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Teens Aren’t Partying Anymore (wired.com)
245 points by SQL2219 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 358 comments

I know, I know this is anecdotal 'evidence'.

I happen to be 21 which fits me right in this generation and the main reason this occurs is due to parenting. My parents wouldn't let me go _anywhere_ by myself until I was at least 17. By that time I was completely and utterly addicted to computing to just let go and 'hang out'. As a matter in fact most of my friends are online rather than 4 real friends in real life. It seems like people in my age group had parents that would rather have their child stare at a screen than experience the world. Just my two cents.

If your parents had eliminated screens when you were very young (including theirs) save maybe one publicly-placed crappy terminal for wikipedia or looking up business hours or maps or learning you some programming or whatever, but loosened the reigns on hang-outs and travel, do you think you'd have still felt isolated because all your friends were still online most of the time?

Asking as a parent with three young kids who's seeing practically no benefit to ubiquitous screens at this point, and lots of bad things about them, and trying to figure out how to navigate this brave new world while screwing these kids up as little as possible.

I'm 20 and I have my experience to share too.

My parents didn't really limit me going out. In fact, they encouraged it. But I found the internet to be way more fascinating compared to my friends. I did have friends and a 'normal' life, but I was an introvert by any measure. I had people to hang out with at school and places to hang out with friends after, but I never wanted to go out and goof off. I want to say it isn't so black and white.

That said, I do find kids' exposure to electronics reaching an alarming point these days. Parents I feel just tend to plop an iPad infront of them all day which keeps them entertained to no end. They are extremely hyperactive since those games require them to be but teaching nothing of value. I can't say that's definitely bad, but it is scary. Maybe that's what a generation before me thought about me, so who am I to say?

If I may give advice, I would suggest you limit access to games and especially ads. Ads definitely have an effect on kids and is the very first media they see that is designed to manipulate them.

Next, maybe download some fun but informative videos from YouTube? (Don't ever give them free access to youtube, trust me. Really). YouTube Kids from what I've seen is trash and has nothing better than subpar cartoons. There are interesting things I feel could keep them entertained but also benefit them.

When you take away access to something, make sure they have something to do that they find interesting. Not just you. A big mistake I think parents make. Encyclopedias aren't so fascinating in comparison to the entirety of the internet, and we just feel robbed of fun. Talk to them.

I have a 3 year old. The ads absolutely get to him. And many are inappropriate.

Any game that he likes, I remove the ads. It's usually a dollar or two. I also consider it a tip to the developers for entertaining my kid.

I usually play together when I can. And he also enjoys watching me play. I actually can't wait for the day when he beats me at street fighter.

But I think the key is finding things he enjoys just as much as playing video games or watching tv. It's hard, but they exist. And exercise should be one of them. Solving puzzles another. Going outside on the scooter is another. Cooking is another. They aren't hard to find.

If he loves something too much, I'd limit it with a reward system. That's how the world works anyway.

It's not just that some of ads are inappropriate, but young children are extremely impressionable and I believe those years shape who they are for the rest of their lives. So I'd consider any ads, by design, inappropriate.

>But I think the key is finding things he enjoys just as much as playing video games or watching tv. It's hard, but they exist.

I agree.

I don't know what makes good parenting. I know no one is prepared to be a parent, but you sound like a great one :)

"But I think the key is finding things he enjoys just as much as playing video games or watching tv."

LEGOs are real expensive these days, and you really have to kind of. . .tailor the experience for them until they're 6 or so, so that they use them safely and so that they aren't presented with too much complexity and once. That said, for both my 5 yo nephew and myself growing, they're a great toy because they can be a group or solo activity, and because they help respond to creativity ("I want to build X!") without removing all the imagination - video games tend to offer a more "complete" experience (i.e. leave fewer "gaps" for the child to fill), and less modular toys can feel limiting in what kind of play can be accomplished.

Just my two cents.

22 here. I agree with everything except the ads part.

Me and my friends are so used to identifying and quickly ignoring ads from a young age, that they have become largely uneffective on us.

Comparatively my not-so-techie friends and family, that haven't grown up so used to ads, tend to be more influenced by them and purchase more stuff (my dad clicks facebook ads more regularly than me and my friends).

This is a common misconception. Advertising does not need to be hidden to "work". Advertising is not just facebook ads (which you admit to clicking, although not as regularly as your dad), but also involves creating positive sentiment for a brand or product over time through techniques like mere exposure.

I Wwnt to preface that I do understand where you are coming from, and spent many years agreeing with the sentiment that you pose, but over time came to realize that I was mistaken and had an oversimplified view of what makes the advertising industry tick.

In the interest of discussion: do you think that most people are too lazy/ignorant to ignore ads like you and your friends do?

I ignore ads on the web completely. I think I got like that thanks to games. I can focus on the thing I came here for and ignore nearly all unassociated often animated crap. Things that get me are disgusting ads. Not sure why but I don't filter them out automatically. Same for overtly sexual ads. Rest is just background. People were praising adblock but I never bothered because it didn't do much for me.

On the other hand my non-gamer gf can't understand how I can read or play a flash game when it's surrounded by few animated banners.

And my mom starts to read each page from top left corner as if it was a letter she got from IRS or sth.

Limiting exposure to ads is mainly advice for young children as they lack the cognitive ability to understand the intent of advertising until, IIRC, around the age of 7 or 8.

Both the sibling comments to me are right. Kids are impressionable, and you being smart doesn't mean everyone else is. Also the people making ads are definitely smarter than you and me.

Someone put it this way regarding the recent machine learning researcher craze. It went something like - PhDs are currently being paid millions to study where to place the pixels on your screen to influence you.

This is probably one of the most important questions possible: How should I teach my kids?

I was denied access to computers, and I don't think it did me any good. I'm 27, so a bit old for this topic, but my house was specially up to date bc of my dad's job. The internet was dangerous and diabolic in my mom's mind though, and my access to computers was extremely limited.

This, I feel, made me want computers even more. I realised early the magical powers of the internet. I wanted nothing more than a computer for myself. Even now, I easily get hooked (wouldn't say addicted) with videogames, porn, or just browsing.

Observing my friends, those who had more freedom in this regard are the ones that cares less about any of this; those of us still playing too much videogames are the ones who had very stingy restrictions there.

I'm under the impression that what my parents would have been better advised to do is give me more freedom. All of my younger siblings had more leeway in that sense, and I'm by far the most introverted of the bunch. All of my peers were very obviously more socially apt than me; they had been going out for years by the time I was allowed. Feeling at a constant disadvantage in social situations stifled me.

Of course, anecdata. Also, raising a child might be one of the most difficult and terrible things you can do. And at the same time, kids are more resilient that we give them credit for, as long as they're loved (!) and fed.

(I feel my parents did a fantastic job, even though I could point out a dozen things I think were very wrong. I'm sure if I had children of my own my opinion on my parents' job would increase dramatically.)

Raising children with technology is certainly a challenge. I have 5 kids, oldest 8 years old, youngest 15 months, living in a condo in LA because...you know......f'ing real estate prices, single family homes with 1200 square feet are 1.3 million in our district. So how do you let kids be free if they can't even go outside really?...and multiple kids in a condo without some kind of T.V. or tablet is utter insanity.

It's been very tough, but we don't have a T.V., we do let our kids use the tablet, with restricted apps and time. Our neighbors below us hate us and are moving....because you know....five kids stomping around above them, but I guess this is the new reality. The best thing we did was smooth coat all the walls with plaster and then make 2 large chalkboard walls. I am constantly surprised by how well this worked out. I think the tactility of the chalk has been an important factor, one that I overlooked, as I always used dry erase markers. I'm a convert to chalk now and my kids only use the best, Hagaromo full-touch. Working on math homework is a dream now as I can easily sketch out geometric concepts and have them trace over it with their fingers. Sure you could do it on paper, but something about standing in front of the chalkboard makes it more compelling. Aside from that setting up a folding table on the balcony and buying them a bunch of mid-grade chemistry stuff has also worked out surprisingly well. A couple days ago they created a catalytic reaction that actually gave off quite a good bit of heat. Could they have injured themselves? Probably. I'd rather have them experiment and explore.

