Irrational Fear of Risks Against Our Children

There's a horrible story of a South Carolina mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a park while she was at work. The article linked to another article about a woman convicted of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" for leaving her 4-year-old son in the car for a few minutes. That article contains some excellent commentary by the very sensible Free Range Kids blogger Lenore Skenazy:

"Listen," she said at one point. "Let's put aside for the moment that by far, the most dangerous thing you did to your child that day was put him in a car and drive someplace with him. About 300 children are injured in traffic accidents every day -- and about two die. That’s a real risk. So if you truly wanted to protect your kid, you'd never drive anywhere with him. But let’s put that aside. So you take him, and you get to the store where you need to run in for a minute and you’re faced with a decision. Now, people will say you committed a crime because you put your kid 'at risk.' But the truth is, there’s some risk to either decision you make.” She stopped at this point to emphasize, as she does in much of her analysis, how shockingly rare the abduction or injury of children in non-moving, non-overheated vehicles really is. For example, she insists that statistically speaking, it would likely take 750,000 years for a child left alone in a public space to be snatched by a stranger. "So there is some risk to leaving your kid in a car," she argues. It might not be statistically meaningful but it’s not nonexistent. The problem is,"she goes on, "there's some risk to every choice you make. So, say you take the kid inside with you. There’s some risk you'll both be hit by a crazy driver in the parking lot. There’s some risk someone in the store will go on a shooting spree and shoot your kid. There’s some risk he'll slip on the ice on the sidewalk outside the store and fracture his skull. There’s some risk no matter what you do. So why is one choice illegal and one is OK? Could it be because the one choice inconveniences you, makes your life a little harder, makes parenting a little harder, gives you a little less time or energy than you would have otherwise had?"

Later on in the conversation, Skenazy boils it down to this. "There’s been this huge cultural shift. We now live in a society where most people believe a child can not be out of your sight for one second, where people think children need constant, total adult supervision. This shift is not rooted in fact. It’s not rooted in any true change. It’s imaginary. It’s rooted in irrational fear."

Skenazy has some choice words about the South Carolina story as well:

But, "What if a man would've come and snatched her?" said a woman interviewed by the TV station.

To which I must ask: In broad daylight? In a crowded park? Just because something happened on Law & Order doesn't mean it's happening all the time in real life. Make "what if?" thinking the basis for an arrest and the cops can collar anyone. "You let your son play in the front yard? What if a man drove up and kidnapped him?" "You let your daughter sleep in her own room? What if a man climbed through the window?" etc.

These fears pop into our brains so easily, they seem almost real. But they're not. Our crime rate today is back to what it was when gas was 29 cents a gallon, according to The Christian Science Monitor. It may feel like kids are in constant danger, but they are as safe (if not safer) than we were when our parents let us enjoy the summer outside, on our own, without fear of being arrested.


Posted on August 11, 2014 at 9:34 AM • 92 Comments


DBAugust 11, 2014 9:53 AM

It's implied, but just to be clear, it's the same as the irrational fear of terrorism that drives worldwide human society on this steady march toward giving up any and all freedom and liberty and human rights forever.

MusashiAugust 11, 2014 10:05 AM

The world has gone crazy!
From the age of 7, I walked to and from school alone! From aged 8, when I got back from school, I'd go to the park to play Tennis/Cricket/Football until it was dark! (Back in the 1980s)
These people are slaves to their fears!
What a miserable time to be a child!
What a miserable time to be a parent!

Personally, I blame the all pervasive 24hr News-cycle, coupled to lawyers suing everyone for negligence, for terrifying people

M@August 11, 2014 10:18 AM

Great. I can't wait to go to jail when my forthcoming child is raised similar to I was: Taught self-control, instead of have control exerted on you constantly. Great.

tzAugust 11, 2014 10:38 AM

How many children died of being in an overheated car when they were allowed to legally be in the front seat (and we can disable air bags today)? Also, mothers of newborns seem to have a "distracted driver" problem worse than texting. We need to get every new mother a pickup without a back seat (where it is legal to keep the child in the front).

vas pupAugust 11, 2014 10:45 AM

Old story: real risk versus psychological perception of risk. Was discussed multiple times on this respected blog related to other risks.

NobodySpecialAugust 11, 2014 10:53 AM

>But, "What if a man would've come and snatched her?" said a woman interviewed by the TV station.

This is why we need to arm infants now.

Bill HovinghAugust 11, 2014 10:55 AM

Disappointed that the CSM article on lowered crime rates didn't mention the strong correlation between the decrease in crime and the reduction in environmental lead.

Thomas C.August 11, 2014 10:58 AM

This pre-dates social media. I suspect it's all the negative news stories we cannot avoid on TV, radio and in print.

DBAugust 11, 2014 11:04 AM

Negative media has always been there since the dawn of time... Increased accessibility of it via the internet and sharing via social media could be new though.

G. BaileyAugust 11, 2014 11:09 AM

Everyone is quick to blame media saturation for the current climate of fear surrounding children.

I have to wonder if it's not really down to two other factors, though:

* Having nothing substantial to fear. No cold war, no worries that Johnny won't get back from Iwo-Jima, no polio, small-pox, etc. This just leaves the boogey-man.

* Having fewer children. When you had 4-5 kids, I'm not sure you expected them all to make it. They also did a good job of protecting each other. Overall, you were much less worried about each one.

Jarrod FratesAugust 11, 2014 11:10 AM

While I completely agree with the article, I think it misses the question of necessary risks--those which deal with imminent threat of harm--while it discusses acceptable risks--those which deal with possible threat of harm.

Let us presume that there is a real need to go to the store because the house is out of food. Let us also presume that no one else can go to the store for her. Not going to the store means almost certainly inflicting harm upon the child by not feeding him. Therefore, the parent chooses to go to the store for food. There is greater risk in leaving the child at home (a 4-year-old left unsupervised in the home can get in all kinds of trouble, some involving injury, some not), so the mother takes the son with her. Going to the store entails a necessary risk (to both) of getting into an accident.

At this point, we get into acceptable risks. It is not necessary for the child to accompany the mother while she gets food. Neither is it necessary for the child to remain outside while she gets food. Either way (barring outside interference), the mother is going to buy food and return to the car.

What is the risk of child abduction in the car, compared to the risk of abduction in the store? There is, of course, a reason that Code Adam exists. A child who wanders off in the store can be (more or less) easily taken outside by a stranger.

It's hard to find exact numbers of children abducted based on location, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children mentioned that in 1999, when crime rates were significantly higher than today, a mere 115 children out of more than 250,000 abducted children were "stereotypical" kidnappings involving the child being "held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently." Of those 115, how many happened from parking lots?

