The biggest problem are people who can't mind their business and people who have been conditioned to fear the world. The 24/7 fear cycle of news has drilled it into so many peoples minds that if you see someone anywhere on your street outside, they are there to murder, rob, mutilate, or otherwise commit crime.
Kids are allowed a fair amount of freedom in Canada and Europe, where I still see a lot of kids around malls, or parks, playing basketball in courts (which still happens in NYC), or wooded areas. Sure, more are on their phones etc. But it’s really not that different from the 90s IMO, in many locations.
The biggest change is there aren’t so many clusters of “neighbourhood kids” as there used to be, as people are having fewer children later in life... unless you deliberately seek out a unicorn neighbourhood with similar aged kids. Playgroups and play dates need to be actively organized by parents due to distances between houses.
(I raise two children, and the 10 year old is free to ride his bike and wander, so long as he keeps a phone on for location - he’s taken plenty of bike camps to learn to be responsible).
That aside, I completely agree with your comment. Public spaces and well designed cities that allow for those clusters are very important to kids.
For whatever it's worth though, I don't think things were that much better in the US back in the 90s. In recent history the US has always been worse in this regard than Canada and Europe.
What is your point? Whether this is a US-centric or global issue seems like valuable information for the discussion. If it really is a US-centric problem, the solution, for the US, might be to look outward at other countries. If it were a global issue, we'd all have to look into our past to find a solution. It is important to know the scale of the problem don't you think?
Given the state of other US-specific problems like our dysfunctional healthcare system and mass-shootings, I think it’s pretty clear the US is rarely interested in learning from outside its borders.
Is it US-Centric or urban centric?
My guess is most of this board falls on the Urban side (Me included). I am unable to apply many of my valuable unstructured rural experiences as a youth to how I want to raise a child in a city. I thing I'd have the same challenge with Rome, Dallas, Barcelona, or most other urban centers.
They have different kinds of unstructured experiences. After school, they have all kinds of restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. They can hang out at the Jewish Community Center and play FIFA. They sometimes wonder with their friends to a field at a local university to play soccer. They watch movies at the local theatre I only find out about when they mention later what they saw.
Heck, my older son took his girlfriend to a fancy restaurant I haven't even been to yet. :)
Before high school, a big mile stone was when they were old enough to safely cross streets on their own to walk to the local pool and basketball courts in the summer.
So there are still plenty of unstructured, unsupervised experiences to be had, just different than the rural ones.
However, my bike gang was a bunch of little vandals. So we probably skewed the stats towards not letting kids outside.
Now I’m parenting in big city and I feel sad for how kids around here live. Trying to figure that one out before he gets older. He’s only 1 so I have time.
There are no kids outside, except on halloween. To be fair, there aren't many adults outside either which I think is a part of the problem.
I have a 4 year old nephew. Once I took him to a park near where he lives. There were only 4 other kids there. In the time we were there, the cops showed up to shoe away 2 boys who were 10-12 years old. All they had been doing was sitting there chatting. If you can't even use a public park for its intended purpose anymore, why would you even try going outside as a kid?
I think the iPad generation now live virtual lives with their friends. Kinda sad but that’s what fearmongering by media gets us.
A lot depends on parents to drive behaviour and introduce these days, again, due to lack of spontaneity / proximity that many grew up with.
What is happening in the US is quite depressing to me. Your kid can be shot for having a toy that the cop perceives to be a gun. It is crazy! Things like that never happen here, even if that toy is a toy gun.
We don't do this in every situation. Most American parents transport their kids by car without giving the risk much thought, though car crashes kill significantly more children than homicide in the US (source: CDC). I'm not sure there's a good solution to the cognitive bias of discounting relatively mundane risks.
When we turned around and came by them again I realised they were watching YouTube on a phone. But at least they were outside, sitting on a not unused car road on the edge of the village.
Join NextDoor.com if you want a dose of how nuts people have gone.
I live in Orange County CA and I have checked it from time to time. Apparently this place is a crime infested jungle full of human trafficking gangs that abduct kids and street gangs that will sell your fifth grader fentanyl. There are also gangs of Satan worshippers that will sacrifice your kids to the devil or something. Then there are the sightings of pedestrians...
Then look up the actual crime statistics. With the exception of a few spots here and there this is "officer! Have you seen my cat?" territory. The stuff about gangs is the most laughable. The joke is "OC gangstaz be like 'it's not a phase mom!'"
As a general rule, the safer the area the crazier NextDoor becomes. Anaheim does have actual crime and the community boards are pretty sane. South County is almost zero crime and the paranoia on the neighborhood boards is off the charts.
Perhaps a manifestation of the broken windows theory?
What are the externalities of services like NextDoor, local FB groups, etc keeping this in people's conscious all the time?
If I had to come up with a hypothesis and test it via the scientific method it would probably be: This is not good as it is a positive reinforcement loop that causes our lizard brains to see danger everywhere/all the time.
The reverse explanation seems screamingly obvious. Minecraft, Fortnite, Facebook, AIM, pick your program, are all things kids and teens do to talk and interact when they can't be together in person. They'll play videogames at a sleepover, sure, but it's a very different thing than getting on a game every night to chat. If your friends live driving distance away, you don't have anywhere fun to hang out, and you probably can't go out on schoolnights anyway, it's no surprise that socialization moves online.
Even beyond exploration, Minecraft is a perfect vector for this. It's collaborative and persistent, the same as building a treehouse would be. It can be closed-access, so your parents don't have to worry about strangers. It's drop-in with no fixed player count, so your friends can all cycle in and out for dinner, bedtime, and so on. And it's varying intensity, so you can do anything from fighting monsters to chatting about the schoolday as you decorate a house.
The decline of physical "third places", and the outright death of third places for children, is really depressing to behold. But I think Minecraft is at least a bright spot helping to offset that; it offers practically everything you could want except physicality.
The funny thing is that the danger of "stranger abductions" has been over blown. Most abductions are non-custodial parents.
