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  1. #1
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    Let the kids outside.

    This hits home for me as my wife and I have been arguing about our son going to places like the neighborhood park by himself and when that would be ok.

    Let kids outdoors

    by L.J. Williamson, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.
    March 29, 2007

    ONE SUNNY afternoon as our children played nearby, I asked a neighbor at what age she would allow her son to bicycle around the block by himself.

    "I don't think I would ever do that," she replied. "The world is a very different place now than it was when we were growing up."

    Did she really think the number of child molesters and kidnappers in the world had increased in the last 20 or 30 years, I asked? "Oh, yes, I think it is increasing. Because of the Internet."

    At a PTA meeting, during a discussion of traffic problems around the school campus, I asked what we could do to encourage families to walk or bike to school. Other parents looked at me as if I'd suggested we stuff the children into barrels and roll them into the nearest active volcano. One teacher looked at me in shock. "I wouldn't let my children walk to school alone Š would you?"

    "Haven't you heard about all of the predators in this area?" asked a father.

    "No, I haven't," I said. "I think this is a pretty safe neighborhood."

    "You'd be surprised," he replied, lowering his eyebrows. "You should read the Megan's Law website." He continued: "You know how to solve the traffic problem around this school? Get rid of all the predators. Then you won't have any more traffic."

    Huh?

    Our hyper-anxiety about the safety of children is creating a society in which any outdoor activity that doesn't take place under the supervision of a coach or a "psychomotor activities" mandate from the state is too risky to attempt.

    An example: My son's school has a written rule that students in grades K-4 may not ride their bicycles to school. My son and I cheerfully ignore this restriction; I think school rules belong on campus, not off. As we ride together each day, I remember the Huffy Sweet 'n' Sassy I rode to school when I was a kid. Hot pink, with a flowered wicker basket, it stood out among the other bikes parked in the crowded racks, its tall orange safety flag flapping in the breeze.

    Now, my son's bike stands alone, always the sole occupant of the school's tucked-in-a-faraway-corner bike rack. When we arrive, other kids look at us in amazement and ask questions like "Why do you ride a bike?" and "Don't you have a car?"

    Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan's Law
    website says stranger abduction is rare and that 90% of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its
    statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.

    And when a child is parked on the living room floor, he or she may be safe, but is safety the sole objective of parenting? The ultimate goal is independence, and independence is best fostered by handing it out a little at a time, not by withholding it in a trembling fist that remains clenched until it's time to move into the dorms.

    Meanwhile, as rates of child abduction and abuse move down, rates of Type II diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related ailments in children move up. That means not all the candy is coming from strangers. Which scenario should provoke more panic: the possibility that your child may
    become one of the approximately 100 children who are kidnapped by strangers each year, or one of the country's 58 million overweight adults?

    In 1972, 87% of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked daily; today, just 13% of children get to school under their own power, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a significant parallel, before 1980, only 5% of children were obese; today that figure has tripled, says the CDC.

    The next generation of grandparents won't even need to harangue their progeny with tales of walking seven miles to school in the snow; it'll be impressive enough to say that they walked at all. My neighbor was right...the world is a very different place.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Apnu's Avatar
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    interesting article, and thanks for putting it up. Do you have a link to the source?

  3. #3
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    I have a neighbor whose child (almost 1 year older than mine) can only ride their bike one house either side. On the other hand I let mine ride up and down the block, 3 or 4 blocks as long as they tell me where they are going. I always see the pain on his face when he can't go and have some kid freedom on his "car". I don't think they are wrong as parents, they just have a different philosophy. I would never argue with them over it or violate there rules if their child was in our care. Like the writer of the article and the vast majority of parents out there, I just keep doing what I think to be the best for my kids.

    P.S. Mine walk or bike to school everyday, sun, rain, sleet or snow. Only if there is a project or a need to go from kid dropoff directly somewhere, does the car get used.

