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U.S. teens are spending less time with their friends in person (theconversation.com)
285 points by pseudolus on March 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 283 comments



Part of the issue, I think is that teenagers are more restricted by parents, laws, and business owners than they used to be.

As with younger children, parents are less likely now than in past decades to allow their teenage children to travel alone or hang out in groups without adults present. Legal restrictions compound the issue, with curfew laws being increasingly common, as well as increased driving ages and graduated licenses. Finally, businesses that used to be popular hangouts for teenagers, such as shopping malls have become less welcoming, often having limits on when teenagers are allowed on the premises without a parent.


So true, in essence driving them into online friend interactions.

Makes you wonder what life will be like for children 50 years from now, and how that would compare with today.

After there was a time when making explosives was a childhood right of passage along with chemistry sets, making fires, even having a pocket knife. Today, such common activities would not end well at all, however innocent the intention. These are activities people still alive today will recall.

With that, online is still in part a wild-west and new playfield, open, less restrictions compared to real life and with that, perhaps the logical outlet for teenage freedom.

But even that is slowly being eroded away with the same mentalities that drove children into 1984 style parenting.

With that, todays children may very well in their 50's look at the children of the time and feel how restricted and curtailed they are compared to the freedoms they enjoyed in their time. That would not surprise me, but equally, when do laws, rules, restrictions reach a zenith when no more need be added or changed! Until then, the lamentations of life march on.


50 years from now teens will have a subscription to curated experiences for them to get together in-person for while their typical interpersonal interactions will happen over the Internet where it’s nice with a relatively null marginal cost.


This is rather depressing and hopefully not true but likely is. Reminds me of the movie “Surrogates”


> 50 years from now

This sounds like 5 years from now to me, if not today in large part


I can see it now. We are already turning groceries into a subscription service, why stop there? $19.99 a month for a coffee a week, and the store is closed to starbucks nonsubscribers or they buy a day pass for $7. Oh but did you know new subscribers get spotify free for one month???

Huge companies have already captured the market and can afford buy out any alternatives or pay for favorable policy, only a matter of time until they matriculate our piecemeal purchases into guaranteed regular profit.


Shit I was a teenager only 8 years ago but cannot relate to todays teenagers at all..In contrast I could very easily relate to people in their 20s when I was a teenager.


It will be 5 years from now in China.

The rest of us can watch and learn.


I’m pretty sure we’re already starting to do this.


So, escape rooms?


FWIW, Cub Scouts / Boy Scouts are a pretty great place to get those same skills and experiences. Great opportunity to get a well rounded childhood.


They're great if you fit in with the group. If the group decides you're "different" in some way, you're going to get shunned, and shunned hard. Speaking from experience here.

It works great for "normal" kids but for any kid even the slightest bit non-neurotypical, it's going to be absolute hell.


I didn't really fit into the group when I was a kid, but in hindsight I still gained a lot from them (including experience learning to better fit into groups).


That's part of it! People think there's supposed to be some total acceptance and peace and love.

Society is not like this, family is not like this, even with your spouse, kids, or brothers/sisters you wont be like this.

Being criticized, ostracized by some, shunned by others, also helps make someone learn to socialize (which includes conforming to a few norms, that's part of being into a society instead of alone in the jungle).

And there are two other things too:

1) Everyone gets some of that treatment (even the popular jocks for example get talked about behind their backs as brainless or whatever). People that act like they are the only recipients, are too self-absorbed to see it.

2) Not everything someone brings or who their character is is good to begin with, just because its "theirs" or "original" etc. The group can have some pathologies itself, but it can help shape everyone to be better too.


The thing is this: When you are shunned, you don't get to learn to fit into groups better. You are simply left out. No one picks you until adults step in to make sure you are included, and if you are lucky the adults aren't part of the shunning.

Luckily for me, Girl Scouts was only somewhat bad one year. We moved, and then I hated the activities which focused around makeup and "girl stuff" instead of crafts and camping and things. My shunning was in school itself, and unfortunately the teachers didn't help at all.


Well I am glad your troop helped out a bit, I had mine ask me to leave and not come back because I didnt fit in with their religious boyscouts.

Honestly a large amount of troops are maintained by mormons or others as extended wings of their belief systems.


My father is an Eagle Scout that frequently volunteers for the organization at the national and council level. I don't always pay attention when he talks about scouts, but I have heard enough. I'm not very keen on supporting the organization myself, thanks to their abuse cover-ups and hostility towards non-orthodox people.

AFAIK, Mormons recently voted to stop using Boy Scouts as their de facto youth activities organization. The looming crash in membership numbers as a consequence is partly what prompted the organization to go co-ed.

But that's fine, as it also takes a huge and heavy thumb off the conservative pan of the political balance of the national organization. Without them, BSA can now be more open to LGBT scouts and leaders. Maybe even atheists someday. But...

Each troop is shaped in some part by their individual charter and the relationship with the sponsoring organization. If a troop meets in a church, it is likely to be more religious than one that meets in an elementary school gymnasium, or other municipal-owned building.

It's not a monolithic organization. Each council is different, and each troop has a lot of autonomy to organize its own activities.

This leads to situations where every troop within a 100 mile radius of your kid might be a complete mismatch for them, but if you do happen to find one that fits, it will likely remain that way until they age out.

If you can't find a scout troop near you that isn't filled with personality clashes, your kid will likely want to move away when they get the chance anyway, because the scout troops reflect the local culture. They will encounter the same kids at the high schools.


There is the Lone Scout program (part of BSA that almost no one knows about). The youth does not have to be in a troop, can still earn ranks/Eagle, merit badges, etc, can still participate in district/council/national events, and gets to wear a cool Lone Scout patch.


Same here. I was fast-tracked from Cubs to Boy Scouts because I was picked on and teased endlessly by many of the scouts. Later in my early teens even the scout master gave me hell because he was the father of the worst bully in the troop. I eventually had to leave what I saw as an organization of bully-enablers. This was in a small country town in SE Texas, more like redneck-scouts.


Can confirm I had a terrible experience and I'm weird. I was bullied and driven out.


I'm a fan of these sorts of programs as well, but adolescents also really really need unstructured time together.


A properly executed Boy Scout program[1] should give adolescents a lot of unstructured time and leave them with the sense that they spent a weekend hanging out with their friends having fun. It's only at the Cub Scout level where it's appropriate for adults to be planning and leading a highly structured weekend of activities. When I take my troop camping, even if there's a fixed plan for an activity during the day (eg. if we've hired a whitewater rafting outfitter for the day), by 4 or 5PM on Saturday we're back in camp and the scouts' time is their own from then until mid-morning Sunday when they need to be packed up and ready for the drive home. They're still loosely supervised by adults, but there's no adult telling them when to start cooking dinner or when to go to bed.

[1] The program is officially no longer known as Boy Scouts in the US, now that it's starting to go co-ed.


In the Boy Scouts troop I was in, no one was allowed to spend time at the parents/adult leaders tent. There's several obvious reasons for this, but one is to force kids, especially those who have a parent volunteering, to spend time away from them and learn some independence. I think it was a great policy.


Yep, this is totally right and an important part of the program. But still not a substitute for spending unstructured time with peers. If nothing else, teenagers should be spending time with possible love interests, flirting, saying the wrong things, saying the right things, figuring out why which is which, that sort of thing. For the large majority of kids that wasn't going to happen at BSA events. Maybe that will change with the broadening to include girls, but I suspect that sort of stuff will be frowned on rather than encouraged; it's just not the goal of the program.


I agree with all of this and spent my youth as part of a really great troop that did lots of great youth-led events. It was a wonderful enriching experience that has had lasting value in my adult life. But it was not a replacement for all the time I spent hanging out shooting the shit with my friends. Both things were really important to me.


For cub scout camp directors, the plan must include daily scheduled periods of 'down time' during which scouts can play on open fields or playgrounds. For a four hour/day camp, this might be 30 to 45 min in the middle of the schedule. There's also free time before and after opening and closing ceremonies. The same is generally advised for meetings. Before a meeting, it's best to give them some time to blow off steam before having them sit for any length of time for anything structured. Making things fun is the best first step toward not only engaging them as individuals, but getting them engaged with each other. So yea, essential and well recognized by experienced scout leaders


Dunno, when I did cub scouts / Boy Scouts even 20 years ago it was basically glorified arts and crafts


When I did it about 15 years ago we got dumped in a fenced in bit of eucalypt forest with our pockets stuffed with "normal" items like knives/shoelaces/mueslibars/1.25L bottles of water/first aid kits and told to survive for 24 hours. Granted it's almost impossible to actually get yourself killed in 24 hours, we had quick access to leaders if we needed them, and we were all relatively trustworthy kids who'd trained for it, but it felt like more responsibility than arts and crafts.


I think a lot of parents would refuse such exercise today since they precious children could get hurt. I also think no one will do it anyway since parent will hold you responsible for any scratchs or dommages.

> Granted it's almost impossible to actually get yourself killed in 24 hours

You should not under estimate the stupid thing children/adolescent can do today...


The wording of their comment suggests heavily to me that they are from Australia. I participated in scouts in Australia about the same amount of time ago as we did somewhat similar things, going on camps where there was a reasonable amount of independence and I would have described it as arts and craftsy.

You mention concern about liability these days, but it's important to remember not everywhere is America. I can't speak to the rest of the world, but Australia is definitely nowhere near as litigious as the US. I could definitely see something like what they described still happening in Australia today.


I was a Boy Scout in America; we did the same thing. It was a great experience.


The US is a very large and diverse country. There are lots of outdoor adventure sort of activities in much of the country.


Very much so. Camping, hiking, fishing are very popular in a lot of places. There are still many areas where it's not uncommon for a boy to get a rifle or shotgun at around age 10 and start learning to hunt. This modern super-protective cocoon life is largely a suburban thing.


Wow, sounds like an Order of the Arrow (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Arrow) Ordeal. My large-city suburban US troop did this (I moved away before I was eligible to do it)!


I definitely remember doing this at OA.


By all accounts the experience varies enormously between troops. I’m sure someone who learned enough wilderness survival skills for it to be useful in their military career will pop up in the comments, and some more who suffered as you did.


Haha yeah. Camping was old hat to me when I went in the Marines. None of that stuff surprised me. One brutally cold night outside of Victorville we were supposed to dig in fighting holes but the ground was solid and nobody got more than a few inches deep despite hacking at it all day. We were going to be there all night.

