Childhood Risks: Perception vs. Reality

Great article on perceived vs actual risks to children:

The risk of abduction remains tiny. In Britain, there are now half as many children killed every year in road accidents as there were in 1922 -- despite a more than 25-fold increase in traffic.

Today the figure is under 9%. Escorting children is now the norm -- often in the back of a 4x4.

We are rearing our children in captivity -- their habitat shrinking almost daily.

In 1970 the average nine-year-old girl would have been free to wander 840 metres from her front door. By 1997 it was 280 metres.

Now the limit appears to have come down to the front doorstep.

[...]

The picket fence marks the limit of their play area. They wouldn't dare venture beyond it.

"You might get kidnapped or taken by a stranger," says Jojo.

"In the park you might get raped," agrees Holly.

Don't they yearn to go off to the woods, to climb trees and get muddy?

No, they tell me. The woods are scary. Climbing trees is dangerous. Muddy clothes get you in trouble.

One wonders what they think of Just William, Swallows And Amazons or The Famous Five -- fictional tales of strange children from another time, an age of adventures where parents apparently allowed their offspring to be out all day and didn't worry about a bit of mud.

There is increasing concern that today's "cotton-wool kids" are having their development hampered.

They are likely to be risk-averse, stifled by fears which are more phobic than real.

EDITED TO ADD (6/9): More commentary.

Posted on June 7, 2007 at 5:54 AM • 69 Comments

Comments

AnonymousJune 7, 2007 6:25 AM

What hasn't been noted is that while the overall rate of abduction is still very low, probably lower than in the past, if there are next to no children "playing out", the actual risk of abduction borne by those who do "play out" will be very much higher.

This happens because the rate of abduction is related to the prevalence of abductors not the prevalence of playing out.

So it might still make sense to keep your children close, and make up for that with supervised activities. 4x4 to Scout meetings anyone?

(The maths is simple. 1 million children play out, 1 abducted, 1 in a million chance that it will be yours. 1000 children play out, 1 abducted, 1 in a thousand that it will be yours -- if you let them play out.)

VickiJune 7, 2007 6:49 AM

That assumes a standard, more or less fixed number of abductions. Is there any evidence for that?

Remember that most of the people who molest children are opportunistic: the primary targets are children they know, who trust them--and whose parents trust them.

It might increase your risk to keep putting your children in supervised activities, and saying "don't go run around, stay with so-and-so" rather than giving them tools for knowing when not to get in someone's car, and the knowledge that they can walk home, they don't have to accept a lift.

Under the fear of abduction, what parents want is for their children not to be assaulted or raped: it isn't "if our kid is raped, at least it will be by someone they know."

TobyJune 7, 2007 6:49 AM

@Anonymous:

true only if the rate of abductions has stayed constant while the number of children "playing out" has decreased.

nzrussJune 7, 2007 6:59 AM

Not only will this new generation be very risk averse, but likley American children will grow up thinking all people from the Middle East are terrorists, and many from the Middle east will grow up with a hatred for the US.... because it is what their parents taught them to do.

The hatred between Catholics and Protestants bread into children in Northern Ireland (at least in the 80's when I was there) is testiment to this.

suomynonaJune 7, 2007 7:02 AM

@Bruce:
irrational fear of the unkown....

@nzruss:
irrational hatred for others....

How long do we have till these children inheret the Nuclear weapons...?

bobJune 7, 2007 7:02 AM

You overcliffnoted your excerpts, it looks like just under 9% of kids are abducted rather than walk to school.

But these kids will get even when they put their parents in nursing homes that dont let them move or breathe.

fgsfdsJune 7, 2007 7:03 AM

If the rate of abductions has remained constant, the risk of playing outside is now higher (See post 2).

If the rate of abductions has fallen, the restrictive strategy being used is obviously effective.

If the rate of abductions has risen, clearly parents should be more, not less, controlling of their children, to compensate for the increased risk.

Clive RobinsonJune 7, 2007 7:27 AM

As a parent in the U.K. I am very aware of what the Media drums up in order to sell papers, and that even politicians are aware of the irationality of it.

For instance one newspaper the "Sun" (also known by many as the SCUM) takes a special delight in "Pedo outing" as does the "News of the World" (also known as the News of the Screws).

