Please Post This Everywhere: “Steady Decline in Crime”

Dear Readers: Here isiehnkfra
is an article from the New York Times
that says what I keep trying to say: Crime is down. Not up. Not even sideways. Down.

How far down? Major crime — murder, rape, robbery, assault —  is at “the lowest rate in nearly 40 years,” sez the paper of record. In fact, America is enjoying a crime plunge so striking, the experts can’t even figure out WHY it is happening. But it is.

So when folks say that they’d really LIKE to let their kids play on the lawn, or bounce a ball on the driveway, or stick a toe out the front door, but they can’t because we are living in hell on earth, engulfed by danger, and ANYTHING could happen and good Lord, isn’t our job to keep our kids SAFE, especially in TIMES LIKE THESE…please show them this article.

Please. — L.

P.S. And please also remember that this drop in crime cannot be attributed to parental hovering, since we are NOT hovering over adults and yet crime against THEM is down, too. No one is obsessively watching over grown-ups on play dates, or when they’re walking home from work, and yet they are getting murdered and raped and robbed LESS, too.

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79 Responses to Please Post This Everywhere: “Steady Decline in Crime”

  1. Kimberly May 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Nice to have “evidence” to back up what we’ve been saying all along. I’ll use this next time I get scolded for letting my toddlers play (totally supervised) in our suburban front yard!

  2. Jay May 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Now, I am definitely a free-range advocate and father of three kids that spend most of their day outside, running around on our land; but I’ve got a question that I think of each time I hear things like “Crime is down” or “Crime is at the lowest rate in nearly 40 years.”– specifically when talking about child-related crime. How much of this decrease could be attributed to the rise of “anti-free-range” parenting (parents *not* letting their kids out of their sight, etc.) over the same time period? Is that an effective rebuttal to the citing of these statistics to support the free-range philosophy?

    Maybe this question has been asked and answered many times here, but I just haven’t seen it.


  3. Christine May 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I was actually going to comment with the same question, Jay. That always niggles at the back of my mind when I hear those stats, and I too am an avid Free Range supporter!

    I’d be curious to see the breakdown of those stats. Kidnapping-by-stranger is so rare as it is; has that dropped significantly? Or is it the estranged-relative-kidnappings that have gone down the most? And if so, do those kidnappings happen more during visitations or out on the streets?

  4. Peter May 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    The one that made me laugh was that our local media reported this, but they were very quick to point out that crime linked to gang members is up 40%!

  5. Tim Gill May 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Nothing grabs an audience’s attention like fear. So fear is the dominant emotional tool of the media – any media. Hard facts, as here, are helpful in persuading thoughtful people – and as Lenore says, we should share them wherever we can. But it isn’t enough. Supporters of free range kids need to fight emotion with emotion. We need to make people care enough about what might happen to our kids if we *don’t* give them more freedom, so that they have the courage to untie the apron strings.

    To the people saying “isn’t the fall in child-related crime because parents are keeping their kids in?” 1) the facts show that the number of seriously dangerous people out there committing such crimes is tiny, and lower than it has been for decades 2) read the PS in Lenore’s post!

  6. Tuppence May 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    @Jay & Christine — The numbers haven’t been affected by “prevention”. My understanding is that child abductions by strangers has remained pretty constant at around 100-150 a year. (Follows the “Freakonomics” pattern, perhaps??) There are 75 million children in the US. I suppose a rise in population (and therefore a rise in the amount of children), but the number of stranger abductions staying constant, would mean the crime-rate for this particular crime has gone gown down as well. But the crime has been affected by something else – perception/reaction.

    I found this online. A woman named Paula Fass has written a book on the history of the subject. She writes about the role media attention has played, the laws and governmental bodies put in place to stop it, and, even, the point in history when parents learned how they are publicly expected to behave, should this tragedy befall them:

  7. Tuppence May 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Or rather, here (I hope) :

  8. Sean May 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    I have tried to explain the low crime facts to people and had them simply deny it can be true. Sometimes they ask me if I watch TV……

  9. Dolly May 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    This is great news! I have used this info on my mom who while she let me be free range is trying to talk me out of letting my boys be free range.

    I have to say though I wonder if our city specifically is down on crime because I wonder. Our city recently has had a huge increase in gang activity and literally almost every day someone gets shot in our projects. This was not always the case. Our nice park downtown has shootouts and flash mobs every weekend once the sun goes down. Its bad here. The suburb parts where we live are great and safe and fine. The projects and certain areas have daily shootings and it is not just gang members getting hurt. They have had bystanders get hurt a lot too because of stray bullets or drivebys. So I am not sure if crime in our town is down. But it is just specific gang crime and just in certain areas. Basically don’t go downtown at night and stay out of certain neighborhoods.

  10. Peter May 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Perhaps crime is down because the criminals are too busy hovering over their own children. They just don’t have time to do crime anymore. Or they aren’t out doing crime against strangers because they were raised to be afraid of strangers.

  11. kcwyyh May 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Why crimes are going down in USA?

  12. Taylor Meacham May 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    @ Jay & Christine – the article says there has been a steady decline over 40 years. If the rise in helicoptering began precisely in 1970 then may there is a bit to the theory that parenting is to blame. However, as a child of the 80s, I don’t think real helicoptering kicked in until much later.

    Additionally, the crime decline does concern mostly crimes against adults (why rob a child after all?), as Lenore says the decreasing crimes against adults can’t be explained by helicoptering. So for helicoptering to really prove itself, crimes against children outside of their homes would have to have decreased at a sharper rate than the average rate of all crime.

