My Kid Shirtcocked Your Honor Student

by Whatsblem the Pro

BRC: The happiest place on Earth?

BRC: The happiest place on Earth?

We’ve written about children at Burning Man before, and asked our readers to vote in a poll at the end of that article. The debate and discussion continues, and the poll numbers are running heavily in favor of people who think Burning Man is “a wonderful environment” for children, but there may yet be more to think and talk about on the subject.

Regular contributor Elias Has Wanderlust provoked a lively discussion in the Burning Man group on Facebook recently, by flatly asserting that Burning Man should be for adults only. Thus spake Elias:

Burning Man should clearly be an 18+ event — the city is not safe for children.”

Elias’ declamatory salvo brought forth a lot of frank anecdotes about kids on the playa, and some really good points on both sides of the debate. Interspersed with a modest dose of snark and some fairly irrelevant emotional appeals like “there is nothing more beautiful than a playa covered burner baby,” people actually started saying some interesting, illuminating things about bringing children to the playa.

It really is a thorny problem that people butt heads over readily. That should tell us that there are some contradictions in play, depending on the angle from which we approach the question of children at Burning Man; doesn’t radical inclusion make room for children? What about the inhibitory effect that children can have on adults at play? Isn’t Burning Man dangerous, particularly for children. . . but don’t we want our children to be raised in our culture, even if it is dangerous?

Some pros and cons to bringing children to the playa:

The real problem is that only two very partisan solutions have been proposed, and they’re both completely unacceptable to large swathes of burners. If we ban children, we ban a huge number of burner parents by association, and deny them the opportunity to transmit burner culture to their children early in the most meaningful way they know of. If we continue to allow children, they will continue to inhibit us when they show their faces outside of the Kidsville age-ghetto, and let’s face it: it’s only a matter of time before something ugly happens and someone’s child disappears and/or falls victim to one of the many, many hazards.

Your bundle of joy can't drink to forget his bundle of joy

Your bundle of joy can’t drink to forget his bundle of joy

People who think the answer is simple and obvious are merely displaying their bias and perpetuating the conflict. It’s disingenuous to say, for instance, that Black Rock City is a city like any other, and needs to have children in it. Burning Man’s municipal analogy is often usefully apt and sometimes beautiful, but it breaks down completely and easily in a dozen different ways when you start testing it. It’s a bit blinkered to say that Burning Man is just a big adult party, too; it’s also an arts festival, and a DIY theme park, and a great deal of it is very kid-friendly. . . or would be, anyway, if there weren’t so many heavily-intoxicated people around, and if it wasn’t all set in a context of overt sexuality that often goes way, way beyond mere nudity and into some territory that might actually disturb the minds of the innocent to witness.

We need an innovative solution that includes everyone, without putting limitations on anyone.

Maybe there should be separate events, geared for younger age groups? Burning Teen, Burning Tot? If we want to spread the culture, then spawning a few new events might be killing several birds with one stone.

We’d like to hear your ideas. How can we safely include the underage set and their parents in Burning Man, without muting the bacchanal for the adults?

Are ageist ghettos really the best we can do?
Are ageist ghettos really the best we can do?

What we don’t want to hear: more anecdotes or opinions about how it’s fine for kids to be out there, or about how it’s unacceptable for kids to come to Burning Man. We’ve already heard those positions, again and again, and they’re both too simplistic to lead to anything but disagreement and a standoff. We’re asking you to think outside the box and find a solution that everyone can live with.

Keep in mind that not all parents behave responsibly, but some do. . . so please don’t bother sharing anecdotes about the children of attentive, sensible parents having a great time on the playa, or anecdotes about dull-witted earth mamas walking around in dust storms cradling tiny infants. Both of these things happen, and much more, and that’s why we need a better solution than just banning or allowing children.

Your thoughts?

82 comments on “My Kid Shirtcocked Your Honor Student

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  6. Like Mack said, I see a lot of hand wringing from non-parents. It’s ok, guys. We raise our kids the other 51 weeks out of the year, so for the most part we’ve got a pretty good grasp on things in so far as our kids are concerned. And there’s plenty of authority out there if it becomes obvious that there’s a parent who doesn’t know how to take care of their kids.

    As a parent who brings her kid to the burn, I’d like to share some of the things we do to let our son have the burn he needs to have without fucking up anyone else’s. It might help explain why so many of us feel totally safe in bringing our kids. We started bringing my son to the burn a few years ago when he was 12. I wasn’t willing to let him go until then, because I tend to parent on the conservative side. But by 12 he was able to understand most of what he was going to see there. After all, he was in a public middle school. (And as a public high school teacher, lemme tell ya, there ain’t nothing happening at burning man that those freshmen don’t know about already. And I’ve seen way fewer incidences of gang-related violence on the playa.) His dad, his stepmom, my ex-husband (not his dad, obviously,) my husband and I are all burners. In fact, my son is friends with Mack’s kids. We all share care taking responsibilities. 4 of us (dad, stepmom, my husband, and I) all are in the same camp- they are morning people who don’t leave camp much at night, we are night owls who are in camp most of the day. Our camp has a no-overt sexy-sexy times and no drug use in camp policy. It’s only got one way in and out, and there is always someone on “the porch” to make sure we know who’s in there. My son is the ONLY kid in camp. And you know what? WE FUCKING TAKE CARE OF HIM AND DON’T FUCK WITH ANYONE ELSE’S BURN. As a woman, I’m already hyper-vigilant against sexual assault; most women have a pretty decent battle plan to stay safe at the burn. We taught him his first year how to tell if a camp was reasonably safe to accept food gifts from (and to never, ever consume anything from an individual who we didn’t introduce him to or that weren’t family friends from the default world.) We taught him to stay in public and never go anywhere alone with anyone. We taught him how to keep clean, safe, and healthy. We made him read the survival guide and tested him on it before we left for the burn. We’ve always been honest and clinical (and supremely uninteresting) in our discussions about drugs and sex since he was little, and to date he has expressed little interest in either despite the fact that most of his friends are high school seniors. Of course, our family-time google image search of “herpes” and “genital warts” in early adolescence probably didn’t hurt either. He knows that intoxicated adults are dangerous, and should be treated like feral dogs (back away sloooooowly then GTFO.) He saw his first set of boobs in line to get in for his first burn. By Tuesday he told his dads that he was concerned because exposed breasts were no longer instantly boner-inducing; the guys explained that he had simply gotten used to them and they were basically part of the landscape now. It was the best gift we could have given him; after 4 years of horrid crushes on girls who were mean to him, he hasn’t had an all-encompassing crush since. It’s like he developed boob-immunity. He had figured out how the city layout worked on day one; we took him out a bunch of times the first few days. After that, he used the WWW to find age appropriate events, asked permission to go, and we would surprise him there occasionally to make sure we knew where he was going. If it didn’t look like a good place for him to be, he left. He was so tired from having rode his bike all day he passed out like the dead every night. He used his baby wipes with vinegar, kept his feet clean, showered occasionally, and drank loads of water. That said, we buy the care-flight helicopter insurance, he has camp dog tags with his name and camp on them, and we make many, many other provisions for his safety. And you know what? Bringing him to the burn was the best thing we could have done. Many of his social issues at school evaporated. He willingly took on more responsibility at home. He decided that as much as he loves video games, he now also likes building things, rock climbing, hanging out with real live humans and lots of other stuff that didn’t seem real interesting before.

