Lenore Skenazy draws a direct parallel from the ABC Sunday Night Movie "Woman/Child in Peril" paradigm to John Walsh's "America's Most Wanted" to her getting lambasted for giving her kid subway fare and letting him find his way home. It's definitely a media thing - if you're inundated in mass media, you believe there are killers behind every tree.
As for me, I was latchkey at 7. My wife's friends freaked out when we put our 9-month-old in daycare. But that daycare not only has chickens, they take the bus on field trips.
I can't control what you do to your kids. I can't control what your parents did to you. My kid? She's gonna hurt herself and explore. One of her 2-year-old buddies broke his arm at his own birthday party on one of those nerfed-out playgrounds so it's not like all this extra safety shit is accomplishing anything anyway. As far as I'm concerned, victory belongs to the prepared.