I live in a much safer neighborhood now than the one of my youth, and in an era that is almost incomparably safer according to crime statistics. And yet I never see children playing outside unsupervised. Who would my children play with unless I organized a play date? I’ll probably never see another kid knock on my door and ask if my daughter can come out to play. Couldn’t she have texted instead?

People live in my neighborhood (and nearly all the others around it) because it is nice, but as social mobility increases the stock of people who have been here for decades has decreased. There are fewer “eyes on the street” altogether; the retirees move away or into more specialized communities. And why not? Their children, if successful, didn’t buy a house near their childhood home either.

At the local shops, parents flash each other nasty and judgmental looks all the time for the slightest and most routine annoyances of children’s behavior. Instead of a “we” that lightly surrounds us, everyone in my town is a “they,” and a potential source of problems. I’m not afraid of strangers doing harm to kids. I’m much more afraid (even if the stats don’t justify it) of other parents calling the police or child services on me and getting a bogus charge of “unsubstantiated child neglect” merely for having kids that are more capable and independent than theirs.