Childhood Safety vs. Childhood Health

Another example of how we get the risks wrong:

Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan’s Law Web site says stranger abduction is rare and that 90 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it’s not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.

And when a child is parked on the living room floor, he or she may be safe, but is safety the sole objective of parenting? The ultimate goal is independence, and independence is best fostered by handing it out a little at a time, not by withholding it in a trembling fist that remains clenched until it’s time to move into the dorms.

Meanwhile, as rates of child abduction and abuse move down, rates of Type II diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related ailments in children move up. That means not all the candy is coming from strangers. Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child might become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country’s 58 million overweight adults?

Posted on April 12, 2007 at 6:05 AM47 Comments


Roy April 12, 2007 6:45 AM

It takes a moment to voice a decision — “You can’t go out” — while it takes an hour to watch over the kids for an hour. Being the boss is so much easier than doing the work. Grownups like bossing kids more than parenting or teaching them. Teachers are just as guilty, ‘educating’ by enforcing rules rather than setting examples.

Richard Braakman April 12, 2007 7:08 AM

An alternate theory is that the rates of child abduction keep falling because children are being kept indoors more.

Cecil W. St. J. Nobbs April 12, 2007 7:19 AM

“Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child might become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country’s 58 million overweight adults?”

Neither should provoke panic, although the second one should provoke more concern.

Derob April 12, 2007 7:45 AM

This is all about experience and voluntary vs. involuntary risk.

I can remember several recent child abuse / kidnap stories in the media, but none about kids being hit by lightning. (although I can remember a kid being run over by its fathers farm equipment)
Since I haven’t witnessed any adverse event happen to a child (thank god), my experience is entirely build via the media. So in my perception the abduction risk is much higher, even though that is caused by the selection made in the media.

Obviously having your child abused by a stranger is involuntary risk, as is it being hit by lightning. On the other hand there are sufficient reports on obesity in the media, and I know quite a few obese people. Also I am quite aware of the potential health effects. Nevertheless I don’t do anything about my own (relatively modest) overweight problem, as it is a trade-off against having a comfortable life-style. In the case someone was feeding me, I’d be pissed though.

Robert Accettura April 12, 2007 7:51 AM

About time someone mentions this.

I always found it strange. The stats say most kids are abused by relatives or people close to them.

Why is it when a woman first visits a doctor, the first thing done isn’t a survey asking for names and addresses of:
– Spouse
– Father of child (if different)
– Parents of both partners (childs grandparents)
– Siblings of partners (child’s aunts/uncles)

Then run a background check on all of them for the mother-to-be. Sounds to me like that would possibly help more… yet nobody seems to want to do it.

craig April 12, 2007 7:52 AM

I think Richard makes an excellent point. In addition, if you are the only parent letting your child run free on the streets, while most other children are inside, wouldn’t the risk to your child be greater than the general risk to all children that the statistics are citing?

craig April 12, 2007 7:56 AM

I think Richard makes an excellent point. In addition, if you are the only parent letting your child run free on the streets, while most other children are inside, wouldn’t the risk to your child be greater than the general risk to all children that the statistics are citing?

Derob April 12, 2007 8:10 AM

@ Richard & Craig … & Craig:

It all depends i’d say. Except that there is a slight contradiction in what you are saying, it might also be the case that well protected kids normally kept in house stand a higher risk than well informed street-wise kids.

It could be informative to look at the rate of typical outdoor risks (road accidents, abduction, lightning) versus typical indoor risks (falling of stairs, being abused by parents)

Woo April 12, 2007 8:16 AM

My school time was already a decade or two ago, but I’d never have dreamed about being taken to school by one of my parents.. I’d have cowered in shame before my classmates for being a wussy. We were taught to be assertive when being talked to, to not go with strangers and to not take presents or other baits from untrustable persons. And it worked.

But on the other hand.. back then we also were more careful whom to trust, and didn’t dress up like little prostitutes..

