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September 9, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark. You run a greater risk of dying from an asteroid impact than a terrorist attack. You would have to fly an average of 38,000 years in commercial aviation before suffering a fatal crash. The fears parents have for their children have nothing in common to what will actually kill or hurt them. Our perception of risk has very little relation to threat: some helpful visual guides [PDF] and reasons why.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (124 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this and was struck by the fact of the five things modern parents worry themselves sick about - NONE of them are even on the list of the five most probable causes of harm to your child...

I'm left to wonder how these people were even allowed to HAVE children in the first place if they are this stupid...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have never heard the term "school sniper" before. Are they somehow conflating Charles Whitman and school shootings or...?
posted by griphus at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2010


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.
And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter.
posted by Floydd at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2010 [50 favorites]


To be fair, as pointed out in Bruce's comment section, the things parents are most afraid of are the things they can't control.
Car accidents? Abuse? Suicide? Drowning? Homicide by someone you know? These are things that are potentially part of everyday life. "If I'm driving the car/at the pool/talking to my child, then I can protect them and they will be safe."
posted by charred husk at 1:17 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


This means we get to buy Lawn Darts again, right? I miss those damn things.
posted by chambers at 1:19 PM on September 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter.

Hogzilla
Pig Hunt
Razorback
posted by kmz at 1:19 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's nothing fair about it when hysteria over kidnapping, terrorists, dangerous strangers, and drugs leads to things like insane sex offender laws, civil rights abuses, and the War on Drugs.
posted by jedicus at 1:19 PM on September 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


Are they somehow conflating Charles Whitman and school shootings or...?

The last time I graduated from there, the University of Texas was a school.

I agree with the gist of the post and links, but wonder about some of the statements at the beginning. Are you really more likely to be killed by an asteroid than a terrorist?
posted by TedW at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, nearly every time a kid is mentioned on the news, it's in the context of one of those ten things -- but not in a way that would ever let you know that some dangers are substantially greater than others.

And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter.

Pig Hunt.
posted by hermitosis at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2010


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.

There's something slightly misleading about this. If, as a scientific experiment, you took a pair of twins and put one in a pen with a pig and the other in a tank with a shark, the shark twin would be much more likely to be killed.

That said, it wouldn't be a very nice thing to do, and I don't think juries accept SCIENCE! as a defence.
posted by Grangousier at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


These are things that are potentially part of everyday life. "If I'm driving the car/at the pool/talking to my child, then I can protect them and they will be safe."

Sadly re: abuse & homicide, most parents are part of the network of folks ignoring the kids and protecting the abuser when this stuff happens.
posted by yeloson at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


How 'bout "fears parents instill in their children" and their likelihood?

For example:

- A supposed direct correlation between masturbation and eye accuity
- What god/Santa observes versus what the NSA, CIA, or my credit card companies have on me
- Headbanging results in paralysis
- With proper timing and various actions, oral sex will get a woman pregnant
- My failure to give 100% will result in a lifelong panhandling career
- Wearing white socks with black shoes will render me a social pariah
- Swimming less than 45 minutes after eating will cause severe cramping, drowning being the only subsequent outcome

etc.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh snap kmz hogged all the links.
posted by hermitosis at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


3. We over-react to immediate threats and under-react to long-term threats.

Until our collective brains can overcome this hurdle I'm skeptical about our long-term success at sustaining the global population.
posted by quadog at 1:23 PM on September 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


There's something slightly misleading about this. If, as a scientific experiment, you took a pair of twins and put one in a pen with a pig and the other in a tank with a shark, the shark twin would be much more likely to be killed.

The Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans has a half million gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit which is thick with thick with sharks. They also have an annual behind the scenes party for members where you can go see the pumps and catwalks and maintenance stuff that keeps the aquarium going. It's very popular. In 2002 a catwalk traversing the Gulf exhibit collapsed dumping ten visitors, including four kids, into the shark tank.

The sharks ran to the other side of the tank and cowered as the aquarium workers rescued the guests.
posted by localroger at 1:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [60 favorites]


My parents were killed in a terroristic attack, and a good friend was killed in a plane crash. Yet I know of no close associates harmed by asteroids or pigs. I suppose I should be worried about sharks, though.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


The items in the list seem to be things that are most talked about on television either in crime dramas or hyped up news reports. Of course parents are going to flip out about that sort of thing, regardless of any statistical rational.

However, other things that people worry about often that are not particularly concerning might have been a big issue in the past and because people have spent so much time worrying over it they've successfully reduced the potential risk. It then takes generations for the worrisome behavior to melt away.
posted by LoudMusic at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2010


jedicus: "There's nothing fair about it when hysteria over kidnapping, terrorists, dangerous strangers, and drugs leads to things like insane sex offender laws, civil rights abuses, and the War on Drugs."

There's two parts to that equation, though. One are the people who are irrationally afraid. The other are the people who take advantage of those fears for their own personal gain. One of these sets of people are despicable and tend to control the media, one set is just pathetically human.
posted by charred husk at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.

To be fair, they're including cardiac arrest as death by pig.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


To be fair, as pointed out in Bruce's comment section, the things parents are most afraid of are the things they can't control.
Car accidents? Abuse? Suicide? Drowning? Homicide by someone you know? These are things that are potentially part of everyday life.


What? How are these not preventable? Drowning is especially preventable (swimming lessons and supervision around water goes a long way) but awareness of the dangers posed by automobiles and minimizing your use of and interaction with them is probably the #1 step any human being can take to minimize their chances of accidental death.

Unfortunately, childcare is frequently dominated by hysteria instead of rational decision-making, but there are lots of things responsible parents can do to genuinely reduce their child's risk of death.
posted by mek at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuckin' A. Wish I could get the list on a little wallet card I could hand to fellow parents every time they invoke some sort of inanity in the name of can't be too careful these days. I'd typeset it something like this:
1. Car accidents
2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
3. Abuse
4. Suicide
5. Drowning
Don't have time to google if just now, but I'm pretty certain No. 1 on that list accounts for more dead kids than the other four combined and maybe squared. And still people oppose densification and transit-oriented development and bigger transit budgets and wider sidewalks because it might attract evil crime and urban nastiness to their precious little curvilinear 60km/h overwide suburban streets . . .

. . . hurfdurf municipal election campaign here in Calgary this fall . . .
posted by gompa at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.

"So, there I was, swimming about 50 yards out ... when suddenly I saw the ears of a big porker just cutting through the waves!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


The things about car accidents, or violence from your own circle, is not about whether you can control it. It is about the extent to which you perceive driving your car and not being isolated as necessary. Whenever people perceive risky things as necessities and a regular part of life, they start ignoring them.