And there have been complaints that this has led to inoccent people being witch hunted (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4719364.stm) or mob violonce (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/865633.stm)

The Editor of the Sun (Rebekah Wade) takes every oportunity to tie any news item she can to the "Pedo" line. A recent example was about a footballer who had done something mildly news worthy (I can't remember what). Most newspapers had an artical on it however only the Sun produced an aerial photograph of where he lived and pointed out that a known Pedo lived within a few hundred yards.

The same Editor however thinks it's ok to show pictures of young actresses just into their teans under by lines that imply that they are sexually desirable...

Oh and she has another claim to fame she has been arested for physically abusing her then partner (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1714303.stm ).

It has got to the point where some journos are actually arguing that it is the Government in league with news papers that are drumming up these "Pedo Scares" to cover up other failings


Just about a year ago John Reid's announcement that he was considering some kind of "Sarah's law" drummed up all kinds of press chest beating.

To which one jorno reported,

"If the government isn't careful, it may give rise to a "lynch-mob mentality".

However following Mr Reid's anouncment another politician Roy Hattersley told politicians to stop "pandering to the popular demand to 'lock them up and throw away the key'"; that would require politicians to "deny truth and defy logic", says Hattersley.

So basically Roy Hattersley a politition of many years standing thinks, popular prejudices are irrational - and that it is far better for politicians to make decisions about these matters behind closed doors, away from the baying mob.

MichaelJune 7, 2007 7:27 AM

April 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind has an article by Robert Epstein called "The Myth of the Teen Brain" which indicates western society has been torturing teens with draconian rules worse than we place on prisoners. Evidence of this has shown up physiologically in teen brains. In the past we have said these physiological differences are due to incomplete development - that teens do not yet have an "adult" brain. Except, it turns out teens in non-western societies don't have these abnormalities.

Thus, "protecting" our children from our fears actually physically damages them.

utnapistimJune 7, 2007 8:00 AM

It would be interested in seeing a statistic showing if there's any relationship between restricting children behavior (in the name of safety or otherwise) and any tendency to become sexually deviant (and to become the aggressor of children later for example).

Its already known that overprotecting children for health reasons for example (never out in the rain, never get dirty, never eat fruits directly from the tree etc.) will lead to underdevelopment of the immune system.

GuillaumeJune 7, 2007 8:07 AM

The "cost" of not letting children play outside, on their own, is an externality for the parents. Then it comes back after 15 years or so.

Parents face regular cost of dirty clothes and plasters and infrequent, super-high emotional cost having their children harmed (rape, adbuction, etc.).

[The cost for the child is even greater, up to death, but I am looking from the parent's point of view]

So keeping the children close to home makes economical sense to them. TV is a cheap way to get rid of the risk.

@Michael : Thanks for pointing out that article, it looks interesting !

RoyJune 7, 2007 8:09 AM

Frightening children makes them easier to control, by their parents, their teachers, and their governments. As the children grow up scrared, they remain easily controlled. Isn't that the object of all efforts, to control people?

MikeJune 7, 2007 8:26 AM

I'm going to be British and bring class into this ... I think this survey is very middle and above class oriented.

Where I live at the moment (I'm in my mid-20s - it's cheap) there's no worry of the children being raised as cotton-wool kids - a lot of them are almost feral.

PeterJune 7, 2007 8:31 AM

I believe that there is also an inherent lack of will on the part of parents to accept that most child murder, abuse and abduction takes place in the home and/or by close family members. Most seem to want to believe that the old man in the dirty rain mac and the pocket of sweets in the park is the one to defend against, and not their own spouse or the parent's brother/sister.

Manage risk ? Yes. Delude yourself as to the real risks ? Bad idea.

nzrussJune 7, 2007 8:38 AM

@Mike "a lot of them are almost feral"

Excellent statement... you made my day.

tomJune 7, 2007 8:41 AM

Where my wife grew up, there were woods all around she used to play in. Now, it's all 20 year old houses with narrow roads, no sidewalks, people going 40 in a 25mph zone with cars that have more horsepower then 20 years ago and can accelerate faster. And there are a lot more of them.