    Part of my job in the default world is protecting kids from shitty parents. And let me tell you, I’ve never even heard of anything happening at the burn that even comes close to the shit that happens daily in the default world that doesn’t even earn a return phone call from CPS. (Actually, in LA County it’s DFCS; department of families and children’s services.) I’ve had homeless kids live on my living room floor because mom kicked them out. One kid stopped using the air mattress BECAUSE HE’D NEVER SLEPT IN A BED BEFORE AND HE COULDN’T GET USED TO IT. I’ve had MULTIPLE kids whose parents straight up DISA-FUCKING-PEARED while they were at school, leaving a high schooler who just barely turned 18 to take care of a handful of younger siblings (we help formalize the 18 year old as guardian, help them and any sibs over 14 find jobs and get work permits, get them on food stamps, etc.) I’ve had kids who had been left alone in the house with no food or power for days. I’ve had girls who had been raped by family members repeatedly since infancy. I’ve had kids who had been beaten so badly they couldn’t walk. Or had been whipped with extension cords so bad they bled through their shirt the next day. Or had been burned with cigarettes. I had to exempt one kid from learning how to solder because his mom used to burn him with an iron as punishment when he was a toddler and even looking at it scared him. He was 17. I had another kid who caught a guy raping his 10 year old sister and he beat the bastard so badly he spent weeks in a coma and is no longer capable of walking or speech. My student was only 13 when he was convicted of attempted murder…for saving his own little sister from that sicko.

    If you honestly think that seeing a naked fire spinner or listening to a bunch of drunks swearing or getting dusty is some sort of permanently damaging trauma for a child, you seriously need to go volunteer at a families w/kids homeless shelter, a boys/girls club, or as a foster youth mentor. No kid at the burn endures anything near what most kids in foster care have; CPS wouldn’t even bat an eye.

    • UVee, I’m sincerely pleased by what you’ve written and am very glad that there are people like you out there. . . but I have to say: you’ve missed my point badly. Nobody is claiming that good parenting is impossible on the playa. We’re saying that not all parents who bring their kids out there are good parents. With that in mind, giving yet more anecdotal examples of good parenting on the playa is not really furthering the conversation any.

      Also, you’ve set up a strawman argument that I dislike very much, by pretending that a little nudity or profanity is as extreme as things get on the playa, and that those things are what people on the other side of the debate are up in arms about. It simply is not true that nudity and profanity are the extent of what goes on out there that is inappropriate for children, and it isn’t what anyone on the other side of the debate is arguing.

      I think there’s a lot more conversation to be had on this subject. Personally, I’ve softened my own stance somewhat, based on responses from people like you. . . but as much as I am against rules for adults at Burning Man, I still don’t think it’s OK for kids to be out there without some very clear regulation in place to protect them both from the rest of us, and from their own parents in cases where the parents are obviously negligent. . . not to mention protecting the adults from being inhibited by the presence of children. Many of us have seen hippie mamas toting infants around in dust storms as though they thought everything was just fine, and I don’t see that as something I’m willing to accept as anything other than child abuse. The fact that there are perfectly responsible parents there too whose children are being appropriately protected and who are having a very valuable experience does not mean that all parents on the playa are doing it right.

      • ” I still don’t think it’s OK for kids to be out there without some very clear regulation in place to protect them both from the rest of us”

        It exists: it is called “parents”.

        “…and from their own parents in cases where the parents are obviously negligent”

        It exists: it is called CPS. And Rangers. And concerned adults. And cops on the local, state and federal level. Believe me, this one is well covered.

        “…not to mention protecting the adults from being inhibited by the presence of children”

        This one isn’t difficult: if there’s a kid in your space and you want to do something that you feel inhibited to do, there are several options. You can wait til they leave, go somewhere else, ask their parents if they can take them somewhere else, or aks the parents if they’re ok with what you’re about to do in front of their kid. If you’re still having problems after that, it’s officially your hang up and shouldn’t be on the kid’s (or the parent’s) shoulders to solve.

        I completely understand the concern on this that people have, but it really has been thought through from many different angles/groups/agencies (and is re-reviewed every year).

      • <> If there is one time worn line amongst our ilk, it’s “you’re doing it wrong.”

        I think non-parents need to hear the anecdotes. They need to know that the vast majority of us put lots and lots and lots of thought about how to safely bring our kids to the burn and take care of them there. As a non-parent, it’s really easy to make lots and lots and lots of incorrect assumptions about the choices of parents, and what you’re dismissing as worthless anecdotes are part of building public knowledge and belief that kids CAN be well cared for at the burn. If you don’t have kids and don’t know many burner parents personally, it’s really easy to assume that you can’t keep kids as safe at the burn as you do in the default world.

        I hear what you’re saying about bad parents. There are a LOT of shitty parents in the world. But there ARE structures, both formal and informal, to protect kids on the playa. As it’s already been noted, people who utterly fail at taking care of their kids have been ejected from the event. And if you’ve never seen a bunch of “responsible” parents descend on a negligent parent for failing, you should check it out some time. I’m generally not a big fan of telling people how to raise their kids, but if I see your badly sunburnt kid walking around naked, shoeless, crying, and obviously dehydrated, your sorry ass better find a ranger fast before I grab your kid and hand it over to the first LEO I see prior to beating the everloving shit out of you. Fortunately, I’ve never actually seen that. Mostly, I’ve seen kids well cared for, happy, and protected.

        With regards to “appropriate,” what exactly are you worried about? Don’t bring your 7 year old to jalepeno fisting or the orgy dome. If you turn down the wrong street at the wrong time, act normal, distract them with something else, and be prepared with a clever, age appropriate response. After about the first 15 minutes, they’re willing to accept “oh honey, it’s just someone’s art” as an excuse for pretty much anything. Is it the open drug use? Public sex? BDSM? People without kids don’t necessarily realize it, but we have to do this ALL THE TIME just driving down the street in the default world. “mommy, what is a spearamint rhino, and why does that billboard say they dance on laps?” “mommy, what does save a horse ride a cowboy mean?” “mommy, why is that ugly lady with the big hands rubbing her face on that man’s pants?” I’ve had to explain away homeless people smoking crack on the sidewalk, hookers turning tricks behind the dumpster at CVS, and numerous BDSM references from top 40 radio played in stores. At least at Burning Man, it’s less scary looking and there are reasonably believable (if not entirely true) things you can say to mitigate the potential for damage. When he was 9 or 10 we had to have a very serious discussion about hardcore gangbang pornography because some asshole parent gave one of the kids at my son’s school a smart phone and actually activated the data plan (IF YOU HAVE KIDS, DO NOT FUCKING DO THIS. PLEASE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.) Irresponsible drunks? Dude, have you ever been to a backyard quincenera? One time a bunch of borrachos from next door stole roosters from the brujah two doors down and the guy down the street who sells eggs door to door and had a cockfight LITERALLY 3 feet away from my son’s bedroom window. Initially the crowing and hollering of expletives woke him up, but he eventually went back to sleep. My husband and I slept through the whole thing and in the morning we had to deal with a dead chicken and a very, very angry blood covered chicken that made it really, really difficult to leave the house. (He was pretty sure he could take us, having already slaughtered his enemy a few hours before.) It’s fourth of July season in our neighborhood now, and the roman candle fights in the street have already begun. Shit that happens on the playa happens in the real world too. We can’t control everything terrible that our kids see in the real world OR on the playa, but we’ve got some pretty decent strategies for dealing with it.

        There’s no reason for adults to feel like they can’t do anything fun because a kid might walk past them on accident. That’s ridiculous. Don’t worry about it; we’ll sort it out later. Most TRULY adult stuff is happening IN camp anyway. If you’re hanging out with a bunch of your buddies watching your wives naked oil wrestle while they’re on MDMA, that’s probably not happening on the street.

        So, to sum up:

        We’ve established that it is totally possible to take really good care of your kids at burning man, and is the norm rather than the exception.

        We’ve established that there are shitty parents at burning man, but that there are shitty parents everywhere. Given the density of LEO’s on playa and the twin philosophies of “fuck your day” and “you’re doing it wrong,” a shitty parent is far more likely to face intervention on playa than they are in the default world.

        We’ve established that there are adult activities happening at burning man and children *might* see them; but we’ve also established that the same thing is true in the default world.