I mean, how many news stories have you read about people in a daredevil profession where the subject says they don't care about the risks? Same deal. If car culture were an unusual phenomenon in some other country, you would be shaking your head at those crazy car people who are blind to the dangers of their choices.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2010


There's something slightly misleading about this. If, as a scientific experiment, you took a pair of twins and put one in a pen with a pig and the other in a tank with a shark, the shark twin would be much more likely to be killed.

I'm not sure that's true. Millions of people in America swim in great big shark tanks called oceans every year, yet few are killed.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:38 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


mek: "What? How are these not preventable?"

They are preventable, that was my point. The things I listed were the most likely causes of death as opposed to the most feared reasons of death.
posted by charred husk at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2010


A child is 20 times more likely to die from an auto accident than from gang activity, making the suburbs profoundly more dangerous for children than urban areas.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


In 2002 a catwalk traversing the Gulf exhibit collapsed dumping ten visitors, including four kids, into the shark tank.

I love the newspaper:
No one was seriously hurt, though one of the children, a 2-year-old girl, later woke up screaming in the night.
posted by smackfu at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wearing white socks with black shoes will render me a social pariah

Likelihood: 80%
posted by ripley_ at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if you really want to protect your kids, skip the pool and get an SUV.
posted by smackfu at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2010



The sharks ran to the other side of the tank and cowered as the aquarium workers rescued the guests.

Did they run on feet or fins?
posted by notreally at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


We're in agreement, then. The flip side is that the greatest threats to children are generally the direct result of neglect.
posted by mek at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the graphic linked to, I can't read the right-most item, and I can't seem to zoom in on it. I read, from left to right: Heat, Terrorist Attack, Cancer, Plane Crash, Car Accident, and Electrosmog. Somebody please help me out.
posted by not that girl at 1:48 PM on September 9, 2010


If you have ever been walking in the woods and come close to a wild hog, those are some seriously scary creatures. I bet most of the people killed by pigs are working on pig farms, though.

I have an open space near here where I walk where I know there are rattlesnakes on the premises and I keep one eye open for them most of the time. Those things can seriously mess you up. I went to a presentation on snakes about a year ago. The snake guy said that almost all recent snake fatalities in the state of Texas have been people handling snakes for work or for recreation. He had a photograph of a friend's hand the week after being bitten by his own "pet" rattlesnake. His middle finger was swollen to the size of a cucumber.

localroger that story is great.
posted by bukvich at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2010


Did they run on feet or fins?

On their tails, of course.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2010


In the graphic linked to, I can't read the right-most item...

Yep, that's electrosmog. AKA, electromagnetic radiation. You might know it better as YOUR CELL PHONE WILL KILL YOU!!!111!!
posted by m@f at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2010


So if you really want to protect your kids, skip the pool and get an SUV.

Nope. Another case of poorly calibrated risk management.

Here's former NY Times Detroit bureau chief Keith Bradsher on the myth of SUV safety (from his excellent book High and Mighty):
The occupant death rate per million SUVs is actually 6% higher than the occupant death rate per million cars. The biggest SUVs, which pose the greatest hazards to other motorists, have an 8% higher death rate for their occupants than minivans and larger midsize cars.
You want actual rather than perceived safety? Abandon the car-centred urban design model that has held sway in North America for half a century.
posted by gompa at 1:55 PM on September 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


Yep, that's electrosmog. AKA, electromagnetic radiation. You might know it better as YOUR CELL PHONE WILL KILL YOU!!!111!!

Wait, are you messing with me? There's a thing called Electrosmog? Well, I'll be darned. Here I thought I needed a new prescription for my glasses.
posted by not that girl at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2010


Wait a second - what is the source for pig vs. shark death? I can't find it in the links and I'd love to read a little more about swine related fatalities.
posted by m@f at 1:59 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fears are irrational. Let's face it, if we had rational fears, none of us would ever drive again. Have you seen the NHTSA's stats on highway accidents and fatalities?

(Oh and I would way rather take my chances with a shark than with a pig. In real life, once he put some pounds on, Babe would kill and eat you without a second thought. Hogs are scary as hell.)
posted by ErikaB at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd love to read a little more about swine related fatalities.

Now that's not something you read every day
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2010


Metafilter: the source for pig vs. shark death
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2010


1. Kidnapping
2. School snipers
3. Terrorists
4. Dangerous strangers
5. Drugs


Who are these people? Are they frigging serious? I'm terrified my kids are going to fall down the stairs and break their necks. Snipers, I have to say, have never even crossed my mind. Are these parents in Somalia?

Barnes says parents fixate on rare events because they internalize horrific stories they hear on the news...

Oh. I see. Yeah, the TV news, where everywhere is Somalia! Yeah, don't watch news on TV. It's just... it's just bad for you.
posted by rusty at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are you really more likely to be killed by an asteroid than a terrorist?

Sure. The odds of death by asteroid/meteorite are skewed by the fact that one sufficiently large impact, though rare, will kill everything on Earth. This article goes over the numbers and concludes that the lifetime odds are 1 in 700,000.

On the other hand this article puts the odds of death by terrorist based on historical casualties at 1 in 9.3 million -- it doesn't say whether that's lifetime odds, but most likely it is.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:03 PM on September 9, 2010


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.

Cool Papa Bell : "So, there I was, swimming about 50 yards out ... when suddenly I saw the ears of a big porker just cutting through the waves!"

That must have been terrifying! Much more so that the time I went to muck out the pigsty, and found that mako laying there staring at me all balefully. Like it was my fault it couldn't figure out how to come over and eat me.
posted by quin at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


To be fair, as pointed out in Bruce's comment section, the things parents are most afraid of are the things they can't control.

To be fair, at what point can we demand that mature adults have some kind of handle on their irrational fear of the unknown, the unexpected, the uncontrollable. This isn't to say they can't have the fear. But how do we get beyond allowing this fear (and its cynical manipulation by media, political, corporate interests) to justify heinously STUPID shit ... everything from the continued criminalization of all drugs that the government doesn't want you doing, to driving your kids to and from school thus making their lives statistically far more at risk than if you let them walk (not to mention endangering all the kids who do walk by clogging up the school zone with vehicles), to ... [ fill in the blank with your own favorite ongoing absurdity in the name of parental concern ]
posted by philip-random at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wait a second - what is the source for pig vs. shark death?

From a shark website: "Alone in the USA and Canada approximately 40 people are killed each year by pigs – six times more than by sharks worldwide."

It's really more that no one is killed by sharks. Except when they are.
posted by smackfu at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2010


Of course pigs are more lethal. Who has ever choked on a shark?
posted by Mister_A at 2:09 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, obviously what we need is an organized effort to kidnap kids, give them guns and drugs, and strap bombs to them. Once the danger becomes real, parents should stop worrying about it. Problem solved.
posted by uncleozzy at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll give you my car when you pry my cold, dead body from it.

Unless the pigs get me first. They just had shark warnings where I live, maybe I can get the shark to protect me from the pigs...
posted by wildcrdj at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with the gist of the post and links, but wonder about some of the statements at the beginning. Are you really more likely to be killed by an asteroid than a terrorist?

I wondered about this too, and skimmed the links looking for it, and found nothing. However, I googled and found this article, which says:

Using statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of State for international terrorism, I tally up an average of about 1,000 deaths per year over the eight years between 1997 and 2004. This includes the one big spike of 9/11, but enough other years to smooth it out to less than half the total. Without 9/11, it would be around 600 per year. So, taking a life span to be 80 years and thepopulation of the world to be 6 billion, we have the chance of death by terrorism in a lifetime tobe one in (6 billion)/(80,000), or about one in 75,000. I rounded to 80,000 since the number is at east that uncertain.

So, I calculated the risk of dying in a terrorist attack using average life expectancy of 67 years instead of 80, and got 1 in 89,552. But the statistics I found for dying from an asteroid were more like 1 in 200,000. The dude in the article above uses 1 in 100,000, which is still less likely then terrorism, however he says in the article that the risk "is in the same range as terrorism". I'm still not seeing how the odds of dying from an asteroid impact are greater than those of dying from terrorism as stated in the FPP.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It looks like YOUR SOCK DRAWER: IS IT KILLING YOU? TUNE IN AT 11! style journalism is working.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one worried about pig-shark hybrids?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


The obvious conclusion is that there are too many pigs driving cars. Or possibly, SUVs.
posted by bonehead at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2010


My number one fear for Go Banana jr. is that she'll be run over by a car, or somehow drown. I guess I have realistic fears, and therefore this article made me feel terrible (though quietly justified).
posted by Go Banana at 2:21 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


People like drama. They like to be scared; there's a feeling of aliveness inherent in fear. If the world was all double rainbows and lolcats, there would be warnings about rainbow cancer and lolcat terrorism.
posted by desjardins at 2:23 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter.

SNOUT! is just a terrible title, I'm sorry. You can't pitch SNOUT! to a coked-up movie executive. He'll just ignore you and start thinking about his own snout and what he can snort with his snout.

Whatchawannado is call it GIGAPIG VERSUS GIANT RACKTOPUS, and say that it's about how evil scientists create (COLUMN A) a pig about as large as a battleship, and (COLUMN B) a half-woman, half-octopus with disproportionately enormous bosoms, who is also giant.

Then, later, you can say that the racktopus effects weren't working out so now it's just GIGAPIG.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:24 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


1 in 200,000 or 1 in 100,000... just looking at the US population, that means either 1,535 or 3,070 Americans alive today are (statistically) going to die in an asteroid collision.

Remind me never to move to Park River, North Dakota (pop. 1535) or Chase County, Kansas (pop. 3,070)
posted by m@f at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


anybody laying odds on shark vs. pig?
posted by rhizome at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2010


In the Black Swan, Nicholas Taleb talks about people who could correctly identify and predict actual risks; historically they were derided and ridiculed by media and political types. This means the media not only perpetuates unrealistic risk assessment by average Joe Nobody, but in fact discourages us from learning about real risks.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


That list says that child homicide is more common than child abuse? I'm kind of surprised by that. Do they have a source for those numbers anywhere?
posted by phoenixy at 2:33 PM on September 9, 2010


The asteroid statistic is often brought up as justification for investing in asteroid tracking or even developing asteroid deflection technologies. Now as it happens I think the former is a good idea and the latter should at least be thought about, but even so I recognise the statistical argument as flawed.

The problem is that it is based upon an extremely unlikely event that, should it happen, would have devastating consequences. Yes, a kilometre-scale impact probably happens every million years or so. Yes, such an impact would probably kill a billion people. But it is an abuse of the word 'average' to say that this means that, on average, a thousand people a year will be killed by asteroid impact. In fact, the expectation of the number of people killed annually by an asteroid is of course zero. Almost every year, nobody will be killed by an asteroid. A tiny, tiny, number of years, spaced far apart in time, lots of people will be killed by an asteroid.

The trouble is that we don't have good models for events at this extreme corner of the probability/impact matrix. About the closest I'm aware of is the risk management model for nuclear accidents, and even that isn't as extreme.

About the only way to meaningfully express this statistic is to accept the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics and say 'what are the chances I live in a world where there is a devastating asteroid impact next year'. The answer is about one in a million in any given year.
posted by Major Clanger at 2:40 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.
Particularly if you keep doing that to the pig.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:44 PM on September 9, 2010


As a nanny, I have learned two very important things:

#1) Silence is always more frightening than screaming. The truly, truly awful things happen silently. If the child is well enough to scream, chances are an ice pack will do the trick. The worst, of course, is the two linked in sequence.

#2) It's NEVER what you think is going to be the emergency. The one time I had to take a kid to a medical establishment, it was to get a clipboard removed from his hand. I've seen kids fall down stairs, trip over rocks, spray things in their eyes... all totally fine. And then. Get clipboards stuck on their hands to the point where the thing nearly has to be cut off. Mind you, I'm still careful about stairs and sticks and "don't you dare wave that pointy thing at your brother" - but I'm also always amazed at the cause of the actual bruises and scrapes.
posted by sonika at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


1. Kidnapping
2. School snipers
3. Terrorists
4. Dangerous strangers
5. Drugs


Sorry to get in the way of the snark-fest, but any parent who did not have any concern whatsoever over items 1, 4, and 5, would be negligent in my opinion.

Yes, kidnapping is extraordinarily rare. But, it often ends rather badly. Sometimes catastrophically. Should you take some steps to avoid kidnapping of your child? Of course.

Same with dangerous strangers. Very rare. But when it does happen, the results are usually catastrophic. Should you take some steps to prevent this? Of course.

And children should be shielded from drugs. I don't see how this could be the least bit controversial. And drugs are very common. This I don't see as an irrational fear at all.

Children are involved in auto accidents that range from fatal to fender benders. The vast majority of auto accidents are not fatal.

Parental worry has less to do with the frequency of a risk, and more to do with the severity of outcomes.

With that said, I am happy car seats and seat belts are mandatory, and bodies of water are the ancient mortal enemy of children. (And "body of water" can be absurdly small, like a bucket.)
posted by discountfortunecookie at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one worried about pig-shark hybrids?

You mean parks? Yeah, those bastards will get you every time.
posted by athenasbanquet at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


No one gets out alive.
posted by ColdChef at 2:53 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one worried about pig-shark hybrids?

