Monday, January 10, 2005

Parental paranoia and risk-taking

Mike sends this comment on an earlier post:
"We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this."

But according to Evan's internist, if you do this regularly as a college junior, you end up with mono. Evan, who claims all dishes and glasses in his house go through the dishwasher and are not shared, had to withdraw from all his classes this week. Mono has non-trivial consequences: he's still home in bed running a fever, and though the chance of liver failure now seems remote, the doctor wouldn't consider letting him return to school until next Monday at the earliest. (Decision should be made later this afternoon.) So we're stuck paying for rent this quarter while he's not in school, not to mention the possible tuition penalty for late withdrawal. And he'll have to make up the quarter over this summer or become a 5th year undergrad. Not something he had planned.

"We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever."

I think you miss the point of all these things. Yes, the probability of the risk is small -- a mathematician might argue it's negligible -- but a normal parent doesn't want their kid injured. Sure, only one out of 10,000 kids might poke himself in the eye trying to use a fork to remove the knot in his shoelaces, but most of us still tell our kids not to do try it. Wanna bet Jim McMahon's mother wished she'd effectively cautioned *him* not to do it?

Bob has a point, but the world is also different now from what it was a few decades ago. I was walking around NYC and riding the subway myself by age 9 (1961), but I'd consider nuts a parent who let their 9 year-old do that today. Same goes for hitchhiking: I did quite a bit of long-distance hitching when I was in college in the early 70s, but I'm sure my son would never consider it now... not even in CA! Is that due to stricter laws or greater fear?

Yes, very few of the kids walking home alone at night in the US might be kidnapped ( but we don't want it to be our daughter, so she's picked up and driven everywhere. It may be paranoia, but it makes us feel like we're doing as much as we can to protect her. Relying on "probabilities" seems dangerously misguided.
Mike sounds like my wife. She drove across the country with the kids instead of flying because she felt like she was doing to protect the kids that way. When I pointed out that the probability of a fatal car accident was much higher than a plane crash, she said that it seemed dangerously misguided to rely on probabilities.

The Klaaskids site is very misleading. It tries to give the impression that there are 200k American kids who are kidnapped by strangers every year. That number is too high by at least a factor of 1000.

Most missing kids are teenage runaways. The vast majority of kidnapping cases are custody disputes, and they are almost always caused by the mother denying visitation to the father.

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