        We’ve established that some people get nervous about the presence of kids and it might inhibit public adult funtimes; personally, I think YouTube and Tumblr are a bigger concern for most of us (not to mention assholes who like to start websites like or or whatever.)

        We’ve established that everyone hates this “show your ID at all bars” shit, but that’s aimed at 20 year olds more than it’s aimed at 2 year olds and BM would have to be a 21+ event for that to change.

        I think that hits most of the cons from the list. It’s my honest belief that if we can be honest about our fears regarding kids at BM and address them as a community, it might turn out that most of those fears are unfounded. The fewer new rules, the happier we will all be.

  7. The age camp is likely the only solution… wall off Kidsville, put in a couple of gates with mandatory ID check (18+) for most of the event with the gates tossed wide open about 4 hours before the man burns (so everyone can participate).

    It’s easy… let’s the event be inclusive, protects children from a lot of the incidental damage and allows parents to still enjoy the larger event, friends to come in, etc.

    • I fail to see how this is inclusive in any way. Are we gonna wall off the ugly naked people at some point too? Man, I hate seeing ugly naked people. We should totally build ugly naked people camp and make them all stay there with mandatory pants checks for most of the event. OOOOH! How about a walled-off disabled camp? That way we don’t have to worry about their wheelchairs getting stuck and them dying in a dust storm because they OBVIOUSLY need us to make rules for them because they cannot possibly take care of themselves. Also, we won’t have to deal with them being all slow and shit when we’re trying to bike somewhere.

      • There’s a fundamental difference between children and “ugly naked people,” and the difference is informed consent, which only adults can give.

        In fact, the presence of children makes it much more likely that outside authorities will indeed force us to wall off the “ugly naked people.” The relative appropriateness of children on the playa is not just an internal debate, it’s one that the outside world is eager to decide for us should we be seen in their eyes as being too unconcerned about it. Pretending that children and adults are the same thing doesn’t help at all.

      • “In fact, the presence of children makes it much more likely that outside authorities will indeed force us to wall off the “ugly naked people.” ”

        What you seem to keep failing to realize is that the outside authorities are actually ok with how things are going right now in this regard, and have been for the last 20+ years. There are meetings year round that address this exact issue, and each time we get the go-ahead to continue on because we are –doing it right– as a whole.

        “The relative appropriateness of children on the playa is not just an internal debate, it’s one that the outside world is eager to decide for us should we be seen in their eyes as being too unconcerned about it.”

        First: the outside world often thinks that nothing at Burning Man is ok, so it’s not really a surprise that this category comes up (especially in the context of groups of people who have never actually been out there). The conversation gets more frustrating when it is people who have actually been there that keep trying to stir things up, but it’s understandable to an extent because everyone wants kids to stay safe out there. What I don’t understand is why those same people, in the face of sheer overwhelming evidence that there isn’t actually a problem here, just flat-out refuse to believe it could possibly be handled already.

        Second: the only people who believe that the community is unconcerned about child safety are the people who either don’t know any better or are just looking for something to get worked up over. There isn’t much we can do about them short of just banning kids entirely, and I don’t think that’s a particularly fair option since we haven’t actually had any trouble with this. If anything, I’m surprised that they haven’t tried to get the event shut down based on abuse of rental trucks and the amount of trash people dump on the side of the highway when leaving Nevada, because those really are problems that are happening with little recourse.

        From your other response:

        “I don’t fail to see how Burning-Man-the-event is significantly different from a bar, or a swinger’s club, or an adult party, but I also see the significant similarities, and I fail entirely to see why it’s so damned important for your kids to be there, aside from your personal logistical problems in finding a babysitter or something. The culture is everywhere, all year long, and you have ample opportunity to immerse your entire family in it if you choose, without creating further justification for unwanted rules and infrastructure to serve your choice.”

        So what you’re saying is, this whole thing is really about you feeling like someone else is infringing on your rights by bringing their kids out there. Am I getting that right?

        Also, I suspect that you fail to see why it’s important to bring the kids because you aren’t a parent. It kind of feels like you’d really benefit from camping with Kidsville or something this year, on a lot of levels.

      • “So what you’re saying is, this whole thing is really about you feeling like someone else is infringing on your rights by bringing their kids out there. Am I getting that right?”

        No, that’s not what I’m saying at all, because I would never make the mistake of thinking that something so complex and nuanced can be boiled down to a single element like that. That’s the kind of thinking that I object to the most: that pat answers are adequate, and that simple explanations for complicated situations are comprehensive enough to work with.

        What you and others seem to be saying is that because you deem yourselves attentive and skilled enough as parents to bring your children to the playa, there’s no problem. . . thus ignoring the facts that (A) none of us is qualified to objectively assess much of anything about ourselves as parents without some kind of reality check, just in case; (B) you’re not the only people who bring kids to the playa, and just because your experience in Kidsville is highly positive doesn’t mean that there aren’t negligent parents being negligent in parts of the playa where you aren’t, i.e. outside of Kidsville where you don’t see them. Saying things like “I’ve never seen anyone being a bad parent on the playa, and if that did happen there would be immediate intervention” is just blinkered. Lots of people HAVE seen bad parenting on the playa, with no intervention to be found aside from what they themselves were willing and able to provide.

  8. Dogs were banned in 2003. Kids were never banned because kids and parents are way more responsible than dogs and pet owners. Kids are still less responsible for their own actions than adults though, like dogs.

    I’m fairly confident that, if kids ever threatened the event, then the BMOrg would ban them asap, no discussion. Imagine several kids die or some important person’s kid takes a bad trip at Burning Man, a regional, a Rainbow Gathering, some music festival, etc., so our every “helpful” congress decides events that allow kids need new restrictions, voila instant ban hammer.

    So far, the youngsters have behaved themselves well enough that Burning Man allows them. I’m okay with that changing in the future so long as the situation makes it necessary.

    As present, there are many regionals that allow kids and and some that forbid kids, presumably this will continue whatever congress or the BMOrg does, so nobody will be completely excluded.

  9. Ive always loved burning man since i first went in 2008 at 19 years old and had an amazing time. i felt totally accepted the whole time and felt more at home than i ever did in the ‘default’ world. i can say also, that i WISH my family were burners when i was a kid and forever, because i feel like going home to burning man would be absolutely brilliant every year of my life.

    i recognize that this is no easy problem to solve, but maybe i can somehow contribute here:

    I do think an age camp is a brilliant idea, a few different areas for kids with activities and art installations for children. Maybe a section where families only are allowed with an ever present group of kid friendly (possibly background checked?) rangers?

    People who understand the safety kids need and possibly some kind of daily guides tours by trustworthy rangers (as well as multiple parent chaperones, it’s a few days of helping kids have a great time at the burn as well as a fun, safe place to leave your kids while you parents can go and party a bit).

    Just a thought

    • I do think an age camp is a brilliant idea, a few different areas for kids with activities and art installations for children. Maybe a section where families only are allowed with an ever present group of kid friendly (possibly background checked?) rangers?

      People who understand the safety kids need and possibly some kind of daily guides tours by trustworthy rangers (as well as multiple parent chaperones, it’s a few days of helping kids have a great time at the burn as well as a fun, safe place to leave your kids while you parents can go and party a bit).

      Already exists. It’s called Kidsville. 😉

  10. I read this while taking a break from gardening, naked save for a pith helmet, on the toilet, felt compelled to participate, wiped and found my desktop.
    The first step in addressing this is ensuring that children who attend are with a parent or legal guardian by way of checking IDs and turning away those who fail to meet this requirement.
    Things get fluid out here in the default world. One of my first introductions to burners was meeting a teen-boy living in a polygamous relationship with a goddess and her underaged-daughter a thousand miles outside the US borders.
    (at this point i walked away from my computer for hours)

    When considering paternalistic rules, regulations, etc. we’ve got to turn to our principles and as far as I read them, we’re all participants and the more the merrier.

