There are a lot of uninteresting one-cause blogs out there where strident people exorcise their own demons by beating dead hobbyhorses for the edification of the rest of us. Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids isn't one of them. It operates on a pretty simple thesis: American parents are driving themselves crazy with concern and smothering their children with illusory safety, all while America is as safe a place for children as it was in 1970. Quite simply, she's out to change the way Americans raise their kids. This interview with Salon lays out the argument pretty nicely. A few excerpts:
What are the statistics about crimes against children? What is the news that we're not hearing?I'm probably one of the few single young men reading Skenazy's blog, but I was a Free-Range Kid, and I'll likely have a couple myself someday. Beyond that, the child-safety hysteria is a microcosm of larger societal forces. It is fed by the same psychological quirk that cripples security planning and counterterrorism, namely that human beings are pretty terrible at internalizing probabilities, and particularly terrible at estimating probabilities of things that scare us. Really, Lenore Skenazy is the Bruce Schneier of child-rearing.
The crime rate today is equal to what it was back in 1970. In the '70s and '80s, crime was climbing. It peaked around 1993, and since then it's been going down.
If you were a child in the '70s or the '80s and were allowed to go visit your friend down the block, or ride your bike to the library, or play in the park without your parents accompanying you, your children are no less safe than you were.
But it feels so completely different, and we're told that it's completely different, and frankly, when I tell people that it's the same, nobody believes me. We're living in really safe times, and it's hard to believe.
Then there are products out there that will prevent [anything] from happening. Here is a helmet your child could wear when she starts to toddle, lest she fall over and split her head open and die, or suffer traumatic brain injury.
Kids have been toddling -- it's a whole stage we actually call toddlerhood -- ever since we started walking upright, which has been a pretty successful experiment for the human species. But now you're supposed to think that it's too dangerous for a kid to do without extra protection and without extra supervision and without this stupid thing you can buy.
There are kneepads that you're supposed to put on your kid because crawling is considered too dangerous for the knees, as if knees weren't built for crawling. That's why they're cute and dimpled and fat.
Everything that we do has a product that we can buy that's supposed to make our kids safer, as if they're born without the requisite accoutrements. Then there is something we can do as parents to be more careful, to be more protective. The assumption behind all of that is that if you are a good parent, you should be protecting your child from 100 percent of anything that could possibly go wrong, and if not, you will be blamed and Larry King will shake his finger at you.