Free-Range Kids

Viral 'Social Experiment' Parenting Video Peddles Outrageously False Claims About Stranger Danger

No, strangers don't grab 700 kids every day


This purportedly helpful video, posted Saturday, is viral in every sense of the word. It already has nearly a million views, which means that people are sharing it like crazy, convinced that its creator, Joey Salads, is doing something other than creating terror and angst with his Stranger Danger "social experiment."

He's not.

The experiment consists of Salads asking parents at a playground if they've taught their kids not to talk to strangers—a lesson I don't endorse, since most strangers are good and you want kids to feel confident asking them for help if need be. "You can talk to anyone, you cannot go off with anyone," is the advice I prefer.

Mr. Salads proceeds to startle the parents by showing them that their kids do talk to strangers. He does this by going up to very young kids (kids so young they would normally not be at the park unsupervised) and asking them if they want to meet his puppies. Some go off with him.

Not addressed are a few salient facts, including the biggie: Isn't it more than likely that these kids feel fine going off with this man because they just saw him talking to their mom? What's more, their mom is right there! If she didn't want them going off, she would intervene.

After this bizarre scenario that he calls an experiment—without ever telling us how many kids he approached who did not go off with him—he says 700 kids are abducted a day. But Salads curiously omits the fact that this statistic includes all abductions, the overwhelming majority of which involve family members and often include custody disputes that were resolved by police in a matter of hours or days. Salad's video, on the other hand, is designed to warn parents about strangers, who abduct just 115 children a year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

If 700 kids were actually grabbed by strangers on a daily basis, that would be closing in on 1 percent of all kids under age 9. So if you sent your kid to a grammar school with 500 kids, by fifth grade your child would have witnessed 25 kids—a classroom's worth—kidnapped the way they are on "Law & Order."

But the story of how easily a child can be lead to his doom is one that TV can't get enough of. Here is almost the exact same "experiment," on Headline News. As I said then:

A show that "tests" whether kids can be lured to a car with the promise of a puppy — the premise of this show — makes it seem as if this is a situation kids could very likely be faced with, something on par with, "Would your kids eat a cookie if someone offered it?" What is so hard to understand is that, first of all, the vast majority of crimes against children are committed NOT be strangers they meet at the park, but by people they know. So it is bizarre to keep acting as if the park is teaming with danger.

But this scary, misleading  message just seems to be one that everyone loves to share, as if it's a public service. As if kids already have way too much unsupervised time outside.

[This article originally appeared at Free-Range Kids.]

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  1. I refuse to believe that “Joey Salads” is nothing more than the truncated form of Joey “Salads” Salvatore, with “Salads” being a nickname he earned after her didn’t snitch and did his 7 years in the pen.

    1. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……

    2. So his nickname refers to all the salads he tossed while in the can?

    3. Fear makes stupid sheep do what they are told.

  2. Puppies: the universal lure.
    I’d help him find his pupppy.

  3. ” Isn’t it more than likely that these kids feel fine going off with this man because they just saw him talking to their mom?”

    Yes, this experiment needs more controls.

    I’d be happy to volunteer.

    I’ll drive around in a windowless van, and when I see an unattended child, I’ll jump out and tell the kid I have free cookies in the back of the van. Then I’ll kidnap them and make him them watch adults-only episodes of Sesame Street:…..ults-only/

      1. I wish I had a dollar for every time you reply to your posts.

        1. You never want to have an intelligent conversation?

          1. Lord Melchett: Ah, Blackadder, talking to yourself, I see.

            Blackadder: Yes, it’s the only way I can be sure of intelligent conversation.

  4. But what would the world do without manufactured crises to rally around? God, do you want us to tear each other to pieces?!

  5. The fact that there are so many people “buying” what this guy is “selling” tells you all you need to know. People like this stuff. They’re probably so bored in their comfortable lives that this is what passes as their entertainment. It’s like watching a horror movie. They know it isn’t actually real, but it gives them a frisson of excitement that they eat up.

