Earlier this week on Yon Internets Somewhere, someone posted a picture of East Gloucester School, which is coincidentally where your trusty The Clam has our kids enrolled. Great school, awesome community, lots of kale. And almost immediately, the comment chorus of ‘Kids these days don’t play outside or walk to school anymore! What’s wrong with parents today!’ started, as it has about a dozen times in the last month. It’s like a phenomena. You post an old picture of anything, and someone will complain that things are different and scary and kids don’t have respect for anything and you can’t hit your kids anymore and that’s probably why.
You know what? It’s time we put that idea to bed for good. I am completely and utterly tired of it being socially acceptable for older generations to loudly judge children -and the parents raising them- for being lazy, entitled, and coddled. Every damn generation thinks they’re the greatest and the ones following them are rude, loafing babies. And it turns out there’s even studies that show that’s untrue:
“…Every generation is basically exactly the same, and there is very little new under the sun, and, my god, even Socrates was complaining about the lazy ways of the youth back in his time, what the fuck would make you think that your generation, whatever it is, is in any way inherently special compared to the thousands of human generations that came before you? The entire farcical idea that humanity reaches its peak with your generation and then proceeds to go into decline with the next generation is made all the more hilarious by the fact that every generation before you believed the same thing, as will every generation after you.”
Yet, it keeps happening, the “youth of today!” comment party. Kids these days are online too much. They can’t walk to school anymore because it’s not safe. The parents are nearby when they’re on the playground. They are scheduled for too many activities. They watch too much TV and play too many video games. They mouth off and they don’t learn as much as they used to.
It’s pretty unfounded to also assume somehow now unsafe for our kids to run around unsupervised because “it’s not safe anymore”, like criminals are just running through the streets of East Gloucester, starting kale-based gangs and recruiting our seven year olds.
The thing is, kids are still walking to school here. They stay after school and play on the playground and in the nearby woods. There are often large sticks around which an entire small boy caste system is based. Last week there was an actual mud fight. It’s 2015, and nothing’s really changed. Do we supervise our kids on the playground? Yeah, sorta. We’re here in case someone falls, in case someone needs something, and to break up issues. Last week, a kindergartner was getting pelted with snowballs by a much older kid, and when it was obvious he really didn’t like it, an adult stepped in. But mostly we’re there to socialize with other parents. Kinda like every previous generation ever.
It turns out we’re safer parents than previous generations, actually. That awful super bowl ad wasn’t hatched out of nowhere: childhood accidents are a leading factor in the mortality rate. But, things are getting better with each new generation:
But a growing share of the accelerating reduction in child mortality since 1970 stems neither from medical advances nor from immunization campaigns, notes NBER researcher Sherry Glied. Rather, it arises from a sharp drop in deaths from unintentional injury or accident. Among children under five, deaths from these causes dropped from 44 per 100,000 children in 1960 to 18.6 per 100,000 in 1990. Among children five to nine, the mortality rate from injury or accidents fell from 19.6 to 9.8 per 100,000.
We make our kids wear helmets not because we’re overbearing, but because we understand how head injuries work better than we ever did before. We don’t leave them unsupervised near pools not because we want to keep them in bubbles, but because we’ve learned that it leads to tragedy. We check in on them a bit more often – yes, sometimes by the dreaded iphone – so if the worst happens and they get lost in the woods or hurt, we’ll know quicker. We should celebrate lower fatalities among children, no matter what we need to do to get there.
As far as video games, iphones, and Angry Birds – yeah, kids play video games – but they also learn how to make them. This is how we create the software engineers of 2028. And it turns out video games aren’t super harmful and can actually help cognitive abilities.
So you can complain about things that patently aren’t true, and whine that life’s changed, but that’s not going to do anything. Meanwhile we’ll roll up our sleeves, build 3D printers, advocate for bike lanes, and make this city more livable for kids these days, and the ones after them.