  4. #4
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apnu
    interesting article, and thanks for putting it up. Do you have a link to the source?
    No sorry I don't...it was emailed to me on a local cycling mailing list.

    So my wife finally saw it (she had been without internet access on a trip) and we actually had a decent discussion. It was funny because we were at her mother's house and her mother was like "no way, not until a lot older" all the while my wife tells me stories about how when she was a kid her and her sister (younger) would walk across town (probably 6 or 7 miles) to go to the pool during the summer. I am like "well?"
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apnu
    interesting article, and thanks for putting it up. Do you have a link to the source?
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/...mment-opinions

  6. #6
    Senior Member kpumpy's Avatar
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    that article makes me damn glad i don't live in LA or some suburban Columbine-like ghetto of look-alike houses with the nearest school six miles and two freeways away. We did live in a place like that and we moved.

    I rode my bike to school every day through fourth grade as a kid and kids where I live now still do the same.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Most schools in the L.A. area are within a couple of miles distance. What's crazy is the way they decide the areas students are assigned for each school. The Jr High I went to was another mile walk instead of sending me to the closest one. IF there is a bike rack, it's located right at the open gate(s) and you take your chances locking up your bike there.

    If you live in one of the cities within the L.A. County area, the schools and the surrounding area are relatively safe and you see a lot more students walking or riding bikes. Their bike racks are located by the security or P.E. offices where there is always somebody around to keep an eye on them.

    The main problem with the L.A. school district is that they are on a year round schedule, where 1/3 to 1/4 of the students are off every trimester or quarter. So you have a bunch of bored kids hanging out and causing mayhem because their parents are working or can't schedule their vacation time to coincide and the schools can't afford to hire a full timer to supervise the playground, activities/sports, or check out equipment to those kids that want something to do. Doesn't help that a 2-3 bedroom house has 4-5 families living there or people illegally converting their garages to housing rentals and the end result is overcrowding at the local schools...not to mention you can't find a parking space in front of your own home.

    The good old days are long gone and one expects a higher thief rate and more violent crimes to occur, esp in the inner cities or poorer areas. As long as there is a "responsible adult" watching, I have no problem with kids playing outside. The smaller cities can afford to pay for extra security/police by writing a lot more traffic and parking tickets, even for the smallest infraction. There are some cities I refuse to drive in or ride my bike through because they change the speed limits to whatever and as often as they feel like it (with no speed limit signs posted anywhere) and rules without people knowing about them until you get a ticket (no warnings unless you live there).

    In some areas, teenagers/adults seen riding bikes in a particular area constantly are drug dealers or lookouts with their stash hidden in the seatpost. I see it occasionally during my commute when I pass through certain areas.

    It's refreshing when I can go up to the farm and just go biking on the roads without seeing anybody for miles or ride my bike along the levee with my dog running beside me. Plenty of bike racks by the local stores and shopping centers too, although you will ride 15-20+ miles to get there...lol.

  8. #8
    Novist senior member tolfan's Avatar
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    I grew up in philadelphia,see the rocky movies for a snapshot in time of my neighborhood. We all were allowed to go to the school yard or playground or library ect. We all new to be careful but not afraid. The day 5 of us went on an all day bike explore and crossed the bridge into New Jersey I got a new rule "Your not allowed to leave the state" That was 3rd grade I think. I always felt bad for suburban kids that couldnt go any place without someone to drive them. I had a point but I forget it now
    There are some things a man needs to believe in wether they're true or not;

  9. #9
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tolfan
    I grew up in philadelphia,see the rocky movies for a snapshot in time of my neighborhood. We all were allowed to go to the school yard or playground or library ect. We all new to be careful but not afraid. The day 5 of us went on an all day bike explore and crossed the bridge into New Jersey I got a new rule "Your not allowed to leave the state" That was 3rd grade I think. I always felt bad for suburban kids that couldnt go any place without someone to drive them. I had a point but I forget it now
    I will have to remember that rule...but honestly if my son ever rides his bike out of the state I am signing him up for the TdF because I think it is at least 150 miles in any direction from State College.
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  10. #10
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    May be I belong to the paranoid camp, but even if the number of child molesters have decreased percentage wise, the population of this country has increased tremendously over the past decades. So the absolute number of them may not have decreased. Even if their numbers have decreased, the fact that the vast majority of kids no longer bike or walk to school makes those very few that do prime targets.