4 of my kids are girls, and this raises special challenges. We fought a war with both sets of grandparents about not buying them dresses or pink gender defining toys. I was shocked how much resistance we got on this, but I strongly advise parents of girls to consider what the value of gender neutrality is, and whether or not it makes sense for them to try and abide by it when buying toys or clothes. If you do, be prepared to meet with a lot of resistance, both from your parents and public school. Just my two cents.

I love that you had five kids. Kids are wonderful and our population is declining. You’re doing the best thing for yourself – and the best thing for society.

Is it? Or is he a monster who brought 5 beings into a existence of suffering?


I love my life and am very thankful that my parents decided to give it to me.

Mind if I ask how old you are? What are your thoughts on the merits of this philosophy? I'm genuinely curious.

The worst thing you can do for the environment isn't flying; it is having a child. Having multiple, is, well.. X times worse.

Our population isn't declining either, as long as you watch it from Earth's PoV instead of whatever nation you're from.

I don't want to judge a specific person on having a number of children, and being the parent of one child I can't even fathom having five (!!!) but the general notions you made in conclusion to that I disagree with.

Is it best for society, though? The earth is already massively overpopulated. Perhaps it's best if some populations decline. And is it the best for himself if, for instance, the kids grow up to hate OP because of, say, global warming forcing them to fight to survive? Or if he has to live to see them struggle with that?


Perhaps we should all read this, or at least look at it from a different perspective, as I confess I do not study these issues carefully, but I don't think any type of neo-Malthusianism is worthwhile.

What do you think is benefit of fighting that pink?

(Full disclosure: I hate pink and was shocked too over how much of it grandparents and such forced on us and in what way. But I am still curious about your reasons. )

This is a pretty charged topic, and it's difficult to make the case unequivocally. In our family, it got to the point where people were emailing research papers(academics and doctors in the family) back and forth and Christmas was ruined. I don't have time to cite all the papers on both sides of this, but for us(my wife feels even more strongly about this than I do), it came down to the realization that AT BEST all the girl's toys and clothes could do no harm to their psyche. AT WORST, it could possibly instill in them a type of inferiority with respect to boys in terms of technical ability, and a diminished sense of their place in the world with respect to boys. As a scientist, I have to consider all the evidence, and as a parent, I have to make the decisions I think will help make my children stronger. My wife and I basically came to the conclusion that "girl's toys" and "girl's clothes" were bullshit, and an unnecessary risk to their psyche. Unfortunately pink is collateral damage in this war, as it is so ubiquitously used in our culture to demarcate girl from boy. I can in no way say that we are right, not in a scientific sense, I can only say that after spending hours and hours in toy and clothes aisles, I would say as a culture it's time to rethink gender neutrality, and the way we are separating boys and girls with clothes and toys from a very young age.

Don’t like pink or princess stuff for my daughter, but a few minor things slipped through the cracks. Should I get rid of them?

We struggled quite a bit with this question. I think our initial instinct was to be a bit militant about it, but the reality is there is so much of this in our society that unless you're willing to go full Captain Fantastic they will inevitably be exposed to these types of things growing up. It happens through relatives, well-meaning friends, birthday parties, school, media, etc, it's impossible to try and weed it all out. I guess now we take the approach where if someone gives them something we wouldn't, we don't make a big deal about it, especially not in front of the kids. Kids are very malleable and fickle, and as soon as they forget about it(maybe an hour, a day, whatever), we just throw it away. We do make it clear to our immediate family what we don't find appropriate, but at the same time, we're fully conscious of the culture we are a part of. It's not necessarily an easy line to walk, and there isn't really much guidance out there, but we feel it's important to be strong in our course, without being so inflexible given the realities.

What are your thoughts on Captain Fantastic?

I think it is tapping into the concerns of some, like for instance Alan Kay, that television, apps, screens, media, etc have successfully captured a good portion of the attention span of a very wide swath of our population. It questions whether or not this is a good thing, especially for kids, and whether they would be better served removed from this exposure, or if isolation in itself presents risks..ie social development. I guess I agree with the sentiment, but I don't think people need to go to the extremes. The 'extreme' thing I did was get rid of the T.V., so basically I'm the only person with kids that I know that does not have one in their living room...I guess that's weird enough?

I like your take, we also don’t have TV and limited device time, and as a result the kid loves to read.

I hope all of my kids are avid readers, I would count that as success.

In my experiences growing up, if something was fully restricted, it made me: a) really want that thing (happened a lot with tech) b) develop really unnatural aversions to it (a religious upbringing made this rear it's head in a lot of plays)

So my (completely amateur) opinion is to have a policy like you're doing, but only enforce it like 80% of the time. 100% is where you start to get into giving people complexes territory.

You might cause backslash in other direction if you are too militant. Ultimately, kids want the same as other kids have once they go to preschool.

Also, the association between apparently girly and bad or dumb is not healthy if you happen to be girl.

Just for reference, pink was worn by boys until early-mid 20th century [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink#Modern_history

Why did you decide to have 5 kids in that kind of environment?

Fair enough question I suppose. I am a millennial, and I think many of our generation, and especially the younger generation are afraid of having more than say two or three kids, if they plan on having kids. This is certainly reasonable given the economic challenges we face and most principal among those housing costs. Short answer: We are punks I guess, we didn't want to let any of those economic factors dictate what size family we could have. Our condo is 1400 square ft., and costs exactly half what a 1200 square ft. house costs. In general, people I think way overvalue the quintessential American home. Parks and malls are free and work great, and it's nice to get out of the house more often. We live 1.2 miles from the beach, another great resource made possible for us only because of the decision to live in a condo. For us it made sense and it works great. We wanted a bigger family and we just did it, no regrets.

Are you doing something similar like the http://5kids1condo.com/ guy is? With shared bedrooms and such?

That is an absolutely fascinating and perspective-altering idea, thanks for sharing the link.

The inability to get a quiet room alone is my personal vision of hell, but I suppose that if I literally never had the experience of a quiet room to myself, I wouldn't miss it. I wonder if this is like language learning... much easier if you're immersed in it from birth, than trying to adapt later in life.

Wow, had no idea there were others writing a blog:). Yes, shared bedrooms, before when our place was smaller we had two in the living room.

>Sure you could do it on paper, but something about standing in front of the chalkboard makes it more compelling.


I credit my parents restricting my internet access for my career, in a very weird and roundabout way.

My family got our first computer in 1998, when I was 13 years old. Nobody in my family was very computer literate at the time but they knew they could "ground" me from the computer by changing the Windows password.

Somewhere along the line (in a gaming magazine, probably) I stumbled an article about Slackware and Linux and later BeOS. I was determined to have access to the computer when I was grounded and my parents weren't home so I figured out how to download Slackware and BeOS floppies from friend's computers and get them working on our home PC.

Without all of this dedication to mischief and getting around the rules, I might still consider a computer just a terminal for sports news, games and email.

Breaking these rules and discovering Linux and the fact that I could write software without "doing crazy math problems" changed my life.

You will screw up your kids just like your parents screwed you up.... You just don't know how yet. But it isn't really screwed up... It is called parenting.

Then when u become a grandparent it begins to totally make sense....we all screw up our kids...teaching thwm how to recover is the real deal

Yeah, I get that, but there's screwed up and there's screwed up, ya know? Sure you can be in the top 50% of parents by just not actively trying to screw them up, but I'd like to do better than that, within reason, and tech/screens/Web seem to me like pretty big things worthy of a little attention and care, especially as they get older. Finding something like a least-harm/most-benefit way to fit that into our home lives is probably worth spending some thought on.

My kid tells us we did her/him a big disservice by just who were were: an in love couple with a good marriage.

She/he tells us ahe/he was so unprepared for relationships and the knowledge that others' sid not come from our style home (happy marriage filled with love, imo)

Now how does one predict that??? Introduce my kids to broken marriages?

Offtopic: are we now so gender neutral we even cannot address our own kid as he or she? Or did you do this on purpose to hide the gender of your kid as part of your privacy?

No flame intended. Honest question. Never thought about the gender of my kids being a privacy thing.

Ontopic: As a parent I (we) try not to restrain things like screen use. Instead we actively promote all other forms of spending time we prefer more. This means I usually enter the room before my kids get up and put the devices away and put other toys in sight. My wife is a montessori (method) teacher which makes her quite skilled at knowing which kind of toys/lessons our kids like at what time in their life. Meaning each couple of weeks the things we prepare change. Result is they usually first pick a bit of everything in plain sight and only after, at the end of day, ask for a device. We didn’t tell them not to, it is just they really like their puzzles, painting, and what have you. In real life preparing means putting things in sight instead of in a closet and one of us being downstairs before the kids is normal as well. Not much effort there.

Disclaimer: my oldest is only 3 right now. Older kids may be entirely different though I believe promoting better options has a better effect than restraining the negative ones.

Hide gender

Thanks for clarfying. What, if you don’t mind me asking, makes you feel their gender in this context is worth censuring?

You made me think about it and it is quite interesting. From reading your post I was surprised. Thinking about it makes it interesting. I work in the Healthcare sector and gender definitly is part of privacy information (as is age for that matter). However, I would have not thought about it twice sharing it here. Now I’m in between.

I sprinkle all my online posts with random lies and inconsistencies... Gender. Location. Age.. Job.. Not many but enough to make me believe it would be harder to find out who i am

Many people do this as well, but mostly for fun.

Weird. I've been online since I was 12 and I never made stuff up about myself. I'm 39 now.

Why not just use the opposite gender of your child? Or imply this child is one of several, given that you only have one?

What's wrong with gender neutrality?

Nothing is wrong with gender neutrality. However, referring to one’s child in gender neutral form is not (that) common.

Gender neutrality is there to avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another [0]. That is hardly the case when referring to one’s own child. Hence my follow-up assumption in the same comment that it might be for privacy reasons.

The first statement in that comment on gender neutrality was led by the media taking the whole gender neutrality thing a bit too far nowadays. Some sources just follow the hype instead of looking at the argument for using it as stated above. That is my own opinion though and might be a deluded view on media articles i came across that went into the “did you just assume my gender” mode for stories where gender was totally irrelevant.

I do realize the first sentence of my comment was a phrased a bit provoking because of the whole media thing. Sorry if that offended you and provoked you into this question (comment). Hope this answer helps to show I was not here to fight gender neutrality as a whole.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_neutrality

> My kid tells us we did her/him a big disservice by just who were were: an in love couple with a good marriage.

This is just their perception and proposed solution. Ruining your marriage so they will be comfortable in a bad relationship is crazy.

Parents often fail to teach their kids how they got to this point. I have made a point to make sure I don't just take for granted my kids know everything I know.

What to look for? What not to look for? Where does this action come from? Why do I get a funny feeling about this person? What fear causes this anger response. The fact that everyone is nice at some point. On and on the list goes...

Right and wrong, life, is either taught... or learned the hard way.

<Parents often fail to teach their kids how they got to this point.

What a great statement. So true! It may seem trivial but this is important..

It takes a great deal of self-awareness to recognize how different your relationship/marriage/household/raising is from the norm and how this may affect your children. What messes kids up sometimes is just that their home is different from that of others so they don't know how to cope with others' expectations. Your kid sounds a little too cynical though. I'd say what he/she has is a blessing, because he/she has the opportunity to not only introduce someone to a good relationship, but also with some work, have a good marriage later on.

That model that you gave them will help them in the future as they figure out how to deal with not ideal people in relationships, and be a good person that attracts the right kind of people.

They just have to learn how to deal with non-ideal people, mostly by dating a bunch, maybe reading a few books so they can better recognize borderline and other personality disorders.

Teach them about the monumental complexity and difficulty (but ultimately rewarding nature) of human relationships. Also, why didn't they have enough direct experience with the home lives of their friends to be familiar with marriages that didn't work out? Why had they never spoken with an adult whose marriage failed and been able to ask what happened and why?

We do not seek to teach our children how to form or maintain human relationships, much less intimate relationships. As a result, they do not spontaneously learn these things, especially in a society that isolates young people to an increasingly radical degree from their community, their peers, and society in general.

Maybe they are having trouble with their current relationships. It may be an expectation management issue, worthy of discussion with them.

Also if she is young (< 21), this is a phase and it will pass.

We used to think it was awful my kid stayed up late and watched Johnny Carson as a very young kid. Too much tv?? HORRORS! ( now her/his family doesn't even own a tv)

Go with the flow.. Man... Your kid will surprise you

As someone who was actually, legitimately, very seriously screwed up by my parents... I don't agree. "Screwing up your kids" and "parenting" are not at all synonymous.

Can we please treat this topic with the seriousness it deserves? This dismissal attitude makes me feel physically ill.

You're projecting a bifurcation. "Screwing up your kids" isn't a proposition; it is relative. Every single kid gets "screwed up" in some way (some severe, as you claim you are). The lessons they got taught in life during child and teenage years is their manual for getting themselves fixed afterwards, in order to function in society. If they fail to succeed by themselves, professional help can aid them.

See also Dr. Ingeborg Bosch on Past Reality Integration [1] or this Wikipedia article [2] for an introduction.

> This dismissal attitude makes me feel physically ill

Argumentum ad misericordiam [3].

[1] http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/introduction-psycho...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrative_psychotherapy

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_pity

That's an extremely fatalistic attitude, and I don't think it is true either. The problem with most parents is that they don't take the time to see the bigger picture, to reflect on their methods and to evaluate their results. Instead, it's mostly a series of ad hoc decisions that are more often than not driven by their own worst impulses. In fact, this is the same way many people handle their own lives, too.

Raising a child should be a seen as sort of project. You need to figure out what they need to learn while they grow, and then you need to figure out ways of teaching it to them. Of course, you will probably have to adjust your plan along the way, and you yourself will have to learn how to do this properly. But if you view things from the end, it is easy to see why "helicopter" parenting is harmful and will likely result adults who are incapable of managing their own lives once the time comes

My opinion (as a parent of two <10yr old boys) is that screens are the new rock music/comic books/video games/bad-thing-du-jour that parents are demonizing as destroying the younger generation. There's always something, and it's never anywhere near as bad or destructive as was feared. It's just the next phase of a natural and inescapable societal progression.

I think media can harm attention spans. I used to spend a lot of time reading books/programming for fun and after spending more time consuming short term content my attention span seems far more fragile.

Abstractly, anything you spend a lot of time doing is going to shape how you think and not necessarily in positive ways.

Those were generally about culture and morals though, right? Rock and roll, drugs, etc scared parents because it was viewed as depraved & debaucherous, nobody was worried it was a substitute for good parenting and that it would impair your development of social skills.

Concerns about "screens" today seems more analogous to the old "TV-as-parent" issue.

Worse, screens today are about companies directly tapping into brain mechanisms to induce as close to addiction as they can get. Opiate of the masses indeed.

