Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Helicopter parenting because your mind is "terrible at statistics" (or, rather, you are unaware of the denominator)

In Megan McArdle's Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - Bloomberg View:, she states that because of the news cycle, and because our minds are terrible at statistics, we think the world is a much less safe place than 30 years ago. It's true. We have more opportunity (because of the internet and cable news) to hear about tragedies and crime from far-away places. It's worse if such tragedy strikes closer to home. Thus, we tend to think the world is very unsafe. (And therefore are encouraged to become helicopter parents.) We are acutely aware of the numerator

What we do not hear, because it does not sell on cable news, is is the denominator. For all (very few) children abducted by strangers, for instance, we do not hear of the ones who successfully played at the park, or walked to the library, or went down to the field to play stickball (or I guess nerf softball because we shouldn't be throwing hard objects anymore) without getting abducted. This is because those stories do not sell.

I guess the second best is reporting on trends in parenting, and how they are driven by how bad we are at statistics (even statisticians).