Next to me was a big pile of wood chips for some reason. Knowing this would keep me warm and off of the ground, I lined my hole with a few inches of chips, training be damned. I was sleeping soundly (and warmly) when the company was roused at 0300 to go back to base. Nobody else slept a wink except those close enough to me to be warned. Basically, the CO got cold so we went home.

lol. I learned that survival training in the Scouts. Good times.


Id imagine it can be good if you’re never exposed to camping/survival otherwise.

I had to go through SERE for aircrew (which is in Spokane, WA) and that was the first time in my life I was ever out in the woods. It was such an insane shock and learning experience. I think there’s a lot of value being exposed to that stuff even if you have no desire to do it recreationally.


In my troop, most of the kids had never been Cub Scouts. Everyone in my patrol earned Eagle, and we never did any of the prepackaged artsy-craftsy stuff.

We crafted meals and campfires and patrol flags and lashed together poles to make camp gateways with banners and flags hanging off of it.

We slept inside caves, rapelled down cliffsides, and did weekend-sized training trips for week-long outdoor travel destinations like Quetico/Boundary Waters for canoeing, and Philmont for hiking, and then still did the council-organized camporees.

My troop joined with several others in the council to organize our own summer camp, because they thought the one run by the council was too weak, with respect to earning merit badges. You might get two or three badges at Ransburg. In the LBL group-camp area, you might earn a dozen, while also learning stuff like bow-drill firecrafting that isn't even a requirement for any badge. If you weren't in the right troops, you didn't even know about it.

The quality of the adult leadership absolutely has an impact on the experience for the kids, and that varies greatly. The economic class of the parents is also a factor. Some of the more interesting activities cost more money. That's when fundraising and sponsorship comes in. Richer parents get to have more independent troops.

If I ever had any inkling of going into the military, it all might have been an adequate replacement for about four weeks worth of training. Which would have gone instead into unlearning independent initiative and doing things the military way, instead of the situationally adaptive way. Scouts has a lot of ceremony in it, which seems somewhat lame, cult-like, and pseudo-patriotic in retrospect. That might have helped in a military career more than knowing how to build campfires and small game snares.


When I did scouts many years ago, there was definitely a lot of variation by troop. Some, like the one I was in, had a lot of weekend camping/hiking, extended trips, summer camp, etc. and the weekly/biweekly meetings were mostly just organizing for those activities. Other troops, scouts was mostly just those meetings with games/arts/crafts/etc.


Yea, for the first year of cub scouts with 5 year olds, that's the appropriate kind of activity that combines play, limited strength and skills, and allows you to mix in information about nature, society, arts, science, etc. That said, you also start camping the same year, with your parents, and transition to sharing tents with other kids over then next year or two. By the time kids are 10, they are running the boy scout troop, and the adults should be there just for support and advice. I put it this way: In cub scouts, the adults are at the front of the room. In boy scouts the adults are in the back of the room. In Venture/Explorer scouts, the adults are in the next room.


Agreed. I'm 34, I quit scouts at 13 as my father died just before I Turned 13 and everyone was treating me like a leper because they didn't know what to say or do BUT scout camps were:

- stamping pre-cut leather and using vinyl cord to 'stitch' it together to make wallets

- shooting splintered fiberglass bows at targets 5 feet away

- shooting bb guns older than my father 5 feet away

- singing cadences about "Uncle Dougie" the head of camp Belzer

Scout meetings were:

- carving soap into eskimos

- painting pinewood derby cars

- making a toolbox from pre-cut wood

- making model airplane from pre-cut wood

- doing idiotic skits that in hindsight were wildly innaporpriate like when I had to stand in front of everyone and go "When I grow up, I want to be a baker. Don't, eclaire turns and grabs butt buy my buns!" while others said things like "Be a surgeon. Needle, thread, stab him in the head" and "Be a girlscout, Heya mister, hiya mister *pretends to raise a skirt and show leg" wanna buy a cookIEEEE"?

God. I need therapy don't I?!

Camping trips were:

- Dads that have never camped, trying to drag full kitchens into the woods and burning every meal (my father refused to go on scout trips because he was a proper woodsman and they'd all be like "Mark can you help us with our tent/where's the bathroom/is this poison ivy/oh my god is this a tick/can I eat this/how do I start this fire, where's the gasoline"

- Visiting the visitor's centers in state parks

- Walking on, often paved or drastically improved, par trails

- Group trips to the general store to buy ice cream and candy


I want my kids to either grow up in a huge city like NYC where I live or a rural area. I spent a year in a small town in rural NC and your kids can grow up wild.

I think the suburbs are the stifling force here. They're too safe.


I agree, it kills me to see a bus stop filled with idling cars of parents too scared to let their kids walk. Suburbs are incredibly stifling. Most of the recently built ones I've seen don't have sidewalks at all, it's very car-centric and closed off.


For sure. Here in NYC, I at least see kids walking home and hanging out with each other. If you can afford it, I'd say it's a great place to raise a kid.


I grew up in the suburbs in Northern Virginia, Everything is in biking distance, including shopping malls, the Potomac River, all sorts of parks, etc.

Schools in my district require at least 1 parent to be present at the bus stop in the morning and at drop-off time for elementary school kids. Whether or not that's the right way to go about it I don't know, but past that age everyone walks to school/bus stop alone.


The suburbs are super restrictive for kids to interact. I had a friend who lived in a development that had like 1.5mi of winding roads and cul-de-sac before you hit his house. It took almost 5 minutes by car just to hit the exit of the development, which was a 45mph road without any nearby crosswalk and you'd definitely die on a bike. The place had no sidewalks either. If you don't have a license and the only means of travel is by car, what do you do? You get on facetime/videogames with your friends.


Estes model rockets still offer a little bit of that wild freedom. You build something yourself and shoot it into the sky on a pillar of flame. And if you're really lucky you get it back in the end.


>Estes model rockets still offer a little bit of that wild freedom

Until you get arrested for trespassing launching or retrieving, or you take out someone's drone and they sue you, or it lands on someone's property and they sue you, or someone calls protective services because "a couple of yutes were playing with 'explosives', no parent in sight".

Sigh. :(


I almost said freedom and uncertainty but yeah it requires some planning and some common sense. Like finding a large enough area you won't land on a house and if the wind takes it you let it go. Mine often fed the trees. :shakes fist: Damn trees!


Good luck finding anywhere legal to launch them. None of the places I used as a kid can be used anymore.


I know kids who have pocket knifes and it does not strike me as something weird. But, making explosives and fires while not knowing how to keep it safe is something that rightfully disappeared. Such activities did not ended up well all the time actually.


"even having a pocket knife" .. I must have given away at least 5 swiss army knives to TSA. The teenager in me still clings on to a pocket knife.


I almost never have a pocket knife with me these days because wherever I put it, it's just a matter of time before I leave it in some bag that I throw into carry-on for a plane trip.


A good pocket knife has a lot of utility, and now you can probably afford a nicer knife to carry.


"Makes you wonder what life will be like for children 50 years from now, and how that would compare with today."

I cringed watching the new ALITA: Battle Angel movie, (Spiritual successor to Avator, directed by James Cameron). There was a teen romance section where the android and hot guy went through the tropes (riding on the back of his bike hugging tight, sneaking into his bedroom, watching him put on a tight fitting shirt)

it was weird because in Japan they are intensely lonely with people paying for surrogate GF's etc... and the robot industries are starting to develop 'romance' robots.


Lol spiritual successor to Avatar what the fuck are you talking about


Surely kids still try to make gunpowder, what are you talking about? And for who but kids are pocket knives and chenistry sets made?

> there was a time when making explosives was a childhood right of passage along with chemistry sets, making fires, even having a pocket knife.


In the UK, both are now illegal, can't even sell a knife to anybody under 18, same with glue and many things above and beyond alcohol and tobacco. Equally, having a knife in public, would be mandatory jail in the UK in the current climate. For a child, they would be taken into care and some serious nightmares for the parents from social services and the police.

As for explosives, all the above, but far worse. By default you would get classed a terrorist until proven innocent style justice on that one, again the current climate.


> Equally, having a knife in public, would be mandatory jail in the UK in the current climate.

No, this is untrue, please don't spread misinformation like this.

If you're carrying a small and legal knife you're okay. If you're carrying a bigger knife but have a good reason you're okay. It's only if you're taking a knife into a football stadium or school or if you're affiliated with a gang that you're going to risk prosecution, and even then jail would be unusual.

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/offensive-weapons-kniv...

Here's the CPS saying that youths may not even be charged, let alone receive a prison sentence:

> The first arrest of a youth aged 16 years or over, for simple possession of an offensive weapon or sharply pointed blade, with no aggravating factors will normally result in a charge.

> The first arrest of a youth aged under 16 years for simple possession of an offensive weapon or sharply pointed blade, with no aggravating factors, will result, in a Youth Caution or a Youth Conditional Caution. This must be supported by an appropriate YOT intervention, preferably with elements focussed on anti-knife crime education. For a youth under 16 years, an out of court disposal which is not a youth caution or a youth conditional caution should not be used.

The sentencing council has guidance here: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/publications/item/blade...

For "Section 139 Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Bladed and Pointed Articles)" the recommendation is here: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/magistrates-co...

> Maximum: 4 years’ custody

> Offence range: Fine – 2 years 6 months’ custody

But you need to read it to work out what tips it into prison sentence vs a fine.


You can't take a knife into a football stadium here in the USA, either.


What kind of knives are we talking about? Are even mini Swiss Army knives with 1.5" blades banned? What about a multi-tool like a Leatherman Wave, which has three 3" blades along with pliers, etc? I carry my leatherman everywhere I go, and wouldn't blink if I saw a 14 year old with one. Ontario, Canada.


The official line is:- https://www.police.uk/crime-prevention-advice/possession-of-...

However, interpretation of what threatening is varies and for some people say walking a dog, the sight of a knife of any form would be a call to the police - however legal or not. This and the internet has demonstrated time and time again, that whatever is said or done - their will always be some who will take offence.

Take a look at - https://www.knifefree.co.uk/ which is linked upon that page. Can see what type of message they are putting out regarding knives, do recommend doing that quiz. Also interesting is the boss button on the right (quick exit from site onto google).

But then the UK is very London centric in how laws and rules get driven and more so - enforced. Compared to Canada, in which you have more wilderness, the social culture is more at ease and as such the law/system - less reactionary. Equally you have whole area's in which people don't lock their doors. Unheard of in today's times in the UK alas (though I'm sure there are small hamlets of hope). Though was common in the past, even in London.


