Why Are Kids Getting Fat?

Maybe the Nanny State is playing a role.

Is there real danger on the modern playground?

Safety advocates say yes and want to eliminate it.

Their first target: swing sets.

They’ve convinced Portland Public Schools to remove all swings from elementary schools playgrounds.

Okay, so no more swing sets. How about slides, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters?

Portland Public Schools have also rejected merry go rounds, tube slides, track rides, arch climbers, and teeter totters.

But at least the kids will be safe, fat, but safe.

Our lawsuit happy culture has schools and parks installing low-to-the-ground play structures that some have derided as “dumbed down.”

Now, it seems, anything with moving parts is a lawsuit liability, and in some places, that even means moving legs.

In Broward County, Florida, there’s a new rule on the playground: no running.

But lets worry about sodas instead of this kind of paternalism on the part of our government. Christ, I treat my dog better than this.

You can forget about dodge ball, tether ball, and how much further behind this are sports like soccer and baseball?

the article also has the following graphic,

That sounds bad right? 200,000 injuries and 17 deaths…my God something must be done. Lock the kids in a small room and give them only plush toys.

The problem with the above idiotic statistics is that they are totally lacking in any context or perspective. Sure 17 deaths on playgrounds is horrible, but how many children are on Americas playgrounds each and every day? If there are 5 million kids on play grounds 365 days of the year then there are almost 2 billion incidents where a child could, theoretically, have died and yet only 17 have. My guess is that children are safest while on play grounds and they are getting exercise.

Lets apply this kind of logic to schools in general. How many kids have been shot at school? At least 17? If this is the case then the very same logic above implies that we shouldn’t send our kids to school because they’ll get shot. It isn’t just stupid, it is blazingly stupid. This picture is rather telling. An overweight sophmore who was injured at a school shooting…but at least he was safe from swings. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice notes that in 1997-1998 there were 40 deaths due to school shootings. My god, I think we need to make bullet proof vests part of a national school uniform. The same website also provides the following table,

Table 2:
Count of School Shooting Deaths(16)

1992-93 55 deaths
1993-94 51 deaths
1994-95 20 deaths
1995-96 35 deaths
1996-97 25 deaths
1997-98 40 deaths

Schools are a freaking warzone!

Yes, I know that is shrill and over the top…that was the point. The whole idea of “making playgrounds safer” is shrill and over the top. However, we now have some slight perspective on how completely idiotic these playground safety warriors are. The number of deaths due to playgrounds is less than half that of shooting deaths (the annual average based on the above data is 37.67 deaths per year). If you don’t worry about your kid getting shot at school you should be even less worried they will be killed playing on the play ground.

People in general are stupid on one thing here. They are very, very, very bad at evlauating risk. Somebody tells a scary story of a kid strangling himself on the monkey bars and suddenly play grounds in an entire school district are re-done at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. The actual risk is miniscule and parents take far greater risks doing things like driving their kids to school or taking them out shopping. But this inability to evaluate risks in a reasonable manner is precisely what the Nanny Staters exploit to push their agendas.

Initial link via Radley Balko.

FILED UNDER: Education, Health, , , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Yo says:

    I can’t even come up with a lame comment for this.

    … the pussification of America is in full swing.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Look this has to be Howard Dean’s fault right? And Hillary. Lets not forget any of the moonbats on the wussafied anti-American extreme fringe far left wacko colony,

    There now LJD & Herb can have the day off.

    After all we would not want to blame the parents of all those little chubsters, that would imply resposibility, and that is out of fashion right now.

  3. Herb says:


    Wasn’t it your favorite Bi**h Hilly Mae who said “It takes a Village to Raise a Child” That says it all when anything comes up about raising kids. I don’t suppose that you know about this unless you had your children raised and watched over by your friendly village idiot working for a Democrat bureaucrat.

    At any rate Anjin, were you ever a kid or were you born and raised in closet and provided for by those who thought your parents were just to stupid to bring you up. Only your friendly neighorhood democrat can give you the answer.