    Burner babies and brats are some of the most enlightened, capable, creative, funny people you’ll meet. Their success and character speaks to our community and they should always be welcomed. While the jaded cynicism in their eyes may alert the occasional virgin to their folly most are savvy enough to say goodbye an unwanted presence and wish them all bounty the desert bestows.

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  12. I took my daughter to her first Burn at age 10, back when things were considerably wilder than they are today. She attended five years, 1993-1997 and has grown up just fine, thank you. And even today, if I had young kids, I’d much rather they witnessed the horror of a shirtcocker or Critical Tits than the true horror that is network television and mainstream movies. Sure, you cannot be as unfettered if you bring kids; you have to keep a close eye on them throughout the event, day and night, and irresponsible parents deserve the Darwin award.

    • You think that the children of irresponsible parents deserve death too, apparently. Color me disgusted. Children are to be protected, not sentenced to death for the idiocy of their guardians.

      • Whatsblem the Pro, your blog post was pretty good and fair, and has mostly stimulated some good and intelligent discussion here, but some of your comments (like the one above, and to wilinout) are straying towards, well, trollishness and hyperbole while missing or discounting the good points they brought up. Or are you truly disgusted and believe that George Post thinks “that the children of irresponsible parents deserve death too”.
        You are (at least for now) the moderator and author that seems to have gathered a significant readership, I suggest holding yourself to a higher standard. Btw, I would have sent this to you directly instead of publicly, but don’t see a way to do so, so feel free to delete this.

      • Ken A,

        George Post wrote: “irresponsible parents deserve the Darwin award.”

        Do you know what a Darwin Award is? He’s talking about an event that removes one’s genes from the gene pool. The only way for a parent to get a Darwin Award is for their child to die or be sterilized. My comment stands, thank you for yours.

  13. I wanted to address some of the cons in the list above because I think there are way more pros than cons in this situation. First I do want to say that I DO NOT have kids but one day when I do, I’ll figure out if I want to bring them or not at that time. I don’t have a solution or a suggestion for people who do have kids. I strongly suggest people read the post by Ken A, it’s well thought out. Secondly, I get sick as a dog out there sometimes, depending on how much dust i inhale so thinking about that for kids, it would be a concern for me. But I’ll take care of mine and you take care of yours. So..

    Con-Hazardous, potentially fatal environment with no nearby hospital available.
    Most people don’t know much about the aid station(s) at Bman. There are places where they help out the people who have overdone it and just needs some fluids, but people may not know that they have one very sophisticated med tent that as a ranger once put it to me, “They can do anything and everything up to surgery.” They also have ambulances on call and if need be life-flight to Reno at hand, which I believe is a 20-30 minute flight at the most. They are prepared for you or your kids to get hurt.

    Con-Presence makes it necessary for bars to require ID.
    The post suggested that the community make Bman an adult only event, starting at age 18. I don’t know if anyone has checked the drinking age in Nevada in a while but it’s still 21. So even if everyone was 18 and up, they’d still have require ID. Plus, there would a massive potential for people trying to use fake ID’s at the gate to gain access to the event. Can anyone imagine the undertaking of training gate crew to spot a fake ID that could be coming from any state or country? The task would be nearly impossible.

    Lastly, allen posted a concern about cutting down the ‘lost time’ of a child that get’s separated from their parents. Interesting distinction at Bman is ANYONE under the age of 18 is considered a child. So a 16 year old that doesn’t come back to camp at night is considered lost. However, the Black Rock Rangers (not those govt people) take great pride in their strides and efforts and recovering lost children. A ranger told me in 2011 that their average time from when a child is reported lost to when they are recovered and returned to their family is under 14 minutes.They have the ability to notify ALL rangers and all state, county and federal workers simultaneously of a lost child and can close the gate to incoming and outgoing traffic in an instant. They have also NEVER failed at finding a lost child.

  14. Kinds over 3 or 4 should be ok.
    and yes, noone is supposed to accommodate anyone. not my problem you got pregnant, sorry

    • I’m not sure if you can put an age on it. In 2011, one of the black rock rangers gave birth during the event. She was flown to Reno and mother and child were back on playa a few days later. Since the baby’s father is also a ranger, they said the child was an honorary ranger and set the record for the youngest person on playa ever and 4 days old. It’s up to what the parents think is a good age to bring their kids out.

  15. One more thing – – our regional Colorado event is great and fantastic in its own way, but the main event that is Burningman is quantum leaps beyond what we can pull off here, and makes our regional event look like a family picnic in comparison. I want to be able to take my kids to be inspired by the mind-expanding awesomeness of that main event — not just separate smaller events.

  16. Burner parent here with a suggestion. I’ve been to Burningman 5 times – – twice before my 2 kids were born, then 3 times w/ them when they were between the ages of 1 & 9. I favor education rather than prohibition, and I’m all for allowing kids there, for reasons explained further below.

    But for now, my suggestions, to address the question posed by Whatsblem, are:

    1.) Create a supplemental section in the Survival Guide (in the site) especially for parents to make sure that those parents are aware of what they are getting into – – and perhaps a link to a forum on how other parents have dealt with them. Dust, heat, nudity, blatant sexuality, drugs, traffic, loud music, etc. should all be expected – – and can all be dealt with.

    2.) At the gate, have the greeters give (and go over) a paper copy of that supplemental Children’s Survival Guide for people who brought their kids.

    3.) Included in that Children’s Survival Guide should also be the notice to not expect special favors just because they have kids. For example, I never expected anyone to turn down their music at Bman because I had kids – – if parents want a quiet-ish place they can go to Kidsville, or if they want it really quiet they can go the the generator free zone. We took earplugs.

    Okay, moving on to my experience/opinion from which I wrote the above suggestions, in case it might be of use to anyone…

    My kids loved it at Burningman and they look forward to going again.

    Somehow our species survived a quarter million years without air-conditioned RV’s, and my kids know how to deal w/ dust, heat, cold, to piss clear, to watch out for drunk bicyclists, and how to put in ear plugs – – and before they could do it for themselves, I took care of them just as when we’re crossing the streets in town or going on a hike in the sun or snow. Kids are more smart and resilient than too many adults realize (or remember).

    From being at Burningman, I do think my kids are going to go out into the world more capable and innovative than if we kept them cloistered in a padded cocoon in front of a video screen. Because they’ve seen what can be done at Bman by people coming up w/ a crazy idea and then actually making it into something really cool, they will take it for granted than such things can be done by anyone willing to combine hard work and creativity, themselves included.

    Regarding seeing nudity and sexuality, my bundles of joy were bored with seeing others bundles of junk after about the third time it happened, and they moved on to to more interesting things like art cars, costumes, climbable sculptures, and jumping on the trampoline with other dusty burner children. And if they happen to get a glimpse of someone fucking or being (consensually) suspended and whipped – – yeah, some humans do that, and it can be explained, and they won’t be participating in that as children, and I’m not going to let them stare at it happening. No they are not developmentally ready to have sex themselves, but getting a glimpse of it is not going to scar them anymore than seeing dogs fuck. Regarding intoxication, They are more likely to think it is just grownups doing silly, dumb, gross things and to then move on.

    Regarding adults feeling inhibited by there being children about, no need to inhibit yourself on my account – – I knew what might be encountered when I entered the event. If there’s an outdoor orgy in broad daylight (which I haven’t seen since Y2k, btw, are those still allowed?) then I’ll steer my kids away from it and talk about it if necessary.

    To sum up, for me, it’s a better parenting paradigm to accompany kids into the creative and crazy world of Burningman and to thus be there to help them make sense of all the awesome things and the “bad” things there – – rather than to shelter kids from what’s out there in the real world only to have them leave home and encounter all that craziness completely naive (or worse, mentally shackled and unable to enjoy it).

