Recently I have seen many posts online referring to how different the “older” generation’s childhood was from our current generations. These post range from not having air conditioning, cable, cell phones to actually going outside and playing to burn of excess energy. From reading the variety of posts it made the wheels in my mind start turning and made me wonder just really how different are the children of today.
I was born in the late 70’s and can say that I was alive and participating in the world for a total of 1 week in 1979. I was a child of the 80’s and a teen of the 90’s. During the 80’s we were one of the first families on our block to get a VCR and my family had a membership to the local video store. I was limited to 3 movies per week and that was the extent of my television, the rest of my time was spent playing outside, drawing, pretending, doing homework, reading and being a kid. Some of the basic toys that I loved was coloring books, slinky, stuffed animals, etch-a-sketch (I would get so frustrated when my family would walk by and purposely bump it just to mess with me), and of course the mighty bicycle. I remember my parents (in 1985) bringing me home a Teddy Ruxpin as a surprise and I was terrified of him (terrified!!!)…seriously, those of you who remember Teddy Ruxpin tell me he wasn’t creepy. Moving into the 90’s of course everything changed. Nintendo, Sega and other gaming systems became all the rage, and I do have to admit that for a while I was very good at Super Mario, my specialty—flying. My father also made sure that I kept active and limited video game and television time. Some of his favorite tasks to keep me busy with was having me haul in wood, do dishes, clean the house, mow the lawn and other things that the typical teen doesn’t find very cool. I am grateful to my father for having made me do those things, because not only did they get me off my butt and outside most of the time, but they also taught me a great amount about responsibility and what it means to be a successful adult…the fresh air was also good for me.
When my father was a child toys were made to last forever. They were sturdy. They were metal. They had sharp edges. They were meant to be played with. They were toys that had substance and longevity, unlike the toys of today’s era. Many of the toys that my father played with were made in America, the good old U.S. of A. I truly believe that the toys that last are the toys of the past. Majority of the toys that are currently on the market for this generations children are made in China or whichever country the manufacturer can find to produce it the fastest and cheapest, in doing this I believe quality is completely lost. The toys of today are made out of plastic and have nice rounded corners and edges so that there is virtually no chance of a child hurting themselves. At this point pretty much the only thing on the toys that will hurt the children is some of the paint that is chalked full of lead. Of course you want to keep your children safe, but then isn’t part of growing up having battle wound stories to tell.
Enough about today’s toys…let us move onto electronics and the mass addiction that today’s society has on them. Majority of the adults that I know have a computer, cell phone, MP3 player, high-def tv, dvd/bluray, etc…but the question loudly ringing through my mind is WHY ON EARTH DO CHILDREN NEED ALL OF THESE ITEMS TOO??? I worked as a nanny with a child who was right in the 2-year-old range and his parents would let him play with their I-Phones and if they did not he would throw a fit. The parents also would play Wii with him…seriously, the kid is 2! In his bedroom he had a MP3 player and docking station and would refuse to even think about going to bed or taking a nap unless music was playing. At 2 years of age he already knew that he would rather play with his parent’s phones than go outside and I find that sad.
How young is too young for children to be obsessed with technology?
How much technology is too much?
Should children be regulated on their technology consumption?
Are parents to blame for using technology as babysitters rather than taking the time and actually interacting with their children?
How many parents are encouraging physical activity—outside?
How unhealthy does our current generation on children need to get before our red flags go up and something changes?
How many parents are hands on in teaching their children about the world around them? Nature? Cooking? Mechanics? The basic life skills that will be much-needed as an adult.
Being that Christmas is just a little over a day away I wonder how many parents/family members/etc. will get the children in their lives something educational or something that promotes physical activity that is not completely dependent on technology? I keep seeing Santa on the news and hearing children asking for I-Pads, video game systems and other items along the same line, which makes my heart sad because when I was young you would have never asked for items so expensive. No wonder families are struggling to get by. Going off of the Christmas and Santa thing it makes me wonder how parents explain where toys were made to their children. According to the Santa myth his elves all hand make the toys at the North Pole, yet if you have a child who is of reading age and they read the bottom of a toy and it says “Made in China” I wonder how exactly does a parent explain that one away?
Children used to enjoy going outside to play, playing until they were exhausted and using their imaginations. I feel like a lot of the children today are going to lack many of skills that we and generations prior to us have taken for granted for so many years such as CREATIVITY, CURIOSITY, and RESOURCEFULNESS. When children used to be able to imagine a stick was a sword they could swing or a horse they could ride that took a great amount of imagination and mental exercise. Now all kids have to do is go online or play a video game that swings the sword at the tap of a button or makes the horse run with a click of the paddle, the game is being their imagination for them and due to that I feel like there is a lost generation being raised.
In closing, children of my father’s generation and earlier were like little MacGyver’s, while the children of today’s generation are like little Mac Guys (sorry Justin Long, nothing against you as an actor). Please take time to encourage your children and the children around you to be creative, use their imaginations, burn energy outside and look at this amazing world we live in through their own eyes in splendid wonder.