You Know What’s REALLY Dangerous for Kids?

“That’s dangerous!”
Most of us parents have had that shouted at us at some point — often when we’re letting our kids do something that is, statistically, not very dangerous at all, like letting a 3 year old nap in the car while we pay for the gas, or letting our 7-year-old walk to the park.
Writer Heather Head came up with this lovely counterpoint. She’s mom to three boys, 7-14. Frustrated with over-protective neighbors and police trying to frighten her children into staying in the house, she researched and wrote this list of better things to be afraid of. You can follow her on Twitter @HHeadWrites.
Putting your kid in the car and driving somewhere. This is the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
You know what else is dangerous?
Swimming pools. In states where swimming pools are common (Florida, for instance), this cause of childhood death surpasses automobile accidents.
You know what else is dangerous?
Depression. In children ages 10-14, suicide is the third leading cause of death, following accidents (auto accidents and drowning are lumped together in this list) and cancer.
You know what else is dangerous?
Sending your kid to Grandma’s house. 200,000 children per year in the U.S. are abducted, and 199,885 of them are taken by family members, including grandparents, non-custodial parents (who often take them from a grandparent’s house), and close family friends.
You know what else is dangerous?
Letting your kids meet anyone at all. 90% of sexual offenders are close family members, camp counselors, and other people known well by the family and the child.
You know what else is dangerous?
Lack of exercise. Believe it or not, heart disease is the 5th leading cause of death among children, following behind homicide. (Source: The CDC.
Speaking of homicide, you know what else is dangerous?
Letting Dad watch the kids. Or Mom. Or, anyone actually. Roughly 63% of child homicides are perpetrated at the hands of a parent, and another 27% by friends.
(Source: Canadian Children’s Rights Council–my apologies–if someone has the U.S. reference for this, please share–the numbers are very similar, but I can’t find my source right now.€¦/Canada-Child_Youth_Homicide_Mu€¦)
Letting your kid walk to the park, stand on the street, or go to the store alone in a normal, reasonably safe American neighborhood. Stranger abductions account for fewer than 150 incidents per year. When spread across all the children in the United States, this means that my son, statistically speaking, would have to stand on the street corner alone for upwards of 600,000 years in order to be abducted.
(Source: Lenore’s book: Free-Range Kids!)
You want to ban something? Ban cars. Ban swimming pools. Ban Grandma’s house. Don’t prosecute good, responsible parents who are training their children to navigate this world by teaching them to navigate the world.
My heart is sick when I read of parents investigated for giving their kids some independence.
Am I really more dangerous than a stranger???

Goodness me! Am I really more dangerous than a stranger?


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74 Responses to You Know What’s REALLY Dangerous for Kids?

  1. Thea March 17, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Someone should make this into an infographic that would share well on FB/Twitter. I’m not that someone but someone totally should.

  2. E March 17, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    I realize this is focused on the stranger/danger angle, but no list concerning children/tweens/teens is complete without including drug use/abuse as a danger. If I’m not mistaken, drug-related deaths are greater than motor vehicle deaths in teens now.

  3. Warren March 17, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Sorry but teens are not kids. That is part of the problem with the world today. Teens are teens, not kids.

  4. E March 17, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    @Warren — one of the age ranges she posted in the main article include teens (the one concerning depression). If you are going to include this as a risk and age range (10-14), then drug use is also a concern for that age group. Otherwise I wouldn’t have posted my comment.

  5. delurking March 17, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    I think you should stop repeating statements like this: “Stranger abductions account for fewer than 150 incidents per year. When spread across all the children in the United States, this means that my son, statistically speaking, would have to stand on the street corner alone for upwards of 600,000 years in order to be abducted.”

    That is simply not true. To get 600,000 years from 150 incidents per year, you have assumed that every child in America stood on a street corner alone 24 hours a day for the whole year (I am ignoring the other error, which is that you have made the same error as assuming that flipping a coin twice guarantees one head and one tail). You need to compare apples to apples if you want to convert a number like 150 incidents into a more visceral and intuitive number like how long a child would have to stand alone outside in order to stand a reasonable chance of being abducted by a stranger. That means you need an estimate of how much time children spend outside alone each year. It certainly isn’t 24 hours per day. If you assume it is 0.5 hours per day, it is still ~10,000 years of standing on the street corner, which is still a big number.

    What you do by constantly repeating the 600,000 years (or 750,000 years which I have seen before) is called “lying with statistics”. It dramatically harms your credibility.

  6. lollipoplover March 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    When the whole conversation goes into irrational rants about what is and isn’t dangerous, I often think of the Billy Crystal “Hate It When That Happens” skits where they tried to one-up each other.
    It’s like the parenting version.

  7. SanityAnyone? March 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Well done. Shareable!

  8. Reziac March 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    “When spread across all the children in the United States, this means that my son, statistically speaking, would have to stand on the street corner alone for upwards of 600,000 years in order to be abducted.”

    Infographic: Your kid could die of old age more than 6000 times before anyone is arsed to snatch him.

    Delurking has a point about overblowing the stats, but — the usual paranoid assumption is that abductions lurk *everywhere* (“people are snatching infants through open windows, in broad daylight!” is one I’ve heard with my own ears) so under the Theory of Danger Everywhere, there is no moment in their lives when a child is ‘safe’ from abduction — not standing on a street corner; not at home in their own bed.

  9. Emily Morris March 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    An infographic would be awesome! This is a great list. The other week I sarcastically brought up banning cars in a discussion with a coworker and she went off on me about that.

  10. CrazyCatLady March 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    E, you are mistaken. Traffic deaths lead the way for teens. “Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds.

    Some teens die from using drugs or alchol while driving. But driver error or just inexperience for the conditions is often the cause of the accidents.

  11. E March 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    That links to a report from 2009. I was reading about this recently. I don’t have the link handy, if I find it, I’ll post it. The point being that for teens, drug use and abuse and accidental overdose is rising. If we’re trying to educate parents about the risks their teens face, drug use absolutely belongs among them.