This needs to be compared to the number of children injured or killed in accidents within stores. My suspicion is that, aside from obvious factors like extreme temperatures (children have been killed by cold in winter), it may be mathematically safer to leave the kids in the car for a few minutes, though the difference will probably not be statistically significant, just like the risk of "stereotypical" abduction from either location is not statistically significant.

When it gets to temperatures, we will in many cases be moving back to the necessary risk point. If the outside temperature is 70F and the child is left in the car for a few minutes, harm is unlikely. But the warmer it gets, the more likely the harm. Leaving a child in the car when it's 90F or warmer outside starts turning the risk of taking the child into the store from an acceptable risk into a necessary risk. That's a discussion worth having.

JRDAugust 11, 2014 11:17 AM

Old story but now parents are being arrested for it. It's one thing for the government to waste billions of dollars on terrorism (more like "terrorism") fetishism but now a couple of parents have been arrested. It's time for action!

I'm not really joking but it's way past time for the average person to realize how bad the human brain is at risk analysis and to, you know, think about stuff instead of gut reacting.

It may take stories like these to make people look at society and figure out we've gone too far. Then again, they may just keep thinking how much better they are than those *other* parents and hover even more.

AlanSAugust 11, 2014 11:24 AM

Risk is a moral category.

Pointing out that the actions aren't rational; that the actual probability is incredibly small and much smaller than other risks that are commonly accepted misses the point. It changes nothing. Will all those people thinking/behaving irrationally all of a sudden have a Damascus moment? I think not.  Risk is a technology that manufactures social reality. It is a technology of control. Ask instead: what do the discourses and practices of risk do? What sort of social relationships do they create?

paldubeeAugust 11, 2014 11:45 AM

What children have to fear the most are their own parents and siblings. These are the ones that can do the most damage to a child.

AnuraAugust 11, 2014 11:52 AM

Another related issue is the sex offender registry. Not only does the sex offender registry not solve anything - the vast majority of child abuse cases and abductions are by family members, and the vast majority of offenders are not registered sex offenders - but the ease of getting on the registry means that even people who no one in their right mind would consider a danger (such as a teenager who has taken nude pictures of themself or has nude pictures of their boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone who urinates in public) are branded for life as a sex offender and are subject to arcane restrictions.

HJohnAugust 11, 2014 12:09 PM

As implied above, modern media and communication fuels some of this fear. Not usually maliciously or even deliberately, just by nature of modern technology.

Decades prior, an abduction would be a local report, in a local newspaper, in local news. Even local citizens may not know it until that evening or the next day. Now, in the modern world, a local abduction will be on television, radio, internet, facebook, twitter, cell phone alerts, etc. It's understandable that pictures of the child and abductor (if known) will be posted and shared and passed on to increase the chance of finding them.

Since they can travel at 70 mph and literally be hundreds of miles away, having pictures outrun the perpetrator is in many ways a good thing. A pedophile assaulted a child in a Chicago Wal Mart a few years ago, and was found in Oklahoma hours a couple days later.

In many ways, having a potential perpetrator feel that he can't outrun technology and cannot hide anywhere with his picture a national buzz is probably a pretty strong deterrent.

However, none of the positives change the fact that our kids are relatively safe now. There are nearly 100 million children in this country, and one tragedy does not put them all at risk. Let kids be kids.

WinterAugust 11, 2014 12:23 PM

Disclosure: I walked to and from kindergarten alone in the 1960s. In a city in Europe. I had to cross streets. (But traffic was light then)

It sounds to me as if the current trend is to get children used to be locked up 24/7 until they are 16 (21?).

paulAugust 11, 2014 12:31 PM

I think paldubee has it. Worrying about strangers and kids is a great way to displace concern about non-strangers and kids. At my sons' daycare a few years back, they were handing out a book called "Keep Your Child Safe"; most of it was about the obvious not leaving poisons around, putting infant gates on stairs and suchlike. But there was one chapter that started by saying "The vast majority of deliberate injuries to children are from family members, but we're not going to talk about that, instead we're going to talk about how to be paranoid with your kid around strangers."

There are also a lot of ways that our surroundings (in the US at least) have gotten more hostile to children, with suburban sprawl, higher speed limits on secondary roads, relatively fewer people living in walking distance from parks or schools. It's a lot more comforting to focus on danger from outside than on danger from the choices we've collectively made.

Jean WAugust 11, 2014 12:32 PM

The analysis seems too simplistic.
The Child's status has also morphed a lot since fuel was much cheaper.
You had bigger broods, presumably from which one or two could go missing or be damaged without the world ending; damaged and lost children, while individually as greatly felt a pain as ever they will be, were a more salvable loss with spares.

There is also a marked fetishisation of The Child by the army of what many call loosely the Godbags. There is a definite smell of witch-hunting in the air over childhood/babyhood in general these days, and the more a parent can be made to feel transgressive, the easier the Godbags find it to control them.
Marketers are not leaving it alone either.

Thus the risks these days around leaving these appreciating assets unattended may be a diminishingly small thing, but the sequelae of the loss of such great assets are feared differently enough currently as to make people loath to risk such loss.
This is the reverse kind of situation to that of spending big on tickets in a lottery that has vanishingly tiny odds for a single jackpot win.
Both appear a bit nuts, but the big loss is as bad a prospect as the big win is a magnet; both have the promise of huge positive or negative payoffs and induce inflated responses that seem at first look to be irrational.

Which all makes for even happier hunting grounds for the criminal, since the truly neglected child is so much easier to spot and nab when the rest of their peers are safely chained to their running wires.
We kids also used to look out for each other. Safety in large groups of our peers was no small thing.

DanielAugust 11, 2014 12:41 PM

Some will surely find the following remark tendentious but honesty requires its full consideration.

This nonsense is what happens when society gives women the right to vote.

Some will immediately point out the it is a woman who is quoted in the article from Free Range Kids but that is the exception that illustrates the rule. People keep talking about "irrational fears" ignoring that most of those irrational fears steam from women, particularly post-menopausal women. The West may be going to hell in a handbasket, as a friend of mine stated, but how much of such dissatisfaction directly coincides with the rise of women in public life and the need for politicians to cater to their fears? I recognize, of course, that coincidence doesn't equal causation. My point is that it is a thesis that should not be dismissed out of hand as sexist. We keep talking about security theater and irrational fear without seriously looking at what is causing those fears to manifest themselves in public life at this point in world history.

EvilKiruAugust 11, 2014 1:30 PM

@Daniel: Women in the US obtained the right to vote on August 18, 1920. Your claim is dishonest nonsense.