    Besides, the traffic thing concerns me all by itself. The number of cars on the road has exploded vs. the bygone era. So has the number of distractions available to drivers these days - stereos, DVDs, cellphones, iPods, GPSs, Blackberries, etc.

    I wish my kids could bike to school like wife and I both did. I wish they could've enjoyed a lot of other things I did as a child, but things have changed over the years. Some for the worse, and fortunately some for the better. We try not to dwell on the negative and do try to capitalize on the positive.

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    Nice article and a very interesting topic. John Stossel recently did a similar article saying that parents are too fearful nowadays to the point where we don't even let our kids use public bathrooms by themselves anymore. The fear is in complete imbalance to the actual risk. But is is difficult not to believe the hype when every cable news show trumpets every abduction for days on end. And it does happen, e.g., a kid gets grabbed at his bus stop in the middle of the day. Terrifying for a parent. And it only has to happen once.

    I'm a parent of two small kids (7 and 3) and it's difficult for us to let go. We live in a very safe, quiet neighborhood with lots of kids. We only recently started letting our 7-year-old walk up the street by herself out of our sight to go visit friends. I'm still nervous about what could happen but I don't want to stifle her. When I was a kid, we rode our bikes all day long and walked to school alone.

    By the same logic, however, one could also argue that we shouldn't wear bike helmets. The odds of being hit by a car are really small. Aren't we overreacting by wearing helmets all the time? Or wearing seatbelts? How much self-protection is justified, and how much is too much?

  12. #12
    You rode how far??? GamecockTaco's Avatar
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    mleess, while I agree in principal with you, gotta disagree with one of your points re: wearing helmets.

    My kids wear helmets, but not for fear and protection of car/bike collission. My kids are at much greater risk to crash while showing off for their friends than to be hit by a car. That's why mine wear them.

    As for seatbelts, I have no problem with getting rid of all laws that require seat belt use. But, if you do that, I want a corrollary that if you are in an accident while not wearing yours, that the medical providers are NOT to spend a dime of tax money to provide care to you. If you can pay for it, you can have it. If not, well, better luck next time.

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  13. #13
    Down 10# and 11 inches Ginny's Avatar
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    I'm right there with you all.
    Part of me wants to lock them in the basement
    and never allow them out again.
    The other part wants them to feel the independence that
    I felt in the summer when I'd leave at day break with a PB&J
    sandwich and my brother and I would go out on our bikes all
    day. We'd come home at dark, tired, dirty and hungry and
    all mom would say was 'did you have a fun day?'
    Days like that, it's what made me independent.

    My older kids are red belts and will be riding bikes to school this
    summer for tutoring. It's just over a mile away and they will both
    have road IDs (www.roadid.com) just in case. It's important for
    THEM to learn to be independent and it's important for ME to
    learn to let them be.

    We all have risks. Each time we get into a car and drive, the
    risk of our getting into an accident is 100%. If we stay at home
    and never drive, our risk for a car accident is 0%.
    All life is a risk. We have to take risks. We have to allow our
    kids to know risk. If they never know risk they will never understand
    how to deal with it.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by GamecockTaco
    mleess, while I agree in principal with you, gotta disagree with one of your points re: wearing helmets. My kids wear helmets, but not for fear and protection of car/bike collission. My kids are at much greater risk to crash while showing off for their friends than to be hit by a car. That's why mine wear them. As for seatbelts, I have no problem with getting rid of all laws that require seat belt use. But, if you do that, I want a corrollary that if you are in an accident while not wearing yours, that the medical providers are NOT to spend a dime of tax money to provide care to you. If you can pay for it, you can have it. If not, well, better luck next time.
    I am in complete agreement that everyone should wear bike helmets and seatbelts. I don't agree with laws mandating it, but that's my libertarian streak coming through.