    Kidsville Rocks! Go check it out and see our future leaders and innovators.

    • I was pretty much thinking exactly what you just said and now that you put it out there, I don’t really need to read more comments. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      • Ken, I don’t think there’s been an outdoor orgy in over a decade because no woman wants to see pictures of her cooter end up on Well, the vast majority of women don’t anyway.

      • UVee, that’s just marginalizing adults as a way of avoiding the marginalization of the children.

        What really gets me about all this is this assumption that Burning-Man-the-event is the sum totality of our culture. If that’s all the burner culture is to someone, then it’s a bit odd and maybe not entirely genuine for them to be so passionate about it that they feel their children MUST be included for cultural reasons.

        Also, compare with default-world culture: children are certainly a day-to-day part of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s considered normal or acceptable to drag them along when you go to an adult party, or a swinger’s club, or even a bar. Parents who do take their children to such places are commonly considered abusive.

        I don’t fail to see how Burning-Man-the-event is significantly different from a bar, or a swinger’s club, or an adult party, but I also see the significant similarities, and I fail entirely to see why it’s so damned important for your kids to be there, aside from your personal logistical problems in finding a babysitter or something. The culture is everywhere, all year long, and you have ample opportunity to immerse your entire family in it if you choose, without creating further justification for unwanted rules and infrastructure to serve your choice.

  17. If I’m reiterating here please excuse cuz I have not read the rest of the comments. I am father of kids 10, 8 and 7. I would not bring them to BM mostly because I do not want to parent while I’m there. Maybe when they are older and close to responsible. I am not concerned with kids being corrupted by what they see. They are pretty resilient and a naked body is just a naked body to them. No big deal and possibly very silly. Safety is the biggest concern. When my kids were younger and we went to festivals we would sharpee our cell numbers on their arms. Something like this could be requested by BM. Pertinent info temporarily tattooed on the kids limbs. It won’t protect them from any evil element out there but could cut down on their lost time.

  18. Some burner parents could probably do a better job of teaching their children to follow the same rules they would walking the streets of New York but, it’s not the streets of New York. It’s not the same “Don’t take candy from strangers,” as an adult, I’m prepared to take on the potential pitfalls of taking candy from strangers. I’m mentally prepared but, it also sets an example.

    It’s difficult to explain to a child, “Do as I say, not as I do.” The simple act of taking a drinking of water could lead to unintended consequences at a burn. I think it’s the parent’s job to stay reasonably down to Earth and be sure their children understand certain things before exposing them or releasing them to the playa. Bring your own water, food and drink/eat your own water/food. As nice as the lady with the communal water gallon may be, say “no thank you”… and don’t take a glug your self, as a parent.

    Certain states of mind can lead a person not to be responsible for their own person, let alone their children. You don’t have to be a burner to know their are irresponsible parents in the world. I think parents should be capable of making responsible arrangements and practice responsible abstinence from certain things.

    I know what a burn is for, if you have children, you have a certain duty to them. You can’t leave your baby at home without a baby sitter and go out drinking in real life. It’s irresponsible. Personally, if I don’t want my kids to witness what happens in BRC, I won’t bring them. If I can’t make arrangements for their care, I won’t go. Personally, I wouldn’t take my kid until I knew they have an understanding… and most kids don’t.

    I’m not going to impose no kids at BRC but, it pains me sometimes to see kids and parents in certain states. Also, in allowing children, YOU ARE ALIENATING BURNERS… I have friends I have invited to burns but, they cannot go anymore for, if they see blah blah within bLAH of children they are legally obligated to report blah blah or, risk losing their licences if caught and not reported it.

  19. I say yes for kids… over 4.

    I like the concept of “Burner Scouts,” this is how I’d imagined it: It would be an international set of standards for anybody who wanted to have kids in the group. These would be the BM principles, but laid out with missions that could be accomplished and with descriptions for activities to help people apply the principles. A kid has to have completed some key accomplishments before they can pick up dangerous hobbies (fire spinning, for example), go to regional events, and even more for the burn. Burner Scouts would take up a role at local builds and regional events, then have one big camp that provides resources for all kids, which would get key placement near support for kids. Villages could also have BS camps within them. Another key element of the BS would be that there are adults with an organized structure and plan, and multiple adults accountable for all the kids.
    Now, keep in mind, a kid does not have to be a scout to come to the burn. But… create a stigma that they should be one, and that more respected kids have earned the right to be there. If art cars and camps and other installations had rules like, “scouts only,” that would encourage people to get their kids in the scouts.

  20. I really like the “Burner Scouts” idea, and I would also like to say that I think regionals might be the best way to introduce children to burns – in my experience, the local regionals are very tight knit. If a child were to get separated from their parents, rangers and the rest of the community could locate the parents within minutes – I’m not sure if I could say the same about an event the size of burning man.
    In general, my thoughts are this:
    1) Irresponsible parents should be escorted out, period. If you left your 5 year old alone in your tent to get shitfaced, you have violated the principles and endangered another member of the community (your child). Civic responsibility.
    2) More support for parents wishing to bring kids would be a good idea. Burner scouts, kid oriented theme camps, etc. Ways to introduce kids to the culture right. Radical Inclusion.
    3) Regionals are a good introduction for anyone, but especially kids. Little bit easier to adjust to the culture shock 😛

    • As a parent I won’t bring my toddler to the burns, we only have done regionals so far and wouldn’t dare take her to the big burn until we’ve gone at least once. When she is older, late teen years, we’ll talk and gauge her ability to take and accept personal responsibility for her behavior.

      To make sure she learns the culture and the ideals, we take her to local burner outings and get her to play with burner children in the default world. We are also teaching her the principles and terms like MOOP, etc.

      Having kids at our local burn we’ve had thankfully few problems with the little ones but haven’t been free of them, one instance was on my first shift as a Khaki. As a coordinator and occasional ranger I get ‘hairs’ standing on the back of my neck having them there because of the plethora of risks, but see keeping a spare eye on the kids as part of my volunteer duties on or off shift.

      I have no practical idea’s for at the burns, but outside the burns, local ‘burner-scouts’ would be adorable and a ton of fun for those of us who bail on many local burner events to be parents (especially since I loath the boy scouts.) I bet we could out camp, out scavenge, out create, out survive and out educate the boy-scouts up 10 fold teaching our kids the principles. Maybe having a system where a child ‘earned’ the ability to go to burns through a rewards system like badges, except burner style. I don’t know. I flunked boy scouts but probably would have done well in a ‘burner scouts.’

    • Dread Pirate Roberts,

      I like the way you think. . . I just wonder about the details. I want to give more support to parents who want to bring their kids into the culture, just not at the expense of endangering the kids or cutting into any extreme adult hoopla.

      We ‘include’ kids in mainstream culture, but that doesn’t mean we take them to bars and poly parties and power exchanges and industrial construction sites as a routine thing. We make places for them that are part of the warp and woof of the mainstream fabric. It would be nice to see bigger and better efforts to do the same for burner kids, especially if they don’t come from Org above.

      There’s also outside scrutiny to worry and wonder about. If we don’t self-limit the interaction of children with adults at what is variously seen by outsiders as a hippie drug orgy / giant raver drug party / sacrificial Satan-fest, etc., then the outsiders are going to be setting the policies and making sure they’re enforced.