  12. Liz March 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    I was told by someone to get rid of my dog, because there is some really, really small risk that he could injure my baby. I responded by asking if I should kick my husband out as well, since statistically it’s more likely that he would injure (or kidnap) our baby than the dog would. The person looked at me like I was insane, but I think I got my point across.

  13. marie March 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    “Sex trafficking” is the next scare legislators are using to write legislation. No one wants people bought and sold so it is easy to be against sex trafficking. Aren’t you? I know I am.

    Is it a new threat or a bigger threat than it ever has been? I don’t have stats but I’d guess definitely not. You will still find messages to “stop sex trafficking!” making the Facebook rounds as if white vans stand ready outside middle schools to grab our kids and sell them into slavery.

    Ah, but then the definition changes to include more than slavery. Prostitution is now considered sex trafficking, even though it is usually not slavery. Sometimes it is, of course, but probably not any more than it was in decades or centuries previous. Again, I didn’t look for stats but I would guess that it is safer than ever to be a prostitute and that there are fewer slaves used as prostitutes in the western world. In poorer and more primitive countries, all bets are off but then the legislation isn’t written to save women from other countries from sex trafficking.

    Will that stop people from talking about sex trafficking as if it is a real and present danger for each and every one of our children? Nope.

  14. Havva March 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    A useful list, and an info graphic would be great. I also think that teen drug deaths are closely related to teen suicides, and both have the same reasoning of depression, and thus are linked to did we let our younger kids play freely.

    I know car accidents and drowning are the most realistic concerns for my kid, and deal with those. But the thing that causes the most loose fear of all that is mentioned above is “over-protective neighbors and police trying to frighten her children into staying in the house” and the link to the Meitiv’s case.

    I took a little action on that fear. I attended a home owners association meeting with the local police (for a neighborhood contiguous to mine. The officer speaking is responsible for statistics based policing in our area compiling info on all the crimes, looking for trends, and coordinating response. What he reported jived with the publicly available info that most crimes where property crimes. He advised caution and locked doors, and pointed out areas in our district that weren’t quite so safe. But there hadn’t been an ‘aggravated’ crime in our neighborhood in recent memory. We even have gangs in the nearby low income housing. But they keep their troubles between the gangs, leaving the rest of the neighborhood alone aside from some rare graffiti. People worried about panhandlers, and car jacking, and suspicious vehicles with strangers loitering about. The officer said what he could and couldn’t legally do, and advised people to keep doors locked and for most everything he advised to report, report, report, “if it makes you go ‘hmmmm’ call’, so we can investigate.”

    Anyhow I asked about young kids ‘like the incident up in Maryland’. Not doing anything wrong just walking to/from the park. For the first time the response was ‘just keep an eye on them/keep an eye out for them.’

    Quite a few voices at once started saying ‘this is what kids should be doing.’ I mentioned the ages and said I was confused by the situation and why that happened as I recall being out playing with the 5 year old neighbor when I was 6. One lady suggested it was an issue with the street where it happened. The cop was frankly flustered and confused by the question. His only example of neglect calls were of cases such as a 3 year old found running around in only a diaper having escaped his apartment after a parent left a 3 and 4 year old alone to go get groceries. Which he naturally found to be poor judgement. I couldn’t get a coherent answer as to how the police would deal with such calls, as apparently he hadn’t seen calls of that nature. But he agreed that kids should be going to the park. And still seeming rather confused looked at the neighborhood watch coordinator and said “that’s why we do this.”

    Then he warped up the meeting with an apology for the ‘doom and gloom’ talk and a reminder that we have a good neighborhood that is safe.

    It doesn’t undo CPS guidelines. But it gave me a good feel for my community, and my local police. It was helpful to hear so many voices who are not part of the free-range community saying ‘that’s what kids should be doing’ to the prospect of kids walking alone to/from the park, even a 6 year old. It makes me feel safer about letting my daughter play in the yard when my husband and I determine she is ready for that.

  15. lollipoplover March 17, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    @Emily Morris- I had a conversation with a good friend who drives her kids to school because she thinks it’s safer but often drops them off on the street behind the school (where the walkers and bikers enter) to avoid the long lines at the front door. She told me she felt sorry for my kids, that the looked cold, and if they ever needed a ride, she would drive them. We had this whole conversation on her front lawn, while her son rode his quad in the backyard without a helmet.

  16. John March 17, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Not sure if I agree with the one that says, “Letting your kids meet anyone at all”. This one would seem to give helicopter parents more fodder for not letting their children talk to strangers. I might edit it to read “Letting your children socialize with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and close friends”. Even then, child molestation is very rare. But I agree with the rest of them 100%. The problem is, if these facts get out to too many helicopter parents, they may not let their kids go to grandma’s house and then swimming will be banned for all kids under 16!

  17. Emily Morris March 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Havva, that’s a great story. Sounds like a sensible officer, just a bit flummoxed by some of the questions and comments!

  18. Donald March 17, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Do you know how to make a monkey trap? Put a small hole in a wood box and fill it with peanuts. The monkey reaches in, grabs a fistful of peanuts and is unable to remove his hand. His desire for the food outweighs his need for escape.

    Human do the same thing. Many are unable to control their urge to smother children in safety.

    This is a paradox because the more stress that people are under, the more urge they have to engage in Simple Thinking Mode (STM) and the more this mode overrides logic and rational thinking. The bad decisions that are made from this increases the stress and so we go even more into STM

  19. BL March 17, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    “I was told by someone to get rid of my dog, because there is some really, really small risk that he could injure my baby.”

    When I was born, my parents already had two young dogs, who were around for most of my preteen years. My childhood would definitely have been poorer without them.

  20. Warren March 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    It is surprising the number of people that just hate dogs. When my girls were infants and I would be out with them in the stroller, and our German Shep. it was not uncommon for moms to say that people with kids should not be allowed to have dogs as well.