AlanSAugust 11, 2014 1:35 PM

The parents are clearly immoral because they are shirking their responsibility for educating the child. The issue isn't that some terrible harm might befall the child, that the child might be kidnapped or worse.  It is that if the child doesn't grow up its own miniature surveillance state, its own private family panoption, how will he or she come to accept the world of Facebook, Google, corporate employment and the NSA as normal?

AnoniAugust 11, 2014 1:41 PM

Have you considered the very real possibility that the reason you hear about these stories is to ridicule the police officer involved, who may be charging the woman for letting her child play in the park unattended for reasons entirely outside of the child playing in the park unattended. Race, societal status, maybe her dog barks, maybe she wasn't sufficiently obsequious to the officer. There's a lot of latitude here on the part of the officer not to act like a imbecilic jerk.

We had a similar story locally. It made all the websites. Went international. Yet nobody outside of us locals ever knew our District Attorney declined to prosecute and had some rather harsh words for the police officer involved.

BenAugust 11, 2014 1:53 PM


I'd first suggest that you make at least some effort to gather data supporting your thesis, before you attempt to promotes something that, at first (second, and third) glance is so blatantly sexist that one might reasonably suspect that you are trolling. For example: How many of the people who voted for one of the laws in question were post-menopausal women? How about the people who enforced it? How about the judges who meted out sentences under it? Ready data answering questions like these would greatly inform the debate, and change the likelihood of your being instantly dismissed as pernicious example of a sexist.

Second, I'd suggest that you discuss this with my grandmother before you decide to go public with this theory. She may be able to inform your thinking a bit.


BenAugust 11, 2014 1:55 PM

Mr. Schneier,

It does my heart good to see stories like this getting negative publicity. The more people speak out against this sort of (ahem) hogwash, the better.

Thank you!

GweihirAugust 11, 2014 1:58 PM

Most people are stupid and have no control over their irrational impulses. That may sound harsh, even misanthropic, but the observable facts support this conclusion pretty well. That is one of the reasons Democracy does not work: Most voters (and I would put down a number of 70-80% here) are easily manipulated by playing on irrational fears. Once some powerful political group has figured that out, that is it. In the US, that group is the Republican-Democrat coalition (two parties so similar and conservative in their views, they would be fractions of the same party anywhere else in the world). They have long since figured that out. No other group then gets a chance until hell freezes over.

The "think of the children" irrational panic is just one aspect of this. Terrorism, human trafficking, child porn on the Internet, drugs, "socialism", etc. all artificially inflated beyond all reason in order to turn most of the population into unthinking, panicked, obedient sheep. And it works incredibly well.

The real tragedy here is that preventing children from learning autonomy, from learning how to deal with situations when they cannot immediately call on a parent and from learning how to frame their own day, is one of the worst forms of child abuse possible and will leave many children scarred for life.

FluffytheObeseCatAugust 11, 2014 3:27 PM

Thanks for this post. Fetishizing "protection" of our kids has been an infotainment media cottage industry since the mid 90s. Pushback is long overdue, and it is probably occurring now, not despite, but because of the maturation of interactive media. A growing groundswell of "real people" is finally fighting back against this BS.

Given how long this trend has been rolling, blaming FB et al. for it is frankly bizarre. Nearly as bizarre as "Daniel's" victim-blaming emphasis on "post-menopausal" women. (But, let's BURN THE WITCHES!!! anyway..... for safety's sake ;)

The enforcement of helicopter-parenting on pain of arrest and possible ensuing bankruptcy has more to do with a desire to hobble young working parents (primarily women, since they are the dominant care-givers for the very young) than anything else. It favors the nanny-hiring professional elites, and helps them maintain class distance from more average Americans (who were their predecessors' peers, before we entered our Second Gilded Age).

AnnoyedAugust 11, 2014 3:47 PM

First, why did the news article have to say "a black woman was arrested"? Are they trying to imply "Oh geez, there goes those blacks again!"? The woman's color has nothing to do with the issue unless they're unfairly profiling her, but that's for another discussion.

Second, I think the whole children are rarely abducted from cars is a bit of a strawman. Perhaps the fact children aren't abducted from cars often is because people aren't leaving them in cars often. If it became commonplace for children to be left in cars, the kidnapping of children in cars might increase. The problem is that the only way to test this hypothesis is to potentially put your child at risk by leaving them in the car.

SkepticalAugust 11, 2014 3:58 PM

This sounds like an inappropriately heavy-handed decision by someone, though I'm willing to leave open the possibility that there are relevant facts which we do not know. There may be factors involved (was the child left with food or water?) that are not widely reported on.

But in any case the use of statistics here seems a bit too casual, and we're just a bit too eager to fit this into the "human beings are terrible at comprehending risk!" narrative (which I generally agree with).

First, obviously, we can't use nationwide crime statistics to determine the risk of a crime occurring in a particular neighborhood. And we can't use nationwide statistics for determining the risk of injury or death in this particular case. It's great that the US has seen such a dramatic decline in crime rates, but, for example, you'd be foolish to let that determine your behavior in a high-crime area at 0200 in July.

A more relevant statistic would be the percentage of children left unattended in a park for X hours a day, Y days a week, who are injured or killed by criminal act or accident (such as crossing a busy road). Even then, we'd want far more granular information to make a call in a particular case.

Second, more importantly, the low nationwide numbers for child abduction by a stranger (or anything else) isn't something that can be evaluated independently of the measures widely taken by parents to prevent such an occurrence. Are these measures unnecessary given the low rate of abduction, or do these measures cause in significant part that low rate of abduction?

For example a child is extremely unlikely in any given year to die by drowning in the ocean. That doesn't mean it's extremely low-risk to allow a child to go swimming in the ocean unattended. Vigilant parents or lifeguards no doubt play a role in preventing many deaths, sometimes by simply stopping a child from going into the water in the first place (under rough surf conditions, for instance). We would scold the parent who claims that because very few children drown in the ocean, it's perfectly acceptable for him to allow his five year old to go alone for a swim on an isolated beach on a rough day.

In sum, we would want information very specific to the park in question in order to evaluate risk. We'd want to know the nature of streets and roads near the park, the number and types of criminal incidents that have occurred in or around the park, and any number of other characteristics.

The ocean swimming example is a very obvious instance of an incorrect risk assessment, of course. I could make it more obvious (even ridiculous) by having the parent first note how few children die swimming in the ocean during a hurricane, and then conclude on that basis that it is perfectly safe to allow your child to go swimming in the ocean during a hurricane.

But other cases, like this one, are much less obvious. Ultimately the people in the best position to make the assessment of risk are those on the ground. Where that assessment results in arresting someone, we can and should second-guess them of course. Let's not pretend, though, that we can quite so easily dismiss it on the basis of a few broad statistics and little interrogation as to how they apply to the particulars of this case.

