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Fear Vs. Reality: Is the US more dangerous for kids?

 
 
littlek
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 01:29 pm
This thread stems from the one about Marie Osmond's son killing himself. We were not honoring the life of a tragic teen, we were debating about life in America and how it has or has not gotten worse.

So, has it gotten so much worse? I don't think so. Why the fear folks?
 
littlek
 
  5  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 01:30 pm
Quote from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online:

Quote:
Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan's Law Web site says stranger abduction is rare and that 90 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope. In 1972, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13 percent of children get to school under their own power, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a significant parallel, before 1980, only 5 percent of children were obese; today that figure has tripled, says the CDC.

snip

Meanwhile, as rates of child abduction and abuse move down, rates of Type II diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related ailments in children move up. That means not all the candy is coming from strangers. Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child might become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country's 58 million overweight adults?

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07093/774604-51.stm#ixzz0grQe87Qt


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07093/774604-51.stm#ixzz0grPUZyw9
roger
 
  4  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 01:55 pm
@littlek,
I think our fears center on things we have no control over. The thought leads off the 'kids' topic, but unintended acceleration should probably be the least of our traffic worries. There is some interesting psychology going on, here.
aidan
 
  2  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 02:06 pm
@littlek,
I don't think you can assign causation and say definitively WHY anything has gotten better or worse. This is my own theory:

I don't think human nature has or is likely to change enough to account for the lowering in rates of stranger abduction and abuse of children. Maybe the reason the rate has decreased is because the children are less available to BE abucted or abused by strangers - precisely because they ARE made less available because they ARE always insulated inside their own homes.

In terms of the childrens' health, I don't think this is a good thing. But I also don't think that kids stopped playing outside primarily or solely because their parents are afraid of them being abducted. If you think about WHEN the rates of child abduction and sexual abuse began marching steadily downward (1990's) and the rate of childhood obesity began marching steadily upward (1990's) that pretty precisely coincides with the rise of video and computer and internet activities that became widely available to children in their homes (1990's).

In terms of kids walking to school - again- when the majority of kids were walking to school, the majority of moms were staying home. Now a lot (I don't know if it's the majority) of moms work. So a lot of kids are dropped off at school by the mother on her way to work. That means there's not the benefit of a group of kids walking together. I think a lot of people have made the choice to drive their kids because there are no other kids for their kids to walk with.

In terms of my own feelings or fears, when my kids were little, I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids always outside playing, (even though it was the 90's and 2000's) . I knew the parents, etc., etc. and so my kids were allowed to play outside with their friends on their own.
I wouldn't be comfortable with that today. Because kids don't play outside anymore so there's no longer that group effect.
The last neighborhood we lived in - when both my kids were teenagers-I'd walk through it on a beautiful summer afternoon and you would hear nothing but the whir of the air conditioning units. Pretty sad- but again- I don't think it has anything to do with fears of child abduction. I think it has to do how a lot of kids find it preferable to spend their time these days- and that might be intensifying because they're obese and out of shape - it's a vicious cycle.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 02:47 pm
@littlek,
I doubt that the decision to commit suicide has much to do with ones standard of living. If that was the case, suicide would be much rarer among well-to-do people than among poorer ones. I don't think it is -- is it?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 02:49 pm
@Thomas,
I've been having a look. Quoted rates seem to vary. Her eis one quote:

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_sui_rat_in_age_15_24-suicide-rates-ages-15-24

The US seems to have gone down around 1990, and increased again according to some other sources.

Another article:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414751/
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:00 pm
@dlowan,
Right, but I think littlek's question was whether these ups and downs correspond to any measures of objective well-being for kids. I don't see that it does.
0 Replies
 
Swimpy
 
  3  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:10 pm
I think Mame and I got a little off topic on the other thread. The original thread was about suicide. With regard to that, I think diagnosis and treatment have gotten so much better than they were when I was young. Also back then it was taboo to talk about suicide. It was a family shame if a member committed suicide. That has changed. Mental health is talked about more openly today. That is all for the good.

Whether our kids are safer today than they were fifty years ago is another issue. There is more fear, whether it's warranted or not . Today people organize their kids' lives. There is less spontaneous play. I think that is sad.
Butrflynet
 
  2  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:11 pm
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that any fears of uncertainties we've always had in our society are now more public in the media than they used to be. This means the kids are more exposed to it and affected by it.

When we were growing up, we didn't hear much about what went on in neighboring states or countries across the planet. We only had our small circle of woes to fret about. Now we hear about every fart and belch in the far corners of the world and live in fear of the endless speculations about whether or not a fart or belch might occur in our own neighborhood and how our lives might be changed by that far off fart in another country.