Wow, so if I, say buy a cooking knife and get "caught" carrying it home from the store, "A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife if you’re charged with carrying it illegally."

Or if I take a chef's knife to a friend's house to cook dinner with them, the same court will intervene? Presumably following an arrest?

That second link is just so creepy to me (pacifist American). I can see how it uses language in such an incriminating way. It's so absolute: "When you carry a knife, you're risking everything." That's a sublime exaggeration. Worst case, I'm risking one life. Not trivial, but a far cry from "everything."

"knife crime has devastating personal effects on you, your friends, and your family." Meh, it may. But mostly it sounds like the effects are all visited on me by the government. Icky, over-reaching and emasculating.

I can see how it gives people who are already good the warm fuzzies, but actual criminals will mock and sneer at this "effort." ...and it looks like "knife crime" (as opposed to say "burglary" or "homicide", actual crimes, not crimes directed by a specific weapon (again with that authoritarian language)) has nearly doubled in the last 5 years, so great job with your authoritarian campaign, UK! /s https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42749089


You've been given misinformation.

If you're carrying a cooking knife there's no reason to stop you or search you. But if somehow there is a reason to stop and search you, and you have your new knife in its packaging with a receipt the police will say "what's this?" and you'll say "it's a cooking knife I've just bought and am taking home" and they'll say no more about it unless eg you have a conviction for stabbing people or you have a restraining order against you because you've threatened to kill someone.


So convicted criminals and people with restraining orders have to have someone straw purchase the items required to have a properly outfitted kitchen?

In one of the Chinese social credit comment threads someone said "well of course people who haven't run a foul of an authoritarian system generally approve of it" and I think that applies here too.


Precisely. I could entirely legally carry my knife roll on the train up to my friend in Leeds, and if stopped explain "I'm intending to cook whilst there, these are my knives for doing so". The police have every right to corroborate this story, but there is no crime there.

The thing I've potentially fallen foul of is a chunky pocket knife I keep with my climbing/camping gear bag and have on occasion forgotten to remove before going to indoor walls in London. I suspect I'd potentially be told off a bit for that, but again no fear of being charged with anything.


Back to reality, there's no problem with all reasonable purposes to carry a knife, like after purchase or for cooking. There's no problem carrying a Swiss Army knife. The police aren't looking for knives like this, and if they do find one for some reason, they are very unlikely to arrest you.

If you've gone to a bar after your dinner party, and you're carrying the "cooking" knife somewhere accessible (like your pocket), that could be a problem for you.

Children in rough areas should interpret the rules less favourably.


The non-locking 3-inch blade of a Swiss Army knife is not good as a weapon. If you ever need to use a Swiss Army knife for self-defense, flip out one of the half-length, center-mount tools--like the corkscrew, Phillips-head screwdriver, or preferably the awl--and hold the body of the knife in your palm, with the tool extending between middle and ring fingers. Then punch with it, until you get an opportunity to escape.

If you try to cut someone with the knife blade, you'll likely end up breaking it off or closing it on your own fingers. A knife weapon absolutely needs to have a fixed or locking blade.

And that's why a police officer will never have a problem with a non-locking pocketknife. A cop might. A pig definitely will. As long as the latter exist, you might as well carry a tool-knife with a "legitimate purpose" that can also be used as a weapon-knife if necessary, because following the spirit of the law won't help you it a letter-of-the-law bastard gets it in his head to screw you over.


Perhaps you want to increase survival chances against people with legal weapons (aka dogs):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_dog_attacks_in_England_a...

This whole thing is just nonsense and another form of humiliation of the oppressed by "the" "state".


And yet somehow millions of us manage to survive largly without incident into adulthood. Incredible!

It's almost as if this is an incredibly minor consideration.


That looks like a parody website. Just to be clear, though, it's not, right?


It is not.

A website is a much cheaper way of "doing something" than solving the underlying problems of poverty and drug violence.

This surprised me: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/09/british-soma...


UK law is that a folding knife under 3" is generally legal to carry in public. Anything else requires a "good reason", which can be problematic if the cop/judge doesn't see things your way. A court ruling some time ago decided that a folding knife with a locking mechanism is actually a fixed blade and therefore not generally legal to carry.

Traditional Swiss Army Knives are non-locking and most of them are under 3". Most modern multitools do have locking blades and would run afoul of the aforementioned court ruling. I'm not sure if being under 18 changes things, but it very well might given the UK has such a hostile attitude toward teenagers that it popularized the use of a low-grade sonic weapon to discourage their presence in public spaces (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mosquito).


Sounds like the leatherman I had as a teenager would be illegal then; that's pretty nuts. The most dangerous thing I ever did with it was take apart a microwave oven, and that didn't even involve the blade.


I have a leatherman in London with a locking blade. It was a Christmas present from my dad and I emailed the local police about the legality of it.

Ultimately, if you're walking round with it in the bottom of your bag and you have a use for it, you'll be fine. They're looking to stop people from having it in their pocket as they're walking round town. Same with the kitchen knives, got it down the back of your trousers 11pm loitering around, they're gonna get you.

They're legal to have at home as well, and can be bought on Amazon.


That doesn't sound very reasonable to me. Is my pocket not a perfectly reasonable place to put my leatherman? It takes many seconds to unfold it and then unfold the blade, it's not exactly a switchblade. I'm not doing dance battles in the streets against the Sharks and Jets with it (is that really what London is like?)

Carrying around a bag when I'm out and about town is a bad habit I broke myself from a few years ago, but supposing it were in my backpack instead of my pocket, what's the difference? Probably three or four seconds to retrieve it, on top of probably about 10 or so to unfold it and then unfold the blade as well.

For this to even be a shade of gray is ridiculous.


> I'm not doing dance battles in the streets against the Sharks and Jets with it (is that really what London is like?)

I had to look that up, but the rate of incidents suggests that for some teenagers in London, it could be like that.

> supposing it were in my backpack instead of my pocket, what's the difference?

You are not "armed", it's not available for use to make an opportunistic attack or defence. "Don't run off, I need to get my knife out of my bag!"

(Do note that the knife violence is almost entirely within [youth] gangs, and shouldn't be a worry for anyone considering visiting London.)

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/knifecrime


This article from that link (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/14/knife-and-we...) suggests 21 thousand knife incidents in 2018 across all of England and Wales, the combined population of which is nearly 60 million people.

The whole thing seems like an overblown hysteria to me. 21 thousand sounds like a lot until you put it into perspective. How low does that number have to get before knife regulations are walked back and people are given their rights back?


> What kind of knives are we talking about?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQrLPtr_ikE


My friends and I grew up field testing pretty much everything in the anarchist cook book.

Our summers were filled making exotic explosives and blowing things up.

It’s a wonder we all lived, with no major injuries or jail time.

Our antics would land a kid these days in Guantanamo Bay.


Having a copy of the anarchist / jolly roger cookbook would have you serving jail time in 2019.

I remember a time where you would see printed copies at car boot sales or numerous geocity copies.


Not on its own. It's been considered additional evidence for (planning) terrorism as far as I know.


You could buy it at a local comic book store in the 90s in Erie, PA.

(Ps, my local pizza shop, just down the road from the comic shop, was the feature of the Netflix doc Evil Genius. The Pizza Bomber was the dude who brought us our pizza and my best friends managed the shop when it all went down.)


I was recently a child in the uk only a few years ago (I'm in my early 20s) and got into trouble for having a knife while playing out in the woods. I was sent home with the knife confiscated, and it was later returned to me.

Of course, its entirely possible in other circumstances for it to be less/more acceptable. While at scouts we could of course carry knives without worry, and even met police officers who came to talk to us who had no issue with us carrying it while explicitly using them for scouting.


Who decided it was a problem — police, or an interfering parent?


police


tesco sells gunpowder perfectly legally in the form of fireworks

(but yes you have to be 18)


Fireworks are not legal for sale or possession in the more "progressive" parts of the US. (quotes added to emphasize the irony)


All of the chemistry sets I've seen for the last 10 years have been severely nerfed. Nothing like the type of thing I had when I was a kid in the 80s.


The irony of the pocket knife (Swiss Army Knife) for me is the amount of times that mine came in handy for the tweezers.

I saved countless people from the agony of a splinter with those little tweezers.

I worked in retail at the time - Saturday job, something kids don't do any more - and many fixtures were made of wood. Splinters happened. I saved the day every time someone was in agony from a splinter. I didn't keep records but at least every fortnight there would be an incident of getting the tweezers out.

In those days leaving the house without my pocket knife would have felt like leaving the house without my keys now. The funny thing was that I didn't have keys, the lock on the door at home was only used once or twice a year when on holidays or visiting distant relatives.

Fires were also another large part of my upbringing. Nowadays we have recycling but there was a time when adults would be okay with kids lighting fires, either in a fireplace, out in the back yard or for amusement with friends and flammable explosives. You wouldn't let a child anywhere near petrol nowadays but back in the day that was something on hand and used to get damp things started. The only punishment would be for using it ineffectively.

My pen knife was mostly used for opening boxes, it was sharpened a few times by adults as a favour. Imagine that today, sharpening a kid's knife for them and that being okay.


> Surely kids still try to make gunpowder

I'm in my mid-20s, having grown up in a jurisdiction where home fireworks have been banned for many years.

Apart from my year 9 science teacher, who let off an explosion down one end of the school oval so we could time the difference seeing the flash and hearing the bang, I can't think of anyone I know who has told me they've ever tried to make gunpowder at home. Obviously I think I probably do know a few people who have but not told me. But it's not something that really ever crossed my mind as a thing you would do.

(Of course, I'm very conformist by disposition, perhaps I just don't hang out with sufficiently exciting friends.)

All things considered I think I prefer overly strict regulation on explosives to inadequately strict...


I'm in my early 20's, living in Central Europe. We made a lot of gunpowder when I was a kid, and we shot fireworks at each other when I was teen. Up until around 13 I was carrying a knife everywhere I went. Sometimes we played cops & robbers and were shooting each other with realistically looking airsoft guns right on the street, later we bought more powerful weapons. When I was around 14 I had a very good looking fake of AK 47, a cop once stopped me when I was carrying it openly on my back - to ask where I bought it so he could buy it for his son.

None of that is possible today I think, except for the knife, that is still okay where I live. Boy & Girl Scouts are wildly popular here for more than 100 years, that probably helps.


>Surely kids still try to make gunpowder, what are you talking about?

The late Jerry Pournelle told a story (at least) once on a twit.tv podcast about how when he was a child the encyclopedias effectively told you how to make explosives, and he did, and damn near blew himself up dropping them into a pond while he was in a boat.