    I used to tell them that it should be law that when you have kids, you get them a dog.

    Occassionally the odd parent would bring their baby over to visit our dog, so that their baby gets use to them. Mind you Rawsha, our Shep. was not a good learning experience, because babies and infants could poke, yank, crawl on and do anything to her and she just lapped up the attention. Not all dogs are that understanding.

  21. Donald March 17, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    …….What you do by constantly repeating the 600,000 years (or 750,000 years which I have seen before) is called “lying with statistics”. It dramatically harms your credibility……

    @delurking Perhaps we should all be as highly moralistic as Fox News

  22. Heather Head March 17, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Wow, what wonderful comments. This is the Heather Head of the above rant. I would LOVE if someone turned this into an infographic as has been suggested. If only I had graphic design skillz!

    Thanks too for the constructive feedback. I hear delurking’s concern, and I agree it’s important to get our numbers straight. When Lenore asked if she could post this, I let her know that her readers were bound to find errors in my work, and that I consider that a plus–the truth is what it’s about. Another place I don’t have skillz–statistics! I’m grateful there are others who do.

    As for the question regarding kids vs. teens, I hear that concern too. Dangers are different as kids age. I have a 14-year-old teen who is NOT a kid (by his definition, hehe), an 11-year-old who still lets me call him a kid but it’s borderline, and a 7-year-old who thinks he’s much older than he is and yet is most definitely still a kid. In most of the statistics cited, the ranking of dangers was the same across all those age ranges. Suicide was the one that was high for teens but low for the younger ages. I felt it was important to include because suicide is, in fact, a real danger for teens and something to worry about far more than letting them go away to camp or sleep over at a friend’s house. Very, very sadly, I have a friend whose 14-year-old committed suicide this year, and another friend whose 11-year-old attempted suicide last year (neither, for what it’s worth, were directly drug-related, though one did use pills). This is close to my heart and I felt it important to include.

    I would love to know more about drug use and abuse for teens. Does anyone have the statistics on outcomes in this regard? For instance, is it a leading cause of death? Teen crime? And so on. I didn’t see it on the CDC’s list of leading causes of death, and it didn’t occur to me to include it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real concern.

    Havva, I read your comment with great interest. We have, as mentioned in Lenore’s post, had several run-ins with local police. At first, we were angry and considered “fighting” with them over it. However, we live in a very community-oriented town, and it’s become clear that the leadership and community want to work with us. I’m currently in discussions with leadership, and my hope is for our town to become a model for how to foster safety AND independence in children–BOTH AND. I will be sure to share our success and what we learn about how to do this, in hopes that more of our communities can become free range safe havens.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has chimed in. I am reading every single comment and value all your input. It feels great to know so many out there are fighting this good fight.

  23. Heather Head March 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    P.S. If any of you want to connect on Twitter, let’s do it (@HHeadWrites). A free range community is a beautiful thing to have. If you follow me and I *don’t* follow you within a day or so, please DM me. I have a feeling I may get barraged, and I don’t want to miss anyone. Thanks!

  24. Nicole 2 March 17, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    On both sides, how about letting families decide for themselves? There are plenty of not readily apparent special needs situations, trangender/gender non confirming situations, and plenty of very independent and capable 4 year olds.

    Seems like everyone needs to MYOB.

  25. chris March 17, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    This is one of the best articles you’ve written !!!

  26. Heather Head March 17, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    Hey, y’all. The infographic is coming. A friend just volunteered. Woot!

  27. bmommyx2 March 17, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    I was thinking of you today when I was shopping at Target. My almost 4 yr old didn’t want to leave the toy sections so after asking him several times I proceeded to walk away while telling him goodbye mommy’s leaving. I walked quite a ways down the lane, but I could still see him until he went into the isle. I got what I needed & headed back to get him. I found two concerned Target Employees & overheard one reporting a child without their parents over the radio. His words make it sound like the child was distressed, but in reality my son was fine & not at all bothered by my absence. The store was not busy at all & there were no other shoppers in sight so I felt safe walking away, I had no concerns & would have heard him if he called me. I know they are doing their job, but I also know their actions are not so much out of concern for my child as they are about liability or being sued or blamed if something happened.

  28. Bob Davis March 17, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    I was intrigued by the term “Simple Thinking Mode”. It reminded me of the place where I worked back in the 70s. For most of my time there, I was on the night shift. Our group would run tests on various modules that would require them to be tested at different temperatures for specified periods. Once we got the tests set up, we might have some time for a “bull session”, where we’d solve all the problems of the world and wonder why the powers that be weren’t as smart as we were. One day I had heard enough of this, and said, “We can sit around and talk until we’re blue in the face and nothing will happen. If the President followed our advice, more death and destruction than you can imagine might result.” I think a lot of our ideas might have fallen into the “Simple Thinking Mode.”

  29. sexhysteria March 18, 2015 at 4:18 am #

    I offer a free poster for pediatricians’ offices and cilnics that lists the most common causes of child death and serious injury: http://www.FRECS.og

  30. Donald March 18, 2015 at 6:32 am #

    @Bob Davis

    For more info on Simple Thinking Mode, check out Triune Brain

    The human brain is divided up in 3 parts and have different ranks.
    The admiral is the reptilian complex or ‘snake brain’ and it is in charge of breathing, pulse, perspiration, and other bodily functions. The Master Chief is the limbic system and is very emotional. The lowest rank is the neocortex. Therefore, rational thinking is allowed but only if the limbic system approves it. The amygdala is the trigger in our head that when it feels lots of stress, It engages survival mode and rational thinking gets thrown out.

    When the amygdala is healthy, It’s accurate on determining life or death situations. When the brain becomes weak and cannot control emotion, it can see a 12 year old playing unsupervised as a very potential life or death situation. Logic goes out the window. Heather Head wrote a brilliant article. However only rational thinking can understand it. If the limbic system has put the neocortex on a short leash, then the article will be disregarded

    I am a graphic artist and this is what I am focusing on when I draw my infographics. My blog starts off with other examples of Simple Thinking Mode. I’ll write several of these pages before I delve deeper into neuroscience.