    My only point was that John Stossel was basically saying that we, as parents, are far too fearful because there is very little risk of your child actually being abducted. That may be true, but there is very little risk of a lot of bad things happening and yet we still take steps to prevent it. For example, I lock my door every night. Is there a chance someone may try to get in the door? Highly unlikely from a statistical point of view. But why not go ahead and lock the door just in case? Or smoke alarms. The odds of a fire in my house is extremely low. Should I not have a smoke detector because that would be too fearful? In other words, just because something is a rare occurrence doesn't automatically mean we shouldn't take reasonable steps to try to prevent it, especially when the end result could be catastrophic. Yes, I could leave my 7-year-old daughter alone in the mall for three hours and the odds are that she would be fine. But am I going to take that chance? Of course not.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Did she really think the number of child molesters and kidnappers in the world had increased in the last 20 or 30 years, I asked? "Oh, yes, I think it is increasing. Because of the Internet."
    So if the internet is the source of the problem isn't your kid safer out riding their bike instead of home surfing the net?

    From what I've seen the only thing that has significantly raised danger to kids is parents who keep kids home. There is safety in numbers. There is also friendship and learning from kids a little older. Now each kid who is out seems to be out alone. When I was a kid a broken leg was a very very bad thing, but no disaster. It just meant someone would end up running to the nearest home where they knew someone and get help.

    Kids are not naturally fragile, but they can be turned that way.

    I've lived in the same general area in Los Angeles for over 50 years. The Elementary School I went to through the 5th grade is still there. It has an enclosed area for bikes that holds at least 50 and I think over 100 bikes. When I was a kid it was near full. Some day I have to go home or out for lunch and cruise by to see how many there are now. (Passing at 5:30 or later is hardly a fair test).

  16. #16
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mleess
    By the same logic, however, one could also argue that we shouldn't wear bike helmets. The odds of being hit by a car are really small. Aren't we overreacting by wearing helmets all the time? Or wearing seatbelts? How much self-protection is justified, and how much is too much?
    I believe it should be a personal choice. However, wearing a helmet or a seatbelt is a very simple precaution that doesn't have a great adverse effect on most people. Fasten it and forget about it. Shielding kids from the real world, however, results in a lot of problems and unhappiness.

  17. #17
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    I live in a very nice area, but there are still plenty of sexual predators and pedophiles out there. My county has an online mapping system and automatic telephone notification anytime someone moves into the zipcode.

    There are plenty of ways to teach kids independance and keep kids active AND safe. My two incredibly active boys 4 & almost 6 aren't going out on their own for several years. The price of a misjudgement is simply too high.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlewaywelt
    I live in a very nice area, but there are still plenty of sexual predators and pedophiles out there. My county has an online mapping system and automatic telephone notification anytime someone moves into the zipcode.
    There's been a lot of discussion, esp. in the tabloids in the UK about introducing a Megan's Law. We have a sexual offenders register, but the information is confidential.

    One interesting statistic quoted on the BBC was that there are approx 600k offenders on Megan's Law register, the whereabouts of 25% of whom are unkown because there is more incentive to disappear. The UK equivalent figure is about 3%, possibly because the risk of vigilante action is therefore v. small

  19. #19
    Senior Member littlewaywelt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atbman
    There's been a lot of discussion, esp. in the tabloids in the UK about introducing a Megan's Law. We have a sexual offenders register, but the information is confidential.