She used to ride her bicycle on the street. I'd be afraid to ride there myself now.

woodsrunnerJune 7, 2007 9:13 AM

Utnapistim brings up a good point and one that was touched on in the article. Kids aren't being socialized as they once were and the isolation is going to result in antisocial adults or at least very sad ones.

From the article, "the number of teenagers who don't have a best friend has risen from one in eight 20 years ago to one in five today."

What are kids going to be like that grow up not knowing how to deal with conflict and joy associated with peer relationships? How will they react when they find out the rest of the world doesn't find them as precious as mummy says they are?

And we're starting to see this backlash already in the recent rise in crime as these isolated coddled ones become adults. This next generation is bigger than the boomers... now that's something to be afraid of.

RichJune 7, 2007 9:21 AM

I'd like to know how many abductions are by people who the child knows. Which would indicate that restricting the child's 'wanderings' doesn't do any good anyways.

FPJune 7, 2007 9:32 AM

It is also necessary to consider the stigma of parents that "let something bad happen to their children," no matter how random the event. The media would oust them for not taking proper care.

You're a bad parent if you let your kids ride their bicycle to school. You're a bad parent if you let your kids play outside unsupervised.

It's just easiest for parents to cave to the intense peer and media pressure.

dave tweedJune 7, 2007 9:37 AM

I'm always a bit sceptical when reports suggest that it's entirely down to the parents: if the children really, really wanted to be beyond those limits there'd at least be arguments, and probably no stopping them. So whilst I think parental over-reaction is there and needs to be put into perspective, I don't think that's the only issue. I think it needs to be borne in mind that progressively earlier generations engaged in more and more outdoor activities because they were the most interesting and exciting things available AT THE TIME. I was born in 1974 and I think I tried to climb a tree as a child once, and it was too spindly. Very quickly I found indoor pursuits (tv, computer, reading, ... ) were much more interesting than the range of outside activities.

I'm not saying we shouldn't find ways of encouraging children to be outside for their health and development, but I think we need to accept that even without fearmongering it's not what they're naturally going to want to do these days.

PaulJune 7, 2007 10:12 AM

We're deluded if we think that our actions are "protecting" our kids.

We confine them to the home and shuttle them from place to place in the back seat of a car. All that does is remove them from the real world. It takes away the opportunity to explore, interact and learn from their surroundings as my peers and I did. It trades off a tiny risk of adbuction/serious injury/death for a near certainty of being inactive, overweight and dangerously unhealthy (because they're still eating the same crap that I did, only now they don't go out and have bicycle races for 3 straight hours afterwards).

We keep our kids close, tucked under our wings, and paint the outside world as this scary, bad place filled with kidnappers, rapists and murderers, yet expect the same kids to strike out into it without our constant support once they reach adulthood! Anyone else see a problem in the making here?

We're becoming a society of clean-freaks, never straying too far from the instant hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Never mind that humanity has survived and thrived without them until relatively recently, never mind that our immune systems develop by exposure to pathogens in the environment. Everything has to be super-squeaky clean, with 99.9% of germs eliminated, just like the adverts tell us. I can't help but think of the Golgafrinchans from "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", who exiled into space, among others, all the people who worked as "telephone sanitizers". Then died out entirely due to a disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

I suspect it also means that, when we *do* see children out on the streets, we're more likely to treat them with suspicion, because they're probably the "feral" ones who are out roaming entirely unsupervised, with no sort of parental concern whatsoever.

What a mess we're making for ourselves...

whoaManJune 7, 2007 10:27 AM

Bruce,
Do you have kids? I think you might be oversimplifying things a bit. It's easy to state a problem but not quite as easy to state a solution, or solutions. So, here's my challenge to you sir :) become part of the solution or solutions. Peace.

Geoff LaneJune 7, 2007 10:40 AM

Child kidnap by strangers is _very_ rare. The current high profile case in Portugal is significant because it currently appears to be one of these rare instances. But the big threats to children remain the usual "friends and family" and to base any kind of safely policy on the unusual instead of the common is bound to result in failure.

BummedinBrooklynJune 7, 2007 10:45 AM

"I blame the media - fear sells papers, but does damage."