I was more curious about who would win in a zero-G fight, a pig or a shark?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2010


Oh, I dunno, as a parent I worry about drowning, car accidents and abuse (I'm not concerned about homicide or suicide, mostly because of my children's age) and the list of things "most" parents worry about looks pretty ridiculous to me -- but "dangerous strangers" and "kidnapping" are (at least in my mind) lumped together as one item, about the possibility of my kids getting out of the house without me knowing and someone taking advantage of that.

I guess what I'm saying is, I want to see the next five top things that actually harm children.

links above provided because I think they're interesting
posted by davejay at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2010


Children are involved in auto accidents that range from fatal to fender benders. The vast majority of auto accidents are not fatal.

True, but you've missed the key figure:

In the United States, motor vehicle–related injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1–34

The majority of accidents aren't fatal, but there are still more motor vehicle fatalities than anything else. They are both potentially fatal and frequent. Kidnapping by a random stranger is in the lightning strike realm of likelihood, but because we get exhaustive blanket coverage of it in the media every time it happens, it leads to what the Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman has dubbed the "availability heuristic." Because it is so close at hand in our imaginations and captures our inchoate fears so vividly - especially as parents - we vastly overestimate its likelihood, especially by comparison to the everyday, commonplace slaughter caused by cars.
posted by gompa at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is, I want to see the next five top things that actually harm children.

According to this:

1 Unintentional Injury (includes drowning, car accidents, poisoning and many other accidental events) -- 38.97%
2 Malignant Neoplasms -- 17.79%
3 Congenital Anomalies -- 6.59%
4 Homicide -- 4.64%
5 Heart Disease -- 3.05%
6 Benign Neoplasms -- 1.46%
7 Septicemia -- 1.39%
8 Chronic Respiratory Disease -- 1.36%
9 Influenza & Pneumonia -- 1.26%
10 Cerebrovascular -- 1.09%

In the "Unintential injury" category, there's car accidents, drowning and fire/burns, and then a huge drop-off to all the others.

In other words ... buckle your car seats and put a fence around the pool.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:09 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Parental worry has less to do with the frequency of a risk, and more to do with the severity of outcomes.

How do the five things that the article claims are statistically genuine risks to children ...

1. Car accidents
2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
3. Abuse
4. Suicide
5. Drowning

... not have severe outcomes? They do. And, according the research, they're far more likely to kill or seriously injure your child than ...

1. Kidnapping
2. School snipers
3. Terrorists
4. Dangerous strangers
5. Drugs

This is the whole point of this post (snarking aside); that our perception of what is genuinely dangerous does not align with the reality. So, if you're a concerned parent and you really want to save lives, don't organize a WAR ON DRUGS rally, get your kids swimming lessons. And so on.
posted by philip-random at 3:11 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was more curious about who would win in a zero-G fight, a pig or a shark?

something something pig on a treadmill something something
posted by desjardins at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Kidnapping
2. School snipers
3. Terrorists
4. Dangerous strangers
5. Drugs


1-4 actually are all "dangerous strangers". 5 is something your child might get from a dangerous stranger or which might induce him/her to have dealings with dangerous strangers. What all these fears have in common is the fear that someone else is going to hurt their kid. It's not about risk assessment, it's about fear of others.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:14 PM on September 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


Cue the "when *I* was a kid we didn't NEED helmets to ride bikes/ran all over the woods/ate all the sugar we wanted/played with BB guns" screeds...
posted by briank at 3:20 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry to get in the way of the snark-fest, but any parent who did not have any concern whatsoever over items 1, 4, and 5, would be negligent in my opinion.

Of course parents should have some concern, but the risks have been so wildly overblown that it's creating generations of children who are trained to be scared to death of adults and adults who are scared to approach someone else's child, even if the child is obviously lost or in danger. We're also seeing the steady shrinking of the area children play in. It also creates absurd bureaucratic nightmares like background checks for children's authors who are invited to visit schools.
posted by jedicus at 3:24 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


A child is 20 times more likely to die from an auto accident than from gang activity, making the suburbs profoundly more dangerous for children than urban areas.

This is false. Low income children are at far greater risk of early death than are high income kids-- the low odds of death from gang activity are blurred by the fact that in places which actually have high rates of gang activity, the odds aren't so low but these places are relatively compact. The odds are only low if you spread the risk evenly across all kids, which is not the way it really works.

I live in New York City-- but a white kid on the Upper East Side has virtually no risk of dying in a gang fight, while the risk for a black kid in East Harlem (which is not far away at all) is many times higher (though thankfully, a lot lower than it used to be). The sad thing is that even now, the black kids in gangs know they'll go away for a really long time if they kill a white kid-- but they might not even get caught if they kill a black one.
posted by Maias at 3:42 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


making the suburbs profoundly more dangerous for children than urban areas.

You don't have cars and busy streets to cross in your city? Sweet. Where do you live?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


We were out in the woods, exploring the remote spit of land in rural Georgia where my family's cemetery was left isolated when the authorities created the reservoir that sank the last traces of the original homestead of my namesake, Joseph Belknap Smith, like a Dixie Atlantis disappearing into the haze of a southern summer. We'd paddled across the lake, pulled our little boat up onto the shore, and hiked our way up to the cemetery, which sat behind a tilted iron fence. I climbed onto the obelisk of the man himself and just hung there, listening to the insects whirring in the treetops like tiny buzz saws and watching my mother and sister poking around the stones on the other side of the graveyard.

"Son, while we're out here, you'll want to keep an eye out for wild boars," my father said, giving one of the loops in his handlebar mustache a little twist.

"Wild pigs?"

"Yeah. They roam around wild out here, great big monster boars as big as a motorcycle, and they're mean as a sonuvabitch."

"Pigs are mean?"

"They'll tear you up something fierce. Most dangerous animals around."

"Really?"

"Yep, and the worst part is, in the woods, they'll sneak up on you so fast you can hardly believe it. You'll just be standing around and a wild boar will be on top of you, tearin' you right up."

"Nuh uh. Pigs aren't mean like that."

"These ones are."

"Aww, c'mon," I said, clinging a little more tightly to the well-worn obelisk.

"Even worse, by the time you see 'em, it's too late. They'll be on you like stink before you can get outta the way."

I narrowed my eyes and looked out, into the shady woods.

"So you just need to listen carefully out here, and watch your back," my father said, and tapped the ash off of his tiparillo. "Don't want to fool around when wild boars are out there."

And the thing was, like most of the important lessons I got at that age, I didn't have it quite right. Like the moment of terror I had after having the dirty little secret about where babies came from, with microscopic sperm cells chasing ova, just like bacteria, which float through the air until--I MIGHT ACCIDENTALLY BE MAKING BABIES!--I had it wrong.

