What COVID-19 and Stranger Danger Have in Common

The risk to kids is exaggerated.


We humans get risk wrong. We focus on what's top of mind, or top of the fear chart—not what's a top killer.

That's as true for COVID-19 as it is for anything else.

Consider this David Leonhardt piece in The New York Times, titled, "What Do You Do When the Kids Are Still Unvaccinated?" Here's what it concludes:

A cautious approach may be especially sensible for families in which the children have underlying health conditions or some adults have chosen not to be vaccinated.

But other parents will be more willing to resume many parts of normal life before all of their children have been vaccinated. And those parents will be making a decision that is as scientifically grounded as the more cautious approach.

As parents, we are all making decisions based on what we know, what we think makes sense, and what we prioritize. We are allowed to accept some risk, even when it comes to our kids.

That's because all sorts of actions carry small risks. Even when it looks like we are choosing the zero-risk option for our kids, that's not true. There's a risk to no risk. There are risks to kids who venture outside, and there are risks (social, emotional, educational, physical) to staying cooped up—with our without COVID-19.

But on the statistical child-danger scale, keep in mind that twice as many minors will die of drowning than of Covid. Five times more will die in vehicle accidents, according to Leonhardt.

"If protecting children from small but real risks of serious harm were society's top goal, keeping children away from pools and cars would probably have a bigger effect than isolating them in coming months," he wrote.

To make matters worse, adults keep getting the raw numbers wrong too, vis a vis kids and COVID-19. A survey by  Gallup and Franklin Templeton found that people think 8 percent of U.S. Covid deaths have been to people under 25. The actual answer? It's 0.1 percent.

So now let's try a little thought experiment: Let's replace "coronavirus" with "stranger danger."

After all, many parents keep their kids inside, for fear of them being harmed by a stranger out there. But as with COVID-19, there is no such thing as zero risk. Staying safe inside holds its own dangers of depression, diabetes, anxiety, and obesity. As for the number of minors kidnapped by strangers, it has always been much lower than most people assume. In one survey, about 100 kids were kidnapped each year, and 92 percent made it home alive.

Yet think how much childhood has changed, based on our collective misperception of stranger danger. As reported here just a few weeks ago, a British study found the age that parents now let their kids play outside, unsupervised, has gone up by two years in just one generation. Parents who played outside on their own at age nine don't give their own kids that freedom until age 11.

Instead, kids are spending far more time on the couch, on devices, and on homework, because this feels like risk mitigation. We've mitigated risk to the point where kids now spend an average of just four to seven minutes each day outdoors in unstructured play. This does not feel like an unalloyed triumph, especially in the face of rising childhood disorders, including self-harm.

When we try to reduce the risk of something to absolute zero, we aren't benefitting anyone—the children, least of all.

NEXT: Cops Wrecked a Home, Terrorized a Family, Assaulted a Man. It Was the Wrong Place.

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  1. What COVID-19 and Stranger Danger Have in Common

    They’re both overblown panics artificially inflated by leftist media that just happened to give leftist politicians an excuse to expand the government’s role?

    1. Sums it up succinctly.

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  2. Masking kids is child abuse.

    1. You wear a mask => you’re one of the faceless bad guys in a cartoon.

  3. “What Do You Do When the Kids Are Still Unvaccinated?”

    Who TF is champing at the bit to inject their kids with experimental gene therapy?

    The New York Times


  4. Innoculating children for diseases that don’t affect them is child abuse.

  5. The Amish kids in my area operate animal powered mechanical equipment. They still have all their limbs.

    1. Most of them have most of their limbs.

  6. Well this is what you get when you elect leftie democrats.

  7. We’ve mitigated transmogrified risk to the point where kids now spend an average of just four to seven minutes each day outdoors in unstructured play.


  8. No child left behind outdoors.

  9. It seems like people are really bad at evaluating risks. And probably equally bad at evaluating benefits. Unfortunately, the media is not likely to ever want people to be less ignorant, otherwise people wouldn’t respond to “Something in your house may kill you! News at 11” ????

  10. Why does it feel like the rights of children are neglected in this issue?

  11. Stranger Danger rhymes so it must be a thing.

  12. I played unsupervised outside at 9 or so – but we had 3/4 of an acre, and it was fenced. I’d venture that it’s objectively more dangerous to let kids play unsupervised yards away from traffic with no barrier, which is the situation I’m faced with today.

    1. I walked about 2 miles to school at age 9, we hopped all kinds of fences. During rush hour, in the morning. None of us died. Suburbs of ‘the most violent city in ‘Merica’.

      Played unsupervised? Outdoors? 4? 6? Ball Hockey in the streets was about age 10.

      1. And they wonder why kids are fat. Being driven to school like privileged little shits.

        I know parents to drive thier kids 1 block to school, because that is too far.

    2. And yet your peers and neighbors in less affluent neighborhoods with smaller unfenced yards also played outside unsupervised at 9. Shoot, we played in the street because that was the only place big enough to get a kickball game going. Stopping the game for traffic was normal and even the 6 year olds could figure it out.

      Unless your kid is developmentally disabled (and if so, you have my sincere sympathy), figuring out that cars are dangerous is pretty well established by age 5.

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  15. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

  16. Corona is more dangerous than the vaccine. That’s why all children should be vaccinated.

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