So odd is it for kids to be on their own that we have a name for them: free range children.
What we all fear is that they will be abducted. This is now built in out national psyche. I share the fear. Remember: fears are irrational. That doesn't make them any less potent.
The FBI has several decades of data on missing persons now, and those numbers show that the number of missing person reports involving minors has been at record low levels in recent years. Overall, the number of these reports have fallen by 40 percent since 1997. This is more impressive when you consider that the overall U.S. population has risen by 30 percent over that same time period, meaning that the actual rate of missing person reports for children has fallen faster than 40 percent.But even these numbers include an awful lot of scenarios that you wouldn't typically worry about when letting your kid walk to the park.
For instance, among all missing persons cases (adults and children) in 2014, roughly 96 percent were runaways -- kids or adults deliberately trying to escape a situation at home. In fact, only 0.1 percent of missing persons cases were what we'd think of as a "stereotypical kidnapping" -- where a complete stranger tries to abduct somebody and carry them off by force.Another thing parents worry about when it comes to their kids -- traffic. If they're left to wander on their own outside, won't they run out in front of a car or get hit by an irresponsible driver? In short: almost certainly not.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that between 1993 and 2013, the number of child pedestrians struck and killed by cars fell by more than two-thirds, from more than 800 deaths to fewer than 250. The number of traffic-related pedestrian injuries in this age group fell by a similar percentage over the same period. Again these are raw numbers, and as the population has grown over that period, the actual rate has fallen even faster."It's hard to say that much of the decline [in mortality and abduction rates] comes from stricter parenting," said Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University who's written about child safety statistics.
When it comes to child mortality, "crime and accidents were never that big of a deal to begin with," he said. And there are a lot of factors driving those trends downward -- better safety standards for cars and better pedestrian infrastructure, for instance.
Declining rates of violent crime overall also likely play a role.
Asked about the Maryland case, Caplan said, "it's crazy, people are being persecuted for doing things that are extremely statistically safe just because other people disagree."Bottom line, Ingraham writes: If it was safe enough for you to play unsupervised outside when you were a kid, it's even safer for your own children to do so today.