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A vast change has overtaken suburbia in the past two generations. The archetypal suburb was first and foremost because that's where people moved to raise families. Lawns and parks and lots of other families with children defined the suburb as a children's paradise. In the cultural mythos of the American Dream, childhood proceeds along the lines of the Little Rascals or Dennis the Menace or the Berenstain Bears: long days playing outside with other children, building clubhouses and forts, jumping rope and playing hopscotch, catching frogs and turtles, biking all over the place . . . pickup games of baseball and tag . . . tea parties with the other girls . . . sledding and snowball fights. Children were seldom at home. They were at a neighbor's house, or over at the playground, or the vacant lot, or down by the pond. It didn't matter as long as they were back for dinner. Until recently, play was outdoors, public, and free of charge.
Where are the children now? This is the question I asked myself one winter Saturday as I walked through the empty suburban streets and past the deserted playgrounds of my home town. Finally I saw a tiny figure dressed in a pink snowsuit, a little girl standing at the edge of her yard, waist deep in the snow. She dipped her mitten into the snow for a taste. Four hundred families in this neighborhood, most of them with children, and only a single five-year-old outdoors on a Saturday afternoon. And I cannot imagine her staying there very long, alone in the snow, the stillness broken only by the passing cars and that odd-looking lone pedestrian. Her life happens indoors.
When my son Matthew was four or five, he wanted a pocket knife just like his big brother. I decided to give him one, explaining carefully, "This knife is sharp, Matthew, and if you are not careful you will cut yourself." What happened? He was not careful, of course, and he cut himself. Not too seriously, but it hurt and there was blood. What did he learn from this? For one thing, he learned that knives are indeed dangerous—on their own merits, and not because one might get caught using one without permission. The second thing Matthew learned is that Dad is one smart dude. Dad was right about the knife. When Dad says something might happen, it's a good idea to listen.
No matter how deeply and thoroughly we frighten children with our power to invoke their survival anxiety, their natural curiosity and compulsion to test limits will eventually provoke them to "try it anyway," often in secret. When they find, as is often the case, that the consequences aren't as bad as their parents said they were, then parental authority loses all credibility. They find that no one loses an eye when they throw a paper airplane indoors, that they can smoke marijuana and not wake up in a crack house, that reading Harry Potter does not lead to Satanic ritual sacrifice. Now the stage is set for tragedy. On the one hand, they have always been insulated from the real consequences of their actions. On the other hand, the imposed substitute consequences (punishments) are no longer effective, because the wily teenager easily evades them by deceiving authority, not by abstaining from the behavior. The result is that the teenager acts as if he were immortal or invulnerable, and lies to his parents about everything he does.
Originally posted by Doomsday 2029
reply to post by Sundancer
X-BOX, and internet is yet another...
Originally posted by Sundancer
When did kids get so stupid that we could no longer allow them to be kids?
Why don't kids play outside in the states anymore?
There were pervs and killers when I was growing up too. What happened?
Was it because of the government, did our kids get dumber, or is it the parents?
[edit on 15-10-2009 by Sundancer]
Originally posted by dolphinfan
reply to post by Sundancer
I agree with the points here and I too had a very similiar experience as a kid and grew up in an industrial city on the East Coast (not a garden spot). I think there a few other reasons:
-not only did older kids look out for the younger ones, parents looked out for kids as well. If someone was doing something to a kid or kids were destroying property there would be some curb-side justice. An adult fooling with kids would get a savage beating, right there. If the cops came they ignored it, today you would be arrested.
-people sue other people for stuff that just happens. Fall off another kid's swingset? Sue the kid's family. That kind of thing did not happen when I was a kid. It was assumed that kids were going to get hurt in the course of being kids. Nobody would ever dream of suing somebody for a typical accident, broken bones, etc.
-kids fight. Hell, they are supposed to fight. If someone came home with a bloody lip or black eye, your parents would ask you about it. If it just was a typical school-yard beef, that was the end of it. Now folks call the cops, make a big deal out of it.
-kids are spoiled far too much. there was no inside play when I was a kid. Outside all day unless the weather was savage.
-the biggest issue though is that kids are far to organized by adults. league play starts at 5 and kids are constantly engaged in adult organized activities. The kind of thing you're talking requires an active imagination and IMO that is being stripped out of kids and it is not a good thing.
In 1982, Childhelp began operation of the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD®, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has received as many as 300,000 calls annually from throughout the United States, Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam