Stemming from Western societies in the late 20th century, Safetyism emphasizes the priority given to physical and emotional safety. Its reach extends from educational methodologies to policy frameworks, reflecting a societal shift towards heightened protection.

Definition and Origin

  • Safetyism: The belief or culture in which safety (including emotional safety) is prioritized to the extent that it can interfere with resilience, learning, or proper risk assessment.
  • Etymology: Derived from the word “safety” with the suffix “-ism” indicating a distinctive system or practice.
  • Historical Context: Safetyism emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, particularly in Western societies. Its rise can be traced to societal reactions to global events, shifts in parenting styles, and evolving educational practices.

Key Principles

  • Physical Safety vs. Emotional Safety: Safetyism encompasses both physical and emotional safety, representing the idea of protection from physical harm, discomfort, opposing views, and emotional distress.
  • Risk Aversion: At the heart of Safetyism is a strong aversion to risk, rooted in societal pressures to prevent harm influenced by events like high-profile accidents.
  • Resilience and Growth: There is a correlation between an overemphasis on safety and decreased resilience and personal growth. Avoiding challenges might limit exposure to experiences essential for development.

Distinctive Features

  • Safety as a Moral Imperative: Within Safetyism, safety is often perceived at a moral level, equating potential risks as morally objectionable.
  • External Regulation: Reliance on external rules, regulations, or authorities, such as institutional guidelines, for assurance of safety.


  • Educational Institutions: Institutions introduced “safe spaces” to protect students from potentially offensive ideas or speech, such as rooms designated as safe during controversial lectures.
  • Parenting: “Helicopter parenting” involves parents being excessively involved in their child’s life, like monitoring playground activities closely.

Potential Criticisms

  • Inability to Handle Real-world Challenges: Overemphasis on safety might result in challenges in facing real-world adversities, such as struggling in diverse work environments.
  • Suppression of Free Speech and Thought: Concerns arise in environments like educational institutions about potential suppression of free thought and debate.

Underlying Psychological Concepts

  • Loss Aversion: Individuals prioritize preventing losses over acquiring equivalent gains. In Safetyism, this is seen as avoiding potential harm, even if minimal.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: Experienced when conflicting beliefs cause discomfort, leading individuals to avoid challenging information or experiences.

Practical Implications

  • Decision Making: Safetyism influences decisions, such as city planners prioritizing pedestrian zones in urban areas.
  • Policy Formation: Policies in workplaces or public spaces may prioritize safety, with guidelines for gatherings due to health concerns.
  • Role of Technology: The advent of the internet and social media increased the ability to share safety concerns, amplifying societal focus on safety.