What are we so afraid of?
After I wrote this post about Lenore Skenazy and her new book Free Range Kids, it generated quite a bit of debate on this blog about how our alarmist culture has us smothering kids in virtual bubble wrap. Why does shooing the kids outside and telling them to have fun and be home by dark seem irresponsible to so many middle-class parents today? Especially in light of the fact that the crime rate is actually far less than we were kids. As for stranger abductions that seem to be rising, organizations like Stats.org are eager to debunk that. It's so rare it's statistically insignificant.
So here's an update on my interview with Lenore. You can read the full Q and A here. I had told her I had ran the list of scenarios she had put in her book past lots of moms I know. Things like letting a 6 year old ride his bike out of sight or cross the street without holding hands were one thing, but the one they most seemed to choke on was to allow your 9 or 10 year old and a friend to have sundaes alone in an ice cream parlor for about a half hour.
"What do you think is going to happen?" she asked. Well duh, that some some creep will proposition them or try to lure them out to their van to see the puppy or free Wii games they are giving away.
Okay then, she advises, really picture that scenario. Do you really think someone will do that right in front of the waitress, shop owner and other customers and no one will step in? Your kids surely have had a talking to by that age not to be dumb enough to go outside to the van to see the puppy, right? That only leaves that he can drag them by their hair and no one will say, "Hey, umm, stop"? Teach your kids to fight and make a ruckus if they have to, but really they will very very very likely never have to.
As she points out in her book, there's multiple reasons, from the three strikes laws, to the harsher penalties, earlier reports of abuse and even medications for the fact that crime rates have plummeted to 1970 levels. "We should be overjoyed by that," she says. "But instead we want to read the fine print and magnify it and be certain if we don't keep a constant eye on our kids something terrible will happen."
Something terrible is happening: Kids can no longer brag, "I did it myself."
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne