Would You Let Your Kids Out in the City Alone?

Selena Hoy recently wrote about why little kids in Japan are so independent, arguing that “the reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.” A reader, Max Blancke, can relate:

I lived in Japan until I was seven, and I’ve have spent a large part of my life since then living there as well. My oldest son, at ten years old, could navigate Tokyo without issue. My youngest, at six, wandered our urban Shinjuku neighborhood as well. I remember a similar experience as a child.

The simple truth is that Japan is a cooperative society. A society where everyone is polite and considerate of others is a society where children, and everyone else, are safe. Of course no place is perfect. But modern Japanese society is probably the best solution so far for living in a densely populated area.

Another reader considers why American parents don’t seem as trusting of strangers as the Japanese are:

It’s like this. From the ‘60s to the early ‘90s, the U.S. was going through a high crime wave. Super scary stuff. And all us growing up during that time internalized the mantra “things aren’t the same as they were; it’s much more dangerous now.”

Since the early ‘90s, the crime rate has dropped back down to 1960s levels. There are a number of hypotheses as to why this might be. I myself favor the leaded gasoline hypothesis, which has the advantage of trying to explain why crime spiked in the first place.

So now we’re in an actually pretty safe society, but all the people raising children now grew up in a time when the grown-ups kept saying “it’s not safe; it keeps getting worse,” and it's really, really hard to break that mentality. No joke, people actually get upset if you try to show them the statistics. It’s like they’d rather believe there’s a pervert behind every bush, waiting to snatch their child. So those people don’t let their kids out, and they get very upset if other people let THEIR kids out and about alone.

Another reader doesn’t buy that explanation:

It’s got nothing to do with the “crime wave” that affected mainly certain localities anyway, and everything to do with the mass media. 23/7 coverage of a lost blonde kid in Aruba will do that.