More recently, as part of the firecrafter ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firecrafter )line of patches here in Indiana in scouts in the mid-late 90s we were taught out to mix various automotive, and household, chemicals to create fires.

One involved dipping cloth into an open-cell car battery, using some water purification tabs and some sugar (I think we used pixie sticks) IIRC.


Pocket knives are very useful for (adult) backpackers, mountaineers and other people who do a lot of outdoors stuff. Hell even in every day life pocket knives can come in handy. You never know when you will need to cut a zip tie or something.


As a home owner I wouldn't be able to go outside without my multi-tool (which includes a 7 cm foldable blade). I use it on a daily basis, and always keep it in my pocket even when going somewhere.

Only reaction I ever got was from a security guard at a store, when I took it up to cut a piece of cable because the store's cable cutter was too dull. He asked where I bought it.

When I was a kid, I walked around with a 10 cm utility knife in my belt, at all times. If I'd done that today on the other hand...


In California you get carded when buying anti-dust compressed air, and they won't sell to minors. I was baffled when I was buying a few cans at my local Fry's and they asked me for ID.

I remember having lots of compressed air cans around my home when I was growing up and I somehow managed to not kill myself.


This is more because folks huff canned air to get high. The first time I heard of this was someone huffing air freshener, but canned air doesn't have as much... smell, yet still has propellant enough to get high.

I worked in a pharmacy for some years. A teenager came into the store one day, went to the stationary isle, and started huffing the canned air. Dude was a bit violent towards the pharmacist, who was checking to see what the noise was. We wound up calling the cops and feeling really badly for his mother, who was waiting in the car in the parking lot.

Luckily, most folks have canned air for normal purposes - and it seems you did as well.


As you probably know, it isn't air but an alkane mix.

I'm more concerned by the label "air" meaning people don't know this. A colleague sprayed it in his mouth... (no harm done, but still)


You can get a buzz off canned air. There's a famous episode of the A&E show 'Intervention' with that topic (walking on sunshine)


50 years from now there's a decent chance they'll be coping with the fallout from climate change (or hey, maybe antibiotic resistance?) and the collapse of the power structures that stifles the existence of current teenagers.


Might end up being more fun. Sounds better than sitting in a bedroom in front of a screen for 12 hours a day.


Yes, more and more super-suburban living, combined with increasingly restrictive teen driving regulations, curfews, and fear-based media stories about abductions have ratcheted down the ability of teens to hang out together. So when technology came along to enable improved interpersonal contact, it was embraced far more rapidly than it would have been if teen freedom were as high as it was in the 70s.

The graphs they show don't perfectly correlate to the trends in hanging out in person. While smartphones have definitely contributed to changes in the culture (for everyone, not just teens), it's false to pretend that they are entirely responsible for changes in loneliness. It just as well may correlate to being bombarded by reactionary hatred from adults over things teens have grown up thinking about more openly, like more open ideas about gender and sexuality. Or perhaps from finding themselves in a culture of fear about mass shootings while again faced with an adult political establishment who does nothing about it. Or maybe just facing the reality that the grown-ups are making things worse, day by day, and that they're going to have to clean this all up after us.

Smartphones have nothing to do with that.


* suburbs [check]

* "hatred" [check]

* gun owners [check]

Looks like this is an open-and-shut case. The problem is Republicans / red staters / etc.


> that they are entirely responsible for changes in loneliness.

loneliness? The amount and richness of communication like the number of participants, number of parallel communications, number of the topics and the range of opinions, etc. is most probably much higher when using smartphones then when it is subject to the limitations of physical presence. Our species brain development is basically history of social communication, and the smartphones transcending those limits of physical presence is the next step for the brain development of our species. Granted the adjustment period may have its quirks, like absence of non-verbal parts of communication - face emotions, gestures, etc. - that our brain evolved to expect and not receives anymore and thus doesn't get the associated dopamine - may feel like loneliness.


It’s hazardous and frankly inhuman to boil down human interaction into metrics like “number of participants.”

I’m amused by this notion that “it may feel like loneliness but it’s actually the richness of our new modes of communication you are feeling! Just get used to it!”


It just occurred to me that virtual interaction is like a vitamin pill. There should be a right amount of human interaction, at right timings, in a right way. But today it's happening too often and/or too much, and the type of interactions is limited. Just like vitamins, it's easy to overdose. The best way to take nutrition/interaction is through natural ways because it gives you other kinds of nutrition and there's less risk of overdose, etc.


I don't think vitamins are a good example here. It's really tough to overdose on OTC vitamins. But most people derive no health benefit from vitamin supplements.

As for human interaction, the "right" amount is different for everyone.


> There should be a right amount of human interaction, at right timings, in a right way. But today it's happening too often and/or too much, and the type of interactions is limited. Just like vitamins, it's easy to overdose.

This is true of most things.


>It’s hazardous and frankly inhuman to boil down human interaction into metrics like “number of participants.”

the tech today allows to for example easily and frequently Skype with your family, like parents, sibling, nephews residing on the other continent. A humongous improvement compare to previous modes of expensive international phone, especially when many of those participants didn't have a phone back then. What is inhuman here?

It also allowed for communication like we have here on HN. Before, it would be limited to just watercooler chat with colleagues at work with very limited exposure and exploration of genuine opposite/conflicting opinions, whereis we can have a bleeding-trolling-edge blast online.


An in person hug with a close friend or family member is worth a lot. Phone calls have been around for a long time and still miss out on such things. Cellphones provide some benifit, but often reduce the quality of face to face interactions by distracting one or more participants.


Just because you can communicate with someone doesn’t mean you don’t feel lonely.


This is the most concise statement of the problem with communication technology I’ve ever read.


> "... may feel like loneliness."

Isn't the feeling the whole point?

It's a bit strange to claim that, even though some people might feel lonely, they aren't /actually/. Lonely is a word that refers to an emotion -- not a word that refers to the circumstances that tend to bring about that emotion.

I'll grant you that if we had a perfect account of what those circumstances were, the two might be identical (for a physicalist, anyway). But that some people "may feel lonely" even now is a proof by counterexample that your account is not it.


I feel that GP has confused loneliness with being alone, when they are two very different concepts.

It's absolutely possible to be alone and not feel lonely, possibly because one is an introvert or because they gain social fulfilment from online interaction.

On the other hand it's also absolutely possible to be surrounded with people, and even have rich social interaction with them, and still feel lonely. This could be simply due to interacting with the wrong people, but can also be symptomatic of mental health issues such as depressive or anxiety disorders.


Humans need to interact physically (not necessarily with touch, but with proximity) with other humans. We are social animals.

Communication and interaction in social relationships is not just about information exchange. Non-verbal interaction (touch, gestures, physical closeness) are just as essential, if not more essential than verbal/text interaction for the majority of people.


Before 9/11, kids could get away with more. Not so these days (so I'm told)

Anecdote: my dad was stopped in an early 70s Mazda that was barely running and had a rusty floorboard hole so big you could stick your foot in it and flintstone down the road if you were a moron. He and a buddy loaded up 3-6 rifles and threw them in the back seat to go on down the road to shoot some skeets and/or whatever poor Cardinals were handy. No internet in those days, what are some bored teens to do?

Long story short, they were pulled over, told to get their erm unique vehicle and weapons outta the LEOs county before he changed his mind.

Today? Anyone getting pulled over like that would be jailed on charges of terrorism/conspiracy/something but that behavior would be considered highly irregular and put a stop to immediately. Punks like my dad would not be given a stern warning and marching orders, what police officer in their right mind would be caught on camera letting punks with several rifles go off wherever? Our societal walls of range of behavior have shrunk a lot thanks to ever-present electronic recording and unbounded fear of violent crimes.

But the internet? You can have a lotta fun on the internet, whether its HN, iwastesomuchtime.com, liliputing, Netflix, etc.


I concur. The real world is zero tolerance nowadays. There doesn’t seem to be any room for second chances in real life unless your parents are wealthy.


> Today? Anyone getting pulled over like that would be jailed on charges of terrorism/conspiracy/something but that behavior would be considered highly irregular and put a stop to immediately.

I think you have a general point that is correct, but I question this example. Sketchy looking people with firearms driving beaters are pulled over by police very regularly in the US.

The only thing in this story that police might not let slide today is the hole in the floorboards. That sounds like a legitimately dangerous vehicle that probably shouldn't be on the roads. But that isn't so different from the police not letting you drive around with a broken windshield, and is not the social catastrophe you describe.


I don't think it was 9/11. My siblings and I all spent our teen years after 9/11 but before the proliferation of smartphones (I didn't get mine until I was a senior in college). We all hung out with friends, often after dark. We went to public school and lot of our friends weren't high income so hanging out in person was the main method of entertainment. Maybe our experience was not representative of the norm. In retrospect our parents were strong believers in the antifragility of children, and consistently sought to give us as much freedom and responsibilities as we could safely bear. I remember doing things like changing oil, fixing lawn mower blades, learning how to use a chainsaw in my early teens. They took me to a shotgun class (because my dad got invited to a bird hunting trip) even though I had zero interest in guns at the time. I also took an hour bus ride to school through the worst part of town. My parents could have sheltered their kids from experiences like these but chose not to. Maybe they weren't regular parents, but I sincerely hope the claim that kids are so sheltered and isolated these days is rooted more in stereotype than fact.


I've been pulled over in the last couple years with a handful of rifles in the back seat of my truck.

On the way to/from the shooting range. Let the officer know what I had and why, they don't even bother to look back there.


I'd venture a guess you're not a male under 30 driving a beater car (i.e. the high crime demographic).


There also ought be more public spaces in general. When everything is all zoned up to be residential or commercial, there's nowhere to go without a credit card.


My area recently zoned a block of unused space to be used for dirt jumps and left some shovels and a wheelbarrow there. Its now an awesome place to go hang out and ride a bike. Every day when school finishes you see a group of about 10 kids riding from school to the jumps.

It cost the council probably less than $1000 to turn a block of weeds in to an awesome social space.


This is becoming more of a problem, at least in the city I live. Greenspaces and public parks are being replaced with condos and apartment complexes with their own walled off private courtyards and such. Parks, little groves of trees and stuff are the kinds of places we'd hang out as teenagers a lot.


Which city is that? Most cities are unwilling to sell off public parks to private developers. Do you have specific examples of parks that were built over and not replaced with something accessible to the public?


