Stranger danger is a presumption that interaction between a child and an adult that a child does not already know has a significant risk of harming the child, particularly kidnapping or child sexual abuse.
But a lot of times, this perceived danger is overblown relative to the facts. A 2002 study found that of the nearly 800,000 children reported missing per year, most were runaways, not abductions, and the vast majority of abductions were by relatives, often a father without custody. Only 7 percent were abducted by other than family, and fewer than 0.02 percent are "stereotypical kidnappings" where a stranger holds a child overnight and more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.
By the 2010s, the hysteria had become so out of hand that video games and the Internet are all that kids have nowadays other than sitting on the couch and watching TV, to the point where children end up with so-called "nature deficit disorder". Even prisoners get more time outside than many children. Law enforcement officers in the USA are far quicker to assume "neglect" and "endangerment" on the part of free-range parents than before. Let your kids play outside while you watch, and you may get arrested for child endangerment. Police and child protective services in fact kidnap children more often than actual criminals do. In the United States, it took a federal law in January 2016 to keep local authorities from harassing parents of children who walk to school. And this lack of outdoor play is causing children to become nearsighted.
- Christopher Beam. "800,000 Missing Kids? Really?" Slate, 2007-01-17. Accessed 2018-12-28.
- Katherine Martinko. "Children spend less time outside than prison inmates". TreeHugger, 2016-03-25. Accessed 2016-03-26.
- Chan Teik Onn. "5 Things Everyone Did Growing Up (That Now Get You Arrested)". Cracked, 2013-09-01. Accessed 2013-09-02.
- C. Coville. "5 Things Your Parents Did (They'd Be Arrested For Today)". Cracked, 2015-05-12. Accessed 2015-05-12.
- Philip Caulfield. "Neighbor calls cops, child services on Texas mom for letting son play outside". New York Daily News, 2014-09-17. Accessed 2016-04-04.
- Elizabeth Armstrong Moore. "Mom Lets 4-Year-Old Play Outside, Faces Jail". Yahoo News, 2015-12-02. Accessed 2015-12-03.
- Katherine Martinko. "[http://www.treehugger.com/family/when-stranger-danger-actually-police-and-cps.html When 'Stranger Danger' is actually the police and CPS]". TreeHugger, 2015-04-14. Accessed 2016-10-29.
- Charlie Sorrel. "Federal Law Now Says Kids Can Walk To School Alone". Fast Company, 2016-01-06. Accessed 2018-12-28.
- Northwestern University. "Myopia cell discovered in retina: Dysfunction of cell may be linked to amount of time a child spends indoors". ScienceDaily, 2017-02-06. Accessed 2017-02-09.