Jarrod FratesAugust 11, 2014 4:54 PM


"For example a child is extremely unlikely in any given year to die by drowning in the ocean. That doesn't mean it's extremely low-risk to allow a child to go swimming in the ocean unattended. Vigilant parents or lifeguards no doubt play a role in preventing many deaths, sometimes by simply stopping a child from going into the water in the first place (under rough surf conditions, for instance). We would scold the parent who claims that because very few children drown in the ocean, it's perfectly acceptable for him to allow his five year old to go alone for a swim on an isolated beach on a rough day."

This gets to my point about necessary risk and acceptable risk. It is not necessary for the child to swim in the ocean (i.e., the child is not in imminent threat of harm if he or she remains on the beach), so we turn to what's an acceptable risk. Parents would make the decision for their children based on surf condition, the child's swimming ability and strength, and their own past experiences. What one person deems unacceptably high surf conditions may be seen by another person as needing only a mention to the child to be careful and not go out too far.

jeffAugust 11, 2014 5:03 PM

I have a different opinion in that I am pro-hovering, albeit not insane hovering.

I have six kids ages 13 and under and I hover. It's not just about the paranoia, it's about the priority. Hovering takes effort. Parents who put in that effort tend to be better parents and have better kids. They have kids with limits, i.e. self-control. They also hang out with other kids with similar expectations.

Also, hovering is a signal. When I see another parent hovering, it's a signal to me that this parent and his/her child are probably okay. It the same thing when you see a child that has taken a bath recently vs one that hasn't. It signals how much time/effort this child has received.

Finally parents that hover have children that grow up slower. This is a very good thing in today's society.

Forwarding this URL a few select "Mommy Blogs" will produce enough comments to be a worthy DDOS . (evil laugh)

lolsterAugust 11, 2014 5:11 PM

same as being called irresponsible if u let ur kids watch tv without a helmet...

The world is getting americanised more n more...

James WardAugust 11, 2014 5:13 PM

I think if the world is so dangerous that you can't allow a child to be alone in a car for a few minutes or a park for a few hours (although 40 hours a week is a lot) that it is immoral to have children. How can someone who thinks these things justify having kids in the first place?

Paul CoddingtonAugust 11, 2014 5:31 PM

"What if a man would've come and snatched her?"

Another example of current paranoia - only "men" can be strangers and only "men" can be dangerous. (Last year, a women tried to take away a friend's foster child by knocking on the front door in broad daylight and impersonating a social worker).

Most kids in my childhood, myself included, wandered all over town on our bikes, fished from the harbour piers, and only worried about getting home before the sun set. Most children then were fitted with a smart device in their skulls which had been developed to help them avoid predation.

We also purchased fireworks over the counter from the local dairy with our pocket money in the weeks before Guy Fawkes and outdid each other obtaining the most awesome collection for the big night. There were home chemistry sets, rockets and steam engines for children in the stores alongside the Meccano sets.

There is an amusing anecdote in Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks, where he recalls as a child being able to buy cyanide over the counter to dispatch butterflies for his collection.

FluffytheObeseCatAugust 11, 2014 5:43 PM

Your kids are still young, and you are equating class indicators with decency. Sometimes they do correlate, but the relationship is weaker than you think.

Kids who have the oversight you prize come from families that can afford to have one part-time or full time at-home parent, or a nanny. Or families that benefit from local grandparents, or both. The children that grow up under this hover are regarded as "better" kids by both other middle class parents and school officials. They attain and maintain this status as long as the parents are "engaged", and "good" parents according to contemporary mores.

Once established as a "good" kid (from a "good" family) in elementary school, "good kid" status is easily maintained. Kids' individual characters and real behavior matter little, as long as they are publicly obedient to authority. And, boy howdy, they know it.

Just wait until your kids are teenagers, like mine. The perfect oversight = perfect kids relationship breaks down rapidly once they start to become autonomous individuals. The end of eighth grade sex tape scandal at my daughter's middle school involved a boy from one of the "good" families, and a girl with little oversight. Needless to say, all the gossip focused on her mother's hands-off parenting, and her absent father. But, it took two to tango.

John DoeAugust 11, 2014 5:45 PM


The reason why children are rarely abducted from cars is that children are rarely abducted, period.

According to FBI statistics, 99.96% of all abductions are by a parent or other close relative as part of a custody dispute, and virtually all such abductions take place at home, at school, or at the abductor's home.

DanielAugust 11, 2014 6:17 PM


Women did not gain the right to vote on August 18, 1920. The first US state to grant women the right to vote was Wyoming on December 10th, 1869. If one is known based upon the qualities on one's foes, I'm in bad shape indeed since they can't even get their facts straight.

@Ben. So let's look at some facts. We'll start with these:

In 1970 there exactly 26 women who ran for national office in the USA. By 2012 there were almost 200 which means that the growth of women in national public life grew roughly 800% in the last 40 years. When we look at the state and local level we see less dramatic but still significant growth, 200%.

It's a silly thesis to try and argue that the growth of women in political life has had no impact on American culture--from the ERA, to sex offender registries, to issues surrounding body image, women are no longer in the background: they are now in the foreground of public consciousness.

The problem is that we Americans have adopted a narrative that this transformation in cultural life has been an unmitigated good. And the key word there is unmitigated. Because of course, as soon as anyone dares to suggest that--just like any of other major cultural changes--the rise of women in American public life might have some downsides--well then that person is a "sexist".

DBAugust 11, 2014 6:26 PM

Waking up in the morning has "some" downsides... Just that overall, the benefit of getting up far outweighs the drawbacks!

EvilKiruAugust 11, 2014 6:53 PM

@Daniel: The date of August 18, 1920 is when the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which finally prevented various States from denying women the right to vote.

My unstated point was that if it was in any way true that "This nonsense is what happens when society gives women the right to vote.", then this nonsense would have started a long time ago as opposed to within recent memory.

Prinz von der SchemeringAugust 11, 2014 8:04 PM

Leaving a child alone in the front seat where he or she can fiddle with things ... isn't that the REAL reason why James Bond had those ejection seats in his Aston-Martins?

"Honey, the kid fired himself ..."

Jonathan WilsonAugust 11, 2014 8:18 PM

When I was a kid (upper primary school) I would get my Saturday pocket money, go tearing out of the house at super speed (by myself), run up the street, across the car park of the local recreation center, across the local sports oval then into the back of the local shopping center. (all the while yelling who knows what at the top of my lungs) Then I would go to the deli and spend that pocket money on all kinds of lollies.