In South Australia there was recently protests to stop a parklands getting turned in to a supermarket. I never heard what ended up happening there but the council was pushing hard to get it converted because "Shoppers are demanding more choice"


I'd rather not be too specific, but in the lower mainland in BC. Yeah, the one that used to be just down the road from me that's about to be turned, first into a giant pit, then into a large complex of highrises.


I can tell you that as a parent of an 18 yr old, I've always encouraged him to go out and be with his friends. Since he was 12, he's much preferred to meet online in games. Whole groups of them. Whooping and hollering until the wee hours of the morning, when they can.

But, I generally agree with your statement.

Oh, I have a son, some it might be vastly different for daughters.


Video games have brought an unprecedented transformation in the way young boys spend their free time, and not all for the good. As a volunteer who tutors kids in high school (and a former "hardcore gamer") and middle school I will say, anecdotally speaking, that they've made boys more sedentary, more isolated, and less interested in school.

I think the most insidious aspect of video games is that they are a success surrogate. I spent over a decade and a half playing games after dropping out of high school at age 16. What kept me going was the feeling of success and accomplishment I got from impressing my online friends in games.

Now in my mid-30s, I'm an undergrad in mathematics and finally putting my life back together. I've come to realize that video games are a terrible substitute for real life accomplishments and that online gaming friendships pale in comparison to building relationships with real people, in person.


Video games were also a very big part of my life. While it was fun and brought a lot of memories, I would still rate it as a net negative. There were so many opportunities that I missed(academically, socially, romantically, financially) because I would just prefer to either play in the arcades all day or play with my friend's house on their consoles.

While I would probably still enjoy playing video games, I have actively went out of my way to avoid them. I have replaced them with healthier solitary activities IMO(music production, UI design) or more outgoing activities like cultural meetups, hiking and the like.


I love video games, but there's something about playing video games for extended periods that really messes with your head. Compared to painting pictures and making music, there's a noticeable "brain fog" that I experience after video games. It's simply not there with music and art.

Not sure what the difference is, but it's definitely different. Whenever I get into a game, I try and limit playing time to 2 hours at a time. Which, can be quite hard to accomplish. Even as a 38 year old.


> and less interested in school.

Though my profession is probably owed to the unsanctioned time I spent online in my youth (especially time away from school), and I luckily never had access to enough unearned money to buy a fast enough computer to play video games, never really played video games much, and still don't now that I have threadrippers, hundreds of gigs of ram, and top tier GPUs sitting around everywhere.

Some parents see the issues with video games as extending to access to computers as a whole, and I think that could have its own social cost.

If I were raising a kid right now, I'd probably have them on a feature phone, and a PC which stops short of playing modern games; but I think a lot of people would struggle with hypocrisy if they did that, since they own gaming hardware and play video games themselves, and my own mother is rather attached to her smartphone.


> I'd probably have them on a feature phone ...

Everyone thinks that, and then caves under the pressure.


Grow a spine. If you are too weak to withhold a luxury electronic device from a child in your care, you are probably too weak to raise a child in general... I think.

I mean, I don't have kids, but I can't imagine being plied into spending hundreds of dollars on something which I don't want even for myself, and which I think is bad for the recipient.


> I don't have kids

It's easy to say you'll do this and that with kids, but things change when you have them.


I'm in my mid-30s as well and I agree w/ your conclusion. I find that games work best when played occasionally as a substitute for real life activities that aren't legal or safe. E.g., GTA V allows you to steal cars, play with gasoline and rob 711's; activities that if attempted IRL would either kill you or land you in prison.


> E.g., GTA V allows you to steal cars, play with gasoline and rob 711's; activities that if attempted IRL would either kill you or land you in prison.

This isn't true though, is it?

GTA V is simply cheaper for the sandbox space: but you're actually perfectly free to get some paintball guns, some cars, some gasoline, buy an old 7-11, fence it off, and play paintball GTA V.

That would just be more expensive and tiring, while less convenient.

(It sounds more fun to me, but YMMV -- and economically, you can probably rent the space to the police for training to break even.)


I think encouragement and all-else-being-equal preference for in-person vs. online is pretty much a non-factor, short of extreme cases.

As mentioned above, there's just no comparison any more. I grew up in the city and had very, very few restrictions[1] on where/when I was out from around age 15, and we still preferred online. Going out in person is expensive, not everyone had equal transit access (and no one had a consistently available car), etc.

Yes, there were people who didn't join up online, who I would've loved to see more of. Meeting up with them more often would have been great, but doing it regularly just wasn't feasible - we'd see everyone at school and maybe after for 15-30 minutes while people cleared out, but that was the only regular thing.

[1] Mostly of the 'tell us where and when' variety - if my parents knew roughly how to find me if needed, that was good enough.


It sounds like your encouragement for your son is in the right direction. The thing about the present situation is that it's not just about what individual parents allow and disallow. It's about process works on average for a group of friends. And often, what they see other friends do.

So if online interactions is the average, it will be hard to change that.


>As with younger children, parents are less likely now than in past decades to allow their teenage children to travel alone or hang out in groups without adults present.

This is byproduct of the "stranger danger", everything is trying to harm you/kill you mentality.

>Legal restrictions compound the issue, with curfew laws being increasingly common, as well as increased driving ages and graduated licenses.

Curfews are always the double-edged reasoning sword used: It's to prevent crime and/or keep kids safe. This is, more or less, the byproduct of adults acquiescing to the government's mandates, yeah?

>Finally, businesses that used to be popular hangouts for teenagers, such as shopping malls have become less welcoming, often having limits on when teenagers are allowed on the premises without a parent.

Well, this is only partially true. For one, you're not considering that malls, in the classical sense as we remember them, have been pretty much replaced by strip malls (unless you're in Europe). For two, this entirely negates swathes of teens who live "in the sticks", as it were, where the nearest town (much less, city) is 10km or more away.

I'd like to see a breakdown of these stats in an urban versus rural environment context and by social classes context.

I'd suspect that those whom are far more disadvantaged are quite more likely to meet-up in person than their more affluent counterparts. I'd also suspect that there's correlation between the urban and rural teenagers, as well, in terms of classes, which might lend directly back to whether or not they're more or less likely to meet-up in person (given the disadvantaged, who are more apt to live in rural areas, will probably have far few incidences of access to mobile phones).


I was kind of wild in high school. I graduated in 2008.

We had a lot of parties. drinking, smoking, etc.

My parents were really upset with me later in life. I have always brought up to them The fact that they were allowed to drink at 18. There were bars that would accept them. They had places to go.

In 2008, me and my peers had nowhere to go. The choice is to either find a place to secretly meet, or don't congregate at all in your teens. The choice there is obvious.


> Part of the issue, I think is that teenagers are more restricted by parents, laws, and business owners than they used to be.

Part of this is the ever increasing liability (real or perceived) of being in any proximity to somebody else's kids as a business owner or member of the general public.


So true. A friend of mine owns a shop, and she wants nothing to do with kids in her store.


This doesn't just apply to teens: we as a society suck at creating social spaces outside of the home and work for anyone. Churches failed catastrophically to adapt to changing social values, civil-society type organizations have done nothing but decline for decades, and people in general have less free time to devote to building communities outside of work.


> Part of the issue, I think is that teenagers are more restricted by parents, laws, and business owners than they used to be.

This should be easy to check. If this is true, then it would be different in countries with different laws and customs. My impression (from what I read about it online) is that American parents and society tend to be much restrictive about freedom for their kids than parents elsewhere.

I certainly encourage my son (9) to go out more, but he just doesn't want to. He meets his friends online. I would love to give him a 4 day train ticket when he is 12 to travel the country on his own like I did at that age, but I doubt he'll be interested.

And the abundance of mobile phones just makes that sort of freedom easier, not harder. I think it's really just the addictive nature of computers and online interaction that makes meeting people in person less relevant.


I agree. Also the obsession with school and getting into college (much more work, much less play).


For some maybe but for my son and all his friends they just rather be on their phone.

i dont understand it personally


Think of them less as 'phones' and more as 'portable strip malls'. A video arcade with every game next door to porn shop with every porno next to a theater w/ every movie and there's places to meet up with friends, meet girls or buy drugs. There's a phone there if you need to make a call but it's not the main attraction.


My son said that most of the kids that actually hang out in person do so to party with drugs or alcohol. He chooses to stay home and rebuild motorcycles and play games.

Its as if all the casual socializing has moved to digital.


Now that you mention it, there really isn't a digital substitute for physically tinkering with mechanical stuff or rebuilding things. Hopefully you'll give the guy some hand-me-down desktop PCs, I was under the impression that mechanically inclined kids had become extinct in the developed world.


I have to laugh at this. If one more teen tells me they don't want to leave the house or learn to drive, because they "don't need to"... I guess it's not their choice. They're infantilized by their parents so that they no longer want to leave and be independent. They just want to send pictures by phone. It's their parents fault, not society, or technology, and certainly not the choice of the children, because remember they've been infantilized! Poor things... the creek, a stick, and some friends, just aren't as interesting as they used to be. Sigh... if only we hadn't made him go camping or learn to ride a bike.


YUP

Tell me a family that says " YOU BETTER BE HOME BY SUNDOWN "

Today.

Regardless of neighborhood...

I used to only come home for provisions and to prevent being grounded.

LET THE FUCKING KIDS PLAY. FORCE them to be outside and play. Period.

This is how you get nice things, like the internet.


Idk if this is specific to my generation, but us young people suck at hanging out. People never confirm whether or not they're going to an event. They flake all the time, often without warning. If they're not flaking, they're perpetually late, often absurdly (nothing like getting to a place and getting a text about just leaving). It drives me nuts. But it's so ubiquitous, it's hard to take a stand against it. It's like people forgot how to hang out with friends.


When I was a kid we had relatives who were always late by half an hour or more. I remember my parents planning event with sometimes hours of buffer to account for people being late with no mean to check if they'll even be there in the end.

I think we are more sensitive to these issues because there's less excuses (even 'traffic was bad' is less and less an excuse as we get ETAs, it needs to be something really bad happening to get sympathy).

We are more used to things being in sync (pre-checking shop opening hours or having average wait times for instance) and moving generally fast.


When I was a kid, which is getting to be a long time ago, we never really scheduled anything. People in our peer group tended to hang out in maybe 6-10 different locations - one being a particular bar, one being a particular corner, one being a particular house, etc. Sometimes a location would disappear, sometimes you'd hear about a new location.