    The Freakonomics explanation for the decrease is legalized abortion, maybe there is something to that, but I think that the article dismisses the effects of high incarceration rates too easily. When the incarceration rate rose, the deterring threat of incarceration rose with it.

    CA should provide a useful experiment on incarceration rates and the threat of incarceration soon enough.

  13. Selby May 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Did anyone see “Freakonomics”? (You’ll know what I’m getting at if you did)

  14. Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby May 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    It’s great to see statistics like this! It makes it easier to be a free-range parent.

    My daughter, at ten months old, is still a bit young to be heading out to the park by herself. Once she’s old enough, though, I fully plan on giving her as much independence as possible.

    Stats like this make me feel even more comfortable doing so.

  15. MikeS May 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

    Your PS cracked me up. But if the current generation of helicopters gets their way, adults won’t ever be unaccompanied either. Because they’ll have grown up in an environment that discourages independence and tells them that they are CONSTANTLY IN DANGER!

    I’ve seen these “adults” in my job at a university. They are almost incapable of functioning on their own. I even knew one student who wouldn’t be left alone in a controlled-access building. It’s just sad.

  16. BMS May 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    I really think that the best thing I ever did, for myself and my family, is not replacing our TV when it died. We have been TVless for about 7 years now (I lose track). We also stopped getting a daily paper about 8 years ago. This means that I am not bombarded constantly by all the made up, media inflated DANGERS that bring in the ratings. It’s not possible to have that constant noise running in the background. Even if you’re not really paying attention, it seeps in – this crime, that crime, this overinflated threat, that random chance that could KILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY TODAY, etc. This is not to say that I am completely out of touch with the world, but I can be much more selective about what I read and pay attention to.

    My father has always been a newshound, but since he retired he literally has the news on ALL DAY. TV news whenever it is available, news radio in between. Consequently he has become more and more paranoid in his old age. The same man who trusted me to commute an hour each way by public transit from the south side of Chicago to down town Chicago in high school now frets about me walking 5 minutes from my suburban house to the train station when its dark. Unless you really make a conscious effort to fight it, the constant barrage of negative media does start to alter your perceptions.

  17. megan May 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    For the first few months of my child’s life I was trapped on the couch with a baby who would only sleep while held, so I watched the news while she napped. I became terrified of kidnappings and rapes and random murders and muggings. She was too young to be away from me, but I began to question whether I would be able to let her play out in the yard or in the woods or by the creek alone.

    Then, as she began napping in bed and playing on the floor, I turned off the news. And now I’m not so worried anymore.

    I know it’s been said before, but car accidents aren’t reported on the news (unless severe) because they’re so common. If they stop reporting child abductions, rapes, murders and muggings, then I will begin to keep my baby closer.

  18. hcunn May 25, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

    MikeS, on May 25, 2011 at 21:36 said:
    >I’ve seen these “adults” in my job at a university. >They are almost incapable of functioning on their >own. I even knew one student who wouldn’t be left >alone in a controlled-access building. It’s just sad.

    My first reaction is that such social dysfunctionality should weigh against admission to a competitive college. But I suppose it will become a legally privileged “handicap”: colleges will have to meet quotas for admission of the neurotically terrified, and recruit minders for each of them (presumably immigrants from societies without the “helicopter parenting” problem).

  19. Dolly May 25, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    OMG BMS! I am with you! My husband and I have tv but we don’t have cable and we only watch a few shows on network tv that does not include the news. I occasionally read news online but only certain things in our area or if something interests me. I found I can’t handle watching the news all the time because it just upsets me.

    My mother and stepfather though watch Fox news 24/7 and they always get so riled up and start ranting about this new danger and that new thing and blah blah. It stresses me out just being at their house and having to hear the background news noise the entire time and their rants really stress me out. Plus my mom will call up freaking out about some thing she heard on the news and I am like “So what?!”

    She called me today to tell me about some thing going on where you pay $50 dollars and they teach your kids how to ride a bike and fit them for safety helmets and stuff. Sounds innocent enough right? But what is so wrong with teaching kids to ride bikes yourself? Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? Isn’t that about creating a memory with your kids? I don’t get it. Plus I think I can handle picking out a good helmet for them on my own. I read an article about it years ago and remember how to do it. But she called me up to try to talk me into doing this with our kids and saying I should not get them bikes till we do this.

    The thing was that she did no such thing with me. I never wore a helmet and rode everywhere! So I don’t get why she apparently cares so much more about her grandchildren than she cared about me. Or maybe it was the fact that she had way less time to sit around and worry back then than she does now!? I think that is more it!

  20. Kathryn May 26, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Today is Take 25, a program from the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. I only know this because someone posted a link on FB. So I responded with the following comment:

    While it is important to teach your kids safety, if you look at the numbers, only 115 kids each year are kidnapped by a stranger. According to, there were 74.5 million children between the ages of 0-17 in the US in 2009. That means the chance for any particular child to be kidnapped is 0.000154%.

    Since I worked a bit to find the information and figure out the percentage, I thought you might want to know, Lenore.

    Thank you for all that you do!!!


  21. Arielle May 26, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    I posted the link on my FB page and so far three out of three people…don’t believe the NY Times. So I guess you believe statistics are true if they fit your worldview and your don’t if they don’t.

  22. pentamom May 26, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Well, the NYT does have something of a credibility issue. But the stats are there in the article — you could go back to the source and they’d still be the same.

