“Times Have Changed!” Shriek Parents Afraid to Let Their Kids Outside. But…

Hi Readers — We have all heard from parents who would LIKE to let their kids have the kind of stay-out-till-the-streetlights-come-on childhoods they themselves enjoyed. BUT, say those parents, “Times have changed. It feels so much more dangerous now!”

“Feels” is the operative word. In this essay by Steven Pinker, we learn that we may well be living in the safest times in human history:

This claim, I know, invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. We tend to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which we can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. There will always be enough violent deaths to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from its actual likelihood.

Sometimes (okay, OFTEN) I get tired of pointing this out: That just because you can say, “Adam Walsh!” or “Jaycee Dugard!” that doesn’t mean that there are MORE children being abducted today than ever before. It’s just easier to NAME them, because we see them so much on TV. Those images get filed away in our heads and when we ask our brains, Google-like, “Is it safe for me to ever let go of my child’s hand?” up pop the most popular stories about that topic, not necessarily the most salient or helpful ones.

So here’s to living in the best of all possible times…despite the worst of all possible stories dominating the media. — L.

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