I tend to agree with the above as the media is out of control these days in almost everything they cover. They have ruined the simple joy of kids going out trick or treating on Halloween in the US by rabidly reporting about a very few sickos who stick razor blades in apples, etc. Now almost every big storm is another "storm of the century". Presidential politics are over covered as if the fate of the human race hangs in the balance of how the Iowa caucuses turn out. Their latest frenzied coverage in the New York City area is over a poor three year old who somehow managed to get over multiple fences and a closed gate and was found drowned in a suburban pool on Long Island. The response to this tragedy will most likely be all out of proportion to the event and the number of these occurrences and people may have start having to hire round the clock security if they want to keep their pools.

Link to that story is below:
http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-lidrwn0607,0,7088432.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

supersnailJune 7, 2007 10:45 AM

"They are likely to be risk-averse, stifled by fears "

I think the opposite happens. Having been brough up in such a protected enviroment these kids are suddenly released into the adult world with no experience of judging risks and dangers for themselves. Consequently they take absurdly dangerous risks with fast cars, drugs and drug related people. They argue with people in bars that any sensible adult would know not to argue with. They pick fights with portal personnel at night clubs.

DavidkevinJune 7, 2007 11:01 AM

If it's your child who's disappeared, then suddenly the rate of disappearance is 100% -- your entire world is gone.

I don't regret for one second the precautions my wife and I have taken for our sons, the elder of whom is developmentally disabled. He's sixteen (and his neurotypical brother is thirteen), and they're alive and here with us, so far as we know, because of the precautions we've taken.

I vowed at the beginning that we would never be the parents mourning for their lost, dead child or children, wishing desperately that we'd done things differently. In this quantum reality, my children are alive and at home, and I like it that way!

nzrussJune 7, 2007 11:10 AM

I've been thinking about this:

Why go exploring trees when you can look at every type of tree on Flickr.

Why walk to the top of the hill when you can use google earth to look beyond the horizon.

Why walk down the road to meet your neighbors when you IM someone on the opposite side of the planet.

Perhaps the definition of exploring is just different now.

BrettJune 7, 2007 11:31 AM

I heard a story on local news yesterday about a young boy who died of a rare infection from a tick bite. The family was very familiar and had taken all the right precautions (insect repellent, clothing, tick-checks), but it happened anyway.

The moral of the story (at least the recommendation of the expert they interviewed): DON'T TAKE CHILDREN INTO THE WOODS.

I couldn't believe it.

another bruceJune 7, 2007 11:36 AM

what is a "cotton-wool" kid? if this was intended to be disparaging, it missed the mark. i don't like artificial fabrics, at age 52 i'm a 100% cotton-wool man.

NostromoJune 7, 2007 11:42 AM

@Peter
"Most seem to want to believe that the old man in the dirty rain mac and the pocket of sweets in the park is the one to defend against"
Actually, when a child is abducted, it is more often by a woman than by a man. Most people believe the opposite.

MikeJune 7, 2007 11:46 AM

@nerftheworld

You mean "Children of jihad vs. children of the West", not "middle eastern versus western children"

Don't help propogate ignorant views, even if you are being sarcastic.

getOutThereJune 7, 2007 11:55 AM

@nzruss

"Perhaps the definition of exploring is just different now."

Why go outside and get some exercise and maybe smell some roses and have some social interaction when I can just stay glued to my computer screen and become even more nerdy, obese & out of shape?

drememyndJune 7, 2007 12:29 PM

@getOutThere

I am a woman who grew up in the 70's with my parents always wanting me to "go outside and play like normal children". I didn't want to, much anyway, as a natural nerd and introvert, books and indoor pursuits held my interest, and when I was outside it was to see how my botanical "experiments" were doing.

Once I got a computer, it was all I spent my time on. I grew up to be a classical nerd / software engineer who makes plenty of money, thank you. And I'm not completely out of shape, mainly because I recognize that my mind can not function at its peak if my body deteriorates too far.

I think that children are people, and people have different ideas of what is fun, and what is exploration, and how many friends they want and need, and whether they want to "play outdoors".

I do, however, think that if you notice your children want to play aggressive video games (or watch aggressive television) all day long, it's probably not because they are aggressive people, but because they are the kind of people who if they weren't cooped up all day long would be out playing physical games and exploring the woods, and climbing trees, and they either aren't allowed to or don't know how because they've never done it, and none of their friends do it anymore either. The "exciting" TV and video games are as close as they can get.