    1. some people just need to live in a demon haunted world.

    2. It also allows them to feel as though they are saving children without lifting a finger. And if someone calls Joey Salads (how is that a real name?) out on his fear-mongering, they can tsk-tsk and wonder why nobody else cares about the children as much as they do.

      1. Toss my salads!

    3. This. And the sad thing is not only that they’re bored and thus have to create some excitement, they don’t even have enough sense to do it the right way.

      I mean, my life is going pretty good right now, and I’d say it was boring. I’ve channeled that unused energy into learning new things, like writing and performing songs. I just do it at open mics and the like, and nobody in his right mind would pay me money to perform, but that isn’t the point. I enjoy the process of creation, I enjoy the social interaction, and nobody gets hurt. I suppose it comes from a childhood where I was expected to create my own fun if I was bored. It seems to be becoming a lost art.

  6. But in this case by going off with a stranger all that happened is that the kids got to play with a puppy.

    The lesson is clear: Always do what a stranger tells you and you can have fun with dogs.

    1. These kids are also likely very trusting of strangers precisely because of how rare it is for strangers to actually be hostile.

  7. “strangers, who abduct just 115 children a year,”

    And I think it’s safe to say that some of these kids would have been abducted whether or not they talked to the abductor or consented to go look at some puppies.

    1. Kids will go with anyone who cracks their head with a pistol. Be warned, parents.

    2. I wish we had a like button here. Consider your answer “liked.”

  8. If you think it’s bad here, how about what Obama’s done to the number of emergency room vists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    1. This is not the article I clicked on to post.

      1. And yet, your comment sort of makes sense.

      2. Thank god. For a minute I thought Joe Biden had started commenting at Reason.

        1. If you think it’s bad here, one time I was at the zoo and some baby tiger stole my beef jerky. Then I didn’t have my beef jerky anymore.

  9. There is a stranger danger, but it’s not what we think. The guy behind you with a light bar on his vehicle roof is the biggest danger all of us are likely to face.

    As I said in a previous thread, there’s a guy out there, right now in my town who the county has admitted has a problem with violence and anger, and has repeatedly shown to have emotional issues. Yet he has a badge, a gun and the authority to pull you over. After years of these issues, he eventually permanently brain-damaged an innocent, unarmed young man who now needs 24×7 care. He was cleared of any wrong doing. The next time you call 911, this man may end up in your home.

    1. pics or it didn’t happen.

    2. Paul: Yeah, and I bet if you added up all the injuries that police do to just kids every year it would come to more than 115 incidents. Hmm, we need to do a study.

  10. This kind of failure to even pass the smell test really bothers me. All this time wasted on New Math, New New Math, and whatever were all the iterations following, all the Common Core testing, and they can’t spend even a day teaching basic rap like “700 a day” is bullshit. They ought to spend a day just walking around town, figuring out basic size estimates — how many people in that building? How much is 1/5 of all college women are raped? How much is 700 kids kidnapped a day?

    Christ. 700 a day, times 200 working days a year, 140 thousand, times 10 grades K-9 just to make it simple, 1.4 MILLION, and the alarm bells should have been screaming like a banshee before even getting that far, and then you factor in weekends and all the other 165 days skipped, 2 MILLION, and that’s where you laugh in their face and tell thme to get a clue, go suck an elephant’s dong.

    I really hate this basic inability to think in even the crudest numerical terms, to sniff out the crap. Really really fucking annoys me.

    1. I graduated with 125 other kids out in the middle of nowhere (the *ideal* place to steal a child). In Chicagoland, I get 1 Amber alert every 6 mo. or so and it’s usually ‘Silver Audi A8’ so, you know it’s a custody issue.

      If I believed the ‘700 a day’ number, I’d have to think I was lucky to be alive.