That actually started in the early 1980s, and kids roamed free well into the 1990s.
People generally have less and less time with kids due to work, and then overcompensate by being over-protective ("I suck at spending enough time with my kids, but look at how I protect them! I must still be a good parent then!").
There are much more cars everywhere, they drive faster too. Especially US problem from my experience, since whole infrastructure is designed around car usage. How are kids supposed to roam freely in urban areas then? I recall having to do 45 min walk to get to my work which was 1km away in LA, and this was including taking forbidden shortcut via highway road. Otherwise a solid 1h walk, to do frakin' 1km distance. Because nobody thought that there are pedestrians. Well kids are pedestrians, even on bikes.
For one, in Austria, kids have a legal right to go to school on their own, be it on foot or by public transport. A lot of parents do drive their kids to school, unfortunately even where it's really not necessary, but you do also see plenty of young kids walking there or home, or taking the bus or train. You definitely also see more kids "hanging out" in Austria - in the UK, everyone seems quick to jump to conclusions about gangs, so I guess "respectable" parents won't let their kids do that.
On the other hand, I felt I probably had even more freedom growing up in the 90s (in Austria) than many of today's kids. This is probably more of an individual choice of the parents (for some reason, people are afraid, despite this being one of the safest countries in the world) than direct societal pressure (being reported to the cops or social services, etc.) as it seems to be in the UK or US.
A as a side note, most kids wore shorts until roughly 13, the long trousers were reserved to "official" occasions, holiday visits to relatives, (rare) lunches at the restaurants, and similar.
And it was not common to see a kid with both knees not-bruised or non-orange, a much used item was, besides hydrogen peroxide, mercurochrome.
I've heard that in the states you can own a piece of property but have "no right" to get to it, as it's surrounded by other pieces of private property and, so, you're at the whims of those properties' owners. Is this true?
In Sweden, we have the concept of 'Allemansrätten'; which is to say that 'private property' (in the absolute sense) doesn't exist and you have the freedom to roam, as long as you don't disturb or destroy anything.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam#Sweden
But on the other hand, it really isn't "allmansrätten" either. (I am from the US and live in Norway - and norway has the same sort of laws). Here in Norway, you can simply camp for a night in some unused wooded area or a field that is obviously not used. In the US, you can get arrested for doing such a thing. Nature isn't something that is free for everyone to enjoy, but rather, it is the property of whoever owns the land even if there is no barrier or signs to alert you otherwise.
How often that is enforced varies. My parents owned land and generally didn't care, though they wanted hunters to alert them first so the could keep themselves safe. Many area residents didn't care if a couple people were walking in their woods - but don't get the idea that you could camp there without law enforcement being called unless you had express permission of the landowner.
Source: good buddy of mine is a real estate lawyer, and after a couple drinks he'll bitch and moan about it for hours
Two "neighbors" colluded to shut off all easements to the property, hoping that in 7 years (or whatever) they'd get the right to the property and could fix it and resell it. It was originally owned by investors, who wanted to offload it because they were fighting the same fight, and one of them had a heart attack and was dying, and they just wanted out. Along comes my BIL and he gets it for a song.
And the issues to boot.
The neighbors - one was a known "a-hole" in the neighborhood who would sue anyone and everyone; indeed, if you looked up his name in California, he had a record of using the courts almost as if it were his job. The other guy, he owned a large avocado orchard which bordered the property; he had fenced over one of the plat map easements. The other easement was a road which led to the property, which the first guy lived next to, just down below from the house. He blocked it off with a metal gate. He also owned another house he used as a rental, which was just immediately below the house. So he'd leave the gate open sometimes, and would give a key to the renters, but otherwise it was closed off. He'd also let people in for maintenance and inspection of a water tank which served for water in the neighborhood.
The story is wild and long - they didn't count on the tenacity of the family I married into. They didn't count on my brother-in-law, who works construction - being willing to run his dump truck for 48 hours straight with little-to-no sleep to make money in any way possible so he could pay his lawyer bill every single month (which ran to insane levels). He didn't count on my sister-in-law being willing to live in the house, to establish residency, while her husband worked a state away.
We had to hike up to the house one, using machetes to cut thru the undergrowth. My brother-in-law later ran a bulldozer to cut a path up the side of it, to get past the gate (he came from the avocado side - which the sheriff allowed him to cut past the fence, because of the plat map, and thus had to fight that neighbor in court too) - they then used 4wd vehicles to get up the side to the house.
He never counted on any of this and more. My brother-in-law flew a pirate flag from the flagpole, just to give the other guy the finger during all this.
Eventually, after several years, my brother-in-law won the lawsuit, and got access to the road. The gate was removed. The entire neighborhood rejoiced, and my BIL became the "hero" of their area, because they had long suffered various indignities by that guy.
A few months after my BIL won the case, the guy ended up having a heart attack, and died. The other guy lived a few years longer, but also ended up dying of natural causes.
My brother-in-law's house, now that it has access, instantly shot up in value several times over. He and his wife are now thinking of selling it, and moving on to other things.
This is not really true, there are thousands of forests and lands that are public spaces. Whatever the problem is, it's not this.
The land that is accessible by foot or bike is much more likely to be privately owned. And when it is public space, it's often a town or state park - which is quite likely to come with enough curfews, enforced bans on unaccompanied minors, and other child-unfriendliness that it's functionally private.
American post-war car-centric urban design transformed public space from one accessible to, and commonly ranged by, all (including children), into one largely accessible by motorized transit.
Children without licenses and access to vehicles consequently lost direct autonomous access to the core locations in their lives (home - school - simple shopping - peers - common wild space), and have been discouraged from attempting to navigate these spaces on foot (for fear of injury or unrealistic transit distance/detours required).
The author does not state, but one may infer, that car-centric living is coupled to the overscheduling and helicopter parenting at issue in the original article; and that children raised in a car-centric environment experience something akin to learned helplessness.
These problems are further compounded by comparatively poor American public transit systems and a contemporary mindset in which fearful parents discourages free-range children from making use of what transit options are present before the last few years of childhood; and by safety concerns around biking and skating in environments which do privilege cars.