This was Australia in the late 80s/early 90s.
These days (even here in Australia) you would have people complaining that its unsafe to let the kid go out on their own, unsafe to let them run that fast, unsafe to let them walk through a "dangerous" car park and bad to let them buy (and consume) all those unhealthy lollies.

I also walked or rode bikes to school without problems.

We need to overcome this collective fear that things that were perfectly safe 20 years ago are now somehow not safe even though the risk of actual incidents (e.g. pedophiles targeting children or children hurting themselves) is just as low now as it was then (if not lower)

Ole JuulAugust 11, 2014 8:32 PM

It does make sense to discuss risk on a security blog. However, one must not lose track of the actual problem which is that there is a sickness in this society.

How does this mentality get to such a level as this? If such a large percentage of people were abusing alcohol or other drugs, the issue would be more likely to be addressed because drugs are not considered a necessity and indeed often have a moral component in our philosophy. The fact that some people function very well personally and publicly under the influence of some drugs wouldn't matter.

In this case the drug in question is television. Some people are able to take large doses of this and not be adversely effected, but many (perhaps most) are not able to do so. However, since TV as it is looks today, is considered acceptable for consumption in large doses by all people of all ages, we have a problem. Until that is addressed, I think that all other discussions are less imprtant. Like the serious alcoholic, whatever problems they have cannot be addressed until they sober up.

dobAugust 11, 2014 9:49 PM

"I have six kids ages 13 and under and I hover. It's not just about the paranoia, it's about the priority. Hovering takes effort. Parents who put in that effort tend to be better parents and have better kids. They have kids with limits, i.e. self-control."

That begs the question: are the children of hovering parents "better", and do they have more "self-control"? I submit that the evidence is at best ambiguous, at worst contradicting your thesis.

TRXAugust 11, 2014 10:04 PM

Back in the late 1960s there were some news stories I remember my parents talking about. Kids about my age - 8, 9, 10 or so - who were making international flights unaccompanied. Their parents would drop them off at the airport in Gatwick or Nantes with a ticket and a note with emergency phone numbers, and the children would make their way across the Atlantic and various plane connections to their destination.

As I remember, my parents' amazement was due to the sheer cost of an international flight; after all, nobody had a problem putting a child on a bus or train and sending them off across the country on their own. And, given that there were fewer ways to get lost on an airplane, it was probably safer got them to fly.

Chris AbbottAugust 11, 2014 10:15 PM

I think another thing worth noting, about children rarely being abducted, is that built into the statistics is custodial kidnappings. Custodial kidnappings are the most common form of child abduction. Stranger kidnappings are much rarer than people believe.



This makes me think of your essay In Praise of Security Theater. It's the feel good but unnecessary security measures gone terribly, terribly wrong. This is where security theater goes from making people feel better to having devastating unintended consequences. Hopefully, there will come a moment when we become rational again, in regards not only to child safety, but to terrorism, ect...

FigureitoutAugust 11, 2014 10:57 PM

--It doesn't help w/ media stories these days of someone merely scraping their knee (how many times have we all done that..?) and getting some terrifying disease...

There was another story w/ a girl who was just riding her bike and scraped her knee while playing around. My dad is a survivor of the disease (most people die or get limbs amputated), again, he noticed it when he bent down on his knee for some reason...It's still very rare though, just horrifying. At least, until our world becomes so polluted, infections start really picking up, and it's just too toxic for our bodies...

But also, parents will get charged for so much more these days if something bad happens to their kids just accidentally (even if they're drinking at their house and they don't even know it). So the parenting control is shifting to that of police and the legal system; it's "parenting from fear" like you say.

I'm glad my parents mostly let me be and learn my lessons on my own; it's something my dad made clear to me from a young age, to let me make my own decisions (but still discipline for really stupid ones). For instance, other kids used to get money for good grades; I would just get punished if I had bad ones...I can thus blame myself for where I'm at moreso than anyone else.

SparticusAugust 11, 2014 10:59 PM

@Chris Abbott
Security Theater would be having adults paid to monitor the playgrounds and parking lots, not to watch for the children, but to watch for non-attendant parents. This is more like "See Something, Say Something" applied to parenting instead of suspicious packages.

With both a suspected bomb and with an unattended child there are three things an observer can do: Report the situation; Investigate the situation; or Nothing. But that is where the similarity ends.

Apply this to a bomb and we have the following outcomes:
1) Report and it's a bomb: Lives potentially saved
2) Report and it's not a bomb: Police time used (maybe not wasted)
3) Investigate and it's a bomb: Observer dies (maybe)
4) Investigate and it's not a bomb: No harm
5) Do Nothing and it's a bomb: People Die
6) Do Nothing and it's not a bomb: No harm

In the above situation, there is only one good outcome to the "worst case scenario" and that requires reporting. Additionally, the cost of a false alarm (unless the police go overboard) is just job security for the police. In this case, I feel that the optimal solution is to report the package if you are suspicious.

Contrast this with the unattended child:
1) Report and parent/child in control of situation: Parent Arrested
2) Report and child actually in danger: Save Child (Maybe)
3) Investigate and parent/child in control of situation: No Harm
4) Investigate and child actually in danger: Save Child (Maybe)
5) Do Nothing and parent/child in control of situation: No Harm
6) Do Nothing and child actually in danger: Bad Stuff Happens

The difference here is that there are now two ways that end well in the "worst case scenario" and that only rules out doing nothing. However, while reporting could have a very negative effect if it's a false alarm, investigating by itself does nothing bad. Since taking some extra time to get all of the facts before jumping to a conclusion does not have a negative impact, I would strongly prefer an observer to take that route, and to trust the people who are involved (child and parent, assuming both present) to understand the situation better than they do. You can be a good Samaritan without trying to get someone locked up.

Just my two cents.

AnnoyedAugust 11, 2014 11:04 PM

@John Doe

Those numbers are based on current laws where leaving your child alone gets you arrested, so few people leave their children alone.

Those numbers would most likely change if the penalty was removed and more parents started leaving their children alone. Eventually kidnappers would realize the availability.

RequiredNameAugust 11, 2014 11:39 PM

"This nonsense is what happens when society gives women the right to vote."

Very funny, Daniel. Of course the USA is the only country on the planet which has given women the right to vote...

JMCAugust 12, 2014 12:43 AM

There are billions of parents in the world, and only a few are being arrested by paranoid cops. So go ahead and leave your kids in the car, they probably won't die or grow up to be serial killers.

WinterAugust 12, 2014 12:48 AM

Early in high school I added concentrated HCl, H2NO3, and H3SO4 to my chemistry set. In one liter bottles. I bought it around the corner, no questions asked.

