Skewed ‘Stranger Danger’ Statistics Are Terrifying Parents For No Reason

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family800,000 children are reported missing each year. That is a statistic that has been tossed around since 2002. In the age of mobile Amber alerts and fear-based parenting, one writer set out to see just how accurate that statistic is — and the results are pretty eye-opening.

We live in an atmosphere of fear — there is no denying it. Don’t believe that? Turn on any of the myriad of channels that offer a 24-hour news cycle and see how you feel at the end of just a few hours of viewing. You will be terrified of something, guaranteed.

Broader society is reamed with stories about how we should all panic about a disease that poses no real threat to our citizens or a terrorist group that shows no signs of having a stronghold in our country. If you’re a parent, you can worry about all of that — and also add the Boogeyman that exists on every corner, waiting to snatch your child out from under you. Why do we feel this way? When did it start? Is it the photos on milk cartons that convinced us we had to live in constant fear of someone snatching our child? That terrifying “Adam” movie from the 80’s about a child abducted from a Sears and murdered? What horrible anecdotes have burned on our collective brains, convincing us our children just aren’t safe?

Journalist Glen Fleishman decided to find out just how accurate the 2002 statistic that is still commonly reference, is. He analyzed the 13-year-old report’s 800,000 number, and this is what he found: about half of the children are runaways or kids who have been put out by caregivers. Of the rest of the children, 43% fall into a category called “benign explanation,” in which a child isn’t missing, but a caretaker thought they were. Eight percent of the kids were lost or missing — not intentionally and with no other party responsible. Nine percent were taken by a family member.

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