That's in the safety of our own home, though. I still feel a stifling paranoia about letting him out of my sight for even half a second if we're anywhere out in public. A few months ago I was listening in to my mom, several of her cousins, and my grandmother reminisce about when they were young, and hearing stories such as my mom's cousin, at maybe 5 years of age or so, pulling my 18 month old mom and her newborn baby brother in a wagon around the block, completely unsupervised. That's just what people did back then, but if it happened now you'd probably get reported to CPS. Kids cannot be left alone EVER, and are taught early about "Stranger Danger" and to avoid these potentially evil people at all costs, because otherwise you'll end up in a ditch somewhere.
Then I came across another article on twitter yesterday, about child kidnappings. And this is the part that shocked me (emphasis is my own):
The U.S. Department of Justice reports more than 200,000 children are victims of family abductions in the United States each year. Of that figure, about 56,500 cases are reported to local law enforcement authorities and require investigation, studies show. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Justice reports an average of 115 stranger abductions a year.(numbers confirmed here, too)
Out of the MILLIONS of kids in the US, only 115 are abducted by total strangers each year? This is what we're freaking out about?
You then pair those stats up with the ones for sexual assault. It's estimated that 60% of sexual attacks happen to people under 18. That's plenty scary, and certainly enough for people to start checking their neighborhoods for sex offenders and demonizing strangers even more. Until you find out that the vast majority of those attacks (85%-95%) are perpetrated by people the victim already knows well (family, friends, etc). Only a teeny, tiny minority are attacks by complete strangers.
So in a way, our kids are safer with a complete stranger than at your family reunion.
I'm not trying to minimize the horror of those instances. But I think it's alarming how much fear there is about strangers kidnapping and abusing our children, when the actual numbers are so low. And in fact, by emphasizing the danger of strangers (and completely ignoring the fact that it's those close to you that are most likely to harm your kids) we are causing further damage by not educating and preparing ourselves for the real threats.
Meanwhile, car wrecks are the leading cause of death for children 2-14 years old. Each year 250,000 children are injured in car crashes, and 2,000 children die from them. I just read an article in Glamour (Jan 2010, pg62) about the dumb things we do while driving and how dangerous they are. For example, texting while driving (even if you don't have to look at your phone while doing it) makes you 8 times more likely to get in a crash-- and it the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08. Talking on the phone (yes,m even hands-free) makes you four times as likely to crash, and lowers your ability to process visual information (light changes, brake lights, etc) by 50%. Every year 2,500 people die from cell phone related car crashes. Eating and drinking while driving are also incredibly dangerous.
I wonder how many of us teach our kids to be paranoid of anyone they don't know but don't think twice about answering a phone call while driving with our kiddoes in the car.
I'm not trying to be preachy, I'm more just baffled with finding out this information... and thinking about how I will change my behavior. I am intrigued by the "Free Range Kids" movement, and may try to read the book soon. I might relax a bit when out and about with D, while being much more mindful of how I drive with him in the car... and avoiding it completely whenever possible (fortunately we live in a good area for walking to places).
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on all this.