    2. You can’t take three from two,
      Two is less than three,
      So you look at the four in the tens place.
      Now that’s really four tens
      So you make it three tens,
      Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones,
      And you add ’em to the two and get twelve,
      And you take away three, that’s nine.
      Is that clear?

      Now instead of four in the tens place
      You’ve got three,
      ‘Cause you added one,
      That is to say, ten, to the two,
      But you can’t take seven from three,
      So you look in the hundreds place.

      From the three you then use one
      To make ten ones…
      (And you know why four plus minus one
      Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
      ‘Cause addition is commutative, right!)
      And so you’ve got thirteen tens
      And you take away seven,
      And that leaves five…

      Well, six actually…
      But the idea is the important thing!

  11. Why is this dude obsessing over other people’s kids?

    1. Take a guess.

      1. He is trying to find a new and creative way to pickup on single mothers?

        Or he is a fucking creep that sits at home at night watching old pee wee herman vids while devising a plan of getting kids to trust him?

  12. In Illinois, the evil ones “lure” children by offering them a ride and leaving the area if they decline. Apparently it’s especially dangerous if they are thought to be single.…..burg-park/

    Makes me think there will soon be a “for the children” exception to free speech. Something like “You can’t offer something to a child you don’t know if somebody ever made that same offer to a child and it led to harm.”

  13. “OK, son. When you’re at the park, I want you to always have this. Its called a “shiv”. If any adult starts talking to you, plant in their thigh, all the way to the hilt, and start running. With this thing in their leg, you can easily outrun them. Got it?

    Now, lets go practice with the neighbors.”

  14. Doing a little math:

    According to the census there are about about 73,628,000 persons under 18 in the US (2013)
    700 * 365 = 255,500

    255,500/73,628,000*1000 = 3.47 abductions per 1000 persons under 18 annually.

    Now if we take that 3.47 and apply it to a rather well know city like Chicago:
    Chicago, has an under 18 population of about 630,000 and so would have about to 5.9 abductions in Chicago every day, or 2186 per year.

    If that many kids were being abducted every day in Chicago, they would probably be announcing the total # of abductions right after the segment on how many murders happened that day.

  15. Lenore, the 115 kids abducted by strangers annually, itself, is a huge exaggeration. The Justice Department has not bothered updating this now, very old, study by Finkelhor, who was, incidentally, one of the architects of the witchhunts back in the ’80s, but which is still going strong. The Justice Department is remarkably silent on current, or even recent, incidents of stranger kidnappings of kids. For a problem that receives so much social and governmental attention, you would think that they might produce evidence of its existence. They do not. The only way to gather this data, since the government doesn’t break it out, is to go digging in the media, over a year’s time, and figure it out oneself. My tentative findings are that the number of child murders as a result of stranger abduction are almost certainly less than ten a year and probably closer to five. The Finkelhor study which D.O.J. trumpets is that there are about 50 per year. Regardless, both are far less than the 500 case per year in which children are murdered by their parents.

    1. Easier to just watch Nancy Grace, at for the white child abductions anyway.

    2. Eric T: This is of course a case of “war is the health of the state.” The more terrified people are the more easily manipulated by “Just give me more money and power, I’ll take care of you.” Machiavelli was right about the power of fear – “democracies” just use it differently.

  16. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  17. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  18. “teeming with danger” not teaming.

  19. Your one big hypcorital women I say that your assuming here huge assumption you women are full of blame everyone else for other issue or men for everything… but I guess that makes you feel better cause you don’t think women are dangerous? they are and can be just much of threat as a man or anyone else could. you digusted me. you don’t support it cause you know it speaks the truth to some extent

    you blame joe for empty parks… the problem is this… 1. parks are not pick up 2. to far away from house 3. no one cares to clean up parks or have time to take there kids to the park… your a women and your full of it and yes the only part I agree with here is this…. part most people whom are sexually assaulted is my friend or family member which is true which… its all the more likey would go with family…. or friends I had kids approach my car… I had a stranger talk to me when I was younger

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