  23. sue May 26, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    KIdnappings by random strangers are like plane crashes. They make the news because they happen so rarely. Both of those events are tragic when they happen. But we need to keep perspective. Air travel is the statistically safest mode of transportation. But if you watched the news, you’d think that planes fall out of the sky a lot more often than they really do. Just because I see a story about a plane crash on the news doesn’t mean that I’m going to avoid air travel. I know that when I step onto an airplane the odds are in my favor of arriving safely at my destination.

    Child abductions by strangers are also very rare, which is why they make the news. If kids were snatched by strangers every second, child abductions wouldn’t make the evening news anymore because they would be commonplace. The most important thing is to educate ourselves about the real odds of our kids being taken by strangers and worry about more important things.

  24. Jonathan hoch May 26, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    I have a theory. Most of you won’t like it. I think in part the whole transition of childhood into a fear based system of incarceration can be traced by the feminization of our child rearing culture.

  25. Rachel May 26, 2011 at 3:51 am #

    Thank you! Have need places to point during recent heated debates. Was surprised that a mom yesterday thought it was good that a child didn’t tell me his name (he was playing with my toddler and I was trying to tell mine–named Wally–to share with X.) Another friend over the weekend felt uneasy that a boy (probably about 10) ate a cookie we gave him (after getting thumbs up from his mom). I was dumbfounded. Oh right, the old we’re-all-eating-these-cookies-but-being-SUPER-CAREFUL-not-to-eat-the-poisoned-ones-in-the-same-batch-as-the-ones-we’re-eating-that-we’re-saving-to-give-to-some-neighborhood-kids trick. Reminds me of Jon Stewart’s bit on the “old Kenyan Prince birth announcement scam” — which he concludes by rubbing his hands together and saying, “It’s almost too easy.”

  26. LRH May 26, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    As it is often-said here, just stop watching TV so much–my wife & I mainly watch DVDs but very little “live” television–and your perspective will change so much, now that you’re no longer having constant messages blared in the household about this abduction & that weirdo etc.

    Read a book–not necessarily “Free Range Kids” (although I could hardly think of a better book to read myself)–work-out, watch entertaining TV shows which you have discerned beforehand don’t subscribe to this paranoia schizophrenia passed off as “in this day & age” and “being responsible”–and your attitude will simply change in a most overwhelming fashion.


  27. Donna May 26, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    TV is getting a bum rap. I watch TV, news more than anything else, and am far from paranoid about anything. It’s called using your own intelligence and not just accepting what people tell you that you should be worried about.

  28. Marie May 26, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    I always love seeing the stats get some media coverage because I hear too often from other moms about how “in this day and age” you can’t let your kids run as free as we did as kids. Always good to have numbers to back up my side of things, not just the impression the news usually gives.

  29. KyohakuKeisanki May 26, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    Dolly: There is nothing wrong with such systems. If your child is having trouble learning how to ride a bike, then he might just not respond well to your teaching style (OR you may be helicoptering too much in other areas… kids, especially gifted kids [the ones who can read at age 2 without even being taught how; I was one of those kids], know at a very early age to discern rationality from nonsense; and they can at times distrust those who base their reasoning on the latter). I know this from personal experience. When I was 6-8 (and even before that) my parents tried to teach me how to swim. That was a mistake to say the least (hydrophobia wasn’t an issue; I just didn’t trust that they were competent in that; neither of them felt comfortable in the deep end). When I was 10 I was enrolled in the first of 3 2-week sets of swimming lessons. At age 12 I completed the third and could finally say that I learned how to swim. As for riding a bike, uh let’s just say I prefer my own two feet and leave it at that. BTW I now have completed over 17 years of the “what not to do when you become a parent” training that began at my birth.

  30. KyohakuKeisanki May 26, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    P.S.: I passed the lessons with flying colors, and can probably swim better than my parents can now. Moral: Some kids need professional help in learning how to do things.

  31. bmj2k May 26, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    Of course I agree with the article and with Lenore, but the other side has a midset that if there is one single crime anywhere in the country that just proves that it can happen anywhere. The crime drop is great, but even if it were NO crime there would be some reason for parents to hover and be afraid.

  32. Dolly May 26, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Kyohaku: I didn’t think of it that way but that makes sense. My mother in law paid someone else to teach her kids to drive a car since she was still a very timid driver herself and thought they might learn better from professional help. So I guess the workshop could help kids learn to ride bikes if their parents don’t know how to ride a bike or just not good at teaching them. I really don’t have a problem with the workshop, I just had a problem with my mom strongly suggesting it like it was the only way to go about it. It is not like I am inept or something.

  33. oncefallendotcom May 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Ah yes, I can finally give my elucidations on this topic.

    Crime rates are more than about the amount of crime reported, it also regards HOW crimes are reported. The criteria for the Nat’l Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) have changed criteria few times over the years, but no era faced as much change as the 1980s and early 1990s. Think about the fact crime had risen in the 1980s and peaked in the early 1990s. Think about the fears and concerns of that time — the missing kids on the milk cartons/the advent of the NCMEC, the war on drugs/ just say no, America’s Most Wanted/ Cops (the first true reality show), the rise of crack cocaine/ the street gang culture, and the day care abuse scares. With each new scare/ concern came new ways to view crime.

    Remember when a school fight was just that– a fight? Not anymore, it is “assault”, possibly gang affiliated. Remember when a sex offense meant rape and sexual abuse, rather than two teens necking in a car? Every time we change the criteria, for a brief moment, the crime rate spikes.