  31. Donald March 18, 2015 at 6:49 am #


    Teen Suicide is a huge thing. About the biggest cause of it is low confidence/self esteem.

    The ironic thing is that we are so concerned for their safety that we discourage them from becoming self reliant and therefore we greatly hold them back from developing confident/self esteem. Therefore we ‘help’ them into anxiety and depression which is a much more dangerous situation than the boogyman that we’re trying to protect them from.

  32. E March 18, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    @Heather, I will try to find some supporting number regarding drug use/overdose in teens. I was able to find info from the CDC on overall injury deaths, but this is not just teens.

    I found another website that mentioned the teen facts, but they did not have a link. Perhaps they are co-opting the overall trend above.

    I did come across this PDF that talks about both mental health and drug use (adults and children) that might be of interest to you Heather.
    It’s from:

  33. E March 18, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    @Donald — I understand what you are saying, but let’s be mindful about drawing conclusions about suicide. We can all agree that self-esteem is important. But there are so many things that have changed drastically to the young person life experience in just the last generation. The ability to compare/contrast your life/appearance/accomplishments to those of peers is ever present and constant. Methods of communication (for good and bad) are vast and relentless.

    It would be an unfair burden to parents of teens suicides to project/presume that their style of upbringing was a root cause. Talk about parent fear.

  34. Sarah Kingan March 18, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Check out the graphic I made about this! It contrasts the actual risk to kids versus the media coverage of various risks to children.

  35. Grandma March 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm # tell the parents of this child. And the thousands more missing ” ITS OK TO GO ALONE TO STORE,PARK,FRIENDS, , because of your opinion, my daughter and I are arguing over not letting her kids walk alone to school, etc. Free range is for chickens,, not kids. Look at the missing ,all teen age girls gone, missing, trafficking is on rise, truckers are bring asked to watch for these girls. Its an epidemic. When you give advice to people you must be responsible with what you say or tell them. 30 + years ago it was OK to let your kids run free, there’s even kids missing from 1950’s . I can’t believe you’re telling mom’s an dads let your kids run free. Have you ever voluntered for a family who’s looking for a lost one? I suggest you think about what your spouting off about ,undermining my authority as a parent,grandparent to safety of my family. Be ready to be sued if GOD forbid something happens. I will be sharing your link with missing friends.

  36. lollipoplover March 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    We did volunteer just a few weeks ago to help someone find a lost 13 yo in our area.
    Sadly, he was discovered dead in the woods with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Another teen suicide. There have been 4 in the past few weeks of young (10, 11,14) adults that have made the news. It IS heartbreaking.

    Most of the teens reported missing are runaways. Abuse happens at alarming rates by people known and trusted by the victims. (See *Sending the kids to Grandma’s house above to learn about the number of FAMILY abductions that occur each year- it’s mind blowing.) And troubled kids run away from home, turn to drugs, or sex-trafficking to survive.

    The biggest parenting blunder is perpetuating these Urban Myths of *Missing Children* (most by family members) and fearmongering (and creating anxiety disorders). Parents who obsessively try to exert control
    over perfectly capable kids should be considered abusive.
    I won’t instill your ignorance in my children.
    They are too smart and capable. They CAN and DO walk to school, stores, and parks quite well and have done so with no incidences since young ages.
    Sorry, I don’t just subscribe to your *world is such a dangerous place* bat-shit-crazy paranoia. Turn off the 24/7 news cycle and go out and enjoy your neighborhood. You might discover first hand it’s actually a nice place for kids to play.

  37. Warren March 18, 2015 at 2:04 pm #


    First you need to understand all the stats and data about missing kids, not just the huge numbers thrown out to scare people like you.

    Next, why are you arguing with your daughter. It is not your child, and therefore not your place to decide what is or isn’t appropriate. You did your job, now it is time for your daughter to do hers.

    I hate to burst your little paranoid bubble, but we live in safer times than ever. And the sooner people like you join reality, and come to terms with that, the better your lives will be. Living in fear and parenting out of fear is not healthy for anyone.

    So please stop bullying your daughter, it sounds like she is doing just fine.

  38. Warren March 18, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Just how old are your grandkids, by the sounds of it they are teens.

  39. Johny Why March 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    The point is, what are the actual odds of any of these things causing harm to your kids?

    For example, it would be more informative to know “what % of people your kids meet are sex offenders?”, or better “what % of people your kids meet are sex offenders who WILL molest your kids?”

    Or, if your kid goes swimming, what are the odds of drowning? Public pool vs private pool?


    That would be much more persuasive, from the position of Free Range Kids.


  40. Lela March 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    My children aren’t allowed to stay with grandparents without mom and dad there, but it’s because grandpa is an alcoholic who drinks and drives. Parents just have to use common sense and good judgement. A lot of these situations depend on where you live. We live in a rural area (and our house is off the road) and my kids (10, 5, 4, 2 1/2) play outside alot, often with minimal supervision. I would be more worried about kidnapping if we lived in a big city.

  41. Heather Head March 18, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Oh, honey, Grandma, missing children statistics are SO heart-breaking. Good for you, for chipping in to help families who have lost someone. It’s obvious you care very much about this cause.

    A lot of people have no idea that child sex trafficking is still a thing in the United States today. I have friends who work with organizations that help get these (mostly girls) out and give them life skills so they can start anew. And it is heartbreaking, as well as rewarding, work.

    It’s important to understand that in 95+% of these cases, it was a family member who sold/traded/gave those children into modern slavery. It was a parent, or an aunt, or a grandparent. Which makes it even more heart-breaking… and puts in perspective where the danger lies.

