On Tuesday, my friend Anna sent me this poll, because she knows how I feel about kids being able to have some independence. The headline of the article was, “68 Percent of Americans Don’t Think 9-Year-Olds Should Play at the Park Unsupervised.”
I wasn’t really surprised by what the poll had to say. If anything, I was surprised that as many as 32% of people polled thought that nine-year-olds should play unsupervised. When I get into Facebook discussions about this, it’s usually more like one for and nine against. And the reason given is almost always that the children are likely to be kidnapped.
“Something bad could happen!” is usually how it’s put. But when pressed, “Stranger Danger” is usually the reason behind the overprotectiveness. Despite the fact that kidnappings are extremely rare, and that most kids who are sexually assaulted know their attackers.
The world, everyone keeps insisting, is a dangerous place.
The day after I read that poll, news hit the internet of a nine-year-old girl who accidentally killed a shooting range instructor with an Uzi.
Nine years old. Shooting an Uzi. Not at some terrorist training camp halfway around the world, but right here in the United States, in Arizona. For fun.
I wish I had the ability to do my own poll of a couple thousand random people. First I would ask them if a nine-year-old should be able to shoot an Uzi under any circumstances.
Of the people who say yes, I would then ask how many of them think that that same nine-year-old should be able to leave her house alone, walk to a local park, and play unsupervised.
And no, she would not be allowed to bring the Uzi for protection.
The world is a very strange place.