And I helped kill it...
Every so often one hears a lament over the death of the old fashioned neighborhood -- that sunlit playground where children larked and housewives chatted over white picket fences. Kids forsook the TV and got plenty of exercise with their friends, and parents didn't worry because they knew that the watchful eyes of the neighborhood mothers would keep their children safe.
Many neighborhoods aren't like this anymore (though certainly some are) and several possible culprits have been put forward. Two income families receive a good deal of blame. With no parents home, who is to watch the children? And so children are ordered to remain indoors. Another favorite whipping boy is electronic entertainment: Clearly the children are all inside watching TV or playing video games.
I think there's a great deal to both of these, but another contributing factor is cultural and moral fragmentation. For example: a few months back I was talking to the ten-year-old son of the family down the street. Among other accomplishments, he mentioned his enjoyment of horror movies ("killing movies" he called them -- such as Alien vs. Predator) and bragged about his drawing abilities. "I can draw girls," he announced. "You know, all slutty with boobs and piercings." "Ah..." I said. And I made a mental note that I never wanted my little girls playing anywhere near this budding pervert.
If you want your kids to grow up Catholic (or any other orthodox form of Christianity) in today's culture, you frankly don't want your kids around the average neighbor kids. My own parents tended to be pretty hesitant about random neighborhood kids when I was growing up, preferring me to play with kids of their friends from bible study or other students from the parish school. And when I did hang out with other neighborhood kids, we sometimes lacked common experiences. They reveled in Nightmare On Elm Street, Poltergeist and Highlander. I made a futile attempt to brag about having seen John Houston's The Dead (it almost worked since they didn't know that despite the threatening title it was based on a James Joyce story) and tried to interest them in Time Bandits, but it didn't really work. They were all proficient on Atari and early Nintendo systems. I was never allowed to have one, so when I played on their I tended to lose badly. And so on.
Looking back, I'm generally quite glad that my parents kept me separate from the wider culture, and I intend to do much the same for our kids. (With sufficient work you most definitely can choose your kids friends.) But without a doubt that kind of cultural and moral segregation is one of the factors in breaking the "everyone watches everyone's kids" dynamic that so many remember fondly.