Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Where The Children Are

Ann Althouse wonders where the kids are. Makes me think about the book Where The Wild Things Are. Our neighborhood is full of kids, yet good luck finding evidence of them. Where are they?

Swimming--in public pools or in pools in the back yard. Summer camp. There are camps for everything and since playing stick ball with make-shift bases isn't part of the modern world, a child goes to a camp organized by adults, supervised by teenagers and it kills a couple birds with one stone. Children and teenagers, occupied! Wii--We bought one two weeks ago and I've been beaten in baseball, bowling, boxing, and my Mii has been beaten severely in tennis, though I have yet to play. My children have created a Wii community filled with mutant beings. It's great fun to make your dad bald, short, fat, with strange facial hair, a unibrow, pink cheeks, disco shades and eye shadow. Don't forget the moles. Cartoons. Come on! They are a summer staple. Yes, your children sit like mindless blobs of protoplasm absorbing what little mental nutrition can be extracted from these worthless shows. On the plus side, mom blogs in peace! Trampolines--Nothing says summer like working up a sweat engaging in repetititve bouncing activities. It's therapeutic. Down side--intracranial injuries. Eh, our generation rode bikes without helmets and skateboards without elbow pads, they'll be fine.

Kids are doing lots of stuff, just not the stuff that puts them in the public square or their own backyards much. Have you watched the news? No, most bloggers don't watch the news. Do blog readers watch the news? Well, if you watched Greta VanSusteren, last night, you saw children, young women, young men and families who were bludgeoned to death by a rampaging psycho. Oh, and then there were the three or four young women who were raped and killed 1) by relatives 2) while jogging 3) while taking a bath. My husband and I were talking about implanting a GPS device in my daughter. I kid you not. Evidently, we're not the only ones with this train of thought. For now, it looks we'd have to settle for cell phones.

The point is that parents don't feel free to let their kids roam like we did when we were kids. At five or six, we'd walk a couple streets over to play (walking through yards). At eight or nine, we'd be outside for hours until dinner time. I think my mom locked us out. Not now. Parents must observe children non-stop. What if something happened?

It might not be rational. In fact, upon researching it, it looks like it's not rational:

Research has shown that between 40 and 150 incidents of child abduction murder occur each year, which is less than one half of one percent of the murders committed nationally.

[Katherine M. Brown, Robert D. Keppel, Joseph G. Weis, and Marvin E. Skeen. CASE MANAGEMENT for Missing Children Homicide Investigation. Olympia, Washington: Office of the Attorney General, State of Washington, and U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, May 2006, page 1.]
This is small comfort for the parents of those children, but the threat is not as great as the amplified news makes it seem. Yet, it happens. And parents think, how could I live with myself if something happened? Here's more:
The U.S. Department of Justice reports:
797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.
[Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz. U.S. Department of Justice. "National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview" in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 5.]
Still, most people don't read statistics. They watch the news. And the news freaks parents out. Yes, I think we're in that Twilight Zone episode. A nuclear blast didn't decimate the world. A news blast did.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News


David said...

How many of the parents who worry about these relatively small risks devote equal attention to the mitigation of *major* risks?, for instance, teaching their kids to drive responsibly?

To what degree does the desire for a risk-free existence lead to kids who become so bored & zomby-like that they become prey to drugs & binge drinking?

I'm once again reminded of a passage from the great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:

"To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law — a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”

aog said...

58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.

115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping.

What were the other 58,085 non-family abductions? 115 incidents / year is a very low risk. 58K / year is significant (that's car fatality range, which as the previous commenter noted, is something parents should, in fact, be concerned about).

Melissa Clouthier said...


That's what I thought, too. Carjackings where there's a kid in the car, maybe. What are the other kidnappings? I would feel better about being less worried, if I knew.

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