    However, crime began lowering sharply in 1993. There are a million theories as to why. Heck, I heard a theory that suggested abortions have kept crime rates down. Whatever the reason, I think it had more to do with the mindset of the people.

    I don’t think being a helicopter parent has made an impact except as part of a larger trend of social isolationism and the wussification (and possibly stupefying) of our culture. We are beyond politically correct, though we have turned a blind eye to certain crimes, like vigilante acts against those on public lists. Ironically, such zero tolerance policies have actually lowered reporting rates because many do not want to implicate loved ones in criminal activity.

    Also, we are shifting views on the targets of some of our zero tolerance laws in the past, primarily drug crimes. Now we are pitying them and feel they deserve treatment and leniency. We are doing the same with prostitutes.

    But you will hear of a spike in “human trafficking” cases as the focus on that rare event is gaining momentum, as well as cybercrimes. However, I think aggression has moved to the cyber-realm, where acts done in real life wouldn’t be tolerated is considered “free speech” online.

  34. Leppi May 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Lenore,

    I would like to respectfully disagree with you PS.

    Hovering over adults on their “playdates” and in general happens, it is called Stalking and it is a crime!

  35. Jessika May 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I watch criminal minds as a habit. Such shows along with documentaries on crime and policing, with rather incessant news coverage on crimes can make people believe that there’s an absolute epidemic of serial kills and murders that defy description.
    I used to be a caseworker in a field where I encountered parents with severly disabled children. It seemed as if every other child born had chromosomal abnormalities (which in themselves can be very cruel) along with other very serious illness. Since I don’t have children of my own I found I had to check up incidence reports on how many children actually do get these rare conditions. Often it was one in every 100 000, or even a million. Because my work was nationally (not in the US), there was a steady trickle of rare diagnosis. My point is that if all you see is the worst crimes there are and you don’t fact check, then you’ll think that there’s murderers hiding behind each corner, or child molesters. That is how I view such shows as criminal minds. All about incidence and the characters in the show are kinda like I was with thinking that rare diseases plague every other child.

    The best advice: turn off the tv and go out into the world and find the beauty that resides everywhere.

  36. Dave May 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Keep stating the truth. It will eventually win out. Thanks Lenore.

  37. BMS May 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    I admit, I tend to dislike TV intensely. I know there are some people who can watch lots of news and not be affected by it. But I have seen many more parents (often other moms, unfortunately) who start EVERY conversation with “Did you see X on (the news, Oprah, the View, etc. etc.)? That was so terrible.” It just drives me nuts. I want to scream “Can we have one conversation NOT about a TV show? Just one??? Can you base your world view on something other than CNN for Fox News for just 10 whole minutes?”

    This is why I hate being trapped in suburbia sometimes. I keep encountering people who seem to spend every moment of their free time finding things to be freaked out about. If you have that much extra time, come over and clean my windows.

  38. Robin May 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    BMS – Amen to everything you said! My favorite day will be when they cancel American Idol. I can’t stand the adults whose lives revolve around a stupid TV show.

  39. RobynHeud May 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Anyone else find it interesting that all of the different crime shows are simply rehashing the same storyline simply to fit their style? I swear I’ve seen some episodes fouor or five times, just with different characters and with a different way of “gathering evidence”. In the end, the same crime has been committed. I finally realized, it’s because there’s no new material! (Or at least a lot less than what we’re led to believe).
    @Jessika, I love your comment about statistics. I love numbers, because unlike people, they don’t lie or skew themselves according to perspective. I got into it with my doctor when he told me not to eat sushi while pregnant since I had run the numbers and your chances of even contracting the listeria bacteria is like 0.00083% (in the US). I’m not buying it from a street vendor, so I think my odds of not getting it are even better. I’ll take my chances.
    New favorite line when people try to feed me nonsense about how dangerouos the world is? “I know the risks. I’ve decided to take my chances.”

  40. BMS May 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    I’ve never actually seen American Idol, so I really have nothing to contribute to those conversations.

    It’s not like I never watch anything. We enjoy having a family movie together on the weekends (we use the computer screen as a monitor and stick it on the coffee table so we can all cuddle on the couch). When my brain is fried, I enjoy documentaries on Netflix (you might think I was a geek, given that I watch documentaries to relax. And you would be correct). My kids love Mythbusters, being little geeks in training. But I just don’t find that most of what is on enriches my life. If I am being made paranoid or just plain annoyed by what is on the screen, it’s not entertainment for me. I used to watch CSI in the days when the TV still functioned. But after a few seasons I found that it seemed all the same, the stories were getting more lurid and disturbing, and some of the worst of them were giving me nightmares. Who needs that from my entertainment?

    I definitely have some video vices. I could watch Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges for hours, given the opportunity. I’m a Trekkie from way back and used to plan my weekends around X-files. But the shows that are out now all seem to be voyeuristic reality stuff, or repetitive crime stuff. There’s nothing that screams ‘watch me’ out there anymore.

    I also look back on my childhood, and I think about the things I remember. I remember enjoying movies with my dad, but I remember a lot more of running around with my friends and getting filthy. The more my kids are watching stuff, the less of the real experiences they’re going to have – there are only so many hours in a day. And if I get all paranoid from what I’m watching, then they’re not going to have those real experiences either. So I needed to step away from the TV.

  41. pentamom May 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    “The crime drop is great, but even if it were NO crime there would be some reason for parents to hover and be afraid.”

    At the risk of psychoanalyzing people en masse, I think this might get close to the heart of it.

