Kids These Days

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.

Pretty much like this.

Pretty much like this.

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.

Where is this coming from? “Kids these days” are testing on or above the levels of previous generations. They watch less TV than we did.


 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.

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  1. Joanne McKinnon

    Oh lord.. Every generation says that.. About the next.. File it in “the shit people say” and forget it , the FB page is a bunch of townies reminiscing over photos old and new, not a personal attack on anyone’s parenting skills, trust me

    • Oh i know, it’s just tiring. And it is extremely rude to do that in public where parents these days can see. It ain’t the kids who are rude and entitled…

  2. Joanne McKinnon

    I hear ya … if i wasn’t born in 1959, I’d care more lol
    Remember the name of the FB page you are taking to task is “you know you grew up in Gloucester when… ” i guarantee my two free range East Gloucester Elementary alums would even consider reading it – carry on.

  3. Dunderheadedness knows no generational boundary. The troubles of one generation are the fond reminiscences of the next.
    And the raving paranoia of any generation has very little to do with facts. Back in the early 70’s everyone was worried about bussing kids to other districts, nobody thought about abduction because it wasn’t a problem. Yet it happened on occasion and it happened to me once. It was terrifying, and I was released unhurt. Lucky. But I haven’t lived life looking over my shoulder.
    Neither should any kid.
    Climb trees, get dirty, do stupid stuff. That’s how we learn.

  4. I was reading an article a few months ago about letters from ancient Egypt that had been found written on papyrus. One was an angry note from a teenager to his father about what he wanted dad to bring home for him from a business trip (according to Jim Dowd, the boy wanted version 4.0 of something called an iScroll…). The battles have been going on for a while.

  5. Paul T Morrison

    Great post KT. The pining for the past drives me crazy too. It is hard to comprehend after a good dose of facebook fearmongering but today, this year, the year live in, is a safer, smarter, more well fed world then at any other time in the history of earth.

    When social media or conspiracy theories get me down I look at the data. One of my favorites, “Our World in Data” shows how lucky we are to be living today.

    (Top right, the 16 quick looks are interesting too.)

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