    But the again, I guess you did suffer a failing of your parents because look how you turned out, A bleeding heart left wing liberal, who seems to always be in a sour puss mood disenchanted with everything folks write on OTB and about as anti American as one can get.

  4. ajin-san,

    What point are you trying to make? That we shouldn’t put risks in perspective? That the school boards were over reacting or that they were right?

    Responsibility would include looking at how the injuries and deaths occur. Having been a boy, I can tell you kids do some stupid things on a play ground. I have a fake front tooth to prove it. How much of the problem is kids being kids and doing stupid things? How much is a lack of supervision? How much is parents not getting it through the kids skulls about the danger of doing stupid things? How much is just plain old bad luck?

    I received a call from the bus driver about a month ago asking me to pick my son up from the bus stop. I figured he had gotten into a fight and they wanted parental notice to be taken. I got there to find my son with blood running down his face, large amounts of blood on his shirt and his head wrapped in a large bandage (he looked sort of like the fife player in the revolutionary war picture of the three guys with fife,drum and flag). I took him to the doctor and my son got 6 stitches. The cut on his forehead was deep enough that you could see the bone.

    Talking to my son, it turns out he bumped his head on the emergency door handle when the bus went around the corner. Knowing my son, I take his protestations that he was just sitting in his seat with a grain of salt.

    I had several people suggest a law suit (and yes more democrats that republicans made the suggestion). Something bad had happened so the American legal system must be brought in to right the wrong. My wife and I didn’t even consider suing. When the school district transportation supervisor called to find out how my son was doing we told him, thanked him for his concern and asked that he let us known if there is anything we should know about as parents (like our son contributing more than he should to the normal chaos of an elementary school bus in the afternoon). Shortly after, we had the school bus driver call to see how the boy was. We again thanked him for bandaging up our boy and calling me.

    Should we get rid of emergency door handles on all the school buses? Plan bus routes so they don’t go around corners? Or recognize that a certain amount of injuries are part of growing up? My son getting bonked on the head was not done malignantly, rather was an accident of life. It is just part of life. And yes, if he had died from it I would feel the same.

    But it does disturb me that so many people thought that any and every injury must result in a legal solution. I had one person who thought I was crazy for not at least threatening to sue. He saw the injury like a lottery ticket that I wasn’t even going to check to see if I had won any money from. Now I do admit that I see a connection between the trial lawyers overwhelming support for democrats, democrats rhetoric for nanny state paternalism and the reactions I saw to my son’s injury.

    p.s. My son’s doing fine. He has a cool scar above his eyebrow that may or may not stay. His brains aren’t scrambled any more than usual and he scored a 100 on the standardized math test he took a few days later that lets him graduate from 5th grade.

  5. Boyd says:

    Yes, YAJ, the (to me) frivolous lawsuits which have been astoundingly sustained by judges and juries have led us to our current state regarding personal responsibility.

    It’d never happen, but just once I’d like to see one of these suits defended with something along the lines of “Your honor, members of the jury, the plaintiff was clearly being stupid. Please don’t hold the defendant responsible for the plaintiff’s stupidity.”

  6. anjin-san says:


    Take a look at what Hillary’s kid has done with her life so far.

    Then take a look at what Bush’s kids have done.

    “nuff said.

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    Anjin-san & Herb,

    Please knock off this kind of nonsense.

  8. anjin-san says:


    Sorry, you are right, but during this dark time for our country sometimes I need a little nonsense.

  9. floyd says:

    it’s not the lawsuits, it’s the cowards who won’t stand and fight! if they win, give them the playground as payment, then tax the heck out of it, until such time as you declare ” imminent domain” and take it back![lol]

  10. Robin S says:

    I cannot remember ever getting any sort of notable injury on the playground. On the other hand, I DO remember playing in the woods after a snow storm, slipping on a icy tree root, and sliding head first down a creek bed… and hitting every single rock on the way down.

    Therefore, I think it is obvious that we should outlaw trees, hills, and creeks. I’m quite certain that a look at the statistics will prove that each of these things causes at least a few deaths every year.