I don't think it's right to protect children from the real world. And yes, I have 3 of my own. They were sort of like me when they were young, but they hit their teen years and were out and about with friends doing who knows what, and I felt that was better than over protecting them and telling them they couldn't. Did I worry, of course I did! I just did the best I could to let them know what the dangers were, and hoped they were smart enough to take precautions. I think by the time a child is a teenager they are not really kids anymore, and need to make and learn from their mistakes, and any person who imagines otherwise is deluded.

phred14June 7, 2007 1:01 PM

As someone else mentioned, things really are very different now than when we were kids, and the single simplest example is the increase in traffic. Combine that with suburban sprawl and you pretty much take away the chance for kids to go play in the woods. (What woods, it's housing now. Play in the traffic to get there?)

On a similar front, our kids and their friends wanted to dig holes, and were starting to do so in the front yard. So we found a spot in the back yard, and said, "dig here." And they did. There were hours of fun over several summers to be had in, "The Muck Pirate Pit." My wife would hose the kids down before they were allowed back in the house, but they didn't know that from fun, either.

These days I hear about people paranoid over germs, using antibacterial this and that. Then on the other hand, I'm hearing other reports that if you don't give some sort of regular challenge to the immune system it can get a bit wacky, going after parts of the body itself, in the worst case.

Grandmothers said it right, "You'll eat dirt before you die." There's both truth and value in that.

UNTERJune 7, 2007 1:25 PM

Is this Anglophonic phenomena? I don't see this thinking in the Hispanophonic world. This deep paranoia exists in the US and Britain - and not just about children. In everything, we're deeply paranoid and process-oriented - we imagine that we need to control everything. Is this true in the rest of the English-speaking world?

The funniest thing is that at least Americans are unable to recognize it. It's become so culturally embedded that we believe it's reality and not a mass delusion or hysteria. It's always reasonable when everyone else assumes that it's true.

ZianJune 7, 2007 2:57 PM

@supersnail
I agree 100%. I've had to manage 20+ teenagers before and it's painfully obvious.

I also agree with the other commenters that there are very few opportunities to just go and have fun in suburbia.
At home, "having fun" has to be a pre-planned _car_ trip to the "local" park. Sure, they could bike there...if they could bike 3+ miles up a steep incline.

And of course, park != trees to play in.

This may make me sound insane but when I went to an old large regional park a few months ago with actual trees, I photographed it all over and even tried to hop onto 1 of the trees (aka climb it). Why? Because it was the first time I had a chance to ever since moving to California.

nerftheworldJune 7, 2007 3:11 PM

@Mike

It's easy to point the finger at me and say "ignorant" simply because you don't like what's being pointed out. It's a lot more difficult to look at the actual facts and deal with them.

In case you missed it, here's the transcript:
http://www.memritv.org/Transcript.asp?P1=1468

The video is of the graduation ceremony for the "Islamic Association". Does this group exist in Japan or Russia? Do the children live in Australia or Mexico? Is the group putting this on TV, Hamas, propped up by the Canadian or Brazilian governments? No - in every case dealing with geography, the "Middle East" is where these jihadists are teaching their kids to hate the great satan (i.e. the west and Israel). Are ALL middle easterners being indoctrinated this way? Probably not and I certainly hope not. However, this is definitely a middle eastern problem.

Arguing over the syntax of who these people are is kind of petty in the face of kindergarteners wearing ski masks, carrying rifles, and yelling "Death for the sake of Allah" at their school graduation though, don'tcha think?

AnonymousJune 7, 2007 3:51 PM

@nerftheworld: 'the "Middle East" is where these jihadists are teaching their kids to hate the great satan (i.e. the west and Israel). Are ALL middle easterners being indoctrinated this way? Probably not and I certainly hope not. However, this is definitely a middle eastern problem.'
You have it backwards. The founders of Israel created most of the hatred, by driving 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. The West attracted some of it by uncritically supporting Israel.
The history is more complicated than this, and we're off-topic already, but by parroting the standard American bias, you're illustrating the problem better than you realize. You've been indoctrinated as much as the people you criticize have, just more subtly.