Greg April 12, 2007 8:19 AM


Almost zero risk falling to Almost zero risk does not count. I mean come on. What about crossing the road. What if the food at the chinnes takeaway is bad. Give me a break.

For the record, I am the parent who is the only one that let my Daughter run around on the street. I am also one of the few (well back in NZ) who expected her to pay for the calls on her cellphone while most of her freinds don’t.

I do what I think will help her. That means not always doing what everone else does. It means not “protecting” her from every little insigificant risk.

Bad things are bound to happen. She might end up with the wrong guy, or get hit by a car or what ever. But at least she is living her life. And I belive I have help get her ready all the uncertinties of life.

I also talk to her about her weight and health. In particualr Type II diabeties and other weight related problems (she is a Pacific Islander).

It all reminds me of the movie “Major Payne”.

lady “I call it nurturing”, Major Payne “I call it neturing!”

gilbo April 12, 2007 8:29 AM

Repeated exposure to risks often breeds a kind of fatigue. This is true in parenting, too. I have 3 kids, and often joke about a “third child syndrome”:

1st child – you know where they are and what they are doing at every moment.

2nd child – you think they are upstairs playing.

3rd child – they might be out in the street doging traffic, but you really aren’t sure…

Anonymous April 12, 2007 8:30 AM

“An alternate theory is that the rates of child abduction keep falling because children are being kept indoors more.”

An alternate theory to what? But to entertain the non sequitur: suppose by allowing the children outside, the rate climbs from 100 a year to 10,000 a year. Which is better: 10,000 dead children every year, or, 200,000 (or whatever the number is) dead fat people every year?

I’m also not sure what this “involuntary risk” has to do with anything either. Dead is dead. These parents, whether they know it or not, are voluntarily creating fat people. This strikes me as being as bad as being squished by a truck or chopped to pieces by a psychopath.

csrster April 12, 2007 8:42 AM

I had this discussion with my wife about the risks in letting our 6-year-old take riding lessons.
i) If we say “no” what are the chances she will grow up resenting us for being over-protective?
ii) If we say “yes” and she has a freak accident and ends up in a wheelchair what are the chances she will grow up resenting us for not being protective enough?

I think it’s obvious that kids are more likely to grow up resenting over-protective parents – and they’re right to do so.

Stan April 12, 2007 8:52 AM

Maybe the author of the quoted article got the risks wrong. The author of the quoted article does not cite a source for the statistical information the whole theory of the article is based on, which makes me suspicious.

I did a quick search to try and find out if it is even true that “statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s”, but couldn’t find any reliable sources to support that statement. Can anyone else find anything?

HAL April 12, 2007 9:04 AM

Fattie kids are too heavy to abduct. That is why abduction rates have fallen and in there lies the irony of the situation.

greg April 12, 2007 9:32 AM


Where do you spend the most time? For children, they are at home most of the time.

Its like the whole you more likliy to crash your car within X miles of home. That where folk, on avarage do most of there driving.

All the children abducted/murdered etc added together is a pretty small number in the western world. I’m not not going to do the figures now, but WHO and other groups have information avalible. Most western countries have some statitics departments where you can get information as well.

Rich April 12, 2007 9:40 AM


A wonderful source for commentary on bad statistics is Here is a tidbit from 2002:

On Fox News Channel’s July 16 “O’Reilly Factor,” the host warned that there were “more than 100,000 abductions of children by strangers every year in the United States.” In fact, only 3,000 to 5,000 such abductions are reported annually, and only 200 and 300 of these involve ransom, sexual abuse, or physical harm, including 50 murders. Horrific, yes. An epidemic? No. For the 50 million children under age 13, the chance of being abducted and murdered is literally one in a million.

Spider April 12, 2007 9:45 AM

Statistics can’t save you in every situation.

I can’t jump into a school of sharks in a feeding frenzy and quote the statistics of the rarity of shark attacks as a reason for safety.

Parents should be involved in their children’s lives and understand the environment their children live.