      • Well, the outsider view is a good point. I actually heard a story a few years back about someone getting into legal trouble for taking a picture at a burn that had a kid and a naked hippie in the background. The rumor was that the person was brought up on child pornography charges or something, simply because there was non-sexual nudity in the background of the photo. Overall though, I think it’s really up to the parent if they want to take that risk.
        Psychologically, I don’t see a problem with it. I wanted to go to burning man when I heard about at the tender age of 9, and looking back I think it would have done more good than harm if I hadn’t waited till 22. Realistically, burners may be fringe and weird but I’d say they tend to be pretty healthy about it. I’d be far more concerned about my child learning about codependent relationships from twilight books than I would them learning about fringe culture from burners.
        Physically, it’s a tough call, but ultimately I think that if a child is at a burn and supervised by a sober adult, it wouldn’t be much more dangerous than a regular camping trip.
        I think that making hard rules and regulations over the matter would do a lot more harm than good, and as many have said kids have come to burns since their inception with no real problems. Rules and laws are a slippery slope, and a poor substitute for principles. I think that the correct approach is to make sure that the kids and their parents are included, welcomed, and accommodated. Education over regulation; I don’t see any problem with kids at a burn so long as their parents are responsible and prepared.

  21. Leave it to burnersxxx to get to the real issue here — are babies spoiling the “true meaning of burning man”? (i.e. DJs and the people who love them) You’ll just have to think of kids as living, breathing little Freebirds-at-Temple-burn, and I’m sure Mr the Pro would counsel you that that’s the kind of thing you just have to suck up and deal with in the name of freedom. Personally, St Addis finds it a little troublesome that there’s limited medical care in the event that a kid gets hurt, and thinks that anyone who sticks a kid in a car seat for an 8 hour exodus needs their head examined (i.e. I hope all those kids come in RVs, anything else seems cruel) but there were kids around burner culture long before there were international DJs with dusty cocks in need of sucking, and anything that forces people to realize that burning man is something other than “the world’s largest rave” is probably a good thing.

    • A bit caustic, but thanks for giving us what seems to be an honest and candid perspective this time, instead of just vitriol and trollage alone. I was prepared to delete your comment as soon as I saw your name again, but after reading I find myself not inclined to do so.

  22. It’s really quite simple: this is a complex social question and like many other social questions, it is quite possible that it has no solution.

    • I guess when you put it that way, it really is just that simple.

      I’m a problem-solver by nature, though, and it irks me to just give up, especially when we’ve got the resources and talent and innovation and brainpower that make our very culture also a problem-solver by nature.

      One thing I’d bet heavy on: if there’s a solution, it won’t come from the Org, it’ll come from DIY do-ocrats who see a need for a solution. That’s not a dig at the Org (I try never to dig at them ambiguously); it’s just an observation, and an expression of faith in burner culture.

  23. My wife and I attended our very first burn in 2008 and we brought our daughter whom was 5 at the time. My father in law was a hard core burner and the life he had with my wife when she was young was quite similar. Myself on the other had, quite the opposite upbringing. The two of us ventured out with our child in tow and my wife took to the culture a lot quicker than I did but going on our 5th burn now, I’m there. I look forward to it every year that we can manage to make it out there. Our daughter, absolutely fell in love with Burning Man form day 1. We did attend one year without her and she was miserable. She turns 10 tomorrow and to this day, nothing could entice her out of that trip.

    We even camped one time with a group who had a no kid policy and for some reason they changed their “policy” for Raven. She was the highlight of the camp and everyone adored her. We explain things to her with no sugar coating. She has known about sex and where babies come from, and about alcohol and drugs for quite some time now.

    We want to educate her and she wants to be educated and we feel that having such an open relationship with her about “things” opens her mind more. I believe that society as a whole tends to put simple things in a bad light, for example, like the word fuck, or any other “swear”. It’s just a word and should not be condemned because someone else has deemed it inappropriate. The word in itself is harmless but the pain comes more in how you use that word. Words do not have to be “swears” to hurt or offend someone since ugly or stupid can be just as hurtful and ill-intended as fuck. She knows that and we atribute that to our raising her together.

    We feel the same way about taking her to Burning Man. She is a free spirit and we want her to blossom with open eyes, open heart and an open mind. We feel as though she is succeeding in all these areas. However, we try not to impose on other people while at the burn but I am not going to not take my kid because other people have hang ups. We’ve explained to her that if she doesn’t like something or something makes her uncomfortable, then turn away and don’t look. We have so many other things more interesting to look at and personally partake in, the opportunities are vast and never ending.

    I agree whole heartedly with you, the experience we have at Burning Man is in our control and is ultimately what WE make of it for ourselves and our children.

    Great article.

  24. Jesus Shirtcocker Christ, are we *really* still trying to have this discussion?

    There’s a whole lot of mentions of “should” and “problem” and “responsibility” and “ought to” here – I suspect from non-parents – as if Burning Man is some special, delicate flower that can suddenly no longer withstand the presence of children who have been – as org veterans have said repeatedly, for years – present from day 1 on Baker Beach.

    For the record, my wife and I are returning for our 10th burn since ’96, and bringing our kids (a girl, now 11 and boy, 13) for their 7th burn, and our second in Swing City with our art car, XyloVan. Kidsville, where we spent their first five burns, is one of the largest theme camps on the playa (2000 plus residents).

    We’ve taken our kids to London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Vegas, NYC, Death Valley and Hawaii for vacations and camping, and still, when we ask them about their favorite place on earth, the answer is always, always, “Burning Man.”

    Our kids are self-reliant, respectful, creative, open-minded, industrious, funny, cocky, weird, talented and just a tiny bit fucked up and therefore human precisely *because* they’re burners.

    They’ve built shelters, pitched tents, made and given out gifts and helped erect the 3-story scaffolding rig in our theme camp because they get what it’s about.

    We got caught in a howling fucking dust storm one night between the Man and the Temple trying to get back to our vehicle (full account here: We masked/goggled and lit ourselves up, hunkered down together and rode it out. Everybody was scared, including the grownups – but in the end, we knew the dust wouldn’t kill us, and we all emerged with a richer, more-confident and wide-awake-alive outlook on life.

    We’ve had “embarrassing” moments of “uh-oh” – generally handled with honesty, humor and a bit of “yeah, grownups are pretty weird” every single time we burn. My son at 5 upon seeing a foot-long dildo-and-balls strapped to an RC truck: “Dad, that’s a weird-looking foot.” Me: “Why yes, son, yes it is.”

    My daughter upon seeing the “Giant Cock” car at age 9: “Mom, what’s up with that pink rocket?” Cock Car denizen: “It’s a PENIS, kid!!!” Daughter: “…” Wife: “…”

    People having public sex in front of my kids? We walked on and did something more interesting. “Uh, yeah, I think they’re having sex, let’s not stare.”

    Cursing? Fake blood? Real blood? Thunderdome ultra-violence? Drinking and puking? We’ve explained it all, just as we would “horrible” things seen in the real world.

    Is any transgressive thing done at Burning Man truly any more life-scarring to a child than the bullshit they absorb through the media we all consume, the news stories they hear when we’re listening to the radio on the road, the lies that politicians tell every single day or the atrocities that major corporations commit on all of us day in and day out? I would offer that feeding your kid a Big Mac and a Coke does more life-damaging harm in the long run (the first taste is free …) than *anything* a child is exposed to at Burning Man.

    You own your own experience and if you’re a parent, you own your child’s experience. If you’re off partying your ass off at 3 a.m. with your kid in tow – or worse yet, you abandon your kid to the Duck Pond while you disappear down a K-hole, well fuck you, you’ve failed and you deserve anything that befalls your child. But the *vast* majority of Burner parents know *exactly* what they’re doing, and their kids – and we’ve met hundreds of them – are awesome humans because of that.

    I suspect a lot of the nay-saying and rule-proposing and tut-tutting here (ZONING, whatsblem the pro? Really???) is being done by either a) non-parents or b) self-prudish Burners who fail to own their own behavior. If you can’t do something on the playa without wondering whether a kid – unprepared by responsible parents – is watching, then maybe you shouldn’t do it. But don’t assume *their* responsibility.

    Burning Man began a million years ago as a “temporary autonomous zone” and at its best, it remains just that. It’s why the event has become a worldwide culture, and why getting tickets is a pain in the ass.