Some research suggests excessive restriction on screen use may be worse, and it's not abnormal for boys to use devices more than girls


The article drums that line, but the research cited says that screen time is irrelevant. They also didn't measure screen time, they relied on parents self-reporting which may be very high or low (reflecting parental self-image,not actual screen time). And the research didn't look at long-term effects, only short-term. And it waved off that high screen time may be merely correlated to poverty and unengaged parenting, not literally strictly screen time. The research isn't an endorsement to let little kids stare at tablets all day.

Theres thousands of studies on this kind of thing, and you could find one to support any belief. Here's a list of studies with several different findings: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/is-video-gaming-... Here's another, with some contradictory findings: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/08/08/3388554... One interesting study in that second set actually said that a small amount of gaming per day, less than an hour, was beneficial -- better than not at all.

Kids approaching 7 and 10 watch some movies/vetted series online, only recently got Kindle tablets which they are literally only allowed to use on long (3 hr+) transits, never at home.

No TV or analog in house.

I am now torn as the older kid is at a prime age to introduce programming...

...but the benefits we see daily from no-screen childhood are to our biased eyes overwhelming.

Our kids spend all their free time engaged in imaginative play much of it collaborative, and manipulating physical objects, and when we can get out, outside.

Their ability to sit in a room with no screen and make a world seems pretty rare, compared to peers who were given ipads or whatever years ago.

But I also worry, how do we also make sure they are literate and savvy.

I fear that as soon if the programming bug bites it will be the End...

Out of curiosity, and as someone who has a newborn and will be going through this at some point, how do you determine what effects your policies have on their potential social ostracization especially as they get older. In my youth I witnessed this social outcasting happen to children based on parental restrictions such as these. I still see it as they become adults. The effect seems to compound on itself from being the one not allowed to do something, to having only the few friends in a similar boat, to being an adult that grew up with fewer friends and fewer at-large interactions. Do you take into account these costs? Is the cost of over-exposure to media greater than the cost of having them be different/segregated to satisfy this?

I have two kids (<10 years old) who have little to no restrictions on screen toys. My router disables the internet on their devices (iPads, kindles, 3dses, Roku in bedroom) at 7pm on school nights, and there is a strict no-screens policy after bedtime at 8pm, but other than that we don't really monitor or restrict.

Quite often spontaneously, and on occasions where we take away screens as a punishment, they engage in the same kind of collaborative/imaginitive play with physical objects together. I'm probably equally biased to you, but I don't feel that having access to screen has in any way impaired or diminished their ability or desire to engage in that kind of play together, while at the same time preparing them for a future in which screens and computer/internet literacy is going to be a supremely important skill to have.

Maybe offline or rarely-online screens would work? An RPi2 (no wifi) stuck in some corner, running Linux? That kind of thing.

I think the Web's far and away the most dangerous part of screens. I grew up mostly with OTA TV, an NES, and an offline DOS computer as my only screens until age 10 or 11 so when we got dial-up, which could only be used sparingly (one phone line) and sitting at a desk. All were kinda fun, but also boring enough that you'd wanna go outside and ride bikes or something after an hour or two. The modern Web is like having a cable subscription with 100 channels of only stuff you love (and most of it the crappy low-value stuff that you, nonetheless, love). It's hard to moderate use as an adult, let alone for kids.

[EDIT] yes of course you can and should just tell them no, as with other decisions they're bad at making, and I have no problem doing that, but what I'm unsure about is whether the benefit of Web-anwhere-in-the-house and Netflix and Youtube and so on are worth even having to enforce rules to begin with—maybe it's better to not have them at all, because they're so low-value compared with less distracting and addictive alternatives.

You don't even let your kids read a Kindle!?

Also: not every child is going to end up a programmer.

I’m planning to set up a separate heavily filtered kids vlan/wireless network. I’ll leave some vulnerabilities in it so if they want unfiltered internet access they have to get it themselves.

I'm a father of an autistic 4 year old girl. Removing screens entirely from her has caused her to develop language and sleep better. I can't say why or how but I highly recommend just avoiding screens (including TV's). The hardest thing too I think causing all this is us as parents tend to hover much more than our parents did to us.

How do you disentangle this from normal development? It could be like taking vitamin C to cure a cold?

I can say this: you aren't alone! I'm in the exact same boat. Ironically, if we can coordinate those of us who "get it" on this issue, maybe we can organize at least some spaces and communities where kids can interact free of screens and have friends etc.

About the most important org any parent should know about and support: http://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Keep in mind that if the OP is 21, then "when s/he was very young" would've been circa 2000. That was before smartphones or even Wi-Fi, where you pretty much had to be seated at a desk to use a computer, which is very different from the situation now. This is an epidemic that snuck up on us.

We had a laptop with windows 95 on it. Just because you weren't on the internet, didn't mean you couldn't use a computer...there were actually lots of things that you would do without a connection then.

That's not really what I meant. Of course there were computers then. What I mean is that "ubiquitous screens and connectivity" wasn't yet a thing, and it's a phenomenon that crept up on us, so it's a little unfair to blame parents of a kid born ~1997 for not locking down screen time. We didn't know that was really a problem (at least, a problem distinct from "too much TV") until just a few years ago.

I was born in 83. I'd definitely say I had too much screen time as a kid. I was generally either on a computer or watching tv most of the time that I wasn't playing hockey or at school (or doing homework), I could still play gameboy on the way to the rink. I think I actually have less screen time now and I'm a programmer, and do programming at home on the side after work as well. Mostly I cut out the tv watching, since it seems like such a waste of time.

I don't think it's that screentime itself that's such a problem, but the content, and mindlessness of some stuff. I'm happy to let my 5 year old watch Cosmos with me, Paw Patrol on the other hand makes the kid go crazy.

With two kids, I'd say it depends on the personality. My son (10) is totally absorbed by screens and digital games of any sort. For him, I would have reduced early digital exposure had I known how hooked up he gets. On the other hand, my daughter (7) has as much exposure to screens as he does and she seems to naturally shift her interest between various things, the majority of which do not include smart devices.

Eh, I don't know. The only thing I know we are doing right is having strict limits on screen time.

Keep on going! It can be pretty hard to be screenless although when it's a single child. You are their playmate pretty much 24/7 unless you can schedule other kids, which can be a good amount of work unlike siblings because of today's legal structures.

If they’re old enough you can introduce them to reading and find them playmates.

Just limit to one hour a day unless they’re programming or researching or creating and they’ll be fine.

Was limited to an hour of tv and games a day as a kid and of course craved more, but me and siblings did well in school and socially partially from that.

Anecdotal 2 cents.

I think this is a good point.

How are the screens being used—are they playing games or learning to make things? Making things should be encouraged.

this IS the biggest parental challenge of the century since it will affect every cognitive, emotional, and social development of our next gen.

My wife and I decided to ban our son (now 5) from all digital consumption as long as possible. we went hard-edged when we noticed his uncontrollable addiction. it was all he asked for daily. nothing else mattered. no interest in the robot cubetto we bought him, reading, playing with toys, or even being very communicative.

sure it was EASY to just hand him the digital pacifier when he was 1,2,3 yrs old. now we see the start of the epidemic before our eyes. its real but we are taking back control and starting on a healthy hands-on path of learning and having fun the good ol way.

and if he ends up being in the minority - so be it. at least he will be a a whole human being with empathy who can create, dance, run for miles, focus, communicate, and think critically miles beyond his zombified peers. Its never too late.

I'm a parent of 14 and 11 year-olds and we're always struggling with this. I'd like to chat with you about this further. Find me on #parents-with-tech on freenode IRC (I've invited one other parent I've found).

thanks for the invite but im not on IRC. you can checkout this app to help track usage : https://inthemoment.io/

I'm a parent of 14 and 11 year-olds and we're always struggling with this. I'd like to chat with you about this further. Find me on #parents-with-tech on freenode IRC (I've invited one other parent I've found).

24. My middle school was dominated by a publicly-placed crappy terminal with an internet timer. My parents said I had to do one sport and play one instrument, but other than that didn't force anything. I could hang out with friends whenever I wanted, but I was a bit socially awkward and introverted until high school.