My own kids are in the top quintile of "most free range" in our cohort; that feels possible in San Francisco in some ways which do not appear as feasible in many other urban areas. That's one reason we continue to try to raise our kids here.
But they do not get anything like the benevolent neglect of my own latchkey neighborhood-wandering local-kid-pack-factions semi-rural/suburban childhood.
This may be a naive question but please bear with a non-US person - what would happen in the US if someone actually called police on you? Could you just say "these are my children and I think it is good for them to be unsupervised, good bye"?
Given, these things probably get to be news because they're so extreme, but it pops up every few months. Look up the Maryland family that got in trouble for letting their kids walk to the park for the prototypical example.
I'll add that your treatment would likely depend on the color of your skin, how well-to-do your neighborhood was, and how familiar the cop was with you and your family (small town vs large one, really). They may or may not call child services on your family.
We could talk about era (this is largely 90s and more recent), location (small towns are often better, suburbs are overzealous but not viciously policed, cities are less likely to intrude but often more heavy-handed when they do), income, and race (the predictable biases). There are definitely places where children have been systematically taken away (mostly poor, minority communities).
But for most people, this comes down to "99.5% of the time, no, but there's no way to be sure you're safe." It just takes a run of bad luck: an invasive bystander, followed by an overzealous cop or social worker, perhaps followed by a judge without much common sense. Which means that it has an extremely widespread chilling effect. I've heard several people say that they know the crime stats and aren't scared of their kid being attacked if they go out alone - but still won't allow it because they're scared of the police and child protective services.
The other issue is a real concern: what are the prevailing traffic speeds in your neighborhood. I'm in Massachusetts, where roads are narrow and lined with all sorts of attitude adjusting devices for bad drivers. So people are driving at mostly under 40kmh. Other parts of suburban America, people will literally reach 80kmh as soon as they've left their driveway, in which case, sorry, you do have to keep your children prisoner in their own home until they can eyeball the speed of a moving car. That only kicks in at about age 9, and there is no known way to hasten that skill in children. So, TLDR: avoid the suburbs if you want your kids to run free.
A lot of the decline in free-range childhood clicked into place once I realized just how terrible suburbs are for little kids.
The roads are the worst part - wide, empty streets that invite speeding, connectivity that make them short-cuts for outside drivers, lots of bends and bushes that obscure the view. But they're not the only major issue.
Suburbs are usually built for cars, meaning no sidewalks or bike lanes, just a choice between walking in the road and upsetting the neighbors with their manicured lawns. They're usually fully developed, meaning no woods or fields to play in. And they're privatized, meaning no sports fields, no open grass for games unless the neighbors approve, not even any parking lots for safer street ball. They're featureless, so littler kids can't find their street or house in a maze of HOA-mandated similarity. And while our fears of crime are exaggerated, they're perversely insecure, combining a rural lack of bystanders with urban anonymity.
My run-down, dead-end street growing up seems weirdly idyllic in hindsight. Speeding was impossible, no one but the residents had a reason to drive through, every house looked different, there were trees to climb and a bit of undeveloped land at the end of the road. Even the neighbors who hated kids and each other had to use spite fences and complaining, not impersonal HOA crackdowns. But of course, there have been plans to suburb-ify it for decades now...
Many a time in the 'burbs, were we playing a game in the street only to quickly scatter to the shout of "Car!", followed by a hasty resumption of whatever we were doing.
There was generally 1 or 2 streets of particular note that you just knew to avoid or not play in due to the fact that it was commonly used as a sacrificial throughway.
And homogeneity? That was half of what taught us how to navigate. You do it based off of street signs. The kids who can't read shouldn't be wandering the streets necessarily anyway, and there was generally enough web of trust in the immediate vicinity where even if you couldn't get home, you could find an adult or another kid to point you in the right direction.
None of what you brought up really strikes me as a problem. It was just normal life skills.
Cities that have the whole motor vehicle danger thing under control are safe for kids under 8 to wander around barely supervised. SRSLY.
If you stood up for yourself, then they'd take you to your parents.
But the mall/hangout issue still stands, and that's assuming the malls themselves are still standing. A lot of malls have shot themselves in the foot by banishing the kids; when they grow up, the last place they'll even think about shopping is at a mall.
There's many reasons we did. Chiefly, it's far far cheaper. But also, it's calmer and quieter and just a nicer way to live. What we didn't expect to see, which we are absolutely delighted about, is how different childhood seems to get lived in a much smaller city. There have been roving bands of children on bikes all summer getting into who knows what kind of awesome mischief.
We go on completely random drives 3 or 4 times a week, just wandering the city to get to know it better (and get the youngest to nap) and we see kids and young teens all over the place without parents.
Anecdotally of course, but I wonder if smaller cities/towns lend themselves to a far more trusting, free, safe environment to grow up. When I picture letting my boys, when older, go out on their own, I'm thinking about the difference between here and where I used to live. The scariest street has 4 lanes total and is a 50km/h. There's no rapid transit to smoosh them. There's a wonderful central park just one traffic light away. Literally everything in the city is a bike ride away.
Free time is amazing. Here is why.
- I get a break.
- My child gets to learn how to learn on his own.
- My child builds independence.
- My child learns to manage his time on his own.
Free time is a win win win.
I'm a Scoutmaster, and I have one parent who lashed out at me because I asked him not to interfere when the Scouts were trying to do something for themselves.
I didn't let that affect me, I just thanked him for his feedback. Thankfully, I have the support of everyone else in the troop.
What saddens me, is seeing first-hand how bad these parents are for their kids. I feel bad for them. Those kids are going to grow up broken.
This parent's kid only has fun when his parent isn't there. I've never seen him with a smile when his parent is around.
Don't write off that kid.
I teach part time and see this a lot. Especially from fellow teachers. Oh this kid has an alcoholic abusive dad, that kid has a mom with cancer, those 2 have family members in jail etc etc, followed by go easy on the struggling kid or this kid has no hope etc. If the kid flunks a test or skips class let it slide etc.