    All the shoulds and oughtas here sound like a pathetic, handwringing nanny-fest.

    The only should is this: If you decide to bring your child to Burning Man, you *are completely responsible* for what happens to them, and how they take it. Nobody else.

    For the rest of you, please take it from a longtime Burner parent:

    Go. Transgress. Have fun. Screw. Drink. Pass out. Make a mess. Make art. Make horrible decisions. But free yourself. BURN. The kids are alright.

    • Mack, you make some good points and I actually agree very strongly with quite a lot of them, but you and I part ways dramatically here:

      “I would offer that feeding your kid a Big Mac and a Coke does more life-damaging harm in the long run (the first taste is free …) than *anything* a child is exposed to at Burning Man.”

      Aside from the basic principle of “two wrongs don’t make a right,” we’re also talking about taking small children into a physically hazardous environment with no available hospital close enough to get to quickly.

      Then there’s this comment of yours:

      “You own your own experience and if you’re a parent, you own your child’s experience. If you’re off partying your ass off at 3 a.m. with your kid in tow – or worse yet, you abandon your kid to the Duck Pond while you disappear down a K-hole, well fuck you, you’ve failed and you deserve anything that befalls your child.”

      Hey, fuck that! The negligent parent might very well deserve some consequences (that’s what CPS is all about in real cities), but the child doesn’t deserve any of it. I’m a little shocked; the rest of your comments give me the impression that you’re an attentive, loving parent with a genuine commitment to guiding your little ones and serving them as best you can. I guess your commitment to protecting and nurturing children just doesn’t have any room in it for other peoples’ kids?

      • Whatsblem the Pro:

        If I didn’t state the obvious, forgive me:

        At its best, Burning Man is (insert whatever you love about it here, and triple it).

        At its worst, Burning Man is a huge, messy, life-threatening, drug-fueled, gas-stoked disaster in an unforgiving, lifeless desert with minimal rules and only a modicum of emergency services. If you take your child there without knowing, accepting and PREPARING yourself and your child for that, then you don’t deserve to be a parent.

        However, my responsibility to your child is the same as my responsibility to any other adult I meet on the playa – If I see someone in danger or pain, I do my best to help them. If they’re doing cool on their own, then I don’t trouble them with my presence or my belief about how they should behave or what they should experience. I deeply love my kids, and if there’s a gap in your love for and devotion to yours, I’ll fill it when/how I can (and I have) but otherwise I’ll stay out of your way just like I’ll stay out of the way of the people who hang from chains skewered through their back muscles.

        And again, if I didn’t state the obvious, forgive me. I get passionate and I suppose I need to spell everything out. If you fail to take proper responsibility and your child suffers, your *child* does not deserve to suffer. You do. CPS indeed.

        I’m thinking four hours in a pillory on Saturday night downwind from the burn for irresponsible parents, and free glow, toys, snacks and endless trampoline play for the child – but hey, the parent has already broken the sacred trust of parenting and the kid shouldn’t have to suffer by seeing them punished.

        I’ve heard tell of parents have been escorted out of the city for blowing their responsibility. That sounds dead right. If there’s any should here, beyond what I’ve stated, it’s exactly that: Parents who fail to remember their most important responsibility on-playa should be held accountable.

      • I think we probably agree on more than either of us suspect.

        Please note that my article is asking for some innovative ideas from the community, not trying to tell everyone What Must Be Done. You’re right about this topic having been discussed to death and beyond in various quarters, but the reason that continues to happen is that there’s a sizable faction on both sides (and at least one on neither side!), and the issue has never been resolved to the satisfaction of anyone with a dog in the fight.

        My aim here was not to simply reignite the old hash and generate a lot of stale stalemating, it was to get people thinking beyond the eternal binary proposition of “kids on the playa/no kids on the playa” and solicit some ideas that haven’t yet been aired.

    • Mack, well said. You sound like a responsible parent and an experienced Burner. Merely having a child doesn’t automatically make you either of those.

  25. Children need and they DESERVE as many experiences as any one else. It is absolutely up to the parents to be responsible, no exceptions. Step away from the bottles and blotter and take advantage of giving your child this invaluable gift.

    Having a child comes with the gift of being able to experience everything again through new and unbiased eyes. We need to be creating a new generation of burners, those who we can pass the torch to when we are unable to claw our way on our scooters to the playa.

    That being said perhaps trying this on a much smaller scale is key. Try to get a few people are regional burns to set up these kid friendly camps and work out some of the kinks there before bringing it out to the desert.

    Just my .42 cents.

    • Surely there are limits to a child’s need for experiences? “Bottles and blotter,” after all, are experiences too, and valuable ones for some adults.

      • They are most definitely valid experiences for adults…just not with children at their heels or Gods forbid breast.

        Seeing art, being exposed to a wide spectra of creativity is definitely a valid experience for a child and one that they may not be able to get many other places.

      • There are countless museums and art galleries and even festivals specifically for that very purpose, some of them specifically for children. Do you really believe that the only place to experience art and creativity is at Burning Man?

        You’ve noted yourself that there are limits, so the only thing we should be debating here is exactly where those limits might be.

  26. I am a burner parent and regional burn EC, and have started a “burner scout” group with my regional group based on teaching kids the 10 principles through activities. We do throw a kid-allowed burn (but not defined as “kid friendly”), which is now gaining more kid attendance. I have brought my son there for the last 5 years (he is now 9). The burn is small and the climate not as extreme, so some of what we do may not apply to Burning Man. We have a quiet zone, but no kid camp (yet). We ask that all theme camps state if they anticipate “adult” activities. These are mapped, but not necessarily grouped, so that parents can navigate around potential eye-covering moments. We have discussed a Red Light district, but have yet to have enough interest to garner it. We also have Burner Scout activities planned during the day, which occupies the kids with parents away from “licentious” stuff. Our small size makes it easy to know who belongs to who and where, which doesn’t necessarily apply at Burning Man. We do label the kids’and parents’ wrist bands with who they belong to and where if there is a separation. As in all things, information is power. But nothing can substitute for an attentive parent.

  27. Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to bring a small child to BM isn’t thinking. Kids 12 and older, maybe, depending on the kids maturity. As far as becoming a “child of the playa universe” – not everyone has the same ideal when they go to BM so you’re exposing your child to a lot of crap that they don’t need to be around yet. Young children don’t have a choice, at least wait til your kid is old enough to decide if the want to participate in BM. Zones would work but again I don’t think a small child should be out there with the heat, the dust and the dangerous elements.

    • I definitely agree with you in principle, Samanthasmommy, and I applaud your sensible decision to protect Samantha from being adversely affected by your choices.

      On the other hand, I personally know a few little ones whose parents do a really good job of looking out for them on the playa, and I do enjoy seeing them there, as long as it’s not in the Orgy Dome or something.


      There don’t seem to be any really easy answers, do there? I kind of lean toward the idea of creating separate events, in more hospitable environments, for the kids. Burning Man is just one week out of the year, and if what we have is a culture and not just a big annual party, we do need to find ways to enculturate our children without endangering them.

    • Our first year we ended up next to a half dozen children twelve and under on the far side of the city next to kidsville. Five of them had been to multiple burns and every one of them knew where they were and wanted to be there. The one first time ten year old was mouthing off about how the man burn wasn’t a big deal and the four year old looked him right in the eye and said “you’ve never even seen the man burn.”

      Kids belong there if they want to be there. I’ve never seen a child screaming and wailing that they wanted to leave out of the dozens come across. There’s a lot to do on playa other than get drunk and grope strangers. Most of the non-tourist community would do anything to help and protect our young, the way the world has always worked.

  28. Why not an agreed upon ‘safety zone’ or maybe better yet, a sanctioned class of ‘big brother/sisters’ ordained by BMorg as a part of infrastructure personnel, understanding they brought it (the ‘problem’) upon themselves, us all? Or a combination of both?