Food consumption is another thing that parents should be concerned about, but its something they have almost complete control over. Eating habits are likely to be taught by the parents. If the parents are the overweight ( due to over consumption/ lack of exercise ) adults, then they aren’t going to be able to teach their kids healthy habits.

Unpreventable unquantifiable risks are always going to be more scary to people than preventable risks.

Jaxon April 12, 2007 10:52 AM

That’s a really interesting proposition… I have thought about that lot; children in today’s world need much greater freedom than they are currently allowed in order to grow into functioning individuals in society.

soundssoreasonable April 12, 2007 10:56 AM

Wandering the streets is such a reasonable idea. Shouldn’t all 6 year olds be dropped daily on the street corners with the largest percentage of drug dealers, murders, and prostitutes with a guarantee of no parental supervision for a few hours? After all, statistics say only 5000 abductions happen annually – it couldn’t be your kid. As an added benefit – between the cocaine and/or running scared for their lives, the kids would certainly be able to keep off the weight.

Stephan Samuel April 12, 2007 11:19 AM

@ Richard Braakman & those who agree,

It may be a theory, as is what HAL wrote. I can come up with ten thousand other theories, some involving aliens or the next messiah. The problem with a theory is that is needs proof before it’s of any use.

The correct solution to the problem has been implemented: teach kids a few common sense rules about not getting kidnapped. I remember being told as a kid, if someone points a gun at you and tries to kidnap you, run away, because if they’re going to shoot you, they should do it right then and there. Kids are never too young to be exposed to reality. More safety measures, including keeping kids indoors, provides marginal safety at too high cost. It’s a false representation of reality.

This is a security problem like every other. There are always going to be criminals and accidents, and some percentage of kids will always die. Thinking otherwise is nothing short of naive. Thinking “it’s not going to be me” has also been habitually proven as the lamest defense of all. Understand risk, make a choice, move on. In this case, your only choice is to risk having your kid either be kidnapped or die of hypertension; you have only one other choice: don’t have kids.

Elizabeth April 12, 2007 1:24 PM

As a woman in her mid-twenties who WAS allowed to run around outside as a child…

My parents did the right thing.

They taught me that guns could and would kill. They taught me (at a very young age) which end was the BOOM end and which end wasn’t, and what kind of damage a gun would do. And then they left the guns out on the gun rack. I knew where the guns were. I knew where the ammo was kept (in the top drawer next to Dad’s side of the bed, I found that out while being a nosy child and snooping one day when I was 6 or so). Because I also knew that dead meant dead and guns were not toys, I never tried to pull one down and play with it, nor did I accidentally shoot my younger sister or any of my friends. This was never an issue or a fear for me or my parents, because my parents took responsibility for raising a child and told me NO and WHY they had to say NO.

My parents did the right thing.

They taught me that strangers might come and try and kidnap me. But they also introduced themselves to neighbors and made friends with them, and introduced me to them and their children. They got to know the layout of the neighborhood. They knew where I was likely to roam, and they gave me boundaries. They met my friends’ parents. They told me what to trust in a person, and what not to trust. They knew the names of my friends, what grade they were in, and what videogames they liked to play. My parents would let me have friends over on rainy days so we COULD play videogames, since it was too wet for us to play outside. Strangers kidnapping me was a possibility, but my parents took responsibility for raising a child and made sure the possibility of such a thing was low, and then allowed me to grow, trusting me to recognize a dangerous person if I saw one, and teaching me about safety in numbers (because what kind of kidnapper kidnaps three or four children out of the backyard?).

My parents did the right thing.