RoxanneJune 7, 2007 3:52 PM

Yep. Some people are appalled that I let my son (age 14) walk the approximately one mile from his school to my husband's office, through the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. I tell them about my boyfriend, who took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, every day, for school, starting when he was 12. They are appalled. They try to argue that somehow, it's more dangerous in Ann Arbor than it was in NYC, and I just look at them funny. I tell them that in three years, my son might well be enrolled at the university here; he'd bleeping well better be able to find his way around town! Then they look at me funny in a different way, as they realize that *their* son will have to do the same thing - and probably not in Ann Arbor either, but in some random town elsewhere.

The other thing I tell people is that I hope that my kids will be able to walk through Amsterdam and make intelligent choices. Not telling them what those choices are going to be is just stupid.

ColoRamblerJune 7, 2007 4:58 PM

--- Yep. Some people are appalled that I let my son (age 14) walk the approximately one mile from his school to my husband's office, through the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. ---

When I was 14 (mid - 1980s) I already had several years' experience casually hopping the bus to visit the downtown library (about 5 miles), among other places. I walked to and from school since I was 6 and attended movies by myself since I was 11.

I was a very risk-averse child (and teenager) by the standards of the time. I find it amazing how much things have changed on this one count in the last 20 years.

I am currently spending a lot of time riding bikes around town with my eldest daughter (10) in part to show her that the "real world" is not scary at all (so long as you pay reasonable attention to traffic along the way...)

CassandraJune 7, 2007 5:25 PM

Hmm, this is in danger of becoming the 4 yorkshiremen sketch

When I had to go to school when I was nine, it was four miles uphill both ways in the snow...

Cassie

UNTERJune 7, 2007 6:46 PM

@Roxanne

Is that AA, MI? Lord, what a bunch of wimps we've become if Ann Arbor is too scary for teenagers! That's about as softy-safe place as exists. Scary, scary professors and college students attacking unwary teenagers.

Lawrence D'OliveiroJune 7, 2007 10:15 PM

Speaking of 4x4s, here in NZ the roads around schools have become quite dangerous places around starting and finishing times. There's been quite a risk of kids being run over by--what else? All those parents dropping off and picking up their kids, because they don't believe school buses (or walking, or cycling) is safe enough!

AnonymousJune 8, 2007 1:27 AM

@another bruce

Cotton wool is the processed but unspun cotton used for a variety of medical and household purposes.

David HarperJune 8, 2007 6:24 AM

The British news media love nothing better than a good scare story, and if it isn't supported by actual facts, so much the better.

Witness the hysteria that is currently being drummed up about the "risk" of radiation from wi-fi hotspots in schools. One hypochondriac teacher stands up at a conference and claims that he has suffered headaches since his school installed wi-fi, and suddenly the newspapers are full of panic stories about the dangers of wi-fi networks.

Before that, the panic was about cellphone base stations and the "terrible danger" they pose to childrens' delicate little brains.

And before that, of course, we had the notorious scare about the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, with self-appointed experts (often from the alternative medicine school of bullshittery) asserting that childrens' immune systems couldn't possibly cope with *three* different challenges at once. If that were true, then none of us would survive childhood!

I'm ashamed to say that the British public seems to enjoy being whipped into a frenzied panic about one imaginary "threat" after another by a news media that is almost 100% ignorant of basic science.

BrooklynNYLiferJune 8, 2007 8:35 AM

@Roxanne
"I tell them about my boyfriend, who took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan, every day, for school, starting when he was 12."

This stuff is all relative as a life long resident of Brooklyn, NY and a daily subway rider, I just laugh when I go other places and people tell be to watch out for myself because certain areas are "dangerous". I was on one business trip to Vancouver, BC when one other conference attendee came up to me and told me to stay away from the downtown area right outside the hotel as there are bad people looking to drag me into an alley and attack me with an AIDS poisoned hypodermic needle. I had already been walking all over downtown Vancouver since I had arrived in town and if anyone "dangerous" started to approach me I just gave them my long practiced "don't mess with me stare" and they backed off.