    Clearly, CLEARLY, you are not the Grandma parents should be worried about. I would never suggest that people actually stop sending their children to Grandma’s house, unless she has demonstrated clear signs that she’s not trustworthy. My point is to demonstrate that as unlikely as it is that you would harm your grandchild, it’s even more unlikely that danger will strike that same child while out walking around a (normal, reasonably safe) American neighborhood.

    I hope that when you share this link with your friends in the missing children networks, that they will understand that we are not pointing fingers at them for their parenting choices. Losing a child is heartbreaking, no matter how it happens, and when you have no closure, I can only imagine that it’s even harder. There is no need to sharpen the pain by casting blame. I hope they will also understand that we too want our children safe and happy and healthy, and that our evidence-based “free range” approach is a valid, statistically sound approach.

    I hope too that you will find a way to come to terms with your daughter. That she will understand that you act out of love and concern for your grandchildren, and that you will understand that she is making the right decisions for the family that she is raising.

    Love and Light.

  42. Johny Why March 18, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    as the other John pointed out

    the stat about meeting people does NOT support free-ranging. Wrong stat to use here. Unless it’s sarcastic.

  43. Johny Why March 18, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    @Heather Head

    “A lot of people have no idea that child sex trafficking is still a thing in the United States today. I have friends who work with organizations that help get these (mostly girls) out and give them life skills so they can start anew.”

    Life skills? Exactly. These are not normal kids from normal backgrounds, where they learn normal life skills.

    “She was the product of a troubled home, where she was sexually molested by her father’s roommate. The abuse began when she was 4 years old. She also was molested at the day care center where she was taken every day. ‘My mom was a junkie,’ Jane, now 17, said in an interview… She ended up with a family friend, a woman who forced her to work as a prostitute and sell drugs. Rachel Lloyd [who] helps girls and women ages 12 to 24 victimized by sex traffickers said, ‘most came from troubled homes where there was either sexual or physical abuse.'”

    If your mom is a junkie, and your mom’s friend is a pimp, you’ve got much bigger and more real actual worries, than “abduction”.

  44. derfel cadarn March 18, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    If the American People wish for Freedom ,Liberty and Justice then government must be banned. There is no greater threat to you and your children than our own government.

  45. Heather Head March 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm #


    YES, exactly. You are right on point. And yes, the list of “what’s dangerous” is somewhat tongue in cheek. I’m not actually suggesting that people not send their kids to Grandma’s house, or to camp. 🙂

    I’m not even suggesting they stop driving them places (though that would certainly make them significantly more safe!). I set all of those up to demonstrate how out-of-proportion our fear is of things that are even LESS likely to happen to our children than auto accidents and drownings.

    Abductions and child slavery are both issues primarily for families where abuse, severe neglect, and domestic violence are already present. Spot on.

  46. SJane March 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    Someone in comments mentioned a friend who drops kids off at school by letting the kids out in the street (vs pulling up to a curb). I have to drive by an elementary school to get out of my neighborhood. So many times I see parents who stop in the middle of traffic to let kids out, which I assume is due to the long line-up of cars waiting to access the designated drop off area. The area is there for a reason, with volunteers in bright vests to direct traffic. This “I don’t want to wait” mentality seems to worsen with the weather is bad. So, when it snows or rains, when stopping abruptly is MORE difficult, you’re going to stop dead in the street and let your kids out to walk through traffic. It’s like common sense can’t win.

  47. E March 18, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    @SJane, yup. Everyone likes to complain about the carpool lines, and some just choose to create their own system as a one off that caters to what they want and ignores how it creates different issues. Even in the HS, parents circumvented the carpool system only to come to a screeching halt in the road (to drop off) right past where people make a right OUT of the parking lots and carpool. They couldn’t even be ‘special’ w/o creating a different safety issue.

    Carpool lanes ARE a pain. But you should either participate in the system the school (typically in tandem with local police) creates or let them ride a bus (or walk).

  48. Matthew Huntington March 18, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    Very nice article! I just have to make one comment…

    “Letting your kid walk to the park, stand on the street, or go to the store alone in a normal, reasonably safe American neighborhood.”

    As long as it’s your kid’s own neighborhood, it’s safe. Yes, in theory your killed could be killed in a drive-by, but they could also be killed in your house the same way. People worry too much about hookers and drug dealers- they want trouble even less than middle class people.

    Traffic, litter, and the like are still serious issues, but in terms of abductions the odds are vanishingly small even in the ‘worst’ neighborhoods. Violent crime is way down from when I was a kid, and the advent of cell phones and trackers makes kids far safer than they used to be.

  49. Donna March 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    “Sex trafficking” is nothing more than a new, panic-causing, word for the same ways that pimps have been getting their workers since the dawn of time. It absolutely doesn’t involve happy teens getting abducted on their way to school, being chained in basements and forced into prostitution. It is runaways and throwaways who hook up with a pimp, sometimes voluntarily because it beats home or the street, sometimes by extortion (letting them get in debt for drugs and then making them work off the debt is common) and sometimes out of the simple need to be loved by anyone, even a pimp. It is horribly sad, but not a fate awaiting the average suburban middle class teen on the way to school.

  50. CrazyCatLady March 18, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    E, how about this from 2014?

    Revised December 2014

    2014’s Monitoring the Future survey of drug use and attitudes among American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders continued to show encouraging news about youth drug use, including decreasing use of alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription pain relievers; no increase in use of marijuana; decreasing use of inhalants and synthetic drugs, including K2/Spice and bath salts; and a general decline over the last two decades in the use of illicit drugs. However, the survey highlighted growing concerns over the high rate of e-cigarette use and softening of attitudes around some types of drug use, particularly decreases in perceived harm and disapproval of marijuana use.

    It does stand to figure that if less teens are using drugs (e-cigs aside) that less kids are dying from drug use.

  51. Warren March 18, 2015 at 9:58 pm #


    Thank you. I was trying to think of how to put it into words. Basically they gave a fear inducing name to practices that have been going on since Christ was a cowboy.

