In the wake of the legal trouble for two Maryland parents and their “free-range kids,” which we noted Monday, YouGov conducted a poll to find out what Americans think about children and safety. Vast majorities of adults would not let children do things they themselves could do when they were kids, and it’s largely because they’re mistaken about the facts. “Experts note … that not only are children safer today and less at risk of being a victim of crime than in prior decades, but that the biggest threat to children is often from family members, not strangers,” reports YouGov. “[D]espite these changes the vast majority of Americans think that the world is less safe for children today than it was when they were growing up. 70% say that it is more dangerous now, while 19% say that it is about as safe as it was when they were a kid. Only 6% say that it is safer now to be a child.”
This isn’t isolated to YouGov, or bound by any demographic lines, either. Last year, a Reason/Rupe poll found 68% of Americans think there ought to be a law prohibiting kids nine and under from unsupervised play. No doubt the 24-hour news cycle plays a role, because we all know every time a kid anywhere in the country is harmed, which makes it seem more frequent. Legal jeopardy also has a major effect. Regardless, it’s also clear that perception is reality — even when perception is wrong.
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