All this compounds the issue. What is required is the opposite of just sympathy.
Help them find their strengths and interests. Show them how to focus on positives and tune out negatives. Encourage whatever small steps you see them taking. Sensitize the other kids around them to be supportive. Show them examples of resilience and what it takes to be resilient. All these small things add up. Basically don't focus on the parent, focus on things you can do for the kid.
It's very hard to reprogram dysfunctional adults and get them to change, but kids are very different story. And there are few things more beautiful and satisfying, than watching a kid who has struggled for years and years, overcome and kick ass.
When I was a kid, my situation was different, and it would have been easy for others to write-off me, but they didn't.
I agree with everything you're saying. I'm in Scouting for the kids, not for the adults. I don't know and will never know any of the kids' complete stories, so I hold them all equal and give them the same opportunities to become better people.
Today's kids are tomorrow's leaders.
You can preach personal sacrifice until the cows come home - capitalist societies are incompatible with having or raising children - they get in the way of the one true God, quarterly profits.
My wife and my sister are both teachers (languages and physics respectively), and they often encounter parents like that, who insist that their kid can do no wrong, or cannot be allowed to fail (or that any failure is someone elses fault), and it breaks the kids. Some of the kids understand what's going on and do well in spite of their parents, but others become convinced that either they don't have to take responsibility for anything, or insist on doing courses they are simply not going to do well in (like if you have solid Ds in Maths and the sciences, don't insist on doing A-level Physics, and no you are not going to medical school).
My wife's school had a family where all the kids were hard-working, conciencious and all-round lovely, but everyone dreaded dealing with the parents. Any time a kid got a bad mark in anything they would be on the phone demanding an explanation. The kids were always fine about it and knew when they had not worked on something. They sounded permentantly embarressed by their parents.
One of the most popular arguments right now against grammar schools in my country is that the kids who don't pass the entrance test will experience failure.
Plain and clear, the parents do not want their 11 year old kids experiencing failure.
If an 11 year old cannot cope with failure, imagine what will happen when they are older and fail an exam at university, or are rejected when applying to jobs.
Anecdotally, there are entire Troops built around that type of parent. Tried BSA for a few years as a teenager, ended up in a group with a revolving door of Scoutmaster, as every time a child gained Eagle they and their parent would disappear. If you didn't have a parent actively pushing you through the badges and ranks, you were SOL.
My goal is to make the Troop self-reliant, not reliant on me. I need to protect it from the Bus Factor.
That said, I hear you on the 'paper eagles'. I saw a lot of kids with their mom just trying to get the rank for college applications and then get out. It was semi-effective. Strangely, the Mormon troops were eagle mills too, but the guys tended to stick around afterwards all the same.
As you're on HN, I'm sure you are aware of the importance of culture in a start-up. I'd say that a troop also has culture and it is very important too. Maybe read up on some of that stuff too.
Also, as I may have your ear, what's your take on girls being full integrated?
This was a troop that had a strong program and 30+ youth 15 years ago, chartered by a large-ish church.
I don't think the troop produced any paper-Eagles in those 15 years (I kept in touch), but when I took over, the head of the church asked for better Eagle Projects.
As for girls, I'm fine with that. Character-building isn't only for boys. There is Girl Scouts of the USA (GSA) troops that have good outdoor programs but they are very few and far in-between. They are more known for "glamping" and selling cookies. Gold Award doesn't have the same recognition as Eagle Scout. Something that I found out: GSA troops are not always sponsered by an organization, and those that are sponsered, are not owned by the sponsering organization. In contrast, all BSA troops have a sponsering(chartering) organization and the sponser owns the troop. So, GSA and BSA have different programs and fulfil different needs. It's good that more youth now have more options for personal growth.
If I had a daughter and BSA wasn't available, I would look into American Heritage Girls (a scout-like organization, sometimes called Heritage Scouts) or another program like that. The BSA has had co-ed programs for 14-21 year olds since the 1970s though: Venturing, Varsity, and Explorers. However I think it's just Venturing now, IDK.
FYI, in Cub Scouts, boys and girls are seperated by dens (patrols). In Scouts BSA (renamed from Boy Scouts where youth can earn Eagle), boys and girls are seperated by troops (but can have same number, same chartering org, etc... just separate youth structure).
Good God! Why even bother at that point? Camp is one of the highlights of the scouting year. It would be like skipping Christmas.
Glad to hear you are reviving things. It's a tough road and a lot of lonely work. That said, it'll be worth it a thousand times over for the kiddos.
A lot of older school BSA folks aren't that keen on the girls comming in, which is a bit funny. What with Venture Crews, girls have been a part of BSA Scouting in the US for a while now.
I remember the international jamboreesm and international troops during my time in the scouts. Nearly all other countries have just scouting and do not break it up by sex. As such, they kinda looked at us US scouts a bit askance. Everyone else was just fine with girls/boys around and had little problems (that we knew of at least). It was a new way to look at the world that we hadn't been exposed too. Neckerchief trading with the girls from other countries was a great icebreaker too :)
Maybe not intrinsically, but what I see kids doing handheld computers at restaurants (and sitting in a cart at the grocery store, and getting pushed around town in a stroller, and on public transit, and sitting in their car seats, and at the playground, and at the airport, and on the plane, and at the doctor’s office, and waiting at government offices, ... and I can only assume at home too, though I have a smaller sample of kids I can see at their homes) is playing computer games or watching videos.
I don’t think computer games and videos are inherently evil or anything, but they can be extremely distracting and addictive, and some very small kids are dramatically overexposed to them. For many kids these have crowded out a great deal of social interaction, reading, self-directed free play, ...
Paper and crayons have none of the problems of videos or computer games, in my opinion. Especially if they are being used in a social way with multiple people interacting.