They gave me a bicycle and sneakers and told me not to climb the trees in the front yard because they wouldn’t support my weight. (I did anyway, but carefully. And barefoot.) They didn’t panic when I wandered around the neighborhood with a couple of other kids my age, and we had trashcan lids and sticks and called them “swords and shields”. They didn’t require me to only play with only sanitary things and to use Purell every ten seconds. (They did have me wash up before eating, though.) They let me swing on monkey bars and do pull-ups. They let me run around (though when Mom caught me doing so barefoot, she’d have some words for that) and chase the dog. Climbing into the satellite dish was not allowed, but climbing the fence was okay as long as I didn’t do it too often. I got splinters, I got cuts and scrapes and bruises, I even ripped a toenail completely off once. But my parents didn’t worry about that too much, and I learned how to take care of injuries myself, because with every boo-boo Mom would show me how to clean it out, and how to bandage it, and she’d kiss it and make it better. Because that’s what Moms do.

My parents did the right thing.

They never forced me to eat anything I didn’t want to, or to clean my plate if I put too much food on it (though they usually lectured me about not having eyes bigger than my stomach). If I was hungry, even if it wasn’t a mealtime, I could have a snack. Sure, I ate junk food. But Mom kept it in limited supply, and besides, junk food got old after awhile, especially when Mom would make peanut butter toast cut into triangles (oh! my favorite!) and peel the icky skin off of apples so I could crunch on them. And there would be raisins or other snacky food where my little grubby hands could get to them. And real food always seemed to last in my tummy longer than junk food for running amok, anyway. Mom kept fruits and little peeled carrots and celery with peanutbutter and raisins all within my reach, and cookies were treats (not something for every day). We got pizza ordered in once every two weeks and had a family movie night then. We ate supper at the table, not in front of the TV, and it was real food. Because junk food wasn’t easily accessible, but nor was it off-limits, I had no desire to eat it ALL the time.

My parents did the right thing.

I’m sure my parents were afraid that I might get hurt, or kidnapped, or murdered, or maimed horribly, or otherwise Bad Things Would Happen. But they didn’t get overprotective and worry too much (at least not until I got into high school, and by then the Media started playing their scare stories about how everything was out to get you, and my mother got way too paranoid for anyone’s own good, though she’s gotten better in the past couple years). And I grew up to be independant, assertive, and fairly self-sufficient. I’m not perfect, in fact, I believe I’ve backslid quite a bit (I eat too much junk food and have put on weight, I don’t play outside, and these are things I really should change), I’m still better off than the kids who had parents who left them locked up inside all day. I can interact with other people, I know how to play soccer and volleyball and touch football and tag and Blind-Man’s Bluff. I can swim and do CPR on adults and children (speaking of than, I need to get that renewed). I know how to plant flowers, how to climb trees, and how to pull out a splinter or a bee-sting. I’ve been in fist-fights, and so I know how much damage a fist can do– and how much more words can. I can be a team player, or a team leader. I can recognize the signs of injury or heat exhaustion in another person (or myself). If the world came to an end tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I’d have the guts and abilities to muddle my way through it somehow.

I’ve met kids who spent their whole lives run by their parents and protected. They’d be the first against the wall, crying and throwing a fit about how unfair it is, and how they are calling a lawyer or filing a complaint or SOMETHING.

I feel sorry for them, because they lack the ability to take life as it comes, one change at a time, and do their best to come out on top. They will always need someone holding their hand.

DancingSamurai April 12, 2007 1:37 PM

“In 1972, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13 percent of children get to school under their own power, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Note that this is comparing apples and oranges. How many kids live within a mile of their school these days?

This may be nitpicking but my opinion of the author’s accuracy just took a nose dive.

BoingBoing recently featured an article about this and an initiative to reverse the trend:

Anonymous April 12, 2007 1:37 PM

@Robert Accettura:

The answer is simple; if doctors start asking uncomfortable questions like that every time a woman comes in, women will stop coming in so much. This would include women who stand a good chance of death or debilitating injury if they don’t receive medical treatment. Now consider whether abuse and abduction pose a greater risk to society, or women dropping dead from disease, untreated injuries, unattended childbirth, etc. (in the amounts that such a policy would alter these risks).