That added stress is much more dangerous for kids.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:14 pm
@littlek,
read this for a good part of the answer
http://www.amazon.com/Culture-Fear-Americans-Afraid-Things/dp/0465014909
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:14 pm
@Butrflynet,
Butrflynet wrote:
This means the kids are more exposed to it and affected by it.

... and their parents!
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 04:02 pm
@Swimpy,
I agree on all your points, Swimpy.

Family shame, I'm sure, still exists, but from my anecdotal view, it is very much less as a presence.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 07:00 am
I'm willing to concede things (like crime) haven't worsened, if that's what the statistics show, but I do believe our fears have increased. I personally could not live my life that way but it seems many people do. Our common sense has taken leave of us.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 07:28 am
A major difference between today and 50 years ago is that 50 years ago, we were not saturated by new media, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If a child is abducted these days, it gets splashed all over the news media, and stays there until the next equally or more emotive story shows up. That's not necessarily a bad thing--50 years ago, the disappearance of a child just wasn't considered news. I think it's a good thing that this attitude has changed.

But i definitely think the increased fear is not a good thing. We were turned loose, told to get out from under foot, told to get out of the house. We were thrown back on our own resources, in terms of imagination and in terms of society. It was not at all unusual for groups of children to spend time together, without any adults present. We were told not to talk to strangers, but we didn't live in an atmosphere of haunted fears. It's hard to say if we're better off. I don't think this is a good thing for children, but i also don't think child abductions, and child disappearances should be ignored.
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 08:33 am
@Setanta,
With respect to your comment about the media 50 yrs ago and the disappearance of a child not being considered news, yes, children were not considered to be too important by society at large. "Children should be seen and not heard" is an example.

Today we are going overboard - we are 'child-centered', 'aged-centered', 'minority-centered', 'disabled-centered', you name it. Because we are 'child-centered', we are pampering them, over-protecting them, and, in some cases, smothering or inhibiting them. Many do not get the chance to make mistakes and find out how to correct them. Many can not think independently. You can protect a child, but if he happens to slip out and a stranger exposes himself or tries to abduct him, how have you helped him? We are not doing our children any favours by molly-coddling them because of our fears or an over-inflated sense of their worth. This just leads to ignorant and egocentric people. The world is not going to treat them the way their parents have and they'll have a rude awakening when they leave home. I've already seen this happen.

So, if the world is no more dangerous than it was, as has been stated, we need to give ourselves a shake and think how we can best serve our children.
Swimpy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 09:34 am
@Mame,
I agree with Setanta that the need to protect our children exists, however it shouldn't be necessary to scare the bejezzus out of everybody to accomplish that.

Mame, I agree with your critique of child-centeredness (if that's a word.) We are smothering our children. Just witness the fact that you don't see children playing outside anymore. I saw a news report last night that the number of eligible teenagers applying for drivers licenses in the US has dropped dramatically. The main reason sited is that the kids are afraid to drive. don't feel like they are ready at 16.
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 10:08 am
@Swimpy,
Swimpy wrote:
I saw a news report last night that the number of eligible teenagers applying for drivers licenses in the US has dropped dramatically. The main reason sited is that the kids are afraid to drive. don't feel like they are ready at 16.


Now that's weird as hell . . . i learned to drive when i was 14 years of age--and i was even behind many of my peers, who, living on farms, had learned to drive at age 12 or even 11 . . .
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 11:47 am
@roger,
Exactly - the same reasoning for why so many people fear flying but not driving in a car although statistically safer to fly - the lack of control
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 05:07 pm
Thanks all. I agree that the over-whelming sense of fear is driven by the media. People are complicit they want the thrills and chills from their news outlets. The media has more or less given them what they want - vicious cycle.

I also agree to a large extent with the smothering aspect of child rearing. Though I do hate the word smothering. We are not doing our children any favors by being over-protective, doing things for them that they should be learning how to do themselves, etc. It is an issue that is very apparent in schools.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 05:21 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:

Thanks all. I agree that the over-whelming sense of fear is driven by the media. People are complicit they want the thrills and chills from their news outlets. The media has more or less given them what they want - vicious cycle.

I also agree to a large extent with the smothering aspect of child rearing. Though I do hate the word smothering. We are not doing our children any favors by being over-protective, doing things for them that they should be learning how to do themselves, etc. It is an issue that is very apparent in schools.


Isn't the school thing majorly litigation driven?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr............(I understand it from the school perspective all right, but it's one of the things I really hate.)
 

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