I have found that usually my 3-year-old doesn’t have any problem at restaurants unless the adults are talking to each-other and ignoring him, in which case he gets bored and starts running all around, etc. If we are talking to him, playing little games, drawing with crayons together, reading a book aloud, etc. then he is just fine. YMMV.
This is the whole thing. Don't assume that. When my kids are at home they're inventing elaborate games to play with eachother. When we're in public somewhere where they don't want to be, they're doing whatever gets us through peacefully.
I don’t mean that every kid who is sitting on the subway with an iPad also spends every moment at home doing the same.
But some of them unfortunately do spend lots of time at home glued to screens. I have multiple friends whose older kids have serious problems with TV, video game, social media, etc. habits, which start crowding out many other activities, with the parents not really knowing what to do about it because they don’t want to have a fight every day.
And some young kids who might not be on their video / game machine at home are doing it a lot in contexts where kids would have in the past either been engaged with the world or entertaining themselves. There is a vast difference between a 3-year-old riding around in a stroller looking at a smartphone vs. a 3-year-old walking around on their own feet looking at the world and talking to the adults walking with them.
These devices seem fine to break out occasionally when the parent desperately needs a break from demands on their attention. But there are kids using these devices for extended periods every day.
P.S. The same goes for adults: people should trade their smartphones for a book or a conversation with the person next to them or just some daydreaming from time to time.
I remember being at an NHL game where a kid was immersed in his device the entire night, despite being in a $148 seat to (IMHO) the most attention-maintaining of all sports. Having never been taken to a major league sporting event for my entire childhood, seeing this saddened me.
I have nothing against people who enjoy watching sports, but it seems strange to me to consider sports viewing as inherently virtuous. You could be doing anything with a computer and a network connection. Even watching sports.
Having been taken to professional and high-level college sports many times in my childhood, starting with an NFL game as a toddler, I'm not saddened by it: until I was a teenager, most of the games were either overwhelmingly far out tediously slow, and in either case only weakly engaging. But my being there meant my parents could be there and I could be with them; I invariably had something else to engage me; I never regretted it and I don't think my parents did either.
Try this simple modification to get them on your side of the argument:
> I remember being at a TED Talk where a kid was immersed in his device the entire night, despite being in a $148 seat to (IMHO) the most attention-maintaining of all events. Having never been taken to a major thought leader event for my entire childhood, seeing this saddened me.
Also, don't think to do anything when there are fewer crowds, because this is when these types of people tend to congregate the most - they like their empty, quiet, orderly spaces and your kids' presence is most definitely not welcome at this time.
Putting his headphones on with his Fire tablet helps keep him calm so we can enjoy our food (and so can everyone else). And we get plenty of sideways glances, like we're doing parenting wrong.
People don't see how many hours he spends running around the park, drawing, reading books, playing with toys etc.
I mean, as a child in the 80's and 90's when we went out to eat my first question was "can I have crayons and a maze" and once I had a Gameboy...
When I was a kid, I used to just watch TV and wait for friends to come at home to play.
In one particular afternoon, there was nothing good showing on TV and my friends are away. I complained to my mom that I was bored(implying that she should solve this "problem" for me).
My mom basically said just what you posted above. That it was my responsibility to find my own fun.
That was an epiphany that had a tremendous impact in my life.
A parent's job is to give their kids opportunity to learn and grow. You can't always force it on them, and they won't always be interested.
You can give them them the opportunity to do something that will help them grow (learn, build character, etc) or they can be bored, but if they choose to be bored, they need to be told that they have options, and they are the ones choosing to be bored.
Think about you adult life: When are the moments you have some kind of epiphany about something that currently bothers you? For many people this happens when out for a walk, under the shower or a similar situation when the own mind is free to wander.
Cognitive development is important, but school, discourse with parents etc. is usually enough for the healthy development of most kids. For a successful life as an adult, the emotional development is just as important, though.
For me, this journey with my kids has been about a massive slew of things, among the most important:
- extending their childhood where possible: encouraging actual play (and discouraging the pseudo-play of screens)
- letting them out: outside play when they’re younger (my kids dicked about in streams and woods from about 5/6 years old); now they’re older (14/12) they take themselves off swimming, into town, to the shops, on the bus to the nearest city 2 hours away, etc
- reading, reading, reading. Always.
- talking and appreciating them as adults and not as kids. This means trying not to patronise, being adult when talking about politics, religion, sex
- being more present: for example, I’ve had a Nokia 3310 rather than a smartphone for more than a year now, and a large part of this has been about not being constantly distracted when I’m with other people, particularly my kids
- be there: work less, hangout more. I work for myself, but never evenings or weekends, these are family time. I’m gonna be poor and will probably never retire but these years with my kids are as important as it gets. I’d rather be poor forever and have had this time with them. It’s all too short.
Kids need all the love, but too often this becomes smothering.
I keep running across this sentiment, and although I don't have kids yet, is one I intend to take to heart.
"Quality time" is largely BS - making time for a piano recital is pointless and can barely make up for the time if you miss the fun and general bonding the rest of the time.
I remember the times sat eating dinner on the sofa in front the TV having a laugh with my parents more than the "hero" events like sports days or plays.
If you care about your kids and you're pretty stable (obviously, if you don't have money for clothes and food things will be different), just be there.
Where quality time implies some kind of performance or role, which is stressful, hanging out with one's children is wonderful. I find that the compensations more than make up for the difficulties.
I enjoy the company of people who are totally open and forgiving. I get the profound satisfaction of watching them learn. I re-experience and understand anew certain aspects of my own childhood.
Yes, there's work involved, but children like helping too, and can actually help significantly as they get older.
Yet society seems to have things the wrong way around. The zeitgeist has it that marriage and children are something to be put off until one is ready to 'settle down'. Children are an inconvenience and a financial burden which interfere with socialising and career advancement. For example:
I'm old enough to confirm that the etymology of the phrase comes from the divorce generation.
Now my wife uses the phrase as a code for diaper change.