My father's warning was pretty regional, and pretty specific, but I went on high alert, walking around suburban Maryland in a jittery state of constant panic, convinced that at any moment, I could be savaged by a rampaging wild boar. I'd stand there, twitching and fidgeting like I constantly needed a visit to the toilet, jumping at the slightest hint of a low, grumbly, grunty sound, and always kept an eye out for high places. The boars can't climb, so you're safe if you can get a few feet off the ground fast enough.

A truck would rumble by, letting out a grunt of clashing gears with a rough shift, and I'd be halfway up a filthy telephone pole in my Sunday School clothes, coming back down only after my mother would assure me that there was clearly no boar around.

"Oh, Joseph, you're covered with creosote," she'd say, with resigned frustration. "Cleve, why did you ever tell him about those darn boars?"

"The boy gets crazy ideas," he said, and shrugged. "He gets that from your side, I think."

I was set straight, as it were, and given a joint parental guarantee that there were no wild boars in Scaggsville and that there never, ever would be, but you could never be too safe, and when they'd hand me the tupperware bowl of vegetable cuttings and ask for me to take them out to the compost heap after dark, I'd still feel that crawly sensation of fear.

Standing on the back stoop in my bare feet, holding that bowl, I'd rally the nerve, rev up my engines, and launch myself into the dark, screaming the whole time, taking the most circular, complicated path to the compost heap as if I was following an invisible set of Arthur Murray footprints to perform the most intricate dance ever invented, and then I'd race back, landing in the utility room like a fugitive, slumping against the washing machine to pant and regain my sanity.

Sharks are nothing. I can stay out of the water.

Those goddamn pigs, though? Well, you just can't be too careful.

It's dangerous out there.
posted by sonascope at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2010 [33 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk: A child is 20 times more likely to die from an auto accident than from gang activity, making the suburbs profoundly more dangerous for children than urban areas.

Those statistics sound misleading. I'm willing to be that far more kids total are exposed to auto accident risk than gang activity, and that they're exposed over a longer period of time. Because more total children die in auto accidents than gang activity doesn't mean it's more dangerous on a per-child basis; more children probably also die falling down the stairs than from trying to fly planes around the world unassisted.

Also, you have to consider that gang activity has nasty consequences for those involved in it even if they survive.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just anecdotally, considering that the terrorists lobbed a flaming jet engine within 100 yards of my bedroom window, shouldn't there be a lot more meteorite craters around here?
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who has ever choked on a shark?

Well, I usually have mine grilled these days, and that reduces the choking hazard...
posted by pompomtom at 4:22 PM on September 9, 2010


and now I'm picturing a half pig half shark alligator half man.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:24 PM on September 9, 2010


Yes, kidnapping is extraordinarily rare. But, it often ends rather badly. Sometimes catastrophically. Should you take some steps to avoid kidnapping of your child? Of course.

The point is that taking many concrete steps to avoid having your child kidnapped by a stranger, like moving to a notionally safer area and driving your kid around more, is not far removed from handing your kid a loaded .45 to defend himself against wild animals. The threat is trivial, and the steps taken to decrease the perceived risk are themselves dangerous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:34 PM on September 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


"The risks of computer crime are generally believed to be greater than they are, because computers are relatively new and the risks are unfamiliar."

I'm afraid of computer crime because the fucking banks sweep the incidents under the rug just so we don't know how often it occurs.
posted by digsrus at 4:42 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live in a small city, Yakima,WA. There is a lot of gang activity here. People die from it pretty regularly. Most of this gang activity has to do with drug trafficking, and ENTIRE extended, multigenerational families are involved.

There also are more released Level 3 sex offenders who have preyed on children here than almost any place in Washington State. I had to talk to my kids about all that stuff, and insist on precautions.

As it happened, several friends of my kids did not live past high school. Suicide and accidents. One kid blew his mind with a serious LSD overdose.

A couple of their friends got pregnant as teenagers. What made the difference? I think luck to a certain point, but also I talked with my kids. I did not give them a curfew as such, but I expected them to tell me where they were and either have a ride or travel in a pack.

Frankly, for me the most dangerous place I was happened to be school. Stuff happened at school, more than any place.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:45 PM on September 9, 2010


The best way to defend your kids is to teach them from as early an age as possible to defend themselves, and then to give them the chance to do so.

And by "defense" I don't mean "fighting off a kidnapper," which is never going to come up anyway, but just being smart and observant, while remaining curious.

There's a lot of good and some bad about the Boy Scouts, but I'll treasure it always fgor teaching myself and my friends that we were capable of doing things. I think the worst thing that a good parent can do is to take their child's welfare entirely into their own hands, not trusting that the child can fend for herself or himself.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ.

So I was *sure* that drowning was the No 1 cause of child death, not car accidents as stated in the link and above, and I righteously set out to find backup. And I found this web site.


Jesus Christ.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This means we get to buy Lawn Darts again, right? I miss those damn things.

They have those in the new Dead Rising game. It's hell fun to throw one at a zombie and it flies up offscreen and you think nothing's gonna happen but then a few painful seconds later *THWUNK* and the zombie falls over all dead with a massive dart buried in its skull.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a rich academic literature on risk perception that I am peripherally familiar with which can speak to this topic. One paper that I happen to have on hand talks about measuring people's perception of the risk of radiation (relative to many other risks), which is relevant as it affects political goals towards constructing nuclear power plants. Here:
Abstract, pdf paper.

It is abundantly clear right away that people are not rational about risks. Experts and lay people have vastly different estimates regarding risk, as demonstrated by the links in this post. The paper I linked explains risk perception as the product of two factors: dread, and unfamiliarity. Events that are more catastrophic, violent, involuntary, uncontrollable, fatal etc. have higher dread, while events that are unknown, unobservable, with delayed consequences etc. have higher unfamiliarity.

Dread seems to be more important than unfamiliarity, but risk perception seems to be the product of the two. There are four quadrants:

High unknown/high dread: Nuclear energy hazards, chemical hazards, DNA technology, satellite crashes

Low unknown/high dread: Medicines, vaccines, microwave ovens, water chlorination

Low unknown/low dread: Everyday hazards e.g. alcohol, bicycles, swimming pools

Low unknown/high dread: Common catastrophic hazards e.g. auto accidents, war, plane crashes.

It is not at all surprising that parents fear school snipers, abduction by strangers, terrorists. All of these things are dreadful (violent, fatal) and unknown (uncontrollable, unpredictable). The scenario here is that your child is snatched away from you in a brutal manner with no warning while you're not even there. It is not surprising that bicycles and swimming pools do not engender the same fears; they are neither dreadful nor unknown, and while the risk of these activities may be real, they don't hit the same triggers.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:31 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Little late to this party, but I work in insurance, and the study of risk is what I do all day. I'm not an actuary, but I sit next to them.

Anyone who does any kind of R&D work for the insurance industry would take the basic thesis of the FPP--that the general population has no freaking clue how to evaluate risk--almost as an axiom. It's just that obvious.

