Is walking to school dangerous or healthy?

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Your child is 40,000 times more likely to get diabetes from obesity than they are to be abducted and murdered.

We as Americans are loving our kids to death. It starts with baby strollers. What’s wrong with a baby stroller? It starts a lifelong trend of inactivity. I just spent two weeks backpacking in Peru and the last day it hit me, I had not seen a single fat Peruvian nor a single baby carriage. Infants are carried in a pack and any child capable of walking walks on their own two feet! In America, its quite common to see three and four year olds in baby carriages. Heck, why walk when if you just make a little fuss your parents will push you around like a pharroh? Preventing small children from getting exercise does nobody a favor. It establishes a bad, lifelong pattern of laziness and leaves kids with undesirable, pent up energy.

Then our carriage coddled kids enter first grade. What does any responsible parent do? Well they drive their child to school! Why? Because of the danger of abduction, it’s in the news all the time! It would be irresponsible to make them walk or bike to school … or would it? Lets look at the facts, here are the yearly abduction/murder numbers for the USA for our 74,782,000 kids under the age of 18:

1) 203,900 child abductions by family members
2) 58,200 abductions by strangers
3) 60 child abductions/murder by family member
4) 40 child abduction/murder by strangers

What is the chance your child will be abducted and murdered? About 1 in 747,820 or about a 0.00013% chance. Abduction and murder is horrible, but does driving your kids to school prevent it? First, remember that most of these abduction/murders are perpetrated by family members. Of those 100 abductions/murders not all happen on the way to school, there are many more places for kids to be abducted so simply driving them to school does not eliminate the problem.

Now lets look at the harm done to kids by all this coddling – baby carriages and depriving them of daily exercise by driving/bussing them to school. According to the Center For Disease Control, one third of our kids under the age of 18 are obese or overweight, that’s about 24,924,000 overweight kids. This isn’t just harmless childhood pudginess, it can be life threatning obesity. About 16% of these obese/overweight teens are pre-diabetic and diabetes is a life threatening disease. That’s 3,987,000 kids who will probaby become diabetic if they don’t change their lifestyles. Diabetes is serious and life threatening, here are the risks:

– blindness;
– heart disease;
– reduced blood supply to the limbs, leading to amputation;
– nerve damage;
– erectile dysfunction;
– stroke.

OK, now lets look at the staticistics and decide what is safer for our kids – driving them to school or forcing them to walk to school.

– chance of abduction/murder 0.00013%
– chance of becoming pre-diabetic 5.3%

There you have it, your child is 40,000 times more likely to become pre-diabetic from obesity and suffer the ravages of that disease than they are to be abducted and murdered.

But would something as simple as kids walking to school prevent obesity? Yes! Lets look at the numbers. Lets take an average 20 minute walk to school, thats 200 minutes of walking a week. For a 130 pound child, that walking would burn off 858 calories per week or 3432 calories per month – thats enough exercise to lose a pound of fat per month!

So, what is a responsible parent to do? Watch the news with a critical eye. Remember that the sensational and shocking stories make the news and increase ratings. Childhood diabetes and heart disease are boring, child abductions are shocking. When there is a child abduction in your community, before the knee-jerk reaction of driving your child to school remember that for each one child abducted and murdered, 40,000 get life threatening health complications from being overweight and that never makes the news. Of course, you need to take the overall safety of your neighborhood into account. If you live in the inner city where gang activity is commonplace, there are far more likely problems for your child than abduction. On the otherhand, if you live in the surburbs, its most likely quite safe. So what do you tell your kids about abductions? First, its even more important to talk to your kids about what to do in terms of family/neighbors/acquaintances as it is to talk to them about “not taking candy from strangers” because statistically speaking, only about 40% of the abductions come from strangers. A bigger question that a parent needs to decide is the risk/benefit of raising a child to fear. Fear is a great way to control people and only you can decide if the increased safetly from not trusting anyone is worth the lifelong fear and paranoia it might cause in your child.