Then drugs, many area's parents won't allow their children out to play due to fear of drug addicts (heroin/crack abusers) and paraphernalia they litter about. This with the whole social housing mess of almost litterly allocating one hard core addict per 10 normal people often see's those 10 peoples live and associated offspring blighted by some "but there a victim" mentality played out by those obfuscated from the reality of the impact such abusers bring to the area. You read about county lines and how `vulnerable addicts` are victims, yet you never hear about the impact they have upon all the other neibours. I know this, I've suffered this and more so, still suffer from this and the police etc are beyond useless. Seen parents take the law into their own hands with one case of some addicts doing crack cocaine in a car in his driveway - police called and effectively unwilling to do anything beyond take license plate so they could flag upon their `intelligence` system. SO the parent baseball batted their car, junkies called police who responded instantly and he ended up in jail.
So when you have that kind of environment, kinda hard upon the children to actually go out and play when it's not safe.
But many activities kids enjoyed as social freedoms out playing yesterday are not their today and makes you ponder what they will have tomorrow.
Hence many kids embrace the internet as it is the wild west of freedom for them to explore, a freedom that the real World outside has lost due to all the warning and keep out signs placed due to `smothering`.
I do not understand this, why would a smartphone distract you if you do not set it up to distract you? Can't you just not install all the distracting software and turn all notifications off? This is how i have my phone (i do not have any "social" app installed, do not allow any notifications and have it in almost constant silent mode - though that last bit is to avoid telemarketers who are an annoyance around here) and sometimes i even forget it exists to the point where the battery runs out :-P
And I can always pick up my phone to actually show something I recently liked in the gallery or as a product.
Also a phone is a great way to tell a story when you also have pictures of something you’d like to share in person.
I still do have a SIM-less smartphone at home for banking / 2FA / etc but the winner for me has been not having it when out and about. I don't want to be taking a photo, I want to be looking at the actual view. I don't want to be looking things up, I want to be chewing through what we think.
It's incredibly easy to think your phone is there as a positive reinforcement but in my personal experience, life is better without, especially when it comes down to giving kids your full attention.
Of course, this is all because of lies and locked-in unintended consequences. The schools have no practical reason to be on their knees financially, they are that way because of the politics of employing teachers.
There are school districts in the U.S. where it costs in excess of half a million dollars to successfully fire a provably-incompetent teacher or administrator. It is so expensive that many schools continue to pay full salary to teachers and administrators who only come in to work to prevent their firing. Some of these teachers and administrators are so useless or counter-productive that they are physically separated from the productive parts of the school.
The fact is that school funding has increased dramatically, considerably faster than the real costs of running a school; and the schools which receive the most funding are often near the bottom in performance.
Every time we see a school that actually works, people instantly jump to find some moralistic or social justice narrative to explain why we shouldn't make more schools like that. When charter schools do well, the public school unions and other fearmongers come out to complain that the executives live well, or that the students are cherry-picked (even when admissions are done by raffle!). They often do not qualify for the same compensation, and yet tend to greatly outperform public schools in the same jurisdictions.
A major problem in U.S. schools seems to be a lack of standards. They allow troublemakers to drag down entire classes, for fear that they may be seen as "excluding" that student. Meanwhile, a whole generation of otherwise-promising youth are increasingly illiterate, unfamiliar with civics, and generally incapable of living life in any productive capacity. Here in Canada, there's been a similar depressing turn for the worse, though in slower motion (as is often the case with things like this).
I personally think the U.S. and Canada have altogether too much childhood. Dating girls my age or younger (being in my early twenties), I often find myself cringing when I realize that the person I'm meeting has never done anything productive before, often never even one household chore, aside from their own laundry. I've been paying net taxes since the age of 17.
It is fine and in fact good to be attached to your family; but by the time you're free to agree to contracts, vote, and make other unilateral decisions for yourself, you should have had the experience of needing to do something productive, to take care of yourself or someone you love, or to make a decision with real consequences.
That's not what I mean by standards. I mean standards in the sense of "No, I wouldn't date her, I have standards." not as in International Organization for Standardization.
I don't see why you have to be a jerk about this, just present your opinion and we can have a civil conversation.
Public schools are like they cable company. They claim they can only compete if they have an absolute monopoly.
Public schools are dying because public schools are trash. Time to stop throwing our money at that cesspool.
This is not a convincing counterargument, even though sometimes it's a convincing original argument.
> move to a remote village
This wasn't mentioned.
Could you clarify what point you are making by bringing up your lack of a problem? Does this relate to the way that the parent solves a problem he’s experienced?
My 2.5 year old in daycare has lots of play time (at least 3 hours a day), plus at an hour at home in the morning and evening. Usually about 1 hour is on the iPad (Toca Blocks is her free play game), the rest with books, blocks, in the garden with flowers, on her tricycle...
The 9 year old’s “before and after school” program is all about free play time, plus two hours max screen time at home, though in summer this is usually replaced by bike rides and/or play dates or day camps, with ... lots of free time to balance out any structured activities. Other than studying for spelling quizzes, there has been no homework from Kindergarten through grade 3.
I regularly see kids at the mall or hanging out in parks. Free time abounds in our world... the biggest issue is there are fewer clusters of neighbourhood kids, friends are more geographically dispersed over a wider area, so play date coordination by parents is a must.
I also find this article strange, from where I live 12-15 year olds have plenty of free time and time to play. And after 16, well, it is to be expected to have less free time. You are about to become an adult.
I'm 34, in the past month or so 2 people I went to high school with have died via overdose. It's ridiculous.
The motivation for my comment is we see similar trends in all developed countries and the symptoms are identical so calling out this issue as being USA is a missed opportunity to focus on the problem.
My follow up would be which people and communities are most affected ?
For ex. we played cooking on my grandmothers house on a small toy kitchen where you have to use "META Tabletten" to make a fire. On my parents house we coocked with small children electric plates (10cm or less diameter). The panes where just large enough for an egg or so.
Today it is possible to buy large toy kitchen, but on no of them you really can cook. There are just no real children kitchen anymore .. to dangerous.
