Here’s a note I got from a reader and a note SHE got from her mom. The latter may sound very similar to the one in your own inbox.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I received the email below from my mother. She is a professional worry-wart.
I’m not sure her statistics are correct, any thoughts?
(Signed) A Reader
Here is what the Reader’s mother wrote:
So tonight there were these statistics on TV by Polly Klass’s father, can’t remember his first name but he created a foundation several years ago after his teenage daughter was abducted in CA.
These are the stats: Every year 800,000 children disappear, and a child disappears every 40 seconds
Of these 800K, 74 percent are children under 10 and 78 percent of them disappear within a quarter mile of their home.
So Mr. Klass’s message to everyone was, never let your children be outside of your home alone. His message was part of the news relating to the disappearance of the Orange Park FL 7 year old girl. It is all over the news tonight, very sad.
The program is still on, with all these specialists commenting, saying they never thought they would agree with always being outside with your kids but now they totally endorse it.
Anyways, Love you
In 1999, the most recent year for which we have statistics, 115 children were abducted and held overnight by strangers. Of these, about 40% were killed, bringing the total to 50. That is a horrible number, but it is not one a week, much less “one every 40 seconds.”
The numbers come from the Crimes Against Children Research Center, which uses U.S. Department of Justice data to derive its statistics. And the head of the research center, David Finkelhor, was quoted in the press yesterday as saying these numbers are going DOWN, not up.
Even one child hurt is a sickening thought. And that is why anyone who is no longer allowing his or her children to walk to school should probably also not be driving them anywhere, either. After all: About 2000 children die every year as passengers in cars. It is the #1 cause of death of children over age one. All parents determined to keep their children 100% safe must start by not allowing them to ride in cars.
Of course, I know that this is a warning most parents will (rightly) ignore. Why? Because they see for themselves what the odds are: The chances are very good that they can drive to the grocery with their kids, and even drive back, without getting into a fiery crash. They make their decision about their children’s safety based on their own, personal experience of life and driving.
When we make our decisions about letting our kids walk to school, however, we base them on something else: The news. News from as far away as Florida. Or Aruba. Or Portugal. The media are happy to go to the ends of the earth to bring us live coverage of the abduction of a white girl because nothing is better for ratings.
Headline News becomes the biggest source of information we use to make our decisions. Not our own experience. Not our own observations of our own neighborhoods. The news, which, by definition, brings us the most shocking and unusual stories it can find and then repeats them in order to fill day after day of 24-hour news cycles.
The current news is so shocking, of course, that it throws us off. We are human and we are heartbroken. But in our desperate attempt to make a very rare event very rare, we forget IT ALREADY IS. And we end up stunting the very thing we are trying to hard to protect: childhood.
Children were not made to sit at home, locked in, living a “virtual” life while the sun shines outside. I won’t even get into all the other dangers we’re exposing them to with that kind of existence: diabetes, depression, obesity. No, let me just say as so many commenters have on this site:
If we really want to keep our kids safe, we are fooling ourselves to think “not walking to school” is the way to do it. The way to keep our kids 100% safe is not to have them in the first place. Otherwise, they face risk every day. The tiny risk of dying in a car crash. The far tinier risk of being killed by a stranger.
And now the growing risk of being gently imprisoned by the people who love them the most. – Lenore