risk_thumbDan Gardner, a journalist, thinks that

We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.

Identifying 9/11 as an example, he identifies how the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers sent people scurrying for their cars, rather than the planes – causing an extra 1600 people to die on the roads.. but in accidents that were un-mediaworthy. An extract from the book related to parenting in a digital age –  what do you think? Do you agree?

Then there are the kids. There was a time when children were expected to take some knocks and chances. It was part of growing up. But no more. At schools, doors are barred and guarded against maniacs with guns, while children are taught from their first day in the classroom that every stranger is a threat. In playgrounds, climbing equipment is removed and unsupervised games of tag are forbidden lest someone sprain an ankle of bloody a nose. At home, children are forbidden from playing alone outdoors, as all generations did before, because their parents are convinced that every bush hides a pervert – and no mere statistics will convince them otherwise. Childhood is starting to resemble a prison sentence, with children spending almost every moment behind locked doors and alarms, their every movement scheduled, supervised and control. Are they are least safer as a result. Probably not. Obesity, diabetes, and the other health problems caused in part by too much time sitting inside are a lot more dangerous than the spectres haunting parental imaginations. (p13-14)

This is not a risk that comes for free, as we buy into ‘solutions’ for those problems – and it’s particularly in the interest of those selling the ‘solutions’ to keep those fears at the forefront of our minds… though also in many cases simply understanding the risk will enable us to deal with it.

He goes on to discuss the number “50,000 pedophiles” that frequently re-appears, without any source ever being identified – a suspiciously rounded number that is frequently quoted, and changes our practices based upon our perceptions.

Imagine that you are selling software that monitors computer usage. Your main market is employers trying to stop employees from surfing the internet on company time. But then you hear a news story about pedophiles luring kids into chat rooms and you see that this scares the hell out of parents. So you do a quick Google search and you find the biggest, scariest statistic you can find – 50,000 pedophiles on the internet at any given moment – and you put it in your marketing. Naturally, you don’t question the accuracy of the number. That’s not your business. You’re selling software. (p54)

He talks about the ‘Anchoring Rule’, the ‘Rule of Typical Things’ and ‘The Example Rule’ – and how the media uses these in particular to heighten our fears of particular risks.

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