Consider two relatively popular recreational activities: ropes courses, football, and soccer. Most people would probably say that that list is sorted in order of descending risk. I mean, ropes courses, wow, you're so high up, and jumping off logs, and stuff. And football, you're always slamming into each other. But soccer? Not so bad by comparison.

Right?

Wrong.

Soccer is by far the most dangerous of those three activities. Per participant hour, ropes courses are safer than either of the other two by an order of magnitude, and football is only about half as dangerous as soccer.

The thing is that there are two components of risk: severity and frequency. So a hurricane is an incredibly severe but not terribly frequent event, while a thunderstorm isn't all that severe, but a lot more common. People have a tendency to overestimate the frequency of more severe events and underestimate the frequency of less severe events, even when "less severe" is still pretty damn bad. This has been studied quite a bit, and the results are consistent: the more severe the type of loss, the more people overestimate its frequency.

The risks get a lot of media attention--pollutants in the food supply! contaminated vaccines! child molestors!--are almost invariably incredibly severe but incredibly rare. But one third of the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35 is alcohol-related auto accidents, and that's the sort of thing which, yeah, everyone knows is bad, but almost everyone does on a more-or-less regular basis, and most people tend to treat it as about on par with not opening the door for a lady: something you're typically supposed to do but which constitutes a relatively minor social transgression with no larger import. So helicopter moms will bitch you out if you don't use that hand sanitizer, but drunk driving, while it doesn't exactly get a pass, tends not to attract nearly the kind of vitriol.

Or take sexual abuse. Everyone is paranoid about their young children getting molested. And understandably so: that would be just awful. But again, I work for an insurance company, and one of the things we do is provide liability insurance for instances of sexual misconduct.* I review abuse prevention policies for our insureds every day, and they're almost invariably targeted at protecting children under the age of 13. But you know what? The vast majority of incidents, and I mean like north of 90%, involve people over the age of 16, and even if you limit your focus to minors, it's still like 75% above 14,** and good portion of the few cases where the victim is a minor, the perpetrator is too. The single most common claim we see is your young twenty-something unmarried male youth pastor getting it on with a sixteen or seventeen-year old girl, and it's usually consensual. Like, if this happened a year later, dad would be inviting his daughter's boyfriend over for dinner rather than calling the cops. The second most common claim? Affairs between consenting adults which end badly, as such things are wont to do. But it's exceedingly rare for an abuse prevention policy to do anything to prevent misconduct in either of those circumstances, as the hot button issue is protecting the kiddies.

So maybe the FPP is a little breathless. It's still pointing at a real issue, that your average Joe has no concept of the nature of the dangers he faces on a daily basis. Driving to work is the most dangerous thing that most people do on any given day.

*We insure mostly churches, and sadly, that's a product we've had to develop in the past decade or so. On the other hand, it's been a ridiculously profitable endorsement, and our loss history is phenomenal, so that's good.

**-ish. The numbers are rough estimates, but that's the general ballpark. Give or take 5-10% and the point still stands.
posted by valkyryn at 5:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [22 favorites]


I used to be one who would cite the (largely unfeared) risks of driving when belittling irrational fears of flying. But the other day I was talking to my father-in-law, a retired physicist who retains a certain wariness of airplane travel. I mentioned the relative risk of driving, and he made two points: first, that he was a very wary driver (true); and second, that what people are fearing when they fly is not their lifetime risk of death, but dying right then and there. That is, what we should properly compare is not the lifetime odds of dying by plane versus car, but the chance of dying at any given moment of car or air travel. It's quite reasonable, after all, for one's fear at a given moment to be proportional to the risk of death at that given moment. A few back-of-the-envelope calculations later (we were happily googless; it correlates with air-travel speculations), we concluded that in fact the relative risks per hour of car versus air travel might not be that great.

And lo, it is so. It's always seemed to me that one should fear driving more than one does, given how deadly it is; but perhaps I have been too sanguine about my air travels.
posted by chortly at 5:56 PM on September 9, 2010


dances_with_sneetches: "Am I the only one worried about pig-shark hybrids?"

Not any more.

Thanks.
posted by pineapple at 6:01 PM on September 9, 2010


Great story, sonascope, but you got the name of the lake wrong. I would love to hear where your family plot is though, as I have frequented that lake for decades and enjoy learning about various historic sites that were impacted when it was built

Who has ever choked on a shark?

That raises the question, how many sharks have choked on people? Perhaps we are the real threat.
posted by TedW at 6:07 PM on September 9, 2010


Every child should see something die before the age of 15 (farms take care of this nicely). Then the horror of mortality shouldn't be so bad, and we can get on with life.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


And why has no one expressed concern about the worst pigs of all, Pigs on the Wing?
posted by TedW at 6:18 PM on September 9, 2010


I was attacked by a pig once. It climbed on me and bit at my neck. And it was huge -- larger and heavier than me at age 10. The farmer hit it with a broom and it went away. I was terrified of pigs for a while, but eventually I hope to get over it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Car accidents
2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
3. Abuse
4. Suicide
5. Drowning


Don't have time to google if just now, but I'm pretty certain No. 1 on that list accounts for more dead kids than the other four combined and maybe squared. And still people oppose densification and transit-oriented development and bigger transit budgets and wider sidewalks because it might attract evil crime and urban nastiness to their precious little curvilinear 60km/h overwide suburban streets . . .
posted by gompa at 4:32 PM on September 9 [14 favorites +] [!]


Let me take this moment to pimp Kids and Cars, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating caregivers of children about safety practices and conducting safety research on existing automobiles and asking the auto industry to make improvements to prevent injury and fatality to children in or around cars.

This is one of many examples of what they try to do.

Today Show Pt 1 on back overs.
posted by zizzle at 6:35 PM on September 9, 2010


Not necessarily defending what I'm about to say because I don't know what I think about whether the actions are rational or not, but *technically* subjective probabilities don't have to be big in order that it's still rational to avoid an activity. Let "p" be the probability of an abduction, "V" the value the parent places on a certain child activity (eg, riding bike around town), and "C" the presently discounted, monetized costs of losing a child to an abduction. The parent should avoid certain activities if:

Expected costs>Value of activity
pC+(1-p)(0)>V
p>V/C

That is, the probability of the abduction must be larger than the ratio of the parental value to parental costs (which is obvious). So when is p>V/C

1. If there are many substitutes for the activity, then the parent's valuation of that activity gets smaller. There's a ton of other activities available to kids. The advances made in computing and video games alone drives down the value (V) of outdoor play. This essentially drives V lower and at some threshold the ratio falls lower than p as a result.