Given the trend towards “harm reduction” clinics for drug addicts, “no hassles” HIV testing, and other such medical policies, I’d guess that scaring people away from physicians has already been identified as too socially harmful to be done to mitigate abuse and abduction risk.

HAL April 12, 2007 1:45 PM


Rich April 12, 2007 2:06 PM

I think the math makes sense.

What you multiply the infinite ‘cost’ of having your child abducted with the infinitesimal risk of having your child abducted; you still end up with infinity.

What parents need to do is manage that risk better. e.g. teaching kids that it’s ok to approach a stranger if they need help. What they need to be careful of is strangers approaching THEM.

Gretchen (mom to 4) April 12, 2007 2:33 PM

Who are these parents who don’t let their children go outside due to fear of abduction? One parent’s opinion does not make a national treand.

So his kid’s school does not allow bike-riding by younger children. Is this due to fear of abduction or due to the fact that 60% of children face hazards such as lack of sidewalks or dangerous intersections on their walk to school? Or that in 2000, 44,600 children were treated for pedestrian-related injuries?

I need a stronger argument before I’m going to buy the author’s premise that fear of abduction is creating a generation of overweight, over-sheltered children.

As a side note, our tiny town recently had a spate of incidents where a driver tried to lure a child to his car. The school sent out a bulletin to all parents, which I appreciated. Nobody (that I know of) kept their children inside due to this, but we took steps to reherse our children in what to do if approached by a stranger. While I am cautious with my children’s safety, I always assumed that abduction “won’t happen here.” What should my perception of the risk be now?

FooDooHackedYou April 12, 2007 2:46 PM

huh? what? huh? what about letting the kids play with supervision outdoors? or not letting them eat/drink crap like soda pop, McDonald’s (see SuperSize Me)…

M April 12, 2007 4:44 PM

Clearly the reason kidnappings are decreasing is because children are now too heavy to carry.

Bruce, I used to respect your insightful commentary, but now you’re clearly just a paid stooge for the dieting industry.

You should be ashamed, trying to discourage the use of our most potent weapon against these dangerous people.

UNTER April 12, 2007 5:13 PM

An alternate theory is that the rates of child abduction keep falling because children are being kept indoors more.

I would expect the reverse. As the numbers of kids on the street go down, the kids who are still there (they exist) not only run a higher risk because they are a higher proportion of all kids on the street, but there’s a second order effect: fewer eyes. Fewer other kids to scream, fewer other kids to identify the kidnapper, fewer parents keeping an eye outside. Easier for the kidnapper to identify a vulnerable child with less noise to distract to him. Would a molester approach a park full of kids, or a mostly empty park?

It’s a herd effect. With a large herd, not only is the baby gazelle safer because there are other gazelles for the lions to chase, but the lions have a harder time distinguishing the baby gazelles from the pack.

It’s an interesting dynamic. By misunderstanding the true statistical risk, we may actually increase the risk, and force others to respond by making the situation worse (in their own self-interest).

UNTER April 12, 2007 5:16 PM


There are entire cities that seem devoid of children. It’s not just because the parents are lazy, or overworked. It may be more of an urban phenomenon, but in my neighborhood I can tell (from the cars) that there are a large number of children from 5-15. They’re invisible, inside all the time. I wouldn’t let my kid be the only one outside playing – that is risky.

Tammy April 12, 2007 5:32 PM

On one parenting board I was on, there was a major discussion about at what age you would let your child use the bathroom in a public place unaccompanied – with the underlying assumption being that there was a significant risk that they could be assaulted while doing so. For a surprisingly large number of people, the answer was age 12 or so! I can’t imagine.

We’re lucky enough to live in a community where kids actually go out and play, and we love it.

Just Me in GA April 12, 2007 6:25 PM

Just a thought, but with the drop in spontaneous outdoor play, there is a also an increase in organized after-school activities; softball, swim team, soccer, dance class, etc. Many parents feel this is a safer, but still healthy alternative to unrestricted, unmonitored outdoor play.

rick April 12, 2007 7:13 PM

Streetlights on, time to be home. That was the main gist of it once I was allowed to cross the street by myself.

