No, it isn’t. In 2005 Professor Joy J. Burnham published an article titled “Fears of Children in the United States: An Examination of the American Fear Survey Schedule With 20 New Contemporary Fear Items,” in a magazine called Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development (V38, page 78). She surveyed 720 children in two states, with ages ranging from 7 to 18. You can find an abstract here.
The American Fear Survey Schedule for Children (acronymed as the FSSC-AM) has 98 items. Survey participants respond to each item by marking either Not Scared, Scared, or Very Scared. The most common fears were the ten fears with the highest means at the Very Scared level. Public speaking was covered in Item 20, which is:
“Having to talk in front of my class.”
Three bar charts (shown above, click to enlarge) display the percent of children reporting each of the top ten fears for three age groups (her Table 3). Those fears include AIDS, myself dying, someone in my family dying, not being able to breathe, etc.
Smaller percentages of fears were reported by older children. For the age group from 7 to 10 all ten fears were reported by more than 60% of the children. For the age group from 11 to 14 all ten fears were reported by more than 50% of the children. For the age group from 15 to 18 all ten fears were reported by more than 40% of the children.
Another bar chart (from her Table 2) shows the percent of girls and boys reporting each of the top ten fears. A larger percentage of girls reported each fear that also was reported by boys.
So, for these children, public speaking wasn’t remotely near being the number one fear typically claimed to occur for American adults (and greater than death). These results agree with those reported in a 2005 Gallup poll, mentioned in my previous post.