In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, writer L.J. Williamson says parents have developed “hyper-anxiety” about the safety of their children, to the point that many refuse to allow them outdoors without supervision. He said the fear is fueled by word-of-mouth crime gossip among parents and certain anti-crime websites that raise anxiety because they present sexual predation of children as a ubiquitous problem.
Williamson writes, “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.”