Maybe one of these days I’ll practice the same thing with my own children (presently 6 and 2) but it might not be until after I shoot the T.V.

Stefan Wagner April 12, 2007 7:59 PM

@UNTER: but there’s a second order effect: fewer eyes. Fewer other kids to scream, fewer other kids to identify the kidnapper, fewer parents keeping an eye outside. … empty park?

Well – a movie-plot kidnapping scenario, imho.
Most offenders aren’t strangers.

Is it the park? I don’t have statistics, too, but I don’t believe playing outside is increasing any risk.

Anonymous April 13, 2007 2:59 AM


Straw-man arguments aren’t useful.

Obviously if you live in a really bad neighborhood, you should exercise extra caution.

6 is also too young to be totally unsupervised.

But that’s entirely irrelevant to the point of the article.

Colossal Squid April 13, 2007 3:48 AM

Gretchen: “Or that in 2000, 44,600 children were treated for pedestrian-related injuries?”

What the hell is a ‘pedestrian-related injury’? Is it when a fat person falls on top of you?

C Gomez April 13, 2007 7:42 AM

Bad parenting isn’t really an example of security, imho.

Generally, in the U.S., it seems a lot of people suck at being parents. These people just look for safe babysitters they can plop kids in front of (TV, video games, etc).

Now, the argument over what we do with those who have been convicted of crimes against children. That’s a debate. When have you “paid your debt”? What rights and freedoms should be returned to you? Should we hold some rights back longer (publishing your location on public web sites)? Does that even accomplish anything? Does it even matter if it accomplishes anything (i.e. what does it accomplish to jail someone for shoplifting? Yet at some point you inflict harsher and harsher punishment, for repeat offenses, right?)

These are difficult questions. To simplify them is not to weigh them.

Aaron April 13, 2007 10:23 AM

I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that people focus on preventing their children being abducted by strangers rather than their weight primarily because they don’t understand the relative changes of each risk triggering. I would submit that there are several other factors:

  • Locus of control – Parents don’t restrain and force-feed their children to make them fat – the child has to actually overeat. But parents are taught that ALL of the tools to prevent abductions lie with them and other adults (schools, police, et cetera).
  • Diminishing perception of randomness – Back in the day, it was understood that children were abducted because they’d had the misfortune to run into a randomly disordered individual. Today, there is a greater perception that contributatory negligence on the part of the parents is a factor in abductions. Since there can be skinny kids and fat kids in the same family, people are more willing to reject strict causality.
  • Higher stakes – A fat child is still around to be loved and to provide love – a dead child is not. Therefore, parents feel better about investing more effort and will be more willing to fight with a child over controlling their movements than controlling their diet.
  • Avoidability of risk – Parents have come to believe that the risk is easy to avoid with simple actions that carry no negative consequences. Refer to the article linked: despite the fact that one parent believes that the majority of traffic around the school is, in fact, predators trolling for victims, he believes that he can easily run that gauntlet just by dropping his children off himself. As childhood obesity becomes more and more ubiquitious, parents feel that there’s less they can do to avoid it. On that same path, in parts of Latin America or the Middle East where abductions for ransom are vary common, the preventative measures that need to be taken are more extreme, and the trade-off is different.
  • Transferability of risk – As more parents sequester their children, the parents of the other children feel that their children are now the only available targets, and thus move to sequester them, to transfer the risk elsewhere. By the same token, if Jack’s parents make sure that he is fit and in shape, that doesn’t place Jill next door at any higher risk of obesity.
  • Immediacy – A murdered child is dead now. Obesity related health complications are a future concern.
  • Perception of responsibility – When a minor child dies, the responsibility is lain at the feet of the responsible adults (sometimes to the exclusion of the actual guilty parties). When an adult dies, even of something that first manifested in childhood, the idea that elders should have done something different in years past is less accepted.