  52. CrazyCatLady March 18, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    Here you go, E. Death rates for US Teens. A little dated, but as the report on drug use from December 2014 shows a decline in drug use, I think this is still pretty accurate.

    SummaryFrom 1999 to 2006, an average of 16,375 teenagers 12–19 years died each year. The overall risk of dying for teenagers (average annual death rate) is 49.5 deaths per 100,000 population. Accidents (unintentional injuries), homicide, suicide, cancer, and heart disease make up the five leading causes of death for teenagers. Motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accident death among teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths to teenagers. Non-Hispanic black teenage males have the highest death rate compared with Hispanic and non-Hispanic white males and females. Homicide is the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic black male teenagers, with more than two of every five deaths due to homicide.

  53. Bryce Nesbitt March 19, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    This article confuses risk incident and risk rate. If something happens often it can hurt a lot of people, just because lots of people do it. Lenore’s argument falls flat because parents won’t want to add any risk, not even infinitesimal risk, to their child’s lives.

  54. Josie March 19, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    Preach it, sister!

  55. E March 19, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    @CrazyCatLady — thanks for the additional information, I’ve stumbled across lots of stuff as well. I do believe that the statistic about drug deaths > car deaths may stem from the overall stat that I posted from the CDC.

    However, while information seems to indicate that some drug use is down, I still firmly believe that parents being educated about drug use and trends is very important. Because of the proliferation of Rx meds in adults and medicine cabinets, the drug use and risks is vastly different than we we were kids. The use of ADHD meds (by kids not prescribed it) in HS and college campuses is higher, etc.

    I simply trying to include an actual risk in a discussion about what parents should be concerned about. I’m not really interested in listing the biggest/only risk. This absolutely belongs in the conversation.

  56. Warren March 19, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    When my oldest was at university just a few years ago, we had talked about drug use. Not that I worried about her, just a general discussion. She was saying that every so often something new or different was the latest and greatest drug of choice. But it never drew in new users like parents like to think it does.

    My daughter explained to me that those prone to drug use are going to be users. Just like drinkers, gamblers, and smokers. Addictive personalities are addictive personalities.

    In her opinion as well the older generation has got to back off on the ad campaigns, public service announcements and all they hype about not doing drugs. Because as with anything, the more you preach it, the more you push towards it for some, and for others it just starts to fall on deaf ears because they are tired of it.

  57. Havva March 19, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    @Bryce Nesbitt
    If “parents won’t want to add any risk, not even infinitesimal risk, to their child’s lives” why are so many car seats improperly installed? Why were some 3,000 of the 9,000 children under 12 who died in car accidents in 2012 not wearing a seat belt at all?

    Why when I complain of a lack of freedom for kids to just run the neighborhood, am I advised by other parents to join the neighborhood swim club. Specifically so I can drop her off, near the the second leading cause of death, and leave?

    When I pointed out that this was a lot more dangerous than letting a kid run around the neighborhood I was told “Yeah, but you can’t just let them go to the park anymore. It’s not the done thing.”

    So no I don’t think it is a question of what unnecessarily adds risk to a child’s life. It is a matter of what fetches condemnation and what is seen as normal.

    But what fetches condemnation and what is seen as normal can change. It needs to change. And in my area, at least, normal is changing. At the condo bus stop near my daughter’s day care there are enough elementary age kids to load a school bus. In less than 4 years we have gone from each elementary age kid having their hand held all the way to the bus door. To only a hand full of adults accompanying the bus load of kids. And a hand full of kids coming independently in all weather. Over the years I’ve seen many school buses unload kids to the waiting parents, it was the routine. But, yesterday I watched a bus disgorge its elementary age passengers to 3 ritzy new apartment buildings. For a moment I thought one woman had come out to meet her kid. The lady waved to a girl carrying a clarinet case. But then the lady and the girl both kept right on walking in opposite directions.

  58. Donna March 19, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    I agree with Warren somewhat on the drug issue. Basically, kids who are going to use illegal drugs will use drugs, type is largely irrelevant. If meth had never become popular, the meth-heads would have just used crack.

    Prescription pills is a whole different ballgame. People who were never interested in illegal drugs become addicted after they are prescribed meds for actual problems. Kids who never would have tried illegal drugs think nothing of raiding mom’s xanax supply. These people obviously have addictive personalities, but in many instances this would not have been explored without the ready acceptability of prescription pills and doctors who give them out like candy. We were just talking about that this week – doctors who give you 30 oxycotin after a simple medical procedure.

  59. Steve March 19, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Another danger to add to your list:



    There are 225,000 Medically Caused Deaths every year in the US.


    Read about the The Starfield report that exposed this here:

    * 12,000 deaths from “unnecessary” surgeries;

    * 7,000 deaths from medication “errors” in hospitals;

    * 20,000 deaths from “other errors in hospitals;”

    * 80,000 deaths from infections acquired “in hospitals;”

    * 106,000 deaths from “FDA-approved Correctly Prescribed Medicines.”

  60. E March 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    @Donna — that exactly what I’m talking about. The landscape of what’s available and what risks are involved are a little different. Kids (and clearly adults too) do not have enough respect for the drugs that are willing to ingest to [fill in the blank] and many do not understand that just because “it’s medicine” that the risks are real.

    Personally, I think the social cliques are not as segregated as they used to be pre-internet/FB/social media. I think kids can get desensitized to some thing they see because they have visibility into so many different kids/experiences.

    Couple this discussion with some of the mental health issues that were identified in this post, it’s worth discussion.

    @Warren — yes, there are kids that fall into the category that your describe, not inclined to try various substances. That would have described me (still does actually), but not all kids are the same. Not all kids deal with peer pressure or have a healthy fear of things.

    We’re a society of “I feel [fill in the blank]” so “I’m going to take [fill in the blank]”. What’s the stat? The US has 5% of the world’s population and 75% of the world’s Rx drugs?

  61. Warren March 19, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    That is where having a good family doctor and common sense parents comes in.

    Luckily our doctor is not one of the pill pushers.