    Look, raising kids *is* scary, because they are so close to the heart, your control over the outcome is limited, and any seriously bad thing that might happen would be devastating — and there are bad things that happen to some kids, sometimes, that are both within and outside parents’ control.

    And normal human beings just can’t accept that. Even if we’re rational, we deal with the knowledge, but we don’t really cheerfully *accept* the idea that some day some drunk driver might take out our intelligent, resourceful, well cared for kid.

    And if we don’t resolve to deal with it rationally, we try to compensate in one way or the other — and the most “logical” way is to control everything we *can* control. “At least if something happens, it won’t be my ‘fault.'”

    Of course, if the drunk driver comes along some day, you won’t be any less devastated because you never let junior out of your sight at the library, but today, when you’re at the library, the little voice in the back of your head tells you that you would be. At least if we’re finding things to be afraid of and reacting to them, we’re doing SOMETHING, which is better than doing NOTHING, right?

  42. su N May 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    Thank goodness, now I have a response to those people who ask if I am worried when my child goes and plays with the kids a block away.

    Actually, my daughter recently got a pay as you go cell phone from a relative and I relented in letting her carry it (girls love cell phones) when she was out playing. I mentioned this to someone and they said “you know, a cell phone is not the same as you being there”.

    Seriously? I thought the cell phone was too much supervision and even that apparently is not enough hovering. Geeesh!

  43. Emiky May 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    What a great piece of news!

    I was in a free-range conversation on another site. A woman was against it because the neighborhoods are different than she was young–not in crime, but in community spirit. That’s an excellent point, but how does avoiding the neighbors solve it?

  44. pentamom May 26, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    “I mentioned this to someone and they said “you know, a cell phone is not the same as you being there”.

    To which I’d say, “Exactly! She gets to be independent but if something would come up where she’d genuinely need my help, she could reach me. It’s just perfect.”

  45. BMS May 27, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    What?? Are you trying to tell me that cell phones are not miracle devices that protect the user from any and all harm?? I’m shocked.

    I don’t own a cell phone for a variety of reasons. I am amazed at the number of people who assume I am one step away from mortal danger at all times because of this. “What if you’re in an accident? Or your car breaks down? Or one of your kids gets sick at school? Or your train is delayed? Or? Or? Or?”

    I dunno, what did people used to do? Oh yeah, they just figured it out. Find a payphone (yes, Virginia, they still exist). Walk someplace I could borrow a phone. Trust that the school nurse can actually deal with a sick kid for an hour. Trust that my kids can survive a whole 15 minutes alone at home without dying or being kidnapped by wild roving bands of pedophiles.

    I’m not saying no one should own a cell phone. But they don’t make you or your kids bulletproof either.

  46. Donna May 27, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    I do have a cell phone but didn’t think to take it with me to the YMCA for my kid’s swimming lesson. I did get into an accident on the way to swimming lessons. I think I had no less than 5 cell phones offered up for use when I said that I left mine at home. Even if you don’t have a cell phone they are very available should something happen. One of the nice people who offered me their cell phone also took pictures of my car and drove me and my daughter home. But we all have to be wary of those strangers.

  47. BMS May 27, 2011 at 2:08 am #

    I was driving home with the kids once and saw an elderly lady take a curve a little too wide and pop her tire on the curb. I circled around the block to see if she needed help. It turned out that she was so flustered about the flat that when she got out of the car she dropped her cell phone and it broke. My kids got to witness me giving this stranger a ride to the local repair shop, and then to her home after she had arranged for a tow. The emergency cell phone was a great idea, but again, not foolproof.

  48. Robin May 27, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    BMS – Are you my long lost twin? I thought I was the only person in the world who doesn’t watch TV or have a cell phone, and here you are! Neither of my kids have phones either, as soon as they get jobs and can pay for them they can have whatever they want. To me they are overpriced toys. My husband’s company pays for him to have one. It’s very convenient when I need him to stop at the store on the way home.

  49. BMS May 27, 2011 at 3:51 am #

    Well, I do have a long lost cousin who happens to be named Robin…
    But last I heard, she doesn’t have any kids, so I guess we just must have been separated at birth.

    What’s great is that I have warped my kids into thinking cell phones are annoying. Buahaha.

  50. Robin May 27, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    How did you do that? I got my daughter to say Yuck every time we pass a McDonalds but they both want cell phones. EVERYONE at their school has one. If I suggest they actually pick up the phone to call someone I get the look.

  51. BMS May 27, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    Well, I’ve got one son who HATES talking on the phone, at all (he’s only 9, so that may change). I mean, he won’t call his very best friend to ask him to come over – I have to do it, and I hate talking on the phone almost as much as he does.

    But I think it’s more of just pointing out annoying cell behavior when it happens. So when someone’s cell goes off during the sermon at church, they get to see how embarrassed the person is. Once they found it very hysterical and started laughing. I shushed them, but after mass I mentioned that, “Hey, I bet the priest worked really hard on his sermon, and must have been pretty annoyed when people weren’t listening. Besides, I’m pretty sure that God is more important than a phone call.”
    Or point out how disruptive it is during a concert. Or mention how I couldn’t sleep on the way home on the train because the guy behind me was talking too loud on his cell phone. Or how annoyed I feel when my students text during class and then fail the exams.

    Now to be fair, I also have pointed out when people are being polite and stepping outside to take a call. But it’s harder to find the good cell phone users to show the positive example, so by and large, they have been exposed to more people being rude with cell phones than being polite with them.

  52. Sky May 27, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    “And please also remember that this drop in crime cannot be attributed to parental hovering, since we are NOT hovering over adults and yet crime against THEM is down, too.”