On your downtime, you would go to one of those locations and join the group already there, or loiter a little while until someone you knew showed up. If nobody showed up, you'd drift to one of the other locations and do the same thing. One out of 20 times you'd go home without seeing anybody that you were interested in hanging out with.

That's how a commons works, I think. The problem is a lack of a commons, and a suspicion of people in public who aren't currently in the process of shopping. The idea that in this alienated time I'd go to a particular restaurant where people go, drink coffee and just wait for somebody to show up that wanted to hang out almost sounds utopian or suspiciously foreign, but it was my life from probably age 12 to 24.


The commons thing does sound pretty magical the way you described it. For me, there were often anti-social people at those common areas. People who you sometimes didn't want to run into, who were really certain subcultures and they didn't always mix.


I don't know if it's teenagers today, but that's always been the case for me and I'm in my mid 30s. Going outside close knit circle of people you know real well for a while, when you create an event people are perpetually going to leave their answer to the last minute or say maybe.


Perhaps that's the results of a fast-moving culture where, for most people, evening events and activities are prevalent and only a click away with the idea that the grass is always greener being prevalent. You don't want to commit to anything days, let alone weeks, in advance because maybe there will be something better to do. Maybe something you wanted to do with your friends a week ago no longer interests you or your couch is too comfortable to leave for the evening.


The flaking is terrible, oh my goodness. It’s hard to find friends who won’t do that to you.


People are just less invested in meeting in person nowadays with the ubiquity of social media as well as the increasing demands of society on our time.

People who never flake out now gets a lot of respect from me since they respect my time.


> It's like people forgot how to hang out with friends.

This isn't unique, I grew up on the cusp of cellphone ubiquity, and I think it's that in the first few years after people have real latitude in managing their own time, there's a steep learning curve. In In my experience though, this started to change around 18/19 when people started to realize that being flakey isn't cool. Does it seem like that's happening/happened with your peer group?


I volunteer at STEM after school program at a Northern California suburban public school in a very affluent county. Engineers from the local companies work on projects with hacker kids.

It's a pretty dreamy albeit "canned" town, I never lived in a place that nice. Lots of cul de sacs and "mini malls" and "canned fun" places that are very walkable (unlike the poorer suburbs where kids have to cross 8 lanes of traffic to meet at a Shari's).

I noticed that before I show up at 5PM (I get to leave work early two fridays a month, yay!, the kids are sitting around on their phones. And when I leave at 7pm, kids just go home with their parents. First: few of them drive. WTF?! Then the weird part: there's a frigging movieplex down the street with a bunch of restaurants and TWO parks on opposite sides of the main E/W street... and they just ... go home. WTF.

Maybe they are lying to the adults in the room, but the parents claim they go home and text or play computer games all night.


> few of them drive. WTF?!

Rad? I didn't need to drive in High School, and I still found plenty to do back in the 90s. Kids today have even more options.

> there's a frigging movieplex down the street with a bunch of restaurants and TWO parks on opposite sides of the main E/W street... and they just ... go home. WTF.

First, movie theaters are awful. Second, there's so much cool stuff to do once you get home! I can go home and play a space marine with my friends, or build castles, or ride dragons, or be the last one standing in any number of variations on king of the hill. I can jump online with my crew and be literally anything you can imagine. With tools like Roll20, I can tell stories and roleplay. I can watch Netflix with my friends online.

Restaurants are expensive. Parks are fun for a bit, but it seems pretty out of touch to say, "What The Fuck."


Is being so boring and antisocial a norm these days ? :D (Just busting your balls haha)

I think a lot of us deeply care about the future society that will cater to the people that are currently young. And it seems remarkably boring, superficial and for the lack of a better word, just devoid of anything fun.

In the end noone cares if this is a subculture (there were enough subcultures when I was in school i.e goths, metalheads etc), its more of a problem if this behaviour becomes uniform across all cultures and mainstream.


My argument is that it's not anti social. It's maybe less visibly social, but being in a group voice or video chat while playing board or video games is definitely a social activity. Or building something together - computers enable us to engage in storytelling and art in ways our ancestors could only dream of.

Yeah, sure, they aren't social in the same way you were. But you weren't social in the same ways your parents were either. Calling the younger generations antisocial because they've fully embraced technology as a core part of their identity smacks of patronism to me. Kids these days with their rock and roll, so antisocial!


So then, how does sex happen? (Or any intimacy.)

That's the bit the old people don't understand.

Board games are fine, as would be video games in the same room as the other players. But online?

Note that the same worry would apply to a youth who spent all their free time reading alone in the past.


Sex wasn't exactly supposed to be happening in past generations of teens. One of the reasons people sometimes had their first sexual experience in cars was because both sets of parents would block it at home, and they couldn't rent a hotel room.

My high school apparently got complaints from neighboring homes that students were having sex in their bushes.

So, yes, changing social lives may be an issue, but it doesn't seem like it was easy before.


It does not. That's why we have a massive drop in teenage pregnancies.


I disagree, kids have more access to sex education than ever now and tinder is a really good tool for hookups. They just know to use a condom. I remember my dad thought that if the woman was on top and you came inside her she wouldn't get pregnant because of gravity, 9 months later I showed up. Thank you catholic school for only teaching abstinence.


Online, like it did on IRC? ;)


You can be interesting and social indoors, online.

In my teenage years I played online games and had a group of online friends for years, some of which I am still in touch with regularly.

I don't understand how you get the boring bit though, partaking in outside activities does not make you interesting.


Fun for you != fun for everyone else.


"I can go home and play a space marine with my friends, or build castles, or ride dragons, or be the last one standing in any number of variations on king of the hill."

Wow. Just: wow.

I am eager to see how a generation that grew up in virtual reality deals with actual reality. So far it ain't lookin' so good.


There's also the fact that when you're in the suburbs, you need a chauffeur until you can drive. American adults are working more and more, and thus less available to take children to outside activities, which these days are also further and further apart.


And even when those kids in the burbs want to walk places, their parents risk being arrested for it [1].

[1]: https://www.cnn.com/2014/07/31/living/florida-mom-arrested-s...


I grew up in the suburbs, and starting at age 9 or so, my friends and I would frequently ride our bikes to each other's houses when we wanted to hang out, weather permitting. Often a group of 4-8 of us would wind up just generally riding around town, largely unsupervised. Keep in mind this was the mid 90s, so it's very possible things have changed since then.


yeah bikes and longboards were really popular until we could drive


Depends on the neighborhood/city. In the south it's not uncommon to get people throwing trash at you and/or forcing you off the road.


damn forcing kids off the road/throwing trash at kids?? thats crazy


I grew up in the suburbs. We took this thing called a 'bus' into the city when we needed to.


We had a bus in my suburb. The bus stop was an hours walk away so you had to be driven there and it leaves once an hour and doesn't go to anywhere your friends are so if you wanted to visit a friends house you would have to take 2 bus trips in each direction which would probably add up to about 5 hours travel time in a day.

Or you could just invite them to an online game and have fun right away.


I grew up in a suburb that didn't have a bus to the nearby city.


> thing called a 'bus'

What a privileged, demeaning tone. I don't understand this.


> It turns out that today’s teens are socializing with friends in fundamentally different ways – and also happen to be the loneliest generation on record.

This is a very sad observation.

(as I sit at a computer, not looking at anyone, and type these words)


All the sillhouettes of kids in the banner have undercuts and it makes me shivver. Hate that style. I guess I'm an old man now.

Anyway, I'm hardly surprised that kids aren't spending time with friends in person, because nobody likes spending time with people in person as default. In my childhood in the 90s, I did it only for events that require it, like board games or sports, or when the alternatives are boring or unavailable, like when I haven't had a new game to play in a while, or my sister was hogging the internet.

The separation has only increased as at-home activities have gotten less boring and more available, and as physical presence became less neccessary for social activities like games.

AIM was great, we could chat without having to be physically together.

Battle.net was great, we could play games without having to be physically together.

Xbox Live was great, we could play games AND chat at the same time without having to be physically together. (many fond memories of high school nights quizzing each other on history while blowing each other up in Halo 3)

Facebook was great, we could share stories and media without having to be physically together, and asynchronously as a bonus.

I am not convinced that face-to-face interaction is an inherent good. The last several decades of technological development have been the story of people striving to spend less time with each other physically. Especially given the article's proposed explanation that "friend groups meet on instragram now, and kids without instagram are lonely", the barriers to telecommunication are lower than ever before.

Or maybe we should cut this thread short and save the discussion for Linuxfest Northwest.


> because nobody likes spending time with people in person as default

It's entirely possible that this is true for you, but generally speaking the precise opposite is true.


>I am not convinced that face-to-face interaction is an inherent good.

I think the inherent good is that young people understand social dynamics and how to read the non-verbal cues of others. I've noticed some, those who spend a excessive amount of time online, have a hard time translating their personality into IRL.


Body language is hard when you can't see their body.


> "because nobody likes spending time with people in person as default."

That's very far from true.


Yeah, I'm not quite sure where he got this. I'm an introvert, and I still really enjoy spending time in-person with close friends. In fact, I don't do that well relating to people over the internet (at least not emotionally speaking).


Sounds a big like they are from the planet in Asimov’s The Naked Sun in which people live miles apart and only see each other through holograms, never in person.


If I recall correctly, the fate of that planet in one of his later books was basically a small population of androgynous people who reproduced asexually and lived on robot-run plantations.

It's something I think about from time to time.


I know many people who are very happy to talk to me online but are not willing to hang out with me in real life. In my case it's because I'm inherently unlikeable, but I suspect if I were unaware of this, I would assume it's because people like to be online.


I'm curious why you're inherently unlikable. Are you are rude to people in real life? Does talking to people online allow you to filter what you say (therefore you can catch yourself before you say or do something off-putting)?


More true for people who do their socializing on text chat forums.


There are people who only like spending time with select people.


Oh I know. And there are people who prefer being hermits. There are also people who would rather spend time with strangers than go a minute alone. The preferences people have run the full gamut between hyper-social and hermit.


"because nobody likes spending time with people in person as default"

Maybe it's like eating your veggies.


Something that all healthy and well adjusted people like doing?


Yeah exactly. But also, even if you don’t want to, you need to.


For the less socials teens, it's much easier for them to play an online game with each other than to actually meetup in person. I would know, because I used to be one of them.

Meeting together in person used to give me tremendous anxiety and as a result I would always vouch for taking the easy way out. In hindsight, I wish I had actually made more of an effort to hangout during my high school years because deep down I did enjoy those personal interactions. Nowadays I'm a lot more social than I was in the past and a lot more happier as a result too.


