For the Sake of the Children Keep Them Out of Grocery Stores, Yards, and Malls

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The modern world is filled with hazards for children, such as shopping carts, lawn mowers, and escalators, according to three new studies. Researchers at the Columbus Children's Hospital report that 20,000 children per year are injured from falling out of shopping carts. Researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine report that an average of 9,400 persons 20 years old and younger receive treatment in a U.S. hospital emergency department annually for injuries from lawn mowers. And a new study in the journal Pediatrics found that approximately 2,000 children are treated in United States hospital emergency rooms annually for escalator-related injuries.

It is true that most deaths of children over the age of 1 in the United States are due to accidents. However, the good news is that the world is much safer for American kids than it used to be. Childtrends reports: "Between 1980 and 2003, death rates dropped by 46 percent for infants, 51 percent for children ages 1 to 4, 44 percent for children ages 5 to 14, and 32 percent for teens ages 15 to 19."

I suppose we can always make the world a bit safer (at some additional cost) for little Johnny and Jennie, but for me the takeaway from the cited studies is not that we need more regulations and lawsuits to protect kids. Instead, I hope that parents will hear: Don't do stupid things such as leaving your kids sitting unattended in shopping carts, allowing them to run lawn mowers unsupervised, or letting them run wild in shopping malls.

Click on these links for some of Reason editor (and father of two) Nick Gillespie's insightful views on child rearing and child-proofing.

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  1. “Between 1980 and 2003, death rates dropped by 46 percent for infants, 51 percent for children ages 1 to 4, 44 percent for children ages 5 to 14, and 32 percent for teens ages 15 to 19.”

    No doubt due, in part, to a reduction of the known killer known as ‘third hand smoke’.

  2. I and my acquintances survived childhood with no fatalities, back before people worried about it.

    What we have here is the creating and taking-ownership-of a “public problem.”

    It works by failing to divide by population, in order to suggest the risk is one you have to waste resources worrying about.

    Emergency room doctors are exactly where you should not go for a feeling for risk. Risk is concentrated there, like mercury in the food chain in fish. The whole city goes to the same place.

    But “It’s thousands of lives.” Right, but your personal risk is in fatal accident driving out for pizza territory. You don’t worry about it.

  3. “Democrats make sure we are nice to people who are different, just like Mommy does,” explains one lesson. “Democrats make sure sick people are able to see a doctor, just like Mommy does,” says another.

    Whom do I have to tax to get an adverb in this town?

  4. Ron,

    “Instead, I hope that parents will hear: Don’t do stupid things such as leaving your kids sitting unattended in shopping carts, allowing them to run lawn mowers unsupervised, or letting them run wild in shopping malls.”

    Oh man! And I hope that by the end of this summer, there will be no poverty. I’m with ya’ but keep dreaming. I think everyone here knows what parents will actually hear from the study.

  5. If even one child in this nation is injured, that is one child too many. We should not stop until all childhood accidents have been legislated away!!!!

  6. Check out 20/20 on ABC tonight. They are supposed to be doing a piece on the disappearance of diving boards from neighborhood pools around the country, a matter close to my heart.

  7. Meanwhile, the upper age limit for being a child continues to creep upward. Does the Columbus Children’s Hospital count the 20-year-old “child” who works landscaping for a living in its lawnmower injury study?

  8. Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don’t hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent – I don’t care which one – but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.

  9. When I was a child, my parents were motivated by fear — rather, a sense of shame that something bad would happen to their child that would make them look like bad parents. (Whether they were bad parents or not, I’ll leave for my psychiatrist to determine). It seems like that fear of looking bad is altogether lacking in many of today’s parents. Why take responsibility when there are many rich and sueable businesses to blame.

  10. Gosh, they make it sound like every abortion is a mercy killing.

    Might as well euthanize the little crumbcrunchers before they suffer a horrible fate in the meatgrinded that is modern America, right?

  11. (Whether they were bad parents or not, I’ll leave for my psychiatrist to determine).

    If you’re seeing one, she’ll probably say yes.

  12. Ron, I hate it so much when I disagree with you, but this time you blew it. Anyone who knows as much about statistics and probability as you do ought to know that people will never stop doing stupid things just because you warn them of the possible consequences. If you examined the data, I strongly suspect that you’d find that much of the decline in child deaths is due to “stupid” rules. Why make little kids sit in specially padded seats, for example? I have never had an accident, so that proves that I never will have one, so why should I waste time and money on a device that only pays off when I have an accident? That’s stupid, right? Stupid!

  13. David,

    I’m not seeing one…yet. If people keep sneaking HFCS into my diet, that may change.

  14. Unfortunately, what matters most is what those who profit financially from lawsuits and big government hear. They’re the ones that are most willing to use force to get what they want.

  15. I didn’t know HFCS caused insanity, just insane amounts of fat. I guess if you chunked up, you might lose self esteem, and need a shrink. Another cost imposed by corporate America on the unsuspecting public. Someone should alert the seemingly vanished, Dave W.

