Ah, how I love Lenore Skenazy. And STATS, who interviewed her.
Perhaps the problem needed to be approached from a different angle, she thought. What if you actually wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger and held overnight? How long would you have to leave him outside, and unattended for that to be likely to happen? When she asked people to take a guess, the most she ever heard was three months. Some people ventured a day, an hour, and even – implausibly – ten minutes.
The answer to Skenazy’s question was… 750,000 years. By reframing the way the risk was framed, she took the focus away from one, and placed it on what the chance was in real time – and 750,000 years is a far more arresting and reassuring number than one in 1.5 million.
“I haven’t seen horrible diseases sweeping the country as a result of any child rearing technique that we’ve been using, whether it’s drinking baby formula or using a sippy cup,“ she says. “So, rather than worry about these, I worry about cars. They are the number one way children are killed.”
There are lots of interesting statistics down the side of the article (because it is STATS, after all). I would’ve like to see similar “one in” and “x years” numbers for other forms of child mortality, particularly car crashes and injuries from toys. They do give either numbers or rates-per-million, but without numbers you can compare directly it’s hard to grasp how many orders of magnitude there are between the various risks. Some sort of graph or image, even, might help, since our brains are notoriously bad at relative risk analysis.
Anyway, great interview with Ms. Skenazy. Her blog Free Range Kids has much more.