    Well, maybe that’s because adults are too busy hovering over their children to be caught alone in a back alley. 😉

  53. Beth May 27, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    “Wild roving bands of pedophiles” is the best thing I read today.

  54. Sky May 27, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    “Nationally, murder fell 4.4 percent last year. Forcible rape — which excludes statutory rape and other sex offenses — fell 4.2 percent. Aggravated assault fell 3.6 percent. Property crimes — including burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson — fell 2.8 percent, after a 4.6 percent drop the year before.”

    Interesting…nearly all of these are types of crimes criminals are less likely to commit if they think the victim might possibly be carrying a gun…and in recent decades there have been a rash of concealed carry laws passed throughout the country, so that now all but 2 states have at least some form of concealed carry permitted…. I wonder if “white crime” has declined anywhere near as much as these types of crimes.

  55. KyohakuKeisanki May 27, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Dolly: Yes, but if the child does not respond to parental teaching after a month or two, then by all means get professional help. “Golf for Dummies” says it best about not just golf, but everything, when they say that a good instructor knows how to say the same thing in 10 different ways. In a good one-on-one instruction period, that is oftentimes what you are paying for — an instruction specifically tailored to you kid’s learning style. In group lessons, oftentimes the instructor’s credentials and the “officialness” of it all alone will coax your child into doing things that he/she was afraid to do when you said it the exact same way.

    BTW, back in the “old days” (according to my reading… I was born nearly 10 years after The Schism occurred around 1984), very few kids actually needed teaching, parental or professional (I’m applying this by thinking about swimming and playground antics [such as the ever-popular upside-down hang from the monkey bars], so if it doesn’t apply to bike riding, please forgive me). In general they were taught by being unsupervised. Let me explain. You know very well that nowadays parents are keeping their kids very close to them, and allowing very little free time with other kids without them. Thus, the spread of information is very limited; sometimes even to the extent that playground activities that used to be rites of passage are now lost arts except among the very few whose parents actually thought to teach them. Back then, though, children were oftentimes found with other kids and without their parents, even at places such as the playground and the pool. A kid seeing another doing something cool (even if that “something cool” was something as mundane as swimming in the deep end of the pool) would simply ask “How did you do THAT?!?!?!”. (Oftentimes it was the other way around, where the kid who knows would offer to teach the one who doesn’t know… the order is irrelevant to this discussion though, as the end result is the same). Finding someone willing to show how to do said thing was simple… if the kid who did it didn’t want to share, oftentimes someone else would chime in and teach it. Thus, naturally selected (for being both interesting and at least remotely feasible to do… information spreads fastest when there is both a capable teacher and a willing learner) information spread very fast among kids as it was very easy for a kid to learn what he wanted to know how to do (double meaning here… both “to learn exactly what it was that he wanted to know how to do” and “to learn how to do what he wanted to know how to do”). The closest analog in the English-speaking world today is the Internet, with its instant availability of information. Even that is lacking compared to what children used to have, as the Internet is not very good at the first of the two meanings that I mentioned… while you can learn how to do almost anything by reading pages and watching videos, you still cannot easily become aware of things that you have not even thought about (Youtube comes closer still with the fuzzy logic in its Related Videos page… but even then you have to go in a general direction; unlike interactions with other kids, Youtube will just pop up with a fairly uninformative home page if you don’t have the slightest idea what you want to see.) You can click the following link to read more of my theory on said spread of information:

  56. Donna May 27, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    I grew up in the 70’s and almost everyone took swimming lessons. While “tricks” were learned from friends, the basics were taught by parents or swim instructors. My parents also taught me the basics of riding a bike.

    I don’t see anything different today. My daughter learns all her “tricks” from her friends or watching other kids at the playground or pool after I (or some instructor) taught her the basics.

  57. Bob Davis May 27, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    We still take two newspapers (one of them carries your column, and sometimes prints my letters) but unlike TV, you don’t have some well-trained actor trying his or her best to crank up your coefficient of worry. My wife does watch TV news and crime fiction shows, and she does tend to be more careful about locking up the house and car doors. But some nights, she’ll tune in the 11 pm telecast, and after a while, declare, “There’s no news on the news.” Neither of us cares what’s happening to Ms. Lohan or any other “troubled” celebrity, and their “investigations” very rarely concern anything of interest to us. One stunt the local TV channels sometimes use is videotape of a car chase–in Texas or Florida; visually enticing but quite irrelevant to Southern Californians. Then we have certain TV networks that are the 21st Century version of the “Yellow Journalism” of the 1900’s, slanting their coverage to agree with the management’s political beliefs. I do feel sorry for those who can’t or don’t “get out much” and stay “glued to the tube.”

  58. Becca O May 27, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    If you want to know why Freakonomics gives a reason one I find a little disturbing but very interesting.

  59. Dolly May 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    We are another mostly cell phone free family. I have a super old one that my mom gave me to use for just emergencies. She pays 10 dollars a month to add it to her plan. But since she only has a cell phone I don’t use my cell phone because it will eat up her minutes. So I really only use it for emergencies or rarely. I don’t carry it around with me. I leave it in the car. I don’t give the number out.

    If not for her doing this, we would not have a cell phone period. And I am young 30, so you know everyone in my generation is cell phone crazy but not me. I am annoyed by them except for their emergency use. Mine does not have internet or texting or any of that stuff. We just don’t have the money for all that for one thing.

    People of course give me crazy looks when I say we don’t have a cell phone. People try to text me all the time and act so shocked when I say we don’t have texting. Never have sent a text in my life.