2. If the child is a normal good, then higher parental income will cause C to rise.

So simple calculations. Economists estimate the statistical value of a life in the millions. Using this paper, though, I'll say $6.5 million which is the average of one estimate they offer (p. 884, "Viscusi and Aldy (2003) suggest a narrower range of $5.5–$7.5 million."). So let C=$6,500,000. And let V=$6.50 just for simplicity. Then the parent will avoid this activity if the probability of an abduction is greater than, 1.0 × 10-6, or 0.000001, which is 1 in a million. So, technically, the bad event could be a genuine "black swan" and it still be rational for a risk neutral parent to completely avoid that activity altogether.

If this is right, then we should also see lower income parents, ceteris paribus, engaging in more unsupervised parental activities. This happens through two channels: lower income may cause V to be higher for things like outdoor play if the substitutes for V are things you have to purchase (like an xbox). This is sort of like the "substitution effect". The other channel is that lower income directly lowers C in the denominator if children are normal goods, and so causes the ratio to rise. Thus income has the unambiguous effect given those kinds of assumptions to cause some parents to engage in more unsupervised play with their children, ceteris paribus.

That said, I'm not sure if I necessarily agree with anything I just wrote, but I just wanted to point it out anyway because it seems like the writers are saying that just because the probability is small, therefore we should ignore it, but I don't think that that is necessarily true.
posted by scunning at 6:44 PM on September 9, 2010


The $6.5 million number came from: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/508033
posted by scunning at 6:46 PM on September 9, 2010


I should add that it's not like having kids in your car makes anyone a better driver, either.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:47 PM on September 9, 2010


griphus: I have never heard the term "school sniper" before. Are they somehow conflating Charles Whitman and school shootings or...?

Brenda Ann Spencer not only didn't like Mondays; she apparently wasn't too up on schoolchildren.


There's something slightly misleading about this. If, as a scientific experiment, you took a pair of twins and put one in a pen with a pig and the other in a tank with a shark, the shark twin would be much more likely to be killed.

Grangousier, your guesswork is not "SCIENCE!".
posted by IAmBroom at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2010


"You don't have cars and busy streets to cross in your city? Sweet. Where do you live?"

Some place with a +15 (largest in the world). One can live downtown and never have to cross the street at grade. And connections with transit means, with practice and planning, you can get most everywhere and never cross a street.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 PM on September 9, 2010


There's something slightly misleading about this. If, as a scientific experiment, you took a pair of twins and put one in a pen with a pig and the other in a tank with a shark, the shark twin would be much more likely to be killed.

Grangousier, your guesswork is not "SCIENCE!".


I actually don't think it's as clear cut as Grangousier thinks, either. Adult pigs, especially wild pigs, are not friendly, lovable creatures.
posted by maxwelton at 7:05 PM on September 9, 2010


[/snark] Some good comments in this thread, but I particularly appreciate valkyryn contributing some real knowledge. I am surprised at your assertion that soccer is more dangerous than (US) football, though. Are you talking risk of death? If so, I would want to know more. My experience is admittedly anecdotal, but in 20 years of practicing medicine in an area with a population of roughly half a million, I am aware of one soccer death: a freak accident where a team of 10 year olds was moving a goal and one of them stumbled and had the goal dropped on his head. In contrast, there have been at least 4 or 5 football related deaths, all heat stroke related. There has been at least one serious spinal cord injury as well. Additionally, in our area there are 1 or 2 deaths each year of seemingly healthy athletes in all sports due to previously unknown heart conditions (like long QT syndrome or WPW). Then there is the phenomenon of commotio cordis, where a baseball (or other projectile) hits the chest at just the wrong time (this overlaps with long QT).

And don't get me started on how many times my weekends have been interrupted by ATV accidents where basic safety precautions such as "wear a helmet" and "one rider at a time" were ignored. But some of the worst things I have seen are related to farm equipment; no matter how cute it may seem do not let your child/grandchild ride on your tractor or riding mower unless it is designed for passengers. Also never have lye anywhere near toddlers. OK I need to chill out now, but in my line of work I see all sorts of horrible things happening to kids. Although I am actually the more permissive parent of our 5 year old. Go figure. Despite it all, most children do grow up to be productive adults, although only a few have what it takes to become a mefite.
posted by TedW at 7:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


#1) Silence is always more frightening than screaming.

I meant to cite this before, but in the name of all that is good and holy this is true. The mantra of resuscitation is ABC: airway, breathing, circulation. If a child is moving enough air to cry, A and B are probably OK. Or as a colleague likes to say: "cryin' ain't dyin''".
posted by TedW at 7:43 PM on September 9, 2010


How would decriminalizing drugs make children any less likely to have problems with them? How would it reduce the fears parents have about them?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:50 PM on September 9, 2010


Get clipboards stuck on their hands to the point where the thing nearly has to be cut off.

Oh, please tell me that "the thing" refers to the clipboard, and not the hand.
posted by not that girl at 8:31 PM on September 9, 2010


Adult pigs, especially wild pigs, are not friendly, lovable creatures.

Depends on whether you are reading Charlotte's Web, or Hannibal.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:59 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


These articles make parents out to be unusually naive idiots that it's hard to take them seriously. Have you ever known anyone who dreamed that an intruder crawled in through the bathroom window while they were sleeping? The first thing they do as a safety precaution is make sure that window is locked, and usually leave all the other windows and the front door wide open, or something. It's not because they are naive and think the dream was a premonition so there's no need to check the front door. It's because if someone did enter through the front door, that would be normal fear - there's someone in the house, grab the baseball bat, call the police, etc. - but if someone climbed in through the bathroom window as in your dream, your heart would stop. When fantasies threaten to escape the screen or the dream and try to enter into ordinary reality, this is much more terrifying and traumatizing because it makes reality itself seem to disintegrate.

I just had this experience a few days ago, when I glanced up and saw someone wearing sunglasses, which at that moment were reflecting car brake lights, so for a second they looked like a cylon. For a split second, I felt terror, but also a sudden derealization, but the correct conclusion to be drawn from this is not that I've watched too much Battlestar Galactica and confuse fantasy with reality so now I literally think cylons are everywhere. If anything, confusing fantasy with reality would make me less terrified, because cylons would then be a normal part of my reality. It's only if you do know that cylons aren't real that seeing one out of the corner of your eye would really terrify you, that split second where you think that nightmares are no longer confined to the imagination. In other words, parents overreacting to media images is not because they misunderstand risk and think these things are likely to happen -- although I'm sure some would try to justify their fears by trying to point to some basis in fact. But still, it's just the opposite: they overreact because they know their fears aren't real and exist mostly in the imagination. A car accident or drowning would be a tragedy, but you could survive it. What you are really afraid of would shatter your reality. These kinds of events are almost impossible, they live on the border between fantasy and reality, which is what makes them infinitely more terrifying than more common tragedies, which are fully part of reality. The more the authorities insist on their statistical impossibility, the more terrifying they become.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:03 PM on September 9, 2010


> And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter.