Nothing bad happened, but I got the best grade on chemistry. No connection proven.

WinterAugust 12, 2014 2:37 AM

"This nonsense is what happens when society gives women the right to vote."

Reading your comment, it appeared to me that the quality of education in the USA must be really abysmal.

You are able to write coherent sentences, which itself puts your thinking prowess above that of your previous president. But you seem to be utterly unaware of the history of your own country or the situation outside of the USA.

CzernoAugust 12, 2014 4:01 AM

@Winter : "I added concentrated HCl, H2NO3, and H3SO4 to my chemistry set"

Wow ! It's hard enough to buy HNO3 or H2SO4
at a druggist's these days, but getting
h2no3 and hso4 ??? that was a feat
worthy of a Nobel prize in chemistry... NOT !

Abysmal, say you... :=)

WinterAugust 12, 2014 4:08 AM

You see now how wasted all those years in high school were. After merely three decades of disuse, it has all slipped away.
(and maybe I should not post in the early morning from a commuter train).

CzernoAugust 12, 2014 5:27 AM

@Winter: after sending my comment, I regretted it - shouldn't've posted about a trifle, while adding no valuable comment of my own about the subject matter. Glad you took my remark with good humor, sincerely... Have a good work day !

Peter GalbavyAugust 12, 2014 6:25 AM

Not only are many people unable to consciously assess risk but over the last few decades the mass media has ensured that those risk assessments are now done for them by those with an interest in selling them something.

What I see (being a committed non-parent) in the push for selling aspirational values and keeping ahead of the neighbors in mass marketing results in many parents think through a logical fallacy: "I am special hence my child is special therefore my child is especially at risk from others who see my special child as they are obviously special and of higher value than any other child"

WinterAugust 12, 2014 6:42 AM

"Glad you took my remark with good humor, sincerely... Have a good work day !"

No worries. It was a stupid mistake of me and I can take criticism.

WmAugust 12, 2014 6:47 AM

I have for years recognized and become instantly aware of any 'What if' nonsense. These 'What if' hysterics can be seen almost daily in life. Nevertheless, you have to be aware of the profit motive that cops and prosecutors have today to go after your for anything they can and thus always protect yourself from these soulless people.

When Law-Abiding Citizens Become Criminals

JohnAugust 12, 2014 8:05 AM

This is due to people being abused by the "Fear of Fear" being pushed by Politicians, aka fear Terrorists, Boogieman, Stains!!! This happening over long periods of time changes the consciousnesses of the body politic, and then we get dumb shit like this. Eventually people will refuse to let others press their Fear button.

parabarbarianAugust 12, 2014 9:41 AM

As you all grouse about this and similar silliness remember: People may or my not get the government they deserve but they WILL get the worst government they will tolerate.

LouisAugust 12, 2014 11:22 AM

Thank you for the news story, I will now have a complete example for my speech at work.

I usually tell this speech when conducting a risk assessment with folks that tend to exagerate, see risks bigger than they actually are.

I tell them that nowadays, we don't manage risks with our children, we manage impacts. We only concentrate on the impact and completely lose track of likelyhood/probability.

This generally brings everybody back to focus on the *risk* part of the risk assessment workshop.

Coyne TibbetsAugust 12, 2014 1:58 PM

But even Skenazy assesses the risks inappropriately. The question isn't how many children die in a particular day, but how many die doing a particular activity.

Likely, nearly every child in America spends some time in a car every day; let's be liberal and say 80% of the kids, which gives us around 60 million kids who ride in a car, per day, out of which 300 die. That's about 1 in 200,000 death risk for that activity, taking rides as the unit.

Now, what's the risk for being locked in a hot car for an hour? I have no idea how many kids would fall into that category, but let's look at this article, which says that the temperature inside a car, on an 80 degree day, will go to 109 degrees in 20 minutes. So just how save is it to leave a kid in a car unattended? Not at all safe; I'd say the chances of death are much closer to hitting your kid's head with an axe than their riding in a car.

So Skenazy is very wrong when she says, "Let's put aside for the moment that by far, the most dangerous thing you did to your child that day was put him in a car and drive someplace with him." That may be true, if you don't leave your kid in a hot car that day, but if you do then the danger of driving the kid rather pales.

wumpusAugust 12, 2014 4:38 PM

G. Bailey
"Having fewer children. When you had 4-5 kids, I'm not sure you expected them all to make it. They also did a good job of protecting each other."

I'd strongly argue that parents since the 1950s have expected all children to make it to adulthood (I've known too many that didn't make it much further). Still, there is a saying "the first child is made of glass, the second of the first child is made of glass, the second of china the third [or rest] of rubber." There simply wasn't the ability to hover over all kids to the extent that modern helicopter parents manage (Jeff might be an exception).

Clive RobinsonAugust 12, 2014 6:18 PM

One of the things helicopter parents rarely think about is that their child will "not be natural".

The child will either become a "mini-me" or will rebel long before thay should. Now you might as a parent regard a mini-me as perfect but the rest of the world will see them at best as odd, worse the child will inturn inflict it on their children. Just remember that how you see yourself is not how the rest of the world sees you... so think of the worst person you know directly and ask yourself do you realy want them making mini-mes? Because the chances are that's what people will think of you if you are a helicopter parent, in part because they will assume rightly or wrongly you are judging them and their children unfavourably.

This mini-me reaction happens because humans are usually the sum of their experiences, if the parent is always ever present hovering to prevent little Johnny / Susan commiting fopars etc then all the child will do is develop an unnatural dependence on the parent and other children who don't have helicopter parents will shun them. In effect it will be like never letting your child out of the baby walker so they never learn to walk properly let alone run. As we know for normal development learning to run is important, likewise falling on your face socially is part of normal development and should not be avoided, and encoraging an unhealthy dependency in a child is as bad as filling them full of dangerous prescribed drugs to stop "naughty behaviour".

The early rebellion comes about because the child will know from other children that they are different, the fact that other children will avoid them because of their ever present helicopter "spy in the sky" is more than sufficient to cause the rebellion and as with such the greater the repression felt the greater the push back, and the chances are the more dangerous it will be because the child willnot have learnt their own safety / coping mechanisms, thus there is a greater probability it will not end well.

Many years ago there was something that ended up being called "only child syndrome" where the child was clearly the product of parents who devoted to much attention to the child, and often tried to do/buy everything they could for the child which is why the children also became "spoiled brats", or "cry babies" or "glass babies". Where as children of large families usually turned out to be more socialy adept ( other than at the dinner table ;) more relaxed and generaly easy going. This was because like weeds they have to out grow the competition to get their share, and brothers and sisters are without doubt the most ruthless people they know, hence the "cat and dog" dispute resolution solution with attendent bruises and scrapes often used as "badges of honour" after the parent had administered a band aid and hug.