Eh, you won't be able to give your children the independence they need to develop as a mature adult (society will prevent you from doing that), so might as well let them sink into a screen. The alternative is forbidding literally the only outlet in the entire world that gives them even the barest illusion of autonomy and surveilling and manipulating them continuously while watching them break down into learned helplessness.

I tend to agree with you. Although I also don't have any hard evidence, it seems to me that growing up in the 80's, there was far less parental supervision of kids then there is now. In the summertime during school break, even as early as elementary school probably 3rd grade, we would take off on our bikes and roam without any supervision. As long as we were home by sundown we wouldn't be in any trouble.

My parents let me walk to the corner store alone when I was 5. By the time I was 8, I'd be gone all day doing who knows what; the big rule was to be home for dinner.

Allowing your kids to roam around like that these days will get CPS called on you.

That’s the thing: I’m very tempted to let my kids roam the neighborhood, like I did in Italy in the 80s. Where we live now, streets are pretty tight and have speed bumps, so it’s fairly safe. But if anybody gets nosey and calls child protection, I’m in a world of hurt from which I’ll probably never emerge.

Yet another bit of the world ruined by Sun and Daily Mail.

There is a (painful, annoying and unfair) way around this.

Actively socialize a lot with people in your neighborhood. Including the old lady next door, local cops, teachers and shop owners. And once you know 50 persons around by name and they have your phone number, tell them one by one that you intend to let your child going out more and more out by him/herself to learn autonomy. Ask them to not worry, but to keep an eye open: they will feel important, think you are a wonderful parent and your kids will have 50 people to help them in case of a problem.

In my experience, if you befriend on average one person a week, you get there after one year.

Manichean but works wonder. Learned the trick while working in Africa.

It actually works for many other things: finding a job, getting help to do stuff, getting laid... You usually make real friends on the way, not a bad side effect.

Even in those facebook times, one-to-one human relationship are still ruling everything we do, and living in a community is one of the most rewarding skill to sharpen.

But yeah, we are not in a movie, it's a lot of work. The maintenance part is really time and energy consuming, as not everybody is interesting and worth it.

That would be easy if this were a mediterranean town, rather than northern suburbia. I do know my immediate neighbours, but going knocking farther away would look extremely weird, and possibly considered unwelcome in this brexit age. There are no shops immediately close (a big and very convenient supermarket made sure of that).

I do appreciate the method, I just find hard to believe that it can be put in practice in realities like mine.

It's harder in your case, so it will take more time. 2 to 3 years maybe.

To find out where to start, ask yourself where your children are more likely to get caught alone and reported to CPS.

It will also require you go to clubs (sport club, book club), events (garage sell, protests, etc) or even to put them in motion.

Eventually, some thing that works very well is talking to people waiting with you. In queues, waiting rooms, at traffic lights or even traffic jams. It's awkward/annoying as hell when you do it wrong, but after a big of practice it's really a great source of networking.

You mean, integrating your children into society makes them safe when they spend time out in society?

His story sounds like it's more about integrating society with the idea of children.

This is a wonderful idea.

You mention Facebook - I think FB could be leveraged here as well.. perhaps a neighborhood group.

That's not going to work. Trust and desire to help cannot being batch processed. Well... It can but you need strong leader qualities that few people have.

But you can mix both approaches;

You can do one-on-one to create / maintain the relationship, and utilize social networks to organize the community.

But if you want your local baker to go out of his way to get your child out of trouble, you need to look him in the eyes when you ask for it. And you need to do that for each person you recruit. There is no way around it.

This is describing normal life before, say, seventy years ago.

Exactly. But you can't tell introvert geeks that. You need to present it like a life hack.

I know, because I used to be an introvert geek because Mali kicked my ass.

> But if anybody gets nosey and calls child protection, I’m in a world of hurt from which I’ll probably never emerge.

I think this is a really overblown fear. Yeah, everyone "totally heard about someone" who had CPS called on them because they let their kid roam around, but I think this is mostly an urban legend about as likely as a terrorist attack. CPS usually has way more on their plate than they can handle with actual issues, I don't think they give a damn about free-range children.

It happened to a friend of mine - twice even.

However, and I think this is the important thing, CPS totally didn’t care after a quick 15min interview.

The second time they even apologized and said they were mostly showing up because they had to.

It was the same local busy-body calling them both times btw.

> CPS usually has way more on their plate than they can handle with actual issues

Except they are required by law to follow-up on all reports. So you will be interviewed and inconvenienced at the very least.

Same, my mom would regularly write a note asking the clerk to sell me cigarettes (for her). It worked.

I can't even imagine how that would play out in current times.

I remember being 10 or so and my dad giving me money to ride my bike to the hardware store to buy him propane. Of course, I didn't even know what propane was so he said "just ask the clerk," who of course, had no problem helping me.

This is definitely true, and driven in part by media-driven hysteria that has led to the decades of the perception that child abduction and similar child targeting crimes are on the rise, while the reverse has been the case.

I think it’s not just that.

For instance 20 years ago there was public phone booths everywhere. A kid would just need a few coins and the house number to do a call, now you’d need a cell phone, and giving one to a 5~8 year kid is still not practical.

Or I remember shopping at local shops enough to know their faces and names, or ask shop owner if the other kids where nearby. I don’t think my kid knows anyone other than the bakery people, because local shops have nothing for him at this point.

Same with police or church member perception, I think our generation is less OK to just say to a kid “if there’s any problem just trust the police”. It becomes a weird and complex message of what the institution’s goal is, what’s OK and not OK for them to do, what’s the warning signs, what to do in case stuff gets weird etc.

TL;DR: A lot of stuff changed in the last decades, we can’t just blindly do the same as before.

> TL;DR: A lot of stuff changed in the last decades, we can’t just blindly do the same as before.

When I was kid, I would get on my bike and wander too far. One time I was out and a thunderstorm came along. A nice lady invited me into her house to call home.

Fast forward to university, a professor objected to me closing his office door with just the 2 of us in there (we're both male and I'm 6ft 200lbs). A colleague of his was falsely accused of being inappropriate to a student, so his policy is to keep the door open.

The change in trust levels has changed pretty swiftly.

> The change in trust levels has changed pretty swiftly.

I'm of two minds about this.

1) This is a bad thing in that we don't give respect to authority that it really deserves. And that's quite often a bad thing--especially when related to children and teaching. Sorry to break it to you, Mommy, but your little angel is actually a spoiled, shitty little brat and, no, his opinions don't count.

2) This is a good thing in that people in positions of authority who abuse their power over others are not uncommon. Having greater scrutiny helps cut down on these situations. Apparently most women have dealt with a couple of these people as teachers throughout high school and college.

I really don't know how to reconcile these two.

There’s also a difference between interactions & power dynamics in a neighborhood setting with a young kid and a college with an adult student.

So to be totally fair - not exactly similar situations

> Same with police or church member perception, I think our generation is less OK to just say to a kid “if there’s any problem just trust the police”.

I'd go further. We need to get back to: "If you have a problem, pick an adult and ask for help." Really. Most threats to children are people they know. Random strangers are almost always helpful in a situation.

> now you’d need a cell phone, and giving one to a 5~8 year kid is still not practical.

I'm not sure about that; there are phones specifically designed for that market (e.g., Firefly), after all.

There are, but it comes with the baggage of contracting an additional phone line, and more importantly having it charged at all times and on the kid.

Even just the risk of breaking, losing or getting it stolen is not negligeable.

It’s a viable option depending on the kid and the environment , I just feel kids phone are still too clunky to be worth it. I’d prefer to go straight for a regular smartphone once the kid is big enough to properly take care of it.

There are still shops everywhere, who will let a child use a phone.

