was planning to take kids to the beach this summer and I saw that headline, I’d read the accompanying Associated Press article that has been published in a number of local newspapers. Here’s the first paragraph:

Officials in Daytona Beach will pass out yellow, waterproof wristbands to beachgoers this summer in an effort to reduce the number of lost children. It’s the second year for the program in Volusia County, where the Beach Safety Division hands out the bracelets between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Parents or guardians are asked to scribble their phone number on the wristbands. If a child is found alone, officers will call the number to reconnect families.

That exact phrasing was not only used in print and online, I also heard it in a radio news report. I don’t know who wrote the original story — whether it was an AP staff writer or pulled from a press release written by someone at the City of Daytona Beach or their PR agency. But whoever wrote it should seriously consider their word choices.

It’s a great program. Even the most attentive parents and guardians can lose track of a child on a crowded beach, and this lets anyone with a cell phone help reunite those families.

My issue is the word scribble, which means to “write or draw something carelessly or hurriedly.” Scribbled writing is often illegible.

Instead of asking parents or guardians to scribble their phone number, they should be asked to write or print neatly so that the number can be read by officers or others who may assist if a child gets separated from his family.

This is one of those hits and misses stories: It’s a hit by the City of Daytona Beach for implementing this great program to help keep kids safe. It’s a miss by whoever wrote the article for minimizing the importance of providing clear, legible information on the the wristband.

Jacquelyn Lynn
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