    One interesting statistic quoted on the BBC was that there are approx 600k offenders on Megan's Law register, the whereabouts of 25% of whom are unkown because there is more incentive to disappear. The UK equivalent figure is about 3%, possibly because the risk of vigilante action is therefore v. small
    In our area it works. I get an automatic prerecorded call to my cell antime someone moves in. If they "disappear" they'll be in violation of their parole, so there's a stronger incentive to continue to report. The system shows last know addresses for non-compliance, and there aren't very many of those...at least in my zipcode.
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlewaywelt
    In our area it works. I get an automatic prerecorded call to my cell antime someone moves in. If they "disappear" they'll be in violation of their parole, so there's a stronger incentive to continue to report. The system shows last know addresses for non-compliance, and there aren't very many of those...at least in my zipcode.
    That assumes that they are keeping to the procedures required by Megan's Law. You have no way of knowing if one of the 150,000 who have dropped out of sight has moved in.

    I don't know what US experience is, but there have been a number of attacks on perfectly innocent people who have been mistaken for paedophiles in the news. One was an arson attack on a house believed to be occupied by one. A 14yr old girl asleep on the top floor died.

    Some other semi-literate idiots attacked a house belonging to a paediatrician (!), because of their cretinous assumption that this meant that she was a child abuser.

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    For anyone interested there is a good book available that covers some of this issue and more. It's called "Last Child in the Woods." It deals with issues surrounding why kids don't spend as much time outdoors anymore. It is really a good read.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Volfy
    May be I belong to the paranoid camp, but even if the number of child molesters have decreased percentage wise, the population of this country has increased tremendously over the past decades. So the absolute number of them may not have decreased. Even if their numbers have decreased, the fact that the vast majority of kids no longer bike or walk to school makes those very few that do prime targets.

    Besides, the traffic thing concerns me all by itself. The number of cars on the road has exploded vs. the bygone era. So has the number of distractions available to drivers these days - stereos, DVDs, cellphones, iPods, GPSs, Blackberries, etc.

    I wish my kids could bike to school like wife and I both did. I wish they could've enjoyed a lot of other things I did as a child, but things have changed over the years. Some for the worse, and fortunately some for the better. We try not to dwell on the negative and do try to capitalize on the positive.
    You sound like a "rational paranoid" to me. I'm going to try to talk you into lostening up a bit. You are right things today are a concern where they were not a generation ago. Your point about fewer kids bing out, so the few that are become targets of what true evil is out there is well taken. But safety in numbers still works. But in my time that was an automatic, now it takes planing. It turns out that my back way home from work goes right past the elementry school I went to until the 5th grade. Back then it was pretty much safe to walk or bike to school. By the time a kid was 12 the only rule needed was stay on this side of the freeway. Today there are routes to the school that are safe, but I would have to check the roads closest to the school on hte south and west sides. Other roads I rode as a kid are not safe (at least for younger children). But the building of more houses cuts both ways. Thinking about it there are actually more roads that are just as safe now as things were back then. The issue is the rules for where the kids can go have to be more detailed.

    I don't get the idea you are one of them, but thinking about it I'm coming to realize a lot of the problem is that too many parents today are not willing to go that extra step of figuring out just where things are reasonably safe and take the easy route of just saying no.

  23. #23
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    In my day it was "kick the kids outside".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sci-Fi
    The good old days are long gone and one expects a higher thief rate and more violent crimes to occur, esp in the inner cities or poorer areas.

    People always say this but for the most part it's not true except in a very few highly decayed urban sites like Detroit. In most cities crime is lower than it was a generation ago.

  25. #25
    Up on the Down Side CyLowe97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker
    In my day it was "kick the kids outside".
    +1

    How about a little safety in numbers conversation here.

    As kids we walked or rode everywhere (back in the ancient days of the 1980's). Most of the time it was with buddies. We didn't know it, but we were looking out for each other and making it too tough for any would be abductors to get us.

    We also developed some street smarts and pretty much figured out on our own that we should not talk to people we didn't know, high tail it out of there, or knock on pretty much any door to find safe harbor to call home if we needed to.

    Kids need to learn this sense of independence and it's being lost among hyperorganized 'play-dates' and scheduled extracurriculars.

    Do kids knock on their buddy's door anymore and just say "Can Billy come out and play?"

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