Conversely the only place I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable on a trip was in downtown Albuquerque, NM when it was like the "Night of the Living Dead" after sundown with so many, apparently harmless, homeless people moving about. It may also have been like that because there appeared to be no high rise residential apartment buildings in that area so after the office workers had gone home the only people left were us tourists, a few college students, and these poor souls.

dmcJune 8, 2007 1:55 PM

I'd have to agree with @FP and @ColoRambler...

There is a fair amount of peer pressure from people in the community (probably based on media fear mongering) against "permissiveness". I'd be more afraid of neighbors turning me in to DYFS if I allowed my kids to wander around, than that anything much would actually happen to them. So my kids are pretty much restricted to my lawn without my presence. This is in contrast to my own childhood in NYC taking myself from one end of Manhattan to the the other every morning at age 10. But I figured this was a 'burbs-vs-city thing.

GertieJune 8, 2007 2:21 PM

If you guys would just slow down when you travel through my town, I'd be more willing to let my kids walk to the park by themselves. People drive through my little suburban town like it was the Indy 500, jabbering on cell phones the whole time. I've almost been mowed down a few times myself.

MarilynnJune 8, 2007 3:52 PM

Ah, the good ole days when families had many children and could afford to lose a few to negligence; no thanks. I have one and I'm holding on to him.

simongabrielJune 8, 2007 4:23 PM

As someone who grew up in a midsized town (about 125k) my neighborhood (kind of a suburby sort of thing) was several miles in each direction. Bike rides to parks and friends houses was common, and often were from one corner to the other and all over (picture those family circus strips).

In addition, regular city bus trips downtown to the library, walking a couple of miles each way for lunch in the summer (just me and my dad, and he worked). All this was from the ages of 6 to 10. Heck, those lunch walks involved crossing an overpass over the freeway!

Never a worry though. Taught what was right and wrong, how to be safe, and that was that. Obviously risks might be higher now than then, but at some point kids need to experience this sort of thing. Locked up in a room with videogames all day is just not a healthy way to grow up.

DavidkevinJune 8, 2007 6:19 PM

> Hmm, this is in danger of becoming
> the 4 yorkshiremen sketch
>
> When I had to go to school when I was
> nine, it was four miles uphill both
> ways in the snow...

And my great-grandchildren will be telling my great-great grandchildren about how the young ones have it easy, because in *their* day they had to walk *fifty_feet* to the teleporter pad which beamed them to school....

Nancy LebovitzJune 9, 2007 5:57 AM

The fear of childhood obesity might be overdone, too.

In any case, I wonder if the worry about health and safety is going to last indefinitely. I've been trying to imagine what it would be like if the culture gets sick of being so frightened, and snaps over to people refusing to be especially careful.

FingalJune 9, 2007 11:56 AM

nerftheworld and others on the subject of kindergarten-age indoctrination into Jihad:

- Michelle Malkin is well known for her hysterical, race-baiting hyperbole, and should not be considered a source of unbiased information.

- I know she is from the USA, but despite the depressing strength of the Republican Noise Machine, her point of view is not the "standard American" one.

What she alleges as facts *could* be true, but if she said the sun was out, I'd reach for my raingear before going outside to check for myself.

-F.

FingalJune 9, 2007 12:15 PM

As for whether jihadi-tykes are a purely Middle-Eastern phenom, I remember a 60 Minutes piece from 20 years ago or so about White Supremacist communities in the US that included video of a teacher of young children asking the class, "Who do we hate?" and the children answering in unison, "Niggers and Jews!"

No ethnic group has a monopoly on nutcases. It *can* happen here.

-F.

nbk2000June 9, 2007 6:11 PM

developmentally disabled...neurotypical

Is this Orwellian New-Speak for 'Retarded' and 'Normal'?

The outside world doesn't use terms like 'neurotypical', so that's one strike against your parenting.

The risks to our children isn't only the physical risk of injury or abduction, but also the weakening of their mental skills by such things as PC speech, self-censoring, illogical logic, group-think, and other thought-crime.

It doesn't matter how physically healthy they are if they're mental cripples.

DavidkevinJune 10, 2007 1:50 AM

nbk2000:

> developmentally
> disabled...neurotypical
>
> Is this Orwellian New-Speak for
> 'Retarded' and 'Normal'?
>
> The outside world doesn't use terms
> like 'neurotypical', so that's one strike
> against your parenting.