The question we should ask is what sort of society do we want, one that is well stocked with self reliant fairly easy going socialy responsible people, or one full of "spoiled brats" with an unwarented sense of entitlement and if lucky with the minders in tow to ensure they get it at your expense one way or another, and if unlucky embittered and spitefull loners with no safety / coping mechanisms?

StefanAugust 12, 2014 6:44 PM

My kid went to 5km distant school by tram on his own, on the way crossing this 3 lane street every morning and afternoon on his own here in Berlin, when he was just 6 years old. That required a lot of confidence in him. But noone thought any of it there - it was totally common. Technically this self-reliant arrangement was not risk free of course. But boy, do i have a self confident son of 16 years old now. He just two days ago came home from his first summer camp in the Austrian mountains on his own. Including a bus ride, 4h trainride, navigating Vienna to the airport and flying internationally over to Zürich in Switzerland on his own without thinking anything of it. I would not want to have it any other way.

Alf WattAugust 12, 2014 10:03 PM

Honestly, I think the whole “Helicopter Parent” and super safety culture is coving up what we all know but don’t want to admit:

As parents, we are the number one threat to our own children.

I won’t bother to link stats since I’m already burried in the comments threads, but any rational analisys of the evidence will show you pretty quickly that people who have kids hurt them. And let’s be honest, who else has motive and opportunity to do so?

WinterAugust 13, 2014 1:18 AM

"My kid went to 5km distant school by tram on his own, on the way crossing this 3 lane street every morning and afternoon on his own here in Berlin, when he was just 6 years old."

We all where that will ends.

When your son has made his Abitur, he will go on his own to some dirt poor place in the Himalayas or Andes to help out in a school or orphanage*. Or worse, he will decide to travel Africa by bus. And then you are lying awake at night for months thinking what horrors will happen to him.


Good work.

* That is actually common practice here

WaelAugust 13, 2014 2:07 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Many years ago there was something that ended up being called "only child syndrome" where the child was clearly the product of parents who devoted to much attention to the child...
Not necessarily true! There are these sort if exceptions:
“When I was a kid we had a sandbox. It was a quicksand box. I was an only child...eventually.” -- Steven Wright
The question we should ask is what sort of society do we want, one that is well stocked with self reliant fairly easy going socialy responsible people, or one full of "spoiled brats"
The question I ask: Is upbringing a child the only factor to influence the child's behavior? What about peer pressure, chemical imbalances, intrinsic inclinations, etc... I have no answer except to teach the child the basics and the ability to tell "right" from "wrong". Problem is "right" and "wrong" are not absolute, and are subjective. What's right in one society is wrong in another. That also applies at the personal level. And by extension, what a parent considers "right", can eventually be seen as "wrong" by the child, and vice-versa... I maybe off topic -- didn't read the article, nor all of the comments.

dot tilde dotAugust 13, 2014 3:22 AM

whenever the gap between fear and facts widens to a certain amount, it gets filled with power.

in a democracy, this is a tool that is often used. a dictatorship can't be built without it.


JanAugust 13, 2014 3:55 AM

2 things:

1. Is this data "750,000 years for a child left alone in a public space" really statistically correct? To me it really looks a flawed number, like e.g. it compares total lifetime of children compared to being snatched, or at least "total time in cars", but how can they come up with this number in correlation to "children left alone in public spaces"? .. maybe I'm wrong but without more information this sounds weird as I doubt that all children together don't sum up to this number during a whole year, which would mean that there is less than _one_ snatch per year on earth.

2. I doubt that the "public" or the "crowd" really has these fears. It's like always only a small bunch of paranoids that shout their fears so long, often and loud while ignoring science until politicians catch it up. We have the very same with terrorism, child porn, bombs and even with children left alone climbing small obstacles in playgrounds with their parents (these 'irresponsible bastards') sitting only 5 meters away and watching their child falling... Yes, such people exist, but they are a small minority to the damage of all sane people.

Maybe their should be a law against spreading unscientific fears?

JAugust 13, 2014 3:56 AM

Getting children used to 24 hour surveillance by an authority figure when they are young will make sure they are accustomed to 24 hour surveillance by an authority figure when they are adults.

DAugust 13, 2014 12:34 PM

Now, what's the risk for being locked in a hot car for an hour?

Funny you should mention that. Over here, we commonly lock little kids into schoolrooms for 7 hours a day with no air conditioning! The windows, the few that do open, are hinged at the bottom for poor air circulation. Folks used to leave the doors open to pull (force) a draft through, but no longer thanks to security-theater. Kids come out of school with all their skin flushed red, their clothes completely soaked through with sweat, hair plastered to their heads with sweat. They look like they would have been drier if they had fallen into a lake. Global warming makes it worse for the kids every year. At some point, clearly somebody will inevitably die.

Yet that's seen as a perfectly acceptable risk.

LAugust 13, 2014 2:19 PM

Well, I just let my 11y old climb the highest mountain of the country managing fixed ropes and exposed passages firmly on his own, me being about 30min behind, knowing he was capable of that. I guess that's supposed to take me to death penalty then, keeping relation to this case outlined above?

OMG, yes, it looks like we're pushed to create a generation of slaves to surveillance and authorities, relying on letting others decide on their life :(

Sarah ClarkeAugust 13, 2014 3:22 PM

You can't argue with the skewing effect of the media and filtering coverage vs real prevalence of threats is tough.

Used the same premise for a bit for the analogies project published the same day ( likening the angst (rational or otherwise) to business thoughts on BYOD or the insider threat in general.

I let my kids roam, but not without walkie talkies. It's too emotive to make anyone's mind up for them though.

JeffAugust 13, 2014 7:11 PM

Not too long ago my mother-in-law was telling me a story about one of her neighbors. About 5 minutes into the story I realized she was relating a Law and Order program I'd seen not 3 days before. So many people watch all the cop shows and think they're watching the news or at least what the real world looks like. It's scarey how scared they are. Keep Calm, it's going to be all right.

OtterAugust 14, 2014 12:14 AM

Clive Robinson • August 12, 2014 6:18 PM said:

The question we should ask is what sort of society do we want, one that is well stocked with self reliant fairly easy going socialy responsible people, or one full of "spoiled brats" with an unwarented sense of entitlement ... embittered and spitefull loners ...

