I’ve been mildly alarmed by the kids in the area and their hi-jinks. The pre-teen girls throw themselves into cartwheels and headstands on the green across the way. Once or twice, looking outside, I’ve considered telling their folks that maybe they should tell them to tuck their shirts in. Some of these kids are attractive; in a world where Vogue models start their careers in their early teens, and youth and the appearance of good health are regarded as beautiful, it’s not surprising.

More children go missing from state care than ought to be the case. Immigrant children also seem to disappear at a statistically high rate. An innocuous reason for this is the poor quality of life of those living under direct provision, and perhaps they are taken by relatives or friends in order to raise them in better conditions. Still, these statistics are too high, and many are likely to be trafficked.

Back to the kids across the street and why I should avoid sounding the alarm.

In the UK, 50 children aged fifteen or younger are abducted each year. (When it comes to international child abduction, again, the figure may be ten times that.)

If the Irish stats are at all similar, the chances of a sexual predator snatching a child are low, and (again, in the UK) the likelihood of a non-stranger – somebody the child already knows – abusing the child is almost ten times as probable. The idea of child abduction has cultural prevalence in part because the rare child abductions make headlines. Steven Pinker raises a point here about how even though our lives are improving relative to our parents and grandparents, we rarely get good news from peaceful regions, but instead get bad news from the war correspondents in countries ravaged by violence that is decreasing in frequency around the world.

The irrational fears are borne out in our collective experiences and culture. Too often, kids are wrapped in cotton-wool these days. Back in the 70s and 80s, children were allowed to have more independent fun. Flashing was a rare occurrence by what we can call deviants, thirty years ago. Physical attacks were rarer still.

The irrationality of these fears is also vindicated in the tolerance, normalisation, and acceptance of lifestyles of people previously living on the social fringe. Swingers, for instance, may still want to keep their choices relatively quiet but they are far less likely to be critically judged. Gay uncles babysit nieces and nephews when in previous times they might have been disowned by the family.

You no longer have to avoid a man in the neighbourhood just because he wears fishnet stockings.