"Tech" corporations have successfully conned a large portion of the population into believing that clicking a thumbs up icon under a photo of someone's breakfast or mindlessly scrolling through useless reposted memes qualifies as "staying in touch".

Even when people do venture out, it often seems to be for the sole purpose of collecting carefully planned and staged selfies that they feel will gain them more thumbs up clicks.

It's a sad situation, and I feel bad for the kids who are growing up in a world where this shit has a death grip on all of their peers.


I wonder if one of the biggest drivers of loneliness isn't necessarily that kids are spending more time on their phones or even that they have less face time with their friends, but that their social media can tell them more about what their friends are doing when they aren't together. First, everyone knows people curate their social media presence so that they look cool and that they are doing fun things. Second, if two of my friends in my group of friends hung out, I wouldn't necessarily know about it until after the fact. I wouldn't be able to see fun images of my friends or even people who were like the "cool kids" hanging out. Essentially, that limited the amount of FOMO you could experience because you just didn't have that ability.

I definitely think some of it also has to do with the level of control and protection we try to place on kids as well. It's just probably discouraging to kids or, worse, they sense their parent's fear that something will happen to them so they become afraid and ultimately pull themselves back from social interactions.

I wonder if kids also tend to feel more lonely because parents have also increased their smartphone usage. When I go out to restaurants, I feel like I am more likely to see entire families on their phones sitting around the table instead of talking with one another. That can't help either.


Interesting how 12th-graders are as lonely as they where in the 70s & 80s (almost no difference). What happened in 2006 that made loneliness drop so much?


You can download the data for the chart. It's actually 2007 if you don't eyeball it. I think we're probably seeing Maslow's hierarchy of needs here. The great recession made loneliness less important to them or less apparent to them. Pretty cool actually. This kind of thing is probably unaccounted for in many similar studies.


I doubt that the start of the recession impacted teens this much. I think it's more likely the rise/fall of certain social media (yahoo/AIM/FB/idk) than relating to them missing physiological needs, especially given most teens are not fending for themselves.


I imagine this was it. I was starting high school in 2008, and I hadn't felt so connected with my friends than that first year or so that Facebook became popular. Previously, I would go home after school, and typically wouldn't see most of them until the next school day. That fall, everyone I knew signed up for Facebook, and we would all be online, chatting and posting dumb things on each other's walls.


I was graduating high school around then. It definitely did impact teens that much. Net job growth was negative by 300K+ for over a year. More than 800K jobs were lost in November 2008 alone. Lots of stress at home, and you're more than old enough to notice. So you start reading the news, where you find lots of people were speculating about if not a great depression at least a lost generation.

Graduating into GFC was terrifying.

I'm sure some were sheltered from it or blissfully unaware, but many were very aware.


> So you start reading the news

not most teens.

Even with 1 year of economic stress, that's not going to suddenly make kids take a mature emotional perspective and feel less lonely.


This seems very strange to me. The idea that a dramatic macro economic downturn is less likely to to effect personal beliefs than early Facebook? I know most teens aren’t paying for food and rent but if your parents lose their job or their house that feels like it’s going to hit hard.


That’s still a year before any of us really felt the Great Recession. I was in my first year of college back then..


Probably advent of instant messengers made them feel less lonely, culminating around 2006-2008 when modern social networks really took off, but peaking in today's result of every post on fb/twitch/instagram engendering social anxiety and thus 'loneliness'.


This time was indeed marked by the high popularity and increasing interop between classic IM networks, and the rise new networks. Some choice dates:

- 2005-09: Meebo launches offering web access to AIM, WLM, Yahoo

- 2006-02-07: Google Talk integration inside Gmail goes live

- 2006-03: Nielsen/Netratings survey for active users: AIM 53M, WLM 27M, Yahoo 22M

- 2006-07-12: seamless interop starts between Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger

- 2006-09-26: Facebook opens up to everyone (not just colleges)

- 2007-02-14: Gmail opens up to everyone (not just invite-only)

- 2008-04-06: Facebook chat goes live

- 2008-04-19: Facebook overtakes Myspace in Alexa ranking

- 2008-07-11: iOS App Store launches, AIM for iOS released

- 2008-08-26: Facebook hits 100 million active users

- 2008-09-23: Android 1.0 launches

More (and sources) in my earlier posts [1][2]. [1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13465483 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11114518


True - I can still hear that MSN "new message" sound echoing in my head..


I reckon you're right. This was peak Yahoo Instant Messenger time, and it launched in 1998, just before the graph starts moving downwards.


Really? I feel like peak instant messenger time was around 2001 or so... I wonder if it has to do with how old we are?


Peak for you was likely when you were a teen.

But overall? In 2001 computers weren't ubiquitous nor portable. Middle-class kids were on IM on their desktops and maybe laptops for max a few hours per day.

Now kids have phones for IM all day and night.


The grandparent comment was saying that 2006-2008 was peak instant messenger, and people using messengers on phones were certainly not common during those years.


It is a shame YIM is gone now; I lost contact with a lot of people where that was our main form of communication.


Hmm... Facebook was opened to the public near the end of 2006. No idea if there's a correlation or if it's even possible to find one.


FB+iPhone?


> iPhone

I doubt it. How many high school seniors would have owned one soon after its release? Too much of an early-adopter luxury item.

I'd be curious to know when smartphones actually started became ubiquitous among older teenagers.


I graduated HS in 2007. I think I had 2 friends with iPhones, in an affluent town in Connecticut. My first smartphone was an iPhone 4 in 2010. It was still probably another year before smartphones were ubiquitous amongst my friend group.


The 3GS came out in 2009 and that's more or less the model that made it clear the iPhone mold of smartphone was the future. (I got a Treo in 2006 but that was still very much in the carrier walled garden on phones.) However, as others have said, feature phone texting was pretty widespread in the second half of the 2000s, IM was widespread, and social media was really starting to take off.

You can quibble about exact dates but it's pretty reasonable to take somewhere around 2008 as the year for online communications hitting some sort of collective inflection point.


I would agree that online communications hit AN inflection point around that time, and I don't think I said anything to refute that. I do think there was a more important one soon thereafter, because IM isn't what made me feel like my social life had moved primarily into the virtual space. It was several years after this, more like when Instagram took off. It was not until then that it became common for someone, or a couple, to be looking at their phone throughout dinner (I worked in food service throughout college), or for an entire group of people sitting around in the same room all interacting through their phones. Facebook, and other social platforms around 2008 set the stage for this but I think it's not until the smartphone got great cameras, fast internet, etc. that it became more convenient for us to interact through them. I think it's an important distinction. I was not quibbling, just providing an anecdote. I used AIM/MSN from a feature phone in 2007 and used SMS heavily prior to that.


Oh I don't disagree with any of that. For doubtless a variety of reasons (if only that habits don't change overnight), it took a few years after at least many of the pieces were arguably in place, before widespread behavioral change took place.


Dumbphone texting was ubiquitious, though.


Remember the teens with leet T9 keyboarding skills?


I graduated HS in 2014. By the time the 4s came out they were pretty ubiquitous. Carrier subsidy existed to make one or two year old iPhones pretty cheap (I vaguely remember iPhone 4 being 'free' from verizon for a while). I didn't get one until after many of my peers (iPhone 5 era), but I had an iPod touch and a phone with a full keyboard which was a common combo among the people I knew who were later adopters of smartphones.


There may be a fear element that also affects adults -- some time ago, I was at a work party at a bar in a major city. (Nice bar, ritzy area) Everybody else either came in groups by car or had a hotel within walking distance; mine's quite a way out. Shortly past midnight I'm tired of watching people act stupid and tell folks I'm walking back (alone). Most of them were surprised I was willing to do that!

But in my youth, also in a major city, I'd walk back from the movies or wherever with other kids around 1-2am all the time. You had to know which areas were lit and not stare strangers straight in the eye, but that's kinda normal, and certainly no one then felt walking was inherently dangerous. What world do we live in that a bunch of semi drunk adults can't handle the night for 2 miles?

No wonder their kids are spending their lives' quietest hours in front of a screen if that's the risk tolerance calibration of the parents.


This is a very poorly written article, if not poorly done science. (See Criticism section of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Twenge)

Showing two graphs with opposite directions and claiming one is the cause of the other is not how one should present their claims.

It could be just the case that because of some other reason(s) teens spend less face-to-face time with their friends, and they spend more time on social media.

Beside, the second graph already shows high loneliness rates in 80s, too. Is this also because of social media which did not exist in 80s?

There can be so many other reasons for teens to feel depressed: economy, global warming, the increasing gap between rich and poor, mortgage crisis, and now student debt crisis, so on and on.

Please do not divert our attention to wrong reasons, or please make sure that you are really on top of your game.


The sense of community is gone. And it really takes a village to raise a child but that’s disappeared in the US outside of small rural communities.


No, sense of community is actually stronger than ever I think. But those communities are less geographic and much more ideological. The communal bond these days happens more in ideas and beliefs than in physical proximity. Social media made it so, and this shifted sense of community has given rise to increasingly radical and extreme ideologies — but also much stronger bonds in my opinion.


I understand what you mean but you still have to raise your child irl. What is very interesting is that most adults with children in this decade have experienced both worlds and perhaps become too immersed in this new “virtual” environment. In the process, we might be short changing our kids. I imagine a lot of parents feel this way.


The absolute futurist-cynic inside me wants to reply, badly, to this statement:

> you still have to raise your child irl.

with the fact that increasingly I see children being strolled around with tablets mounted in front of their faces, by parents with phones in front of their faces. Imagine these strollers were self-guided, say, they were monitored and could tram children around the park while they played on their pacifying devices! I feel we aren't too far off. DJI could certainly make quite a nice stroller, I would imagine.

I recently had a baby, and we had to fend off MANY attempts to gift us battery (or plug) powered baby seats -- and still we ended up with a mamaRoo[0] in our closet because my mother wouldn't take "no" for an answer. This is a device where you can strap your newborn in (!) and the chair will rock her for you, play gentle music either via the onboard memory or via Bluetooth, to soothe or quiet your baby for you. Behold the truly dystopian image on their product page[1]. Our thinking was that we wanted to keep responsibility of this task for ourselves, along with the stress, thank-you-very-much, because we wanted to experience it and we wanted our baby to experience it -- physically. But still! There are emporiums, I came to learn, full of these types of gadgets that are designed to offload the burden of parenting.

With the sheer momentum of technology and the absolute hijacking of our attention spans, I can all-too-vividly imagine a world not far from now where raising your child can happen almost entirely by "remote". I fear this, of course, but I can imagine it.