  29. Parents are fully capable of worrying about what their kid sees and does. Parents are perfectly responsible for taking care of their children in any environment. Other attendees don’t have any responsibilities when it comes to children. If they feel they do, than they are placing that responsibility on themselves. If a parent wants to bring their child to the playa they should always be allowed to. Whether that’s best for the child or not is completely debatable but that debate belongs to the parents and no one else.

    • SOME parents are fully capable of worrying about what their kids see and do, and SOME parents are perfectly responsible for taking care of their children in any environment. Some parents aren’t either of those things. Some parents are irresponsible, neglectful, and abusive. In real cities, they have Child Protective Services because of that. . . so how does the debate belong to the parents and nobody else?

      • “SOME parents are fully capable of worrying about what their kids see and do, and SOME parents are perfectly responsible for taking care of their children in any environment. Some parents aren’t either of those things.”

        The exact same thing can be said of pretty much every adult out there, whether we are talking about them taking care of kids, pets, slaves, selves, whoever. Are we now going to instigate extra rules to babysit them and make sure they always have a good/safe time, too? We already have medical teams and Rangers to cover that, and even then it’s generally accepted that they don’t step in unless it is absolutely necessary because we as a community expect them to be responsible (but have a safety net).

        I challenge anyone who believes that kids as a whole shouldn’t be allowed out there because they’re not able to handle themselves or don’t have parents that are on top of things to go hang out with some of them for a while this year: you might be surprised, and it may go a long way to sooth your concerns.

        I would also encourage people to remember that questioning other peoples’ parenting styles is an old tradition, and happens just as often off playa as it does on (and it lacks just as much context for onlookers in Camp Reality as it does in Kidsville). This whole topic might be worth taking a step back and asking: am I basing my concerns on actual events/consequences, or fear of something that might happen? Am I making these judgments on the burner parent community because I am seeing their children literally being harmed, or because I disagree with their parenting style?

        Just a thought, putting it out there.

        Also, just FYI since there seem to be a large number of folks who don’t have this info: CPS is available on playa if needed. Federal agents are on playa. City, state and county cops are on playa. Tons of concerned adults who are paying attention to what’s going on are on playa. Black Rock Rangers are on playa. Medics are available on playa (as well as airlift capabilities if a hospital is needed). Mental health care professionals are on playa. Honestly, I believe that BRC is one of the absolute safest places for a kid to be in many respects because not only are they surrounded by a community that cares about them (good luck finding that for every child in Camp Reality), but they have more resources per child available to help in any given crisis than ANYwhere else in the United States.

        Can we go back to judging folks who relentlessly shirtcock now? I’m pretty sure they’re damaging to my psyche.

        Speaking only for myself on this thread.

      • gallopingqwerty, your other comments were deleted because they employed ad-hominem, attacking the person rather than the argument.

    • I sincerely hope that your name is actually Jimmy McNulty. Because awesome. And, excellent question about ‘Child of the Playa Universe’.

      This article takes a legitimate issue (child safety on Playa), and then riddles it with hyperbole. ” if there weren’t so many heavily-intoxicated people around, and if it wasn’t all set in a context of overt sexuality that often goes way, way beyond mere nudity and into some territory that might actually disturb the minds of the innocent to witness.” and this doozy: “it’s only a matter of time before something ugly happens and someone’s child disappears and/or falls victim to one of the many, many hazards.” LOL, wut?

      • I don’t see what your issue is. Are you denying that the playa is a dangerous place? Or that adults do things there that are so far beyond mere nudity that even the most relaxed, progressive people might be given pause by the idea of kids being around?

        “LOL wut,” isn’t any kind of argument either. People die at Burning Man, lots of them. . . do you think children are immune to all the many ways that adults get hurt and die out there?

      • we lost at least one kid last year – possibly 2-3. And remember that in the eyes of the law, 15 is a kid, and sex with that kid is automatically rape even if they look and act 21 and they’re drinking and they’re naked and they’re initiating it. We’re not just talking about infants here.

    • It does seem like zoning may be the most obvious answer, but that’s going to have to come with some firm rules. There are already warnings and disclaimers and statements of attendee responsibility printed on the backs of all our tickets, but if you’ve ever seen a baby being toted around in the dust like the entirety of BRC and the playa are safe and sane places for kids, then you know that that’s not enough. How do we enforce zoning in a least-intrusive, cost-effective way that preserves as much freedom as possible?

      • The playa is indeed a dangerous place, but you’re blowing the issue out of proportion and, in fact, fearmongering (“It’s only a matter of time”). People definitely do get hurt, and yes, death happens on Playa, but not to the extent that you mention. Also, can we look at the many ways that adults get hurt and die? Sure. Lets do that. According to the 2011 Afterburn report from the ESD (who, by the way, has been teaming up with Humboldt General Hospital to provide state-of-the-art care on-site including life support units and access to helicopters), there were NO on-site deaths in 2011. Copypasta straight from the report:

        Approximately 38% of the total patient volume involved minor injuries such as blisters or cuts. Other less common patient categories included dehydration (6.1% of total patients), orthopedic injuries (6.9%), wound rechecks (2.8%), and eye problems (5.3%). Other medical care categories included urinary tract infections (3.6%), difficulty breathing (1.2%), abdominal pain/diarrhea (2.6%), burns (2.1%), allergies/insect bites (3.3%), headaches (1.8%), and lacerations requiring sutures (2.1%). All other chief complaint categories were at or below 1%. The numbers for alcohol- and drug-related patients continue to be remarkably low for an event of this size. In 2011 ESD and HGH treated a total of 57 drug related patients (0.9%), and 85 total alcohol-related patients (1.6%).

        Now WHAT in there screams DANGER FOR CHILDREN ONLY AND ESPECIALLY? It seems to me that these numbers make BRC one of the more statistically safer cities…

        Also, who the fuck is anyone on here to tell other Burners how to raise their children and at exactly which point in their young lives it is okay to be exposed to X, Y, or Z? If one family decides that it’s okay to expose their children to nudity after having a responsible conversation about ‘time & place & expression’ or what-have-you, then that’s up to that family to decide. Unfortunately, the way the world works, not all parents are created equal and some adults may expose their children to fire-spinning nudists at a time when that child is developmentally unable to cope, then its between that family and possible CPS afterwards.

        Maybe you’re talking about physical dangers? Sharp artwork, fire everywhere, the elements, etc. I don’t buy it, dude. These are dangers people face in urban, suburban, and subsaharan environments all the time.

        The only valid point that I’ve been able to get from this article, is the fact that some feel inhibited around children. But guess what? That’s their own individual issue if they feel that they need to limit their ‘radical self-expression’ depending on the audience. And yeah, lots of places in deep playa and elsewhere on BRC ARE safe, and I’d argue that the person who said ’12 and older’ is incorrect. In fact, if I was forced to choose a proper age group of children, I’d say 12 and UNDER.

      • jecohen13:

        I don’t think I’m blowing anything out of proportion. You’re utterly mistaken when you say I’m fearmongering, and when you say this:

        “. . .death happens on Playa, but not to the extent that you mention.”

        (A) I did not mention an extent to which death happens on the playa; you are misrepresenting what I did say.

        (B) The Afterburn Report you cite in your appeal to authority is extremely misleading, as it does not report deaths that happen in Reno hospitals, or on Medevac flights, or on the highway to/from the playa. I covered this in detail in a recent article, please have a look:

        Thanks for your comments.

      • I take jecohen13’s point “who the fuck can say how someone else should raise their kids”. Unfortunately, in my experience, the young party people with no kids are happy to party all night. The non-party people with kids and grandparents ask to turn the music down – at the world’s largest rave. If we could all agree to let others be then fine, but if I have to turn my stereo down because you’re trying to get the baby to sleep, sorry, get fucked, it’s terrible conditions for a baby and ultimate conditions for a raver.

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