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I was a Free-Range Kid because we all were back when I was growing up, before cable TV started showing abductions 24/7 and finding the weirdest, saddest stories from around the world to make parents think that no child is safe doing anything on his own anymore.

The other day I got a letter from a guy in an old Brooklyn neighborhood where they shoot a lot of Law & Order scenes.Today’s parents are drowning in bad news that comes to us instantaneously from around the world. I can instantly name you five girls who met ghastly ends — Caylee, Maddie, Natalee, Jon Benet, Jaycee — but our parents could never do that. So when we try to decide, “Gee, is it safe for my child to walk to school? Also — one interesting brain fact: The most memorable stories come to mind first.When your brain is saturated with horrifying stories like those, it is hard to focus on the millions of children NOT murdered. And whatever comes to mind first we usually think of as the most common. Anyway, in addition to all these gruesome images, we also live in crazy lawsuit time.And we get so used to all these “safety” precautions (which are actually lawsuit precautions) that we start thinking of everyday childhood as inherently unsafe.If you buy the DVD “Sesame Street: Old School” you’ll see kids having the world’s best time.That’s true if your child is gravely ill, but otherwise it is not true — as the presence of all us former Free-Range Kids proves.Return to top I think it was the cameramen and make-up ladies at The Today Show. Everyone started reminiscing about their childhoods — the freedom, the joy, the simple fun of walking down the block to knock on a friend’s door to come out and play.It’s a collection of Sesame Street highlights from its first years, 1969 — 1974, and it shows kids playing Follow the Leader through a vacant lot, climbing through a giant pipe, balancing on a piece of wood, laughing as they wind their way through some sheets on the line to dry.Of course they’re happy: This was public television trying to model ideal childhood for pre-schoolers.On TV, it’s always the backdrop for a rape or murder.In real life, he said, it’s a safe, quiet safe neighborhood — and therein lies the tale: There’s a big disconnect between the horrors on TV and the reality we live in — the safest time for children (in America, that is) in the history of this disease-plagued, famine-prone, war-wracked world. ” It’s an attempt to figure out how we got so much more worried for our kids in just one generation, and to separate the real dangers from the ones foisted upon us by the media, and by other folks with things to sell (like baby safety product manufacturers who have to scare us about a remote danger like “traumatic head injury from toddling” before we’ll buy their products, like the “Thud Guard” — a helmet for kids to wear all day when they’re learning to walk).One NPR caller asked why I had given my son “one day of fun” even though he would probably end up dead by nightfall.I launched my blog that weekend ( to explain my parenting philosophy: I believe in safety. I believe in teaching children how to cross the street and even wave their arms to be noticed. But I also believe our kids do not need a security detail every time they leave the house.That means that we have gotten used to schools and park districts banning things with even the tiniest chance of causing an accident that might cause a parent to sue.So our playgrounds are stripped of merry-go-rounds and slides that are higher than a worm.

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