Or teach the child to approach a stranger; a random stranger is very unlikely to be a threat. (A less random one even better: a woman with young children.)

Not trusting the police for problems a child is likely to encounter seems paranoid.

> a woman with young children.

because she's already at her quota of kidnapped kids for the day?

You might be surprised by the number of 5-8 year olds with cell phones. And I fully expect smart watches to eventually end up on the wrist of every single kid that spends significant time away from their parents.

smart watches are peripherals, not communications devices, right? you still need a phone to make your smart watch communicate

At this point Apple ships an LTE connected smart watch. Android OEMs have done so for a few years at this point. So I think all that remains is for costs to come down, battery life to improve, and the social acceptance thing to play out. I think smart parents will be giving their kids smartwatches instead of phones in a couple of years (smarter parents will not give their kids either, but I digress...).

> smart watches are peripherals, not communications devices, right?

The most popular ones in the US are, but ones that are fully independent phones with their own SIM have been available for some time.

Just for some examples: https://www.smartgeekwrist.com/standalone-smartwatch-sim-car...

Most 5-8 year olds I personally know have cell phones.

I'm not afraid of roving child snatchers. I'm afraid of all the cars that might accidentally run over a kid.

Right, cars just go too fast in residential neighborhoods. And the neighborhoods these days are built to encourage speeding. (wide, long stretches without stop signs, etc)

This is the real reason I do not like kids wandering by themselves. Cars these days are way too fast and drivers are way too distracted texting or taking selfies or whatever and it is very easy to run over a kid who just happens to wander onto the road at exactly the wrong time. Even worse once all cars are silent and electric.

> Cars these days are way too fast

Compared to the Ford Model T, maybe.

No way, plot a graph of average horsepower and top speeds over time and you'll see it going up and to the right.

If your point was that children should not wander along highways and race tracks I agree.

Your average driver drives way, way too fast on your average residential street and especially parking lots. I've noticed an uptick in the amount of times I've been illegally passed on residential streets in the last 10 years. My street is only around five-six small lot houses long and I'm almost impressed with how fast people manage to drive on it.

Of course, I'm not sure that it has much to do with the speed of the car they are driving.

I mean, it could be that child abduction is falling because the media warns parents and they all keep better watch of their children.

It could be, though it was falling for a couple decades before the media attention started driving the widespread belief that it was increasing, and the behavior changed that resulted from that belief.

There's also the fact that children are typically hurt by people they know, not strangers

Again, its hard to separate that phenomenon from potentially confounding effects. Is the fact that children are typically hurt by people they know the result of parents being reluctant to let their kids out on the street by themselves, thereby limiting the opportunities for potential strangers to harm them?

Again, the effect precedes the behavior change, so is unlikely to be a result of it.

It wasn't an 80's thing either... I grew up in the 70s/80s and we as kids were free to wander all day long (in the summer), just had to be home by dinner.

Historically, kids were free to roam even more. Remember Sherlock Holmes “irregulars”? Packs of children roaming the streets used to be the norm in urban settings, where families were big but houses were not.

1> The adventures of Sherlock Holmes are works of fiction. 2> I think the Baker Street Irregulars were homeless street urchins and did not have any choice but to roam the streets.

Conan Doyle wrote in this group of kids exactly because, at the time, it was a realistic and familiar sight to urban readers. There are lots of newspaper articles from back then (and if i remember correctly, even lots of Parliamentary tirades) about them. Over a certain size, they had become a matter of public order.

More recently, I remember Dublin city centre in 1988, when Ireland was still pretty poor, being full of kids; and Marrakech or Fes in Morocco just 10 years ago.

I’m reminded of the under-25-set reacting to the Stranger Things children just sort of running around unsupervised as “unrealistic.” Nope, that was how we rolled.

My parents are baby boomers and they said there were just kids everywhere when they grew up. Every house on the street had at least two. Kids went outside to play. Parents had real perspective on the dangers and risks in life after living through ww2 and a kid falling out of a tree was not a concern.

In the 80s/90s, I rarely had that many kids on my block but I was always outside. I had a bike and roamed ~10 mile radius around my house. So my friends and I would just meet up some place and decide where to go.

I wouldn't say the war impacted the parental decision(s), historically kids always played outside so they were just continuing what they knew, but we kids did have safety in numbers and that's why I'd say this is a perpetuating issue.

If a parent today told their kid to go outside and play, that kid would be alone and less safe. So parents just don't allow it.

More like child services would be called and the parent charged with something. That foundational law is what prevents parents from sending out their kids nowadays.

Growing up in the 90's, there were far more kids playing outside. Even in the early 2000's, I used to remark how kids aren't getting out much anymore. Now there are articles about this phenomenon that are being taken seriously, so I guess I was right.

Don't forget the depression. The way my grandpa talked about growing up in the depression, I got the impression that kids were basically independent by the age of 7-8, out of necessity. Many of them had what could be considered part time jobs for after school and were responsible for running errands which could involve walking alone many miles from home to go shopping or drop something off.

Makes me wonder how much of helicopter parenting is caused by emergency rooms becoming probibitevly expensive?

It's the same all over the West, right? But emergency rooms are free in much of it as well.

> that was how we rolled

Speaking of rolling, that's what bikes were for. Running around unsupervised in the neighborhood. I'm not sure what kids do with bikes today. Or if they even get bikes.

They sure do get scooters, at least in New York. Literally every single child over 5 has one.

Those scooters are to help the five year olds keep up with you while you walk about town for the day. The alternatives include taking more taxis or getting a stroller for your five year old. They don't exactly serve the same purpose as a bike for a 10-year-old who lives in a cul-de-sac.

Ironically, kids now have GPS trackers and cell phones. You'd think it'd be easier to let them loose.

Even if you wanted to, it's de facto illegal to do so. There's a very real risk of CPS being called on you or getting cited for child endangerment for this.

My parents live in a subdivision with several parks that are completely empty. I took my niece to one and discovered that's apparently suspicious behavior to use a public park in the middle of a weekend afternoon after a local PD officer stopped by to "have a chat."

The police also literally barricade the subdivision for Halloween. Nobody comes in or out between the hours of 7 & 9.

Your parents live in a bad neighborhood.

> My parents wouldn't let me go _anywhere_ by myself until I was at least 17.

My parents were early adopters of this, about 20 years ago. They wanted me to be 15-16. I don't remember exactly, since by that point I was well practised at lying about why I'd be late home from school, who I'd be with, etc, so it didn't make much difference.

Age 10, my friend's parents let him take the public bus home alone (like most parents, I think). Mine didn't, and I didn't like being in the 2-3 kids waiting at the school for my mum to collect me, especially as she was always late.

So there was "computer club" on Wednesdays, "robot club" on Fridays, and "technology club" erratically. They were (or had been) real after-school clubs, so I'd sometimes show up for a few minutes, in case my parents asked a teacher about it. Mostly I'd spend the hour walking around the weirder streets in the city. (Unusual example: going to the fetish/bondage with my friend so he could buy the net shirt to dress up like the main character in Rocky Horror.)

Weekends were more difficult, it needed good co-operation from friends and their parents.

Essentially, by restricting my independence far beyond the average of my peers, I lost a huge amount of trust and respect for my parents. This has still not recovered.

My parents wouldn't let me go _anywhere_ by myself until I was at least 17.

My father used to range all around Seoul as a grade school aged kid. I used to wander 2 miles out in the woods with my friends and my sister at that age in the middle of winter. A coworker of mine used to range even farther at that age. We had lots of time practicing looking after ourselves and being independent.

I remember facilitating a class with grade school aged kids, where the kids were given stations of a "starship." What would you expect a boy to do if given the weapons station of a starship? Blow something up? At least press some buttons? No, this boy just sat there meekly awaiting instruction.