__

0. https://www.4moms.com/mamaroo

1. https://www.4moms.com/assets/mamaroo/ultimate_seat-602c8d008...


It's tempting and easy (for the fortunate) to buy a Thing or and App to occupy their kids so they can have our own device time. STEM apps are educational; guilt-free, no harm. Right?

But device time is robbing our children of the trials and frustrations and educational opportunities provided by the dirty, analog, political, unfair, painful and tangible-risk REAL world.

When I was growing up there was a declared difference between those with an academic education and a "street" education. Now it seems the difference is between the virtual social landscape and reality.


> a mamaRoo

That's a swing. A fancy swing, but a swing nonetheless. We've had those for decades and before electricity cradles existed for probably as long as we had furniture.


> we ended up with a mamaRoo

they're actually ok for when you need 20 minutes to cook dinner or do some other small task.


We mostly used it to encourage bowel movements and it never left us disappointed.


That's a slightly different sense of community though -- there are things that local (geographically) communities can provide that online communities simply can't. Some of those things are probably pretty important.


This is an important conversation, but being on HN I cannot resist...

> there are things that local (geographically) communities can provide that online communities simply can't

Identify this delta! It may just be the seed to the next big social network. :)


You've never heard of Meetup.com?


> But those communities are less geographic and much more ideological. The communal bond these days happens more in ideas and beliefs than in physical proximity.

If your sense of "community" is so warped that you honestly believe this then I feel sorry for you.

What you're describing isn't a community at all, it's a bunch of strangers who happen to have something in common.


>What you're describing isn't a community at all, it's a bunch of strangers who happen to have something in common.

If your sense of "community" is so warped that you honestly believe this then I feel sorry for you. A community absolutely does not need to be geographically close in order to qualify as a community. Here's one of the definitions of community:

"a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals."

There are countless support groups, academic groups, professional and hobbyist networks, and other virtual communication platforms and meeting places that host communities of people that have never met in person.


"The communal bond these days happens more in ideas and beliefs than in physical proximity"

Ideas & Beliefs aren't gonna change a stinky Diaper. Or Drive over to your house and take care of your kid for an evening when you are _BEAT_ down by life and need a break.


Juvenile violent crime rates are falling in sync with teens spending less time with others. Compare the chart in [1] with the parent article.

Maybe the rate of violent crime is roughly constant for time spent with others.

[1] https://projects.sfchronicle.com/2019/vanishing-violence/


I think it’s just an indication of how much more addicting technology is than people care to admit. To say that there was nothing fun to do back in the olden days would be false. These days there are way more options that are much more addicting and gratifying. Why play in the park when you can blast people online. Games are designed to build addiction and sure enough it works - kids would rather fame than do anything outside.

I don’t know if there is any easy way around this. I personally struggled with gaming addiction for the longest time and kept lying to myself that I was in total control. Looking back I feel sorry for all the kids who are sucked into the world of gaming now, especially when adults who grew up gaming themselves are nothing wrong with it. I tuned into a random twitch stream one time with this grown ass guy playing some mmo and his little kid came in the room and asked daddy to play with him. He just dismissed the kiddo and told him to go find mommy. Really fucking sad.


>To say that there was nothing fun to do back in the olden days would be false.

I think people are saying the opposite. When I think back at all the most fun things I did as a kid, a large chunk of them are totally unavailable to most kids now.

What is there for a kid to do outside now? Most of them could go outside and walk for hours in any direction and not find anything but rows of houses and roads. Likely all of their friends live so far away that walking there isn't an option.

Why play in the park when there may be no park you can get to without your parents driving you there and when you get there you find no one your age or that you know.


According to some experts, spending more time on social media and less time face to face, might result in emotional under development as the conditions for the formation of the brain circuitry in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) are not adequately met. [1]

The OFC is not well understood, but it has been implicated in mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, etc.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YdpvnwtGc&feature=youtu.be...


From my experience, the feeling of loneliness has little to do with face time with friends. You can feel "lonely" even if you're constantly surrounded by friends/family.


"the generation I call “iGen” that’s also called Gen Z"

I am judging this author very harshly for making up their own label for something everybody else already has a name for.


The irony is not lost on me that this is currently the top post on a “social news website”.


HackerNews is a content aggregator. There's nothing social here; you and I aren't going to look at or remember each other's usernames.


Communicating with who I presume are other people seems kind of social to me.


The line between "content aggregator" and "social media" is very thin nowadays I feel, look at Reddit for example.


I honestly don't even look at names on HN or Reddit.


The competitive nature of the world, as felt by youth in particular, might have something to do with it. Spending time "just hanging out" might seem like a waste of time when you see people your age making millions of dollars online. I guess this is another side of the "comparing your life to other people's" problem.


Eventually kids today will experience life not too unlike Brandon Fraser in the film blast from the past. In total isolation until adulthood. Majorly unprepared for what life has to offer them. But he is smarter than average in that film, but the depth of his social isolation will be reality.


This article is pretty interesting. However, if you read closely you'll see that they fail to justify their implication that digital media access is causing young people to feel more lonely. It's speculation that appeals to readers "common sense".


It's more difficult to find interesting people nearby than it's to find interesting people in the internet. It could be also, that it's easier to develop online identity than it's to develop an identity in real life. If people feel they can connect with other people the way they are able to connect in real life, it's easy to see why making connections face to face decreases: your looks don't matter, your speech impediment don't matter, your disabilities don't matter; if you're strange, you find similarly strange people online; if you have rare interests, you find company, etc...


tl;dr: technology in the late 90s and mid 00s gave power to users to be more social on their own terms, technology in the late 00s took power away from users and gave it to platforms to dictate social interaction with notifications

It appears that this dip in loneliness started as early as the late 90s when internet and cell phone technology was connecting us and enabling us to be more, deliberately, social. Perhaps in the late 90s to mid 00s we found the sweet spot for balance between social technology and loneliness. After the mid 2000s, Facebook became a thing, smart phones became ubiquitous, and user behavior was increasingly driven by non-deliberate means: notifications.

Notifications are making people miserable because its turned social into a fucking chore. You are less likely to have the social engagement you decided upon, and instead to have one generated for you by an algorithm.


Notifications are making people miserable because its turned social into a fucking chore.

It always was a chore, though, at least for anyone at all introverted. Even in the days before cellphones, I would sigh a sigh of relief when I could put down the phone. It was the same sigh when I closed the door after a visit from a salesperson or a service person. It's the same sigh of relief when I get home from a function at the city club.

Not every place you go in public is a place you feel at home to be your real, unguarded self.


I don't know - I kinda see it like the show stranger things. That's how I grew up. We'd bike, walk, or whatever show up to our friends house. Parents didn't have instant communication back then, so the expectancy factor wasn't there. All that mattered was that when the sun was dimming, we'd have to be home for dinner.. Any time after school and before the dimming was our time. Like the goonies.

Damn. Damn no really damn, the current generation doesn't fucking have the goonies. That's just so sad.


I hate to be silly but they really should be and probably are retreating to their homes when dusk comes around to avoid the creepers and such.


| social on their own terms

I think that is the key insight. Phone calls and instant messaging before smartphones meant that you had to make a deliberate choice to be available at a given time, and to give that communication most of your attention. When you wanted to stop, you simply logged off.

Now there is the expectation that you're always online so nobody wants to be the one to "bother" everyone and interrupt what they're doing. And you're constantly reminded of what you missed out on with the endless feed of everyone else's messages to each other.


> Notifications are making people miserable

So stay off social media. I do.


Or disable notifications! My phone has been on silent since 2012, and badge alerts are disabled for nearly everything. I find that I check it enough to see a text if someone needs to reach me.


Outside of virtual settings replacing physical settings, perhaps one possibility is the version of ourselves we present online is collectively making everyone lonelier.

What I mean by this is that in order to seem like someone that others would want to hang out with, we present our best selves, making us appear more social than we are, thus those are the only versions anyone ever sees. People simultaneously know that they're not as social as they present themselves, while forgetting to assume the same about the version others present, thus they assume everyone is having fun without them.

That or I'm just projecting ...


Similar things are discussed in this year's World Happiness Report – http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/the-sad-state-of-happin....

Specially figure 5.4 makes it pretty clear: more internet hours = less happiness.


The Machine Stops is getting closer and closer.


> the drop accelerated after 2010 – just as smartphones use started to grow.

Does anyone think not giving them access to phones till they go to college and encourage them instead to play sports with neighboring kids help? (assuming both neighbor parent agree to this!) Is that any practical anymore?


I think that’s a good idea. Of course, I was a teen right up until that dip (was 20 when the iPhone came out) and didn’t have a cell phone until college. But I was a computer geek, gamer, and script kiddie since middle school. But every other night in high school I was sneaking out to hang out with friends and girlfriends. Played sports every day. Our college years were also when binge drinking was more accepted and there were far more parties - colleges have cracked down hard on that.

Teens today seem very well behaved in comparison. But it seems like they don’t have much fun. We’ve given them outrage culture, a nanny state, and more restrictive schools though, so is this really surprising?


I wonder how this differs by location. I grew up rural, and my childhood experience was wildly different from suburban and city kids.

While I loved video games, I also rode horses or ATVs to see neighborhood friends and the area kids had large open spaces in which to explore and get up to mischief in.


But more time with their friends online.

My 9 year old son (admittedly not a teen) had a friend over, but at some point the friend went home because the two wanted to play together.

That sentence would have made no sense when I was a kid, but it's apparently how things work now. Blew my mind a bit.


I think that there is less time spent with friends is also a reason there is more mental health issues. People need to see friends in real person not just via online mediums.

A lot of more online possibilities also leads to a world where people do more things on their own.


It maybe be a good development, like a preparation for lonely future life in space exploration where most people will live in harmony with robotic beings and drive avatars, rovers and drones in a game like environment.

Also it will cease epidemics easier and social anxiety.


They are also using drugs less and getting pregnant at a lower rate


I guess sex, drugs and rock-n-roll is the ultimate path to happiness :D


That makes the problem even worse!


teens? hell most millenials might be like that, too.

i see my friends every other month if im lucky, but i play video games with them nightly. Friends i met in college that ended up moving away, but we still hang out and keep in touch online.

i used to have one friend that lived close by but he recently moved thousands of miles away, too. so now, 90% of my interactions with my friends is online.


wasn't the whole point of communication networks reducing transportation costs?


Wow, groundbreaking. How much did that study cost?




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