It's like instead of education the society revolves around babysitting.
What happens in the USA frequently happens in western countries a bit later.
I actually live in Ireland and I’m so surprised everytime I see parents giving their todlers a smartphone with a cartoon on it to keep them quiet.
And the same with kids. There even are tablets in mc donald’s !
And recently, Gardia (the police) stated that they gonna start alerting childcare if they find kids playing outside with no adult watching !
That’s not the way I raise my kids at all. Luckily we are in a house with a big garden and trees.
But, at least in Western Europe, we are sadly following this path..
America’s true success was in having a large contingent of people trustworthy enough to cultivate a society that didn’t get bogged down in small transaction costs like needing to bribe town officials or worry about deliveries or food/vehicle/road/etc safety and quality. If we lose that trust in America for each other overall, then we will unravel.
> I can't really tell what's true anymore
This is by design, and politics is just stagecraft meant to hypnotize the masses, distract and confuse them.
I regularly avoided doing homework throughout my school life. The only thing I think that suffered was my understanding of physics & chemistry. I doubt I would have better understanding now in any other subject area if I had done more homework, including maths and the foreign language I studied. Maths because we were given enough time in classes to do exercises in which to learn the concepts; foreign language study because it just wasn't taught terribly well and the homework was in the same vein.
The only bad effect is that homework got associated with bad feelings (anxiety, stress), because I had to find ways to still get them done without doing them at home. Going into university this was hard to undo.
We also had the rule of one hour per class per day. The funny thing is that this scales up the more time you spend in school, instead of scaling down. In 10th grade, our school days were longer than my parents' workdays and of course every teacher likes to assign homework on top of that, so you can imagine what the expected load was.
In my opinion, homework should be abolished completely. Work should not be taken home. If you want kids to do extra work, have "schoolwork" classes after regular classes, where they can do exercises that teachers provided them that day. At the very least this provides a direct measurement of hours spent on school, provides a clear expectation and forces a cap on how many hours kids spend on school per day. Of course no school would do that because it would be a nightmare.
In France if you are a dorm resident in high school you do have such mandatory "schoolwork" classes. You start with a mandatory 10 hours (IIRC) of classes of study that you have to do each week. These are done in specific rooms at specific times, but you can choose when to go (usually there is one hour open during lunch period and 2 to 3 hours in the evenings).
Depending on your grades the amount of mandatory hours goes up or down. If you are good enough it can go down to zero. When I was in high school these hours were largely enough to finish all homework, including the mandatory reading assignments.
What do you mean by this?
Same here. School hours were (something like) 9am to 3:30pm. They have no authority to allocate time after that, no matter how much they'd like to.
If they had a problem with it, that was their problem. Not mine.
And yep, that seemed to fit well with my later career as a professional (IT) contractor. ;)
I did well in school regardless, because school is about surviving without becoming dumb. The more the effort put into a program that's designed for the stupidest kid, the dumber you become. It was about efficiency, better results than most with minimum effort.
Refer to Taylor Gatto's The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher.
Unlike me, she'd do the homework. On time, even! The teachers could verbally ask her anything on the test and she'd reply with the answer. Yet once the test came, she'd do poorly nearly every time. A few teachers were able to work with her, but otherwise she'd simply do poorly in a class if it was weighted for the test instead of other things.
I was more like you and nearly failed due to homework not being done. I got better when I got older, but I also weirdly had less homework the last 2 years of high school than I did in middle school.
Of course, both situations really are illustrative that education is mostly punitive and it doesn't really matter if you can prove you know things.
We were probably years behind other schools by the time we left, but that meant from 2:30 every day we had free reign. Obviously some kids went down the dealing/thieving route, but I learnt a lot about finding my own entertainment. I honestly think homework is the scourge of childhood, even more so than testing and exams.
and his book Freed to Learn https://www.amazon.com/Free-Learn-Unleashing-Instinct-Self-R....
He writes about how kids learn on their own if we don't straightjacket them too much and how we're straightjacketing them.
Also Lenore Skenazy's Let Grow: https://letgrow.org, a program to help restore childhood. She was called the worst mom in America after she wrote how she let her 9-year-old take the subway home, embraced the title, and started the free range kid movement.
What a marvelous start, good luck looking trustworthy. It's straight up the same as it was generations and generations before. I also love the emphasis on video games imposed in this article, from the very beginning.
I have a different opinion on this. While I can confirm that some team-based games can tilt someone, it's unlikely that it contributes to mentioned suicide rates in any meaningful way. It's just the same kind of "youngsters these days" activity as it was before. The actual reason may lie deeper in the current state of human society. Fearmongering by the crackpot young adults who still didn't grow up themselves is but one manifestation of what's happening in the bigger picture.
I'm ashamed to admit, being the part of this "young adult" generation myself, that we're a laughable bunch of irresponsible wimps, relying on everything but ourselves to relieve the stress posed onto us by the ordinary "adult" problems. As the result, some of us easily fall the cult-like mobs, failing to recognize the stupidity of our derived positions and causing problems to people around us while hypocritically stating that we just want to make the world better. Our generation isn't strong enough. We ruin each other and the majority of us is too immature to take care of our "youngsters", which is the real reason behind them going rabid or just straight out killing themselves.
We are the ruined generation and we ruin our societies, and what's more important, our kids, the ones who are supposed to be the next building blocks for it. And it's most probably our fault. Or wait, do the games cause that? It's always someone else's fault, it's the guns who kill people, not the other people, it definitely must be the case this time, isn't it? What a mess.
They're fortunately aging out of power right now too.
1. Increasingly, both parents work full time and don't/can't rely on family for child care. The "and" is critical here, because in the past you might have had a single parent or dual income parents, but also had grandmothers and aunties as support. An increasingly mobile workforce, and smaller families mean that familial support structures are dwindling.
2. "Being a kid" is illegal. If you're under 12 in most of Virginia, you can't be unsupervised by an adult for more than three hours and can't be unsupervised overnight until you're 16. States have been turning schools into prison-lite since at least the 90s 
2.a. Other parents are your worst enemy in this case. I can't tell you how many times a "concerned" parent has approached one of my kids - while I could see them - about if they were lost, because there wasn't a parent literally hovering over them.