Something is deeply wrong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TnwC29_oyI

You met one kids who was well-behaved and respectful of the teacher, and shy, that's deeply wrong" ?

And you contrast that against Asian kids being wild and healthy?


"Appropriate behavior includes learning how to be reserved, cooperative, and supportive of the group."

You met one kids who was well-behaved and respectful of the teacher, and shy, that's deeply wrong"?

Not at all. My comment is not about being respectful. My comment is about how that kid had no curiosity and initiative. In fact, that kid was commanded to figure out his interface. Nothing. He would do nothing without adult instruction.

I don't understand what you think is wrong with the kid awaiting instruction. Sounds like a kid who has some sense of self-control, which is a positive and not a negative.

I don't understand what you think is wrong with the kid awaiting instruction.

In fact, the kid was instructed to figure out the interface on his own. Nothing.

Sounds like a kid who has some sense of self-control, which is a positive and not a negative.

There is having self control, then there is a total lack of independence and initiative.

Here you have a 'counterdote' : I am 43.

After the first year of high school ( I was 13 ), we were allowed to travel to the other side of the country by train, sleep in a youth hostel and return at the end of the next day.

This is NL, the other side of the country is only 350km.

When we tell younger friends, they refuse to believe.

America is a wholly different place. I was born in the mid-80s in Moscow, Russia, and moved to America when I was ten. Before I moved, I was regularly taking the subway, with transfers, to school - by myself.

Here in America, I had a coworker a few years ago who literally would not let his double-digit-aged children cross the street to school by themselves.

It's a weird fuckin' place.

When I was growing up in the 80s in the US, I would

- walk and bike around the block by myself when I was 7

- walk to the stores 1.5 miles away when I was 9, sometimes with my 3 yr older brother

- explore the irrigation ditches behind my house when I was 10

- skate down to the mall when I was 13

My parents warned me that the guy across the street with a VW van was 'weird' and might molest me, but didn't try to restrict me much.

I also played my share of Sega games and learned to program on an Amiga and C64, so I was even a bit of a homebody compared to many kids. I can only imagine how dull my childhood would have been if I was barely allowed to leave the house. It amazes me how little people trust their children and society these days.

I'm an American. At the age of 13 my dad bought me a motorcycle that I used to ride around in the desert while he was at work. By 16 I was basically living alone. My kid, on the other hand, is 13 right now, and while he can code some pretty mean Minecraft mods, he doesn't even know how to do the dishes or get to school on his own. (Coincidentally, his mother is from Moscow, Russia and used to regularly take the subway to school...) I think maybe it has to do with the suburban sprawl we live in now -- it's populated enough that you can't wander in the forest, etc., but it's a mile hike to the nearest library or store. Why do that bullshit when you have fiber?

This is going to sound pretty harsh, but I don't think you can blame Minecraft, suburban sprawl, or broadband for your 13 year old not knowing how to do the dishes.

Not knowing how to get to school? Fair enough, maybe it really is implausible for him to get to school on his own - I don't know your local geography. My wife grew up in Plano, TX; there was a big highway between her and her high school, which was also miles away. At the time, Plano didn't really have a public bus system to speak of, and she didn't have a bike - walking five miles isn't a very good option. She would know how to get there, but there was no reason to do it aside from school bus or her parents driving.

I was born in '71. When I was 11 or 12 my friends and I could ride our bikes basically wherever we wanted to go. Our only rule was be home before the street lights turned on.

The 80's happened which brought a few highly publicized child abductions/murders. Notably the Walsh child. His father scared every parent into becoming a helicopter parent. (Not judging, just saying).

People really haven't loosened up much since. Every stranger is dangerous.

Strangely enough, the movie E.T. comes to my mind. It is a movie of my 'era' and it depicted a loose (normal) parenting style.

Of course it was fiction, but still.

Born in 1977. When in elementary school I would leave in morning, come home for lunch, come back for dinner, come back when getting dark. I would ride my bike all over the neighborhood, play in the creek, play in the woods, etc. Just like the kids in Stranger Things.

If I let my elementary age children do that today the police would be called. My sister has had neighbors call because her kids were playing in their front yard.

It's a 100% sad and ridiculous situation. We're raising an imprisoned generation who can't handle anything. How is staring at a glowing screen all day a childhood?

EDIT: I suppose I should tone down my rhetoric but this really worries me.

Not fiction for me[0]. This was pretty much us. We could go where ever. And yeah, my folks parenting style was a bit... loose. But I was never one to get into trouble really, so there was some trust built up there.

[0] Except the alien thing.

Yeah, when I moved to Texas, I was riding my bike ten miles to the next biggest city[1] and back for pizza. Some other kids had the same kind of freedom; some didn't at all.

My understanding of Russia is that serial murderers Did Not Exist by decree; certainly not serial child murderers like Andrei Chikatilo. The city never felt unsafe to me; I think I really felt that ethos of "we're all in this together", especially based on a childhood incident where I got lost at a public event, and a stranger brought me home. (Of course I knew where I lived; I was a child, not an idiot.)

[1] https://goo.gl/maps/jx3Y76UuXN62 - moderately rural most of the way.

On this note, while driving I find School Zones completely antiquated. Where I live I never see any children of any age outside of the building, on sidewalks, etc. Yet drivers are inconvenienced multiple times on their commutes each day.

Adults are part to blame as socially, parents are frowned upon for even letting their kid take the bus instead of being their private chauffeur. (Granted I live in an area where private schools are more popular than public. But I've seen this same thing play out in the exurbs with mostly public schools.)

I don't disagree, but it's also parents and nanny state mentality for enabling/coddling children. There are exceptions.

I live in USA, and my child started walking to the school bus stop alone at age 7. There's value-add in giving kids more freedom and responsibility. I see it every day that my child treats her freedom as a privilege, and gains more self confidence.

I hope this helicopter/snow plow parenting trend begins to fade in America.

yes its really odd I regularly see young kids traveling t and from school on the underground in London. I also see kids under 10 walking themselves to the bus stop in my village.

And I walked to and from school in the village (in the 60s) from age 5

Well, I was walking to school 3 km (2 miles) one way alone since I was 6 years old (Europe). Pretty sure today my parents would be thrown in jail or something for "child neglect" (or whatever the latest PC buzzword for that is). Times are changing, but I don't think it's for the better.

Right, I guess underlying theme is to delay dealing with real world as much as possible. It seems to be happening everywhere.

Same story with me, starting at age 7, but in Poland. I crossed the biggest street in the 38k population town on my way.

But I think parents were ok with it mostly because it was considered normal at the time and noone spent time pondering what could happen.

ok, but NL has like zero crime, so it doesn't seem like a big deal

True, we have no police either.

Lao Tzu sees a correlation. I'm 32, and my boundaries gradually increased from "the front yard, ask to go across the street" to "the street, ask to go around the block or park" etc. I lived in urban South Minneapolis, so not rough but not gentle... enough to build habitual awareness. We were a roving pack of 5+ kids at a given time, as many as 12 or so. I addicted myself to computer screens against my parents' wishes (they prefer TV), although if not for screens I'd probably do as my vice principal said and "flip [him] a good burger someday". There were ample police and one possible abduction attempt outside with my cousin while very young, sooo...

why am I getting all these downvotes? clearly, it's much safer for a teenager to ride the train in the Netherlands from one end to the other, than to do a similar thing in Chicago, let's say. So, yeah, it's not that impressive.

so why more downvotes? can someone explain to me the logic of what exactly you are disagreeing with?

Don't take it personally. You won't get many warm replies from American city dwellers for pointing out the failures of their communities.

I don't. I just get annoyed when people simply downvote instead of commenting when I point out a fact that in the Netherlands it's safer to let a 13 year old ride the train than where I live.

I think Americans are probably among the first to admit the issues with their communities, hence the increased trend in helicopter parenting.