Poorly educated *and* ill-mannered, such a charming combination.

Orwell's Newspeak was a degenerating language, one in which the number of words was decreasing as words used for precise shades of meaning were discarded in favor of imprecise word-bludgeons to create a mindset of all-or-nothing, with full Party support and treason remaining the only choices. By contrast, Modern English is a living, growing language in which new words are created to more accurately describe reality if older words fail to achieve the necessary precision.

Your characterization of new, more precise terminology as "Newspeak" shows how you've *embraced* Newspeak, with its War-is-Peace, Freedom-is-Slavery mindset. I'll wager you didn't even think about what you wrote, relying instead on your bellyfeel that "words I don't know are ungood."

My disabled, honor student son laughed at your characterization of my parenting as poor because I carefully choose my words. I, on the other hand, am sorry for the parenting you received, as I was raised to regard it as rude for adults to call children names, and even more so, cowardly to do it from behind a pseudonym.

Fog DudeJune 10, 2007 10:16 PM

In 1970, when I was 7, I walked alone every day along a busy highway to and from a bus stop. Now my parents would be arrested for letting me do that.

David ConradJune 11, 2007 2:53 PM

Davidkevin: Where did nbk2000 call your son names? Do you mean when he used the term 'retarded'? It isn't 'calling names' to call your son retarded if he's retarded. That may not be the preferred term these days, but it means *exactly* the same thing you meant when you referred to your son as 'developmentally disabled'.

Theobald SmithJune 11, 2007 3:30 PM

David Conrad, are you illiterate, or did you just miss the point where "retarded" became pejorative, sometime back in the '80s?

DavidkevinJune 11, 2007 4:32 PM

David Conrad:

"Developmentally disabled" means *exactly* the same thing as "retarded"?

You're not even close, sport. What part of "honor student" did you have trouble comprehending?

There's more than one kind of developmental disability. And while which kind he has is none of your damned business, I will say it isn't mental retardation.

For future reference, we can just assume for purpose of rhetoric that anybody else who feels the need to build up their self-image by insulting my son is automatically an ass; that way I don't have to waste my time.

JabbaJune 11, 2007 5:20 PM

Bah @ 4X4 hate. I am a suburbanite, a IT security engineer and a 4X4 (Jeep Liberty) owner (as many of my work-mates are). We go out on weekends, "on the trail", up the mountain and in the "proper" forest. We take our families with us - I take my 3 year old - and tree climbing is among the least dangerous things that I teach him and we do together - and yes, he does get to do things on his own - and oftentimes may get a punch in the face from older kids. We put up tents and cook beans and bacon , we tell stories and the kids love it.

Go on, tell me I could do all these in a Prius too.

Jab.

nbk2000June 11, 2007 9:19 PM

For the record, anyone who uses a generic term like 'developmentally disabled', and then gets pissy about being asked if that means retarded (note the ? in my original statement, meaning it's a question), have no grounds for being thought somewhat slow themselves for not making the exact nature of the 'disability' clear in the first place, if they wished to avoid being called on it.

Newspeak, Mr. Prole, isn't only about removing words, but also about diluting the meaning of an existing word with many others, all which mean the same thing, but let elitists con themselves into thinking 'He's not retarded, he's neuro-linguistically challenged!' or some such non-sense.

Honor student? This wouldn't be another PC euphemism for 'too stupid to pass the neuro-typical's course, but no child left behind!', now would it? Another PC feel-good measure for self-esteem?

If not, and the child actually is ahead of the neuro-typicals, then he's not really 'developmentally disabled', is he?

Or is this some code-word used by schools nowadays (having graduated several decades ago myself) for 'Can do the work, but is an uncontrollable brat in class.'?

But this isn't about your son, this is about you...a whiny git who can't say what he means and hides behind linguistic vagaries, using them to weasel out of logical corners to find whatever meaning best suits him at the time.

You wouldn't be a lawyer by any chance, now would you? :p

Of course I'm saying all this while I'm hiding behind a pseudonym...a pseudonym I've used for 7 years on dozens of sites for tens of thousands of posts (with PGP verifiable identity) to establish and maintain an online reputation....because I'm hiding from you. :rolleyes:

The opinions of children, and those who are boy-men, are of no interest to adults.

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