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                Parenting Basics 101

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Parenting Blog

I post here from time to time as issues come up, or in response to parent feedback and questions

Parenting Blog

Unneccesarily Nervous Parents

Posted by Dave on June 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Most folks think we live in dangerous times and need to make extra special efforts to protect our children. Many parents won’t let their kids out of sight for even a moment for fear something bad will happen to them – not might - WILL.


The result is that kids are more fearful of almost everything. We’re raising a generation of scaredycats, and psychologists report an increase in the number of children suffering from anxiety and depression – some of which is probably due to stress from almost constant parent-induced fear. In addition, kids aren’t getting the kind of outdoor play and exercise they so desperately need. While 70% of moms say they played outdoors every day as children, they also report that only 31% of their own kids do.


Are things really worse than they were 30 or more years ago? The answer is no. The crime rate in 2009 is no higher than it was in the 60s and 70s. Some forms of crime are actually lower. Violent crime did peak for a short while in the early to mid-nineties, but it didn’t last long. This was mostly attributable to gang violence and drug-related activities, mostly in big city ghettos.


Why do we think the dangers are greater now than ever before? In a word – media. Remember, stuff that happens every day rarely makes the news. It’s the rare events that really grab the attention of the press and the public. Let some child be abducted or murdered by a stranger in any corner of the civilized world and it will be front page press for weeks or months. Some even hang around for years, dragged out of the film vault every time news gets slow – think Adam Walsh, Kaylee Anthony, and Jon Benet Ramsey.


Milk cartons and the back of junk mail postcards often feature pictures of missing kids. However, the information with those photos seldom tells you why they ended up there in the first place. Only a tiny percentage of these kids are abducted by strangers. The vast majority were taken by a non-custodial parent. A much smaller number are runaway teens. Most return home or are found safe and sound in a short time, and were never in any real danger.


Add to that the dozens of crime-based TV dramas that make their money by playing to a parent’s worst fears. Law and Order – Special Victims Unit is a prime offender, but don’t forget CSI and pretty much every cop n’ crime show for the last fifteen years. Add in the twenty-four hour news cycle, and you can see how we are bombarded daily with images of childhood danger.


According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number of children who are abducted by strangers has been pretty much the same for many years – approximately 1 in 1.5 million. That’s about .00007 percent.


Those numbers don't put it into perspective for you? Okay, let’s say you WANTED your child to be snatched from the side of the road. How long would she have to stand there for it to become likely? 750,000 years! (That information comes from an analysis of FBI statistics done by the University of New Hampshire.) If you wanted them to be killed in the bargain, you'd have to wait 1.5 million years.


To put it further into perspective, in 2003 about 22,000 kids between 1 and 14 were struck by vehicles, and 2,343 were killed in traffic accidents. In that same year, 115 kids were abducted by strangers, and fewer than 20 killed. To listen to the press, so-called child protection experts, and some parents, you'd think it happened every day in every town. Clearly, this is far from the case. Very, very far.


Even Internet related crimes against kids are rare. Study after study has proven that kids are seldom taken in by (or are even interested in) the fairly rare overtures of creepy adults. Over the last ten years, kids have become pretty savvy Internet citizens. Nearly all of the kids who have gotten into bad situations were already at risk for other reasons, did not have supportive relationships at home, and were looking for attention, love, and affection in all the wrong places.


Our kids are really pretty safe. Parents should pay attention to the more likely problems. Make them wear seatbelts in the car, helmets on a bike or skateboard, and lifejackets in a boat. Then send the little darlings out to play and tell them to be in when the streetlights come on.

Categories: General Topics