Having seen the former 40 years ago, America chose the latter.

bobAugust 14, 2014 2:53 AM

@Daniel Of course, it's so obvious now! And all those sensible countries, where children walk miles and miles to school every morning - it because the woman don't have the vote! You're a genius! How has no-one else spotted this? They must all be idiots! Everyone single one of them! Less clever than you! All that education, all that training, wasted. So sad. ;-(

JardaAugust 14, 2014 4:01 AM

I guess if there really are laws prohibiting and penalizing this sort of think, the diligent politicians who came up with them must have based their legislation efforts on horror movies they are watching way too much. Besides, they probably wanted to see their name in the newspaper.

NovaAugust 14, 2014 4:17 PM

One of the main reasons why you have to consider *hard numbers* to assess any threat, and really are doing very good to study up on how to discern hard numbers and errors in studies.

Kind of can hit at that "one person is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" quote.

Grisly, rare deaths hit at people's fear bone (like funny bone, but not f'n funny), it hits at their instincts. Their minds process ancedotal evidence further, much more strongly then many other far more reliable forms of evidence. Our minds are geared for stories.

Newspapers are geared for click throughs, though better ones try and temper that with quality: long term readership requires low "cry wolf" postures, high quality sourcing.

A woman in jeopardy, gear up! A child?? Even worse!

People who have children have their minds geared to danger to their children far more then danger to their own selves, even if it is entirely irrational. To a lesser, but still large degree, same with people without children.

David KennerlyAugust 16, 2014 3:53 AM

@Daniel has an excellent point, with or without "supportive data".

The big elephant in the security stateroom (well, ONE of them, anyway) is the emergence of the precautionary principle and a breathtaking intolerance for all forms of risk, that precisely coincides with the emergence of women as fully-equal partners in the governance of society.

Sexist? Sure! As are, no doubt, all of you. Sexist in that gender is real and that characteristics of gender are indisputable. Pretending that gender is behaviorally irrelevant is not an effective means of ensuring that generalizations do not become straitjackets for individuals. And, in many ways, and just as had happened to women, much the same is happening to men today. That is, they are becoming marginalized by the sexist prejudices of all others and especially of women.

So, in that light, I wish to propose that which few others, except for Daniel here, are willing to say (but may believe): women are largely (but not entirely) the drivers of this momentum to identify all risk as unacceptable and in the mistaken belief that doing so will help to eliminate it. Further, they have exaggerated certain classes of risk, particularly those involving men and sex, while under-appreciating ordinary, but actual, dangers which our children face in their daily lives.

One could say, and I think most would agree, that risks evaluated in the presence of strong emotions - particularly fear - are more likely to be risks inaccurately measured or inappropriately acted upon. This works both ways: certain dangers are grossly exaggerated and others are negligently minimized.

I strongly suspect that women, whether through innate qualities or simply because of cultural predisposition and inculcation (I don't dismiss that as, possibly, the larger contributing factor), are more likely to misidentify risks, particularly those risks to children, than is the case for men.

Perhaps the next stage in the emancipation of women might be a movement to encourage them to feel more secure in their own strength and influence, and to recognize the extent to which they have achieved stunning levels of both, and to adopt a greater comfort with, and acceptance of, risk as well as a willingness to allow children to reach maturity through their full engagement with the real world.

I say we not dismiss Daniel, out-of-hand.

Scott HAugust 26, 2014 10:44 AM

I get your point. But a few years back, my ever-vigilant wife, asked me where our 5-year old was. I looked around and, remembering that he was looking for a toy, told my wife that he found his toy and was in his bedroom playing. She was satisfied for the moment, and we watched a motorcycle race on television. She then went to take a shower, when, just before she entered the shower, she called our son. He didn't respond. When she asked me again where he was, I told her he was looking for his toy, which was out in the car, and he must have found it. She and I both realized at the same time he was in the car, parked in our driveway, on a hot, Florida, summer day. We both raced out to the car and found that he he was exhausted, overheated, and sweating. He said he couldn't get out on the side of the car facing our house, because there were "bees out." The other day had a child-lock. He had gotten so scared and overheated, he couldn't think to blow the horn, or get out of one of the front doors. My wife and I cringe when we think that he would likely have laid down in that hot car and died while we watched TV for a few moments on a Saturday afternoon.

My advice? Watch your kids. They already grow up too fast.

FrancesAugust 26, 2014 10:36 PM

@ Clive Robinson, Clive you should know better than to repeat that nonsense about only children. I was an Only and my daughter is an Only and neither of us turned out to be spoiled or unable to get along with others. As it happens, I was a bookworm and happy to be on my own but my daughter is gregarious and can get along with anybody.

Matthew G. SaroffSeptember 3, 2014 1:12 PM

Rather by happenstance, I was in the position of being an outside observer at the time when the hyper watched child became the norm.

From May, 1982 through September 1983, I took a year off from college to change majors, change schools, and establish state residency to save on tuition.

This was at the height of the missing child hysteria, with claims that there were over 80,000 child abductions a year, more than all the US military fatalities in Vietnam, abductions a year (No, you only get that number if you count every time that a child gets lost for 5 minutes at the mall, every child that is delivered late from a non custodial parent, etc.)

This was further reinforced with a steady stream of alarmist news reports, and alarmist fiction, the movie "Without a Trace" comes to mind, along with innumerable made-for TV movies.

At the time, I only noticed it because I was a 20 year old with my life on hold. (I was more inclined to appreciate the debut of MTV)

Looking back, particularly when juxtaposed with my observations of post 911 society and politics, it seems to me that there was a culture of fear, and that this fear was deliberately stoked by people interested in deriving benefit from this. (In my opinion, those who wanted to use that fear as a way of convincing the American public to embrace "Father" Reagan as the great protector, as well as those who wanted to expand police powers)

Unfortunately, this mindset remains quite prominent in our society.

BluesurfSeptember 13, 2014 10:54 PM

These paranoid schizophrenic "helicopter" parents need to spend less time hovering over their children and begin to identify why they are themselves so susceptible and powerless to this fear mongering.

Unfortunately, these irrational fears will likely be transfered to their offspring causing them to perhaps develop low self esteem, eating disorders, incapacity to make their own decisions, etc...

When was the last time your child was simply left to play, explore, learn , imagine, discover life on a sunny afternoon in the backyard? Perhaps with nothing else to play with than a stick in the sand, but having the time of his/her life. When was the last time your child just sat there, playing with a stick? Do children today even know what a stick is?

Your children will be fine. Love them, feed them, teach them and take care of them and let them be.

Don't be one of those diaper sniffing, M.A.D.D supporting, PTA meeting organizing, save the planet type parents. We've got enough of those...

Besides, there are plenty of more "Rational" things to be afraid of... Like NSA mass surveillance or secret spies taking apart the platters of your hard disk and scanning them with super-conducting quantum interference detectors...


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