My son is 17 now, and for years I begged him to go hang out with friends. Didn't want to. He wanted to "meet" them online in games every Fri/Sat night (the nights he was allowed to play video games).

I thought about cutting off the video games, but it was his only form of socialization, so I was really hesitant to try that experiment.

I have had dozens of conversations with him, over the years, about the possible negative side effects of not meeting people in person (for later in life, when patterns solidify).

Now, he does go to parties with his online friends a few times a year. There are usually 8-10 of them there and they have pizza and watch movies. Usually is a bday party (but he never wants to do this for his bday).

I've given up trying to influence him (given his age). He is very mature in most ways. I'm just worried about the future.

Agreed. Just turned 22 this past October. I had a very similar experience in that I couldn't go somewhere unless my mother had met their parents (which rarely happened) and like yourself I was hooked to my tech. It has payed dividends career wise but I didn't get to be too social growing up.

Basically same deal here.

There's another part of the trend that is less obvious: the social giants haven't focused on making it easier to hang out with friends IRL. On the surface that statement might seem counterintuitive; after all, if I want to message a friend for lunch, I can just DM them with messenger/imsg/snap/insta. When I want to invite a bunch of friends to my super bowl party, just create a fb event. Simple right?

Not quite. There are a million opportunities in between to have genuine, in-person connections with friends that don't necessarily fall into those two categories. Just to prove it, here's a thought exercise. Take your top 5 friends, local people you'd be most inclined to hang with on any given day. Now ask yourself, what are they doing tonight on this random Wednesday? If you had trouble answering this question, you're not alone. We're all so busy nowadays, it's become harder to line up those fleeting moments of availability that we do have. Now think about how many intersecting pockets of free time amongst your friends that were probably missed in the past month. Some of these opportunities could've been a quick cup of coffee together, swinging by to watch Isaiah's debut with the Cavs, or last minute studying for mid terms.

Coordination has to become easier, because everything else competing for your free time has become easier. This is one of the primary reasons why I left Yahoo and founded a new startup called Blink. We're creating an app that bridges the gap between your phone and your real life.

We are eventually planning to do a "Show HN" to give folks a preview of what we're building, but I couldn't help but notice quite a few here (westmeal, ktta, joaomacp, julianh95 and others) who are both young in age and have quite a sophisticated understanding of how our social trends are evolving. If you're under 25, we'd really love to get your feedback on where we are going with Blink! You can check it out here (iOS only):


We're also looking for a junior iOS engineer who's as passionate about this stuff as we are, but that's also an entirely different HN post altogether!

Also somewhat anecdotal, but in Japan kids are given freedom to the other extreme [1].

[1] https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/09/why-are-littl...

I think you have to factor in how much parents mold a kid into who they are. But I also went out to bonfires and snuck out to parties in spite of my parents. Knowing the hammer was going to drop when I got home just made me enjoy it even more. The little bit of social media that eventually showed up was mostly about finding out where the party was, and finding that cute girl you met there afterwards.

I grew up in the 90's like this after my family moved to the US, coming from a culture that was the complete opposite, where I went anywhere in the city at seven years old by myself. I figured it was just because my parents were super paranoid immigrants who went through hell back home and for years to get to the US. I know what you say is anecdotal, but I too have seen it in some of my other friends' families also. It saddens me to no end that this has potentially become the new norm here. It really borders on child abuse, IMO, and causes me to question the values of a society which encourages and even enforces such disgusting, shameful treatment of kids.

When I was like 5 or 6 we roamed freely in South Korea during the early 90s and when we came to Canada, we still used to hang out in the apartment complexes, playing hockey, riding bicycles, building tree forts....looking back we lived in a notorious low class white ghetto with regular police & k9 units with few attempted home invasions...it just got worse as we neared year 2000 and past...Gang became a fad and by then we stopped hanging out as a whole...even walking to school sometimes felt a bit unnerving because my friends would be targeted by ethnic affiliation.

I understand why parents don't want their kids out in environments like that. If I have kids it's going to be a struggle to let them out into that scary world...but growing up in the ghetto doesn't come without life lessons.

I think you are right with this too. I several friends and coworkers which are afraid to let the kid ride their bike through a neighborhood, play ball in the field, or roam the mall with a parent present. I'm starting to see this starting to flip though as more and more kids are having cellphones, which seem to give the parents more insight on where their kids are, and give them an avenue of getting hold of them when they need to.

I am double your age; I was at that time, and am again, addicted to computing. I thought, until I was 17, that leaving my computer and programming env was a frivolous waste of my time (my parents indeed echoed that idea). Then I got interested in playing the guitar and went to uni; I spent around 6 years partying and playing in bands. I would not have missed that for the world as it did wonders for my social skills, but, I can imagine it is considered waste of time by many. For my brain (luckily I had uni) it was not very good and for my wallet it was very bad. If your parents pay their last money to get you through a good highschool and college (in NL this was mostly free or very cheap compared) I can especially imagine that feeling.

I do think that it is was worth it for me, but then again, I would say that. Also I now do not believe everything has to have ‘worth’ anymore (I did then and I wanted to become a pro musician,but found it monotonous and annoying even as an amateur; every day the same songs...). Or maybe doing nothing or frivolous things has it’s own worth.

Agreed. My parents I guess just did not have time? I have no idea, I was just always home in front of a computer. Thankfully I was actually learning code, and stuff. I was a console gamer, not a PC gamer. My PC was cheap, and could not hang lol

My cousin had a similar upbringing experience 30 years ago. At that time, we called it emotionally abusive as the micromanagement was accompanied by an unforgiving parental style. When the chains were finally lifted, the parents found they had the exact type of person they raised, one who ran from them and ignored them at every opportunity.

and whats crazy for this generation is thats the age people are supposed to most easily make their friends to bring them into the later stages of life.


> most of my friends are online rather than 4 real friends in real life

I think it's time to stop thinking of online as something less real than meatspace, and online friends as somehow inferior to face-to-face friends.

(Cue copious evidence of amazing friendships and happy marriages started online.)

There is nothing wrong with having online friends, but there is an obvious deficit in richness of communication and experience between online and meatspace interactions.

Perhaps in years to come VR will overcome that deficit, though.

How people find online communities that aren't so terrible that loneliness is preferable is beyond me. Of course, that's also true of meatspace communities, so maybe the problem is just me.

My recipe is trivial: look for people who are clearly brighter than me, and follow them; continue recursively with their friends as you get introduced.

This gave me a few brilliant real-life friends who I first had met back in the day e.g. on LiveJournal when it was still alive.

Heck, I met my wife online, and proposed online, back in 20th century. We're still happily together.

Problem is that people clearly brighter than me are not easy to come by.

...wait, that sounds like I mean that I think I'm really super smart. That isn't the case, I just don't meet many people, and those that I do meet I don't think are clearly brighter than me. The ones that are, usually don't really seem interested in being friends, so whatever.

Turns out these things aren't so simple as random people on the internet claim.

It's understandable. My method is actively see more people; online it's much simpler. Then get an idea of their interests, and if we share some of them, to try to communicate regarding these things. Soon enough you are somehow acquainted with a number of smart people. Even if few will become your friends, you keep learning from them, and keep getting leads to other potentially interesting people.

Try to frame it as an engineering task of a graph traversal optimization. Also, you have to be open; no people are going to check all boxes. Limit the filter to really important stuff.

> My parents wouldn't let me go _anywhere_ by myself until I was at least 17

The sad thing is, your story seems to be the rule and not the exception these days. I fear for a future run by people who grew up being constantly sheltered and hidden away from the world around them, while being "raised" by Facebook/Google/etc.

I hope these parents are prepared to keep taking care of their "kids" well into their 30s, because no kid who was kept locked up until age 18 is going to be anywhere near prepared to venture out on their own before then.


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