Hogzilla
Pig Hunt
Razorback


Not only that, but Razorback is a ripoff of Jaws!
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:05 PM on September 9, 2010


I was more curious about who would win in a zero-G fight, a pig or a shark?

And after the fight, upon re-entry, which of them makes the most dangerous flaming asteroid of death?
posted by Ahab at 11:02 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


1 in 200,000 or 1 in 100,000... just looking at the US population, that means either 1,535 or 3,070 Americans alive today are (statistically) going to die in an asteroid collision.

Just anecdotally, considering that the terrorists lobbed a flaming jet engine within 100 yards of my bedroom window, shouldn't there be a lot more meteorite craters around here?

Arg, that's not how odds work!

Let's take the 1-in-700,000 odds estimate of death by meteorite that the astronomer in that link came up with. For ease of calculation let's say the population is 350 million and life expectancy is 70.

So 1-in-700,000 lifetime risk can mean either that

A) 7.1 people die from meteorite strikes every year for a period of 49 million years.

or

B) nobody ever dies of meteorites for 49 million years, and then suddenly 350 million die at once.

These are the same odds! There are the extremes at both ends and it could be a blend of both, e.g. nobody dies for 25 million years, then 175 million die, then again nobody dies for another 24 million years and then another 175 million die. The point is that if you insist on projecting odds ratios into a 'number per year' you are excluding other possible scenarios that those same odds predict. People suck at odds!
posted by Rhomboid at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2010


You are more likely to be killed by a pig than a shark.

Turnabout's fair play, I suppose. I have certainly eaten more pigs than I have sharks.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:20 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


As others have mentioned, the death-by-meteorite statistic really bothers me. In the past year, say, there have been about 2000 deaths by terrorism (according to the Washington Post) but there were no deaths by meteorite. In fact, it's possible that no one has ever been killed by a meteorite, but even if one accepts the (disputed) claims from Chinese records and such, we're still talking on the order of a handful, in all of recorded history.

Sure, I understand that within a million years there's a chance that a planet-killing asteroid could strike the earth, wiping out 6 billion people, but in any given year, the chance of that happening is zero.

So this year, it's far more likely that people will be killed by a terrorist than by an asteroid. And for my lifetime, it's far more likely that people will die at the hands of terrorists than by an asteroid.

So I'll be cancelling my plans to build a planet-escaping rescue pod, thank you very much.
posted by math at 3:40 AM on September 10, 2010


Oh, please tell me that "the thing" refers to the clipboard, and not the hand.

Oh, yeah. Though really, at that point, I would have taken what I could get...

Not actually, but it was pretty damn frustrating.
posted by sonika at 6:29 AM on September 10, 2010


So my fears are valid. Great. Pops xanax like it's Starburst.
posted by stormpooper at 6:35 AM on September 10, 2010


"And yet my pitch for a suspense movie; "SNOUT!" was met with derisive laughter."

And yet someone shouted "GRABOID!" to a coked-up executive, and it led to three sequels and a TV show!

Moral: you just picked the wrong exec!
posted by Twang at 6:42 AM on September 10, 2010


I am surprised at your assertion that soccer is more dangerous than (US) football, though. Are you talking risk of death? If so, I would want to know more.

No, just risk of injury. All three of those activities have negligible risk of death--I think something like three or four people have died on accredited ropes courses in the last twenty-odd years--but for losses which require insurers to pay for a visit to the hospital, even if it's just getting checked out in the ED, soccer is definitely at the top of the list. Broken arms/legs/feet, cuts and bruises, dislocations, concussions, etc. Again, nothing terribly serious, but if we're just going to evaluate the risk posed by each activity, soccer is far more dangerous than people give it credit for. Football may score higher on the severity aspect--I don't have any numbers on that, I'm afraid--but in terms of sheer frequency, soccer is worse.

This does make some intuitive sense, if you think about it. Football usually involves a pretty hefty amount of protective equipment, while most people who play soccer wear no more than shin-guards, if they even wear those, but do wear cleats. Getting kicked with a cleated foot, I am told, is No Fun At All. You also tend to be running a lot farther and a lot faster for a lot longer than in football, where plays last tens of seconds at best and you rarely move more than a few dozen yards without stopping for a break. Sure, it can be grueling, but running into someone on purpose while both of you are wearing appropriate equipment is a lot safer than sprinting thirty yards flat out and slamming into someone with no protection.

Insurers tend to focus less on unsuspected congenital conditions, because 1) they're really uncommon, 2) instituting mass screening programs with the kind of diagnostic tools required to detect these things isn't considered reasonable (yet!), and 3) it's kind of difficult for a plaintiff to argue that a previously healthy youth athlete who suddenly keels over and dies from natural causes is the result of negligence on the part of the organizer. In the absence of negligence, liability is hard to establish.
posted by valkyryn at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2010


No, just risk of injury

Thanks for clarifying; that makes sense for the reasons you outlined. I wonder where other sports fit in terms of risk; I know we see a fair number of broken bones from basketball, for example.
posted by TedW at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2010


"but for losses which require insurers to pay for a visit to the hospital, even if it's just getting checked out in the ED, soccer is definitely at the top of the list."

Ah, I wonder how the relative helicopter nature of the parents in these two sports effects the number of ER visits. Or the sex imbalance.

Also wonder whether the participants hour played figure includes time spent warming the bench. Football tends to have big squads with at least 50% of the players sitting at any particular time, sometimes as few as 35% of the players on a team are actually playing at any particular time. Soccer has a much smaller number of bench warmers percentage wise.
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2010


> Arg, that's not how odds work!

True: but your excellent, accurate, and educational description of odds contain neither humor nor satire. Meaning does not always equal message!
posted by m@f at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2010


What about terrrorist pigs?
posted by JaredSeth at 10:33 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a sample of one, but I will say that pretty much the biggest reason I won't send my 4 year old to the grocery store a quarter of a mile away by herself to get me an onion is because of the risk that she'd be hit by a car crossing the street. My biggest fears about her safety are probably, in order:

1. Car accidents where she's not in a car (getting hit while playing)
2. Drowning
3. Car accidents where she IS in a car
4. Freak injury
5. That she will be the victim of bullies in her adolescence and it will traumatize her deeply.

Kidnapping, terrorists, plane crashes, and such don't even make the frickin list.
posted by KathrynT at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]



How would decriminalizing drugs make children any less likely to have problems with them? How would it reduce the fears parents have about them?


Well for one thing, there will be no risk of their child's employment, education, and social opportunities being trampled after one unlucky encounter with the police.

Oh wait, I forgot. Their kids are good and wouldn't try drugs.

Never mind.
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:40 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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