  60. Frances May 28, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Jonathan Hoch: when exactly was it that child-rearing was NOT “feminized”? Am I missing some lost point in history when the men looked after the kids?

    I’m with the anti-TV crowd. I have one but we pvr everything…no news, no commercials, and none of those cookie-cutter crime shows that specialize in kidnapping kids and dismembering women. Lower anxiety all round.

    But I have to have a cell for work.

  61. Mike May 28, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Oh geezus…here we go. Its often said: “Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan”. Lenore, as you know, I’m a fan of Free Range Kids — But, what I find amusing amongst all the ideas that have “reduced crime” — is the most realistic and obvious one. Do you know that since Obama got elected…like other Dems, Gun sales have been the highest they’ve ever been….

    Funny, no one mentioned that, No? So, parenting? Government Agencies? “Tough on crime? Naaa. Fear? Yeah, fear… criminals for the first time are outgunned… and families are once again properly protected. Funnier still, when violent crime is up — its because their is not enough “gun control”.. when guns sales are the highest ever, and crime is lowest ever, and what? … Silence. you poor manipulated serfs…

  62. Mike May 28, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Democrats / Obama = The Best Gun Salesman, Ever. So, in a way, he is responsible for the reduction in crime. By arming the entire damn country…

  63. Frances May 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Mike, crime is down in Canada too & we are decided outgunned by the bad guys. Not feeling very serf-like, myself.

  64. JTW May 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Not sure about your area, but over here “crime is down” because noone bothers reporting it any longer.
    The police don’t respond anyway, so all reporting crime does is take up your valuable time for no return.
    Far more efficient to go to the DIY store and buy another roll of barbed wire or phone someone to soup up your house alarm systems and locks once again.

    Out of our police force, less than 5% ever goes out on patrol or to respond to a crime scene. The rest never leaves their offices, spending their time in “progress meetings”, “diversity courses”, etc., and of course preparing reports how crime is down based on the falling number of reported crimes and the ever higher percentage of solved crimes (they count paid parking tickets towards the latter, not the former for that reason).

  65. Uly May 29, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Mike, are you aware that this drop in crime predates Obama’s election? Are you aware that the US, despite having a very HIGH rate of gun ownership, also has a HIGH rate of crime, and that many countries get by quite well with lowered rates on both? Are you aware that correlation does not imply causation anyway, and that two things that happen at the same time don’t necessarily go together? By the logic you’re using, you might as well believe the Pastafarians when they assert (jocularly, I hope) that the dearth of pirates is responsible for global warming!

    There are any number of possible explanations for the decrease in crime. All of the ones we have now rely on simple correlations like “oh, guns” or “oh, birth control” or “oh, the economy”. None of them are complete, or do anything to explain the apparently explosive increase in crime back in the 70s and 80s.

  66. Uly May 29, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Also, Mike, that article is two and a half years old. Do you have anything more recent to bear out your statement that gun ownership TODAY is up? Or was that really just a short-term event primarily consisting of people who already owned guns buying extras?

  67. Dena May 30, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    I must say I just heard the term “free range parenting” for the first time today. I really like the idea of letting my kids do some things on their own, but I will have to think about if I am interested in doing it to the extent you all seem to. No judgment at all, just need some time to process it. But I do have a question regarding the potential dangers to your unsupervised children. I understand crime is down, but what about all the other ways your child could get hurt while not in your presence? I understand you can teach your child to check for cars before entering the street, but sometimes they just aren’t mature enough to pay attention. And what about all the ways they could get hurt at the playground and possibly need adult attention or even a doctor’s help. I realize a watchful parent can’t prevent some of these things from happening, but they could help if it does. Also, does this idea apply to leaving your children at home? When is it acceptable to do that? And what about drowning/burning/cutting dangers at home? Again, no judging, Im just trying to figure out how to properly safeguard for these thing without taking away all freedom. Thanks for answering my questions.

  68. Uly May 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    I understand you can teach your child to check for cars before entering the street, but sometimes they just aren’t mature enough to pay attention

    I don’t know about you, but I see that often the kids on my block are more careful about those things when there is no grown-up watching (or, more accurately, when they don’t realize there’s a grown-up watching!) than when their mom and dad are holding their hands.

    Of course, you’d have to take your own situation into account. We can’t tell you what the one right age is for crossing the street alone or playing outside alone is (and for how long, and at what time of day, and with or without friends, and how far from the house) because we don’t know your specific situation (is it by a busy road or is a car a rare event? is it a safe neighborhood or is it actually dangerous with gang warfare and so on? are there lots of stay-at-home parents and grandparents around during the day, and other children, or is your street deserted most of the time? is your child mature for his/her age, or does s/he have staggering bouts of inattention and immaturity? what age did you and the other parent play outside alone, and was this normal for your culture?)

    And what about all the ways they could get hurt at the playground and possibly need adult attention or even a doctor’s help.

    Well, it makes a big difference if your kid would genuinely be playing at the playground alone, or if there would be other children there or even other grown-ups with their (presumably smaller) children. If you read through the comments in the past, many people here are okay with a group of kids playing at the playground, but not so cool with one kid playing all alone by himself.

    And of course, you have to take into account how likely it is your kid will actually get injured. If your kid is a notorious daredevil, you might want to stay with him longer, or let him play unattended for shorter periods than if your kid mostly goes to the playground to play jacks.

    Also, does this idea apply to leaving your children at home?

    Sure, why not!

    When is it acceptable to do that?

