What’s Really Dangerous for Kids? Hint: It Has Four Wheels and a Tailpipe

2822848009_98b4623864_m.jpgPhoto by pawpaw67 via Flickr.

When she wrote a column for the New York Sun last year about letting her nine-year-old ride the subway on his own, Lenore Skenazy was pilloried by many as an irresponsible mom. She stuck to her guns, though, and started a blog
dedicated to "sane parenting", advocating the idea that we are
over-sheltering our children from infinitesimal threats such as
stranger abduction. According to Skenazy, the kind of independence
represented by that subway trip is necessary and healthy for children
— and their parents as well.

Now she’s making the publicity rounds promoting her book, Free-Range Kids. In a recent interview with Salon,
she pointed out that  while many American parents are terrified to let
their children walk a few blocks or ride public transit, they think
nothing of driving them everywhere — even though car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the US:

Skenazy:
If you don’t want to have your child in any kind of danger, you really
can’t do anything. You certainly couldn’t drive them in a car, because
that’s the No. 1 way kids die, as passengers in car accidents.

Salon: Rationally, why aren’t cars the bogeyman instead of stranger abduction?

Skenazy:
It would change our entire lifestyle if we couldn’t drive our kids in a
car, and it’s a danger that we just willingly accept without examining
it too much, because we know that the chances are very slim that we’re
going to have a fatal car accident. But the chances are 40 times
slimmer that your kid walking to school, whether or not she’s the only
one, is going to be hurt by a stranger.

Skenazy’s
answer gets to the heart of why it is so hard for people to accept the
many ways in which automobiles hurt everyone in society, perhaps
especially children — through crashes, through polluting the air, through promoting obesity.
We can imagine a life in which our children are not allowed to play
outdoors, walk to a friend’s house or spend any time unsupervised. But
we just can’t imagine life without cars.

Or can we?

  • brian

    this is kind of the same argument that some use to criticize other publicly demonized things news outlets seem to over-emphasize despite their statistically small chance of occurring eg: school shootings, airplane crashes, terrorism, etc.

    The real killers of Americans are hardly discussed in the same manner or urgency as the “bogeymen.”

    Personally, I think it’s silly. When I’m out walking or biking I feel way more endangered from automobiles than I feel scared when I’m on a plane or studying at school. I’m also well aware of the fact that some of my lifestyle choices can lead to an early death from cancer or heart disease.

    Perhaps though, some of the more unlikely events, like stranger abduction or terrorism, are easier to write about, are more “dramatic” in the news sense, or maybe it’s better to write about them b/c people prefer to be escapists and avoid the problems they really face.

    oh well.

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