    Ice and cold packs for swelling.
    Heat and rubs for muscle aches.
    Anti-biotics only when absolutely needed.
    Pain meds only when absolutely no other option exists.

  62. E March 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

    @Warren — again, I’m with you.

    The problem is, kids are surrounded by kids of parents who might not feel the same way (or have a legit reason to have some of these meds). It’s the availability. It’s the availability and the frame of mind that Dr prescribed drugs are “safe”.

    It’s the mindset that teenagers or college kids that are stressed out from whatever say/think “I need a Xanax” or “I want to relax” or “I need to study, give me an adderrall”. It’s the cycle of using substances to makes us feel better. Added to that is just immature and not-completely-developed brains that have even less experience than the adults that make the same mistakes.

    Again, I’m not trying to say anything other than, drug use/availability/trends are worthy things for parents to think about. I would guess the odds of a kid in our HS ending up in “trafficking” or kidnapped are miniscule compared to odds of being around/exposed to/use drugs with risks.

  63. Donna March 19, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Warren, It isn’t a matter of over prescribing – although there are some prescription mills out there – as much as how many are given in a usual prescription.

    For example, I had abdominal surgery a few years ago. They gave me vicodin for pain. Not unreasonable after major abdominal surgery, except that they gave me 30 of the things. I took it for a couple nights and then was fine. Of the 30 pills I received, I took 2 or 3. The other 27 sat around. Same thing happened a few years later after having an impacted wisdom tooth removed. Then I took one and had an extra 29.

    Many people will take all 30 just because they have them. Some read the bottle that says “take one every 4-6 hours as needed” as they are supposed to take one every 4-6 hours. Doctors don’t always do a great job of communicating. So what started as a legitimate prescription quickly morphs into abuse.

    Further, people think nothing of throwing that extra in the medicine cabinet and using them whenever needed because they are prescription drugs and not dangerous. Kids and parents think nothing of a kid taking one because he hurt his knee at football practice. Kid likes the effects and has unlimited access and starts using them regularly.

    Prescription medication is the fastest growing abused drug in the US and people don’t have the same view of it. Going down to the hood to buy crack is very different than misusing a prescription given to them by a doctor in their minds. Once hooked on prescription pills they often move onto illegal stuff. Oxycotin abuse moves into other opiates like heroin. Once you are buying pills on the street, you might as well try crack and meth too.

  64. Donna March 19, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    E – It isn’t just a kid thing. Adults, who actually have more reason to get prescriptions, are who I see the most with prescription drug abuse.. And not stupid people. The attorney I worked for before law school was disbarred for stealing client funds and ended up dying in a ditch homeless thanks to prescription pills. He shattered his ankle in a car accident and over time got addicted to the pain killers he was prescribed for a very legitimate injury with very legitimate pain.

  65. CrazyCatLady March 19, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

    E, Drugs are one of those things that parents need to talk to kids and teens about. As surveys show, drug use is going down. Part of the reason it is going down is because prevention programs have taken it away from the DARE programs with the emphasis on “IT WILL KILL YOU” to a more realistic view of “there could be consequences.” Not every kid who uses will die. Not every kid who uses will become addicted. Not every kid who uses once will feel a need to use again. People use because at first it feels good. (Lets be honest, no one drinks alcohol because they want to barf.)

    But there can be consequences. Very rarely, a kid dies. Somewhat more often, kids get addicted (and often they get addicted because they have other mental issues going on and they are trying to self medicate.) If a kid is unlucky, they might get caught by the police and have some long term consequences like being unable to get student loans. They also may be caught by their parents, which can have long term consequences depending on the parent, religion and other factors. Most often, the only people who will know may be their friends. Who, may speak up and say that what the kid is doing is not cool and could have consequences.

    Maybe I am getting you wrong, but I get the feeling you want to go the scare tactic route. But that has been proven to NOT work. That was a big part of the DARE program, which for some kids basically meant that when they saw a person who used, and lived, then “hey, that officer must have been lying, so let me try a bunch of other things too, because he must have been wrong about it all!” Kind of like being issued a Triple Dog Dare.

    So yes, parents need to talk to their kids about it. Does it belong in the same list of things that get people killed most of the time. No. Because teens don’t die most of the time from their use. If you have teens, please talk to them about swimming. Particularly swimming in May (Memorial Day Weekend in particular) in cold bodies of water after a winter of inaction. I personally can think of more kids who have died from that (family friend, at least one teen a year where I live now) than have died from drug overdose. Oh, and poor judgement while driving. Ride with your teen more, and talk about that, because that does make the list. Of course, poor judgement while driving does include drug use and then driving. But there is also that cell phone and friends to distract a driver too. And, if you live in an area that gets ice on rivers or lakes only sometimes….talk to the kids and teens about that too. Moving water under the ice means the ice will be thinner. The ice on the lake may be thick enough to stand on when the ice on the river is not. Oh, and fires…remember to have a safety route out of your house. And smoke detectors. And wear your bike helmet (CA is trying to pass an adult bike helmet now.) And always look both ways before crossing the road to get that ball…wait, that might be on the list.

  66. E March 20, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    @catlady, I’m not sure where, from my posts, you think I’ve suggested HOW to handle the drug issue with your kids, I’ve simply said it needs to be in the conversation. I simply said drug use/abuse was a valid parental concern. It belongs on the list.


  67. E March 20, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    Also, the consequences of habitual drug use (you list many) though short of death, can be life altering.

    Given that drug related death does surpass car accidents in adults, it’s a legitimate risk factor. Some habits begin before adulthood.

  68. Warren March 20, 2015 at 10:17 am #


    I have no doubt prescription drug abuse is probably one of the more popular ways to abuse your body.

    I just don’t see it as a seperate topic to take up with our kids. If you are going to sit down and have a talk about drugs, talk about drugs. I do not see the need to seperate presription drugs from other drugs.