  16. David,

    (People tampering with my food supply induces paranoia, requires shrink.)

    I concur on the Dave W. comment. I miss him posting as Spongebob and Patrick.

  17. AV: Some of the new safety rules might even have been “smart.” However, what I am trying to suggest that there are probably some diminishing marginal returns to trying to make the entire world child-safe. And if parents don’t heed reasonable warnings and take reasonable precautions, they are just helping natural selection along.

  18. If people are tampering with your food, you’re not paranoid, no psychiatrist required. If the result of the tampering is that your ass needs two barstools, you just might be a little mopey and need someone to talk to.

  19. David,

    My ass does not need two barstools…yet. If it ever does, I will let you know. You seem to be a good listener.

  20. Ron,
    How do you figure? Natural selection would be if the stupid parents got hurt. But the poor little innocent children?
    And what about diminishing returns? If only one child is saved……blah, blah, blah….

  21. Ron,

    I’d say that if the “data” tell us anything, they tell us that expecting people to be smart about the future is the ultimate stupidity. Millions of people who ought to write wills never do so. Millions of people who should start up 401Ks never do so. Millions of people who have 401Ks cash them out when they leave a job. I know PhDs who won’t go to the dentist.

    Your article on terrorism demonstrates how poorly people understand “the odds.” They’re afraid to fly but insist on riding motorcycles, with no helmets, yet. Oh, and your “evolution is shit” posting bears the same message. Reason must be the slave of the passions, Ron. Have you ever heard that? (And is that why this magazine doesn’t sell as well as People?)

  22. Mom shopping at Trader Joe’s allows child to act dangerously in shopping cart.
    Employee warns mom about danger.
    Mom replies that employee should not tell her how to care for her child.
    Later, child and shopping cart fall over.

  23. Natural selection would be if the stupid parents got hurt.

    We’re naturally selecting for stupidity.

  24. Your article on terrorism demonstrates how poorly people understand “the odds.” They’re afraid to fly but insist on riding motorcycles, with no helmets

    Speaking of not understanding the odds:

    In 2002 (the least year I have CDC data for) 3153 people in the entire U.S. were killed on a motorcycle. There are 5,370,000 motorcycles in regular use, which makes your chances of getting killed on a bike about 0.0006% per year. More pedestrians are killed crossing the street (6,091 in 2002).

    If you’re going to trot out an outrageous example of risk that people are willing to accept while still getting all nervous about flying, pick an example that’s actually outrageous.

  25. I saw this the other day and was wondering when it would turn up on H & R.

    Last night I saw the South Park where all the parents make their children leave home to live on their own after a study showed that most abducted children were taken by their own parents. It was a good one.

  26. I’d say that if the “data” tell us anything, they tell us that expecting people to be smart about the future is the ultimate stupidity. Millions of people who ought to write wills never do so. Millions of people who should start up 401Ks never do so. Millions of people who have 401Ks cash them out when they leave a job. I know PhDs who won’t go to the dentist.

    Many people never do these things, because they rely on our paternalistic government to take care of these things for them. Why should they have to save when they can by a new TV now and live off of Social Security when they retire?

    And these PhDs who don’t see the dentist, do they have horrible problems with their teeth?

  27. Just heard that the 20/20 segment about diving boards won’t happen until next Friday.

  28. Apparently, a common lawnmower accident is caused by riding lawnmowers. The person operating the lawnmower backs it up without looking (the moron), and runs over a kid. Guess who usually gets blamed? (Hint, not the asshole on the lawnmower.)

    There are 5,370,000 motorcycles in regular use, which makes your chances of getting killed on a bike about 0.0006% per year. More pedestrians are killed crossing the street (6,091 in 2002).

    Uh, Mad Scientist. How many pedestrians are there (pretty much everyone in the United States)? So a pedestrian’s odds of getting hit and killed by a car might be about 0.00002 percent.

    Anyway, a better comparison would be people who are afraid to fly, but who don’t even think of the risks of driving.

  29. It is true that most deaths of children over the age of 1 in the United States are due to accidents.

    That’s terrible! Hopefully someday the leading cause of death in children over the age of 1 will be [there is no good answer to put in this spot].

  30. that’s actually kind of silly, rich. there’s always going to be some leading cause of death in children under the age of one. right now it is something which is in theory preventable: accidents. it would be best if the leading cause of death were something unavoidable despite best efforts, such as complications due to inherited birth defects. this is not to say either that compplications due to birth defects are the fun happy awesomest thing ever, nor that the government should mandate giant foam helmets for all americans under 35. on the whole I think that while Ron may be right about diminishing returns from proposed child-protection measures, I think he has a general disinclination to give credit to actually life-saving paternalistic policies. in principle I incline to think people ought to be allowed to do dumb stuff (to themselves). in practice, the fact that seat-belt laws have lead to a real change in what is considered appropriate car behavior, such that almost everyone now belts up, and many many lives have been saved at the cost of fairly little inconvenience…well, it sort of starts to look like an effective policy, irritating as that may be.

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