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It's All About the Numbers: U.S. Kids Are Safer Now Than in Years Past

The Short of It

The stats are in, and they suggest kids in America now might be safer than ever before.

The Lowdown

I was recently at a kids' birthday party reminiscing with some other moms about what it was like when we were kids—roaming around the neighborhood over summer, with our parents worrying more about whether or not we'd come home with skinned knees than about us being kidnapped. We wondered if it could be like that for our kindergartners in a few years as they get older and more independent. Turns out, it just might be better than that.

Here are a few highlights of the telling stats:

  • Physical child abuse has fallen 55 percent from 1992 to 2011, and sexual abuse fell 64 percent in the same time period.
  • Abductions by strangers fell by 51 percent from 1997 to 2012. Reports on missing persons have gone down 40 percent.
  • Motor vehicle deaths for children under 13 have fallen 43 percent in the past decade. (All those car seats and boosters are paying off, I guess!)
  • Take 1935: For every 100,000 kids between ages 1 and 4, there were almost 450 deaths. Now, there are just 30.
  • The number of young people who were victims of violent crimes has gone down 59 percent since 1994, according to the 2014 National Child and Youth Well-Being Index from Duke University.
  • The number of high school seniors reporting they binge drink, smoke or use alcohol has fallen since the '90s. Births to teen moms have gone down significantly as well.

The Upshot

Even though our country is getting safer, it seems like parents are more worried than ever. Sure, we see news reports about child kidnappings and killings that freak us out, but remember, we also see parents charged with "neglect" for allowing their kids to play unsupervised in the park—something that didn't seem like such a big deal 20 years ago.

While it's still, of course, important to protect our kids, maybe the stats are telling us we don't need to be so nervous and fearful while we do it.

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