Coupled with the observed effect that a rare, hyped threat is perceived as more common than a common, quiet threat, I’m actually very impressed with people who can maintain their perspective.

Moth April 14, 2007 5:07 AM

Sounds like Elizabeth has talked the most sense here. She has been fortunate in having some very good parents and it shows. I too had parents who didn’t mollycoddle me but always gave me the right direction for my thinking. Our ability to sort the correct information from the vast amount thrown at us is often decisive as well as our knowledge of ourselves and how me might like to interpret this information. The media is responsible for most of the hysteria in our societies and doesn’t always ‘reflect what people think’.

Nancy Jane Moore April 15, 2007 9:24 AM

I read the link coming from the Crypto-Gram, and was amused/appalled to see that the paid ads at the bottom of the story included a link for a toolbar showing sex offenders in your neighborhood and another for a list of registered sex offenders.

Living proof April 16, 2007 6:02 AM

To “Elizabeth”, although I agree that your parents did the right thing, I hope you realize that only a survivor could write your essay. Many other children raised under such a regime don’t survive – there is an inherent selection bias in suvivors’ accounts. So to the extent that you claim your parents did the right thing is proven by the fact that you are a “woman in your mid-twenties”, your claims are baseless. One could collect thousands of stories along the lines of “there were guns in my house and I didn’t get shot dead” coupled with the fact that you can’t find anyone to state the opposite is a nice statistical trick that sways the uncritical.

UNTER April 16, 2007 10:32 AM

Well – a movie-plot kidnapping scenario, imho.
Most offenders aren’t strangers.

Is it the park? I don’t have statistics, too, but I don’t believe playing outside is increasing any risk.

But it’s the movie plots that stick in people’s heads. On top of that, by responding to movie plot scenarios, people have actually increased the probability of those scenarios actually occurring. Of course, the risk of being abducted by a stranger, rather than a relative, is increased by playing outside. In most cases, I’m sure you’re right that it’s minimal, even though in some neighborhoods it’s probably far higher than in an equally indigent neighborhood a few generations ago.

It would be hard to find stats going back far enough, but the movie plot that is rare today, probably was almost non-existent 50 years ago. People’s fantasies/nightmares (primarily) from the 70’s and 80’s have (probably) increased the occurrence of those rare but real events. And the continuing and increasing lock down of children are only likely to both increase the possibility of those events, but also feed the fantasy life of the sort of monster who actually creates those scenarios.

Frank B April 16, 2007 3:53 PM

@Living proof
“Many other children raised under such a regime don’t survive”

I see your point but still, define “Many”?

Paige April 16, 2007 6:06 PM

@ living Proof

There may be a lot of gun-related fatalities among children every year. However, given that we are not dying off as a species, I would posit that the vast majority of children in 1st world countries survive to adulthood. IN Elizabeth’s case, and in my own, it was because Mom and Dad didn’t remove the temptation, they introduced consequences. If I picked up one of their guns, it was under STRICT supervision, and I knew that if did so without permission and survived it, I might wish that I had not, as there is nothing in the world that I hate–then and now–more than being bored.

In the same vein, I also knew what the consquences were for cursing (lick the bar of Ivory soap), fighting with my sister (grounded for 2 weeks. No books, tv, phone, or radio), sneaking out (grounded for a month or more, no ANYTHING but school-books), smoking (Finish the pack. Now. plus grounded for 2 weeks), and a ton of other things. I was never told I couldn’t, but I was told what would happen if I did.

I knew what sort of people to trust because my parents made sure that I was well-socialized in adult society, and that I knew what grown ups usually did. If someone acted differently from that norm, I made sure to stay well clear of them.

To quote someone–I can’t remember who– “if you want a child to stay out of a locked room, you should probably tell them what’s in there, and why it would be bad for them.”

IanN April 18, 2007 2:30 AM

It reminds me of the newpaper headline at start of a recent “Americad Dad”. “Childhood obesity up. Pedophilia down”.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.