    Again, you have to take YOUR OWN SITUATION into account. If your kid is likely to burn the house down, bleed to death, and drown, don’t leave him or her alone yet. If your kid is old enough to understand rules like “no using the stove, knives, or pool until I get back”, you should be fine and dandy from a safety standpoint – although, again, most people would start small and build up to any significant length of time. And then with an older child, you might expect them to make simple food at home for themselves with the understanding that they have learned to use the stove and knives and all that, and also know how to dial 911 if they really really mess up.

    We can’t give you exact numbers because exact numbers don’t exist. You have to use your own best judgment about everything. It’s easier to just say “No, none of this, ever”, but it’s not better.

    However, we can give you surprising examples from other cultures, or remind you of what was normal only a generation or two ago in the US. Think back to your own childhood. How old were most kids when they stayed home alone, or played outside unattended? Have the normal risks changed in that time? (They may have for you, in which case you’ll have to rely on your own thoughts more.) You mention using sharp objects. Floating around the internet is a picture from an anthropology textbook of a baby using a machete to cut a piece of fruit – because there are civilizations out there that expect small children to learn to use basic tools like knives. You talk about going to the playground alone, last year or the year before Lenore posted a short story about a TV show in Japan that chronicles children’s first small errands, shopping trips and such – at the age of three or four. (And remember that in Japan, kids are expected to get themselves to school about when they start. This is closer to the international norm than being driven well into your double digits.)

    These countries are not the US, no – but they do show some of what’s possible with the normal range of children.

  69. KyohakuKeisanki May 31, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Uly: Well said. Look particularly at Japan and Germany… they tend to get a lot of coverage on this site. A post by okie333 on another blog (never knew climate change was related to free-ranging… but heh) shows this quite well:

    http : // wattsu pwiththat . com/ 2011/ 04/ 29/friday-funny-science-safety-run-amok/#comment-651278

    Could anyone comment on whether the things mentioned in that comment are true? Particularly the idea that the helicoptering mentality is unique to English-speaking countries. Also, he raises the issue of the UNCRC… from reading it and seeing its effects I agree that it does look good, but is there anything secretly dangerous in there that I should know about (that is, anything that could end up undermining the FRK movement)? Also, I caught that he used the year 1984 to refer to the change in mentality in America… seems appropriate to say the least. Oh, and he links back to one of my posts… gotta love that! An excerpt… he provided a TLDR synopsis (though I read the whole post):

    “To recap, children in America are being denied the basic freedoms that children in non-English-speaking countries take for granted and that even American kids had just 30 years ago. Much of this is due to irrational fear of risks which are far less likely than those that parents don’t think twice (or even once) about. In addition, lawsuits and the fear thereof are driving many fun activities out of the country (not just with the dumbing down of playgrounds, but also with the abolition of outdoor recess activities in many American school systems). Of all I’ve read on the Free-Range Kids blog, this long comment by KyohakuKeisanki has got to take the cake (remove spaces):

    http : // freerangekids .wordpress. com/ 2011/ 04/28/ when-risk-visits-the-playground/#comment-63333


  70. Molly Santa Croce May 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm #


  71. Mike June 1, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Uly, try this:

    Too much Mainstream media, and drinking the coolaid. Wouldn’t it be great to believe that just eliminating freedom would solve all of woes? Strict Controls = Less Crime? Naa.. Too bad, it aint that easy.

    Anytime you hear someone talking about restricting your freedom of choice, and constitutional rights — of anything..(4th Amendment, 2nd Amendment, etc.) Question vigorously, look for facts from ALL Angles, any angle (Not channel 6 news)

  72. Uly June 1, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Mike, who mentioned anything about restricting freedom of choice? Don’t change the subject, answer the question – and without any insulting links that probably lead, when the google search is over, to biased sources.

    HOW do you explain that other countries with lower rates of gun ownership ALSO have lower rates of crime? HOW do you you explain, if you’re convinced it’s all “People bought guns because of Obama!”, that the crime rate was dropping before his election? DO you know if the rate of gun ownership has continued to increase – or if it was a genuine increase at all?

  73. Uly June 1, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    You want to talk about “drinking the kool-aid”? You haven’t said anything to convince me that you’re not yourself just addicted to your own ideology. Give genuine facts from an unbiased source (or a biased one that at least is well-educated) and answer the questions.

  74. Mike June 2, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Uly, that’s the point, lab partner… don’t you get it? All sources are bias, in one way or another — it all depends on your sources. Ever hear the saying “if you don’t read/watch the news, you’re uninformed. If you read/watch the news, you’re misinformed.” you state lower crime rates in other countries? and your sources were what? Really, are you sure about that? is that you’re own analysis? Are you comparing by ratio differentials — or just raw numbers? diverse communities vs. cultural differences vs. homogeneous hamlets? gimmie a break. Look, Anything I give you, you will dismiss as bias — so i challenge you to do it yourself…the truth is out there, you just have to be brave enough to “see” and think for yourself. Stay away from the sound bites, the Main Stream Bias — and being a “Second hand dealer in thought”.. and Remember this, as once wisely noted (allegedly by Will Rogers) sometimes —“Its not the things we don’t know that get us into trouble — as much as it is the things we know that just ain’t true.” Take a look at “Gun Facts 5.1”. The author provides his sources — and accepts all challenges and counter statistics, for or against his stats….. I’d be very interested in any of your “statistics” to the contrary. You’re move.

  75. Jeneen June 7, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    Did anyone else see this? It immediately made me this of this blog…


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