    Actually never been one to do the whole sit down and have a serious talk about any subject. Not drugs, not bullying, or anything really. That seem more of a waste than anything. Always felt that leading by example, answering any and all questions honestly, and when the subject comes up just engaging the conversation as normal.

  69. E March 20, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    @Warren, the point Donna and I have been trying to make is that *some people*, adults and kids, misunderstand the risks that is sitting in their own medicine cabinet. If people treat/view Rx pain meds the same as advil (approved legal medicine recommended by a Dr), they are not grasping the risks of the Rx pain meds. The risk of becoming dependent on opioids is real and can occur in a rather short period of time for some.

    So some people who might never ever consider buying a street drug, don’t understand or appreciate that there is real risk in a legal approved and prescribed drug. This is true for adults and teens.

    From the CDC:

    Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
    The drug overdose death rate has more than doubled from 1999 through 2013.
    In 2013, 35,663 (81.1%) of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional, 5,432 (12.4%) were of suicidal intent, and 2,801 (6.4%) were of undetermined intent.
    In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals.
    Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (18 or younger) were seen in EDs each year because of medication overdose (excluding self-harm, abuse and recreational drug use).

    In 2013, of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,767 (51.8%) were related to pharmaceuticals.
    Of the 22,767 deaths relating to pharmaceutical overdose in 2013, 16,235 (71.3%) involved opioid analgesics (also called opioid pain relievers or prescription painkillers), and 6,973 (30.6%) involved benzodiazepines. (Some deaths include more than one type of drug.)

  70. Donna March 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm #


    I disagree on talking about drugs with your kids completely. I don’t think it should be some serious gloom-and-doom talk – I actually agree that that is counter-productive – but you do need to have regular conversations about drugs. And the prescription drug issue is the most important component. Many, probably even most, people absolutely don’t view taking prescription pills as “abusing their body.” You swear up and down here constantly that your doctor is some god among men. They likely feel the same about their doctor and he gave them the pills so they can’t be bad. And in the majority of cases, they aren’t. The majority of people can take medication as directed and not become addicted. But some can’t and there is no test to know into which group you file prior to taking them.

    What you seem to not understand that millions of people get addicted to prescription pills by using them EXACTLY AS PRESCRIBED. At least at first. Once the addiction takes hold, they move beyond that level, but the initial addiction is almost always formed taking them per their doctors orders. People don’t become addicted to oxycotin by buying it from the street. They buy it from the street because they’ve become addicted while taking it as prescribed and their doctor, realizing this, has cut them off.

    People also need to realize that many over-the-counter medications are abused. I have to have this conversation with my 9 year old who thinks children’s advil is candy and wants to take them for every little pain she has. And, no, she is not getting this from me. I almost never take any medication. Children do learn by experience and not just example. My child has put two-and-two together and realized that taking advil helped when I’ve given it to her for legitimate complaints so it should also help when she stubs her toe, and it probably would if that weren’t a completely ridiculous reason to take advil. Right now I have control since she can’t reach the medicine cabinet, but that won’t always be true and she needs to learn that advil is for stitches and not stubbed toes.

  71. Warren March 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    Sorry but my way worked just fine for all three. Never had a formal sit down talk on any topic. None. What we did do was talk about all topics on and off as they came up in life, the news, on shows or whenever, wherever.
    These were far more valualbe for our kids, as they never viewed them as “talk”. They would just openly talk with me, becuse it was just us shooting the shit about whatever. A lot less formal, and a lot more comfortable.

    For example watching a Bones episode, there was a group of teens wanting to all have babies together, to raise them together. Lead to a very easy comfortable conversation with one of my daughters about sex, pregnancy and life, without either one of us being on the spot.

    The conversation about drugs on campus with my eldest came from her talking about her roommates parents freaking out about a news story, on the subject. Conversations with my kids always worked better, because it is the perfect way for them to open up.

    So no. I have never seen the need nor the benefit of a sit down I want to talk to you about………………..

  72. E March 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    Warren, every kid and family and social circle and community will be different in regard to how things unfold. I can assure you that families that approach topics in the same manner as you have experienced children getting in over their head with substance abuse. There was a local sad story about an Eagle Scout that ended up using in the exact manner that Donna describes…got into a car accident and was injured, starting taking Rx meds as directed, became dependent and then started making terrible choices in order to sustain his dependency. I think he’s currently in jail.

    Another local story, another Eagle Scout, engineering honor role college kid going out with a HS buddy one last time who was headed off to basic training. They mixed alcohol and opiates and were found dead sitting next to each other the next day. One of the kids had experience with drug use and the other made a terrible decision to take what the other had available (well they both made a terrible decision).

    If there was a sure fire way for parents to prevent kids from using risky substances, then there would not be the statistics that indicate how much they are actually being used and abused.

  73. Emily March 20, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    My take on the drug issue is pretty much the same as the way the schools in Ontario are approaching sex ed now–start early, and start small. So, just like sex ed is now beginning in grade one, with proper terms for anatomy, et cetera, the “drug talk” can start when your child is very young, even before school age. When you’re giving them medicine for a cold or whatever, you can start the conversation about the importance of taking medicine when you’re sick, but also not taking medicine that you don’t need. That way, it’s easy to build from there into talking about illegal drugs later on, when the time comes. So, I agree with Warren about not separating “prescription drugs” (that don’t belong to you) from the “drug talk,” and I also agree with Donna about not making it one big sit-down talk, but several smaller talks through the years, so it’s not a “one and done” kind of deal, but rather, an open discussion.

  74. Julia March 27, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    I was trying to refer to this when making a point online, but the main statistic that I wanted to use is not accurate:

    Sending your kid to Grandma’s house. 200,000 children per year in the U.S. are abducted, and 199,885 of them are taken by family members, including grandparents, non-custodial parents (who often take them from a grandparent’s house), and close family friends

    When I follow the link provided as a source, it says:

    The most recent, comprehensive national study for the number of missing children estimated in 1999: [1]
    Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
    More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.

    …not at all the same…