That doesn't even get to all the insane competitiveness of everything that keeps everyone on edge.
Also, please elaborate on the insane competitiveness. This entire subject fascinates me (and others?) greatly, as I really want to have the best grasp I can of what I'm in for.
At first it was: "oh, thanks for the concern but she/he's fine"
Then it was: "What exactly are you afraid of, this is the safest time in history"
Then it evolved to: "Why don't you mind your own business"
Finally, I just moved to an area where people aren't like that, aka a rural/farm/country area.
I put up with it because my kid has gotten lost before, and other parents have been very helpful at that point (unfortunately giving lots of space can backfire at the store when he just runs off and gets lost).
There is a TV show in Japan (sure you can find it on YouTube) where parents send their 3 or 4 year old kid to the store by themselves for the first time and then have them followed by a film crew (this right of passage is typically unfilmed and unsupervised of course). I know that can’t happen in the states, but I can dream!
Treat them like you would treat a beggar or salesperson you don't want to interact with, say "No thanks" with minimal eye contact and keep moving (or if stationary, ignore them).
When my boys get home, we get outside and do sports. We’re in the middle of (tackle) football season right now and that’s what my 7 year-old does five days a week for two hours every evening. It’s exercise, fun, camaraderie, and lessons for life, all rolled together. My four year-old spends the practices on the sidelines, digging in the dirt with other little brothers and sisters and chasing the bigger kids around the track when they run laps.
When football season is over, we move on to other team sports. When those are over, we ride our bikes around the neighborhood and play pick-up football games in the front yard.
What we don’t do: iPads, TVs, or smart phones. It’s not that came into parenthood with some anti-technology mindset. Rather, we let our kids have these devices and we saw immediately the negative effects on their behavior, attitude, and motivation, and so we took them away. They get to use them on the rarest of circumstances: during airplane rides or as a brief reward for a week of good behavior.
Adam Carolla once said that the problem with kids isn’t all of the things that we’ve added to childhood, it’s all the things we’ve taken away. Sports, free time, boredom, tree forts, and neighborhood exploration have all been curtailed. For much of this, we have over-involved, over-concerned mothers to thank (and a bunch of dads that think like moms).
It doesn’t have to be this way. Nobody is forcing us to raise our kids in the post-millennium style. You can raise tough, resourceful, happy, outdoors-loving kids if you want to.
If you are a parent of little ones, have a look at this article:
"The areas where children once congregated for unstructured, unsupervised play are now often off limits. And so those who can afford it drive their children from one structured activity to another."
For screen time I found that YouTube gave my kids the worst attitude, so even when we go on vacation all they get is Netflix.
What a hateful, sexist notion to put in the middle of an otherwise articulate comment.
Or what kids actually are able to.
That experience effect is likely much larger then whatever general risk-taking attitude by gender is.
And yet completely true. I've seen it personally in my parents, in all kids around me growing up, and I can see it among friends/family raising kids these days. Guys are simply much more relaxed, sometimes a bit too much for my taste. Not a single case of opposite situation (this might be extreme experience for whatever reason, but that's my reality)
On the topic of iPads, I went to a combined middle/high school, and one year, they moved to require the whole middle school to have an ipad, making the argument that they were being 'technologically advanced' and adapting to the 21st century 'digital society'. It had exactly the effect you might think. You cant type on ipads, so the school still needed to have laptops for kids to use. And at lunch or after school, all you would see is kids playing games or watching youtube on their devices. The school administrators knew what was happening, but didnt want to do anything and admit they were wrong. iPads are a truly net negative for young kids, and I hope that more people will realize this.
> Technology has a time and place, but it should never
> replace human interaction.
Just wondering if you have time for them to be bored and having to dibs their own entertainment?
How entirely fortunate for you and now your children, and fie on those who might believe there is some way to incorporate the last 30+ years of technology into raising happy children.
I genuinely feel bad for your kids, because they're not going to get the kind of upbringing they could have had where a healthy relationship with the actual world is fostered and encouraged. Instead they're stuck living in this pretend universe where computers are evil and responsible management of their time and attention is taken care of for them.
Seriously, when did we come to the belief that children need structured activities all the time. Easy answer, when government employees stepped in. When politicians and government employees decided they knew better than parents or children what children needed. After all parents might not impart values that politicians decided are correct!
Then comes DFACS and the police state to bully parents into complying because the power of state arrayed against them is so one sided that the only chance you have is to surrender your parental rights or be stupid rich enough to fight back.
The scope of schools, social services, police, etc. in the US are all perfect examples of this. We are now at the point where children from ages 6 and up are doing more work than full-time office workers. My nephew (4th grade in Missouri) leaves for school at 7:45 AM, comes home at 4:00 PM, usually with 2-3 hours of homework a day. And when he does happen to get free-time? Oh, better carry his phone and be with an adult. Frankly, it's total madness, and I'm glad that I am not a child in today's world.
I can't help but feel that this is the result of decades of grand-standing. Every single person wants brownie points for being seen as someone who "supports school". Of course, supporting school never means improving current paradigms, it always translates to "more school days, more supervision, more money, more teachers, more subjects, more more more". New idea, next time someone suggests adding more to a school curriculum, ask them to project the increase in teen suicides. That's a low-blow and an emotional appeal, but that's where things are at right now.
What does DFAC mean in this case? I assume it isn't "Dining Facilities."
If you want a vivid picture of just how free-range life was in 19th century America, I recommend "Two Little Savages" by Ernest Thompson Seton, a fictionalized autobiography of the author's childhood published in 1903. While it's certainly a romanticized picture, and the events in the book represent an unusual amount of freedom for the protagonists, it still documents fantastically a variety of 19th century parenting styles and the nature of the society that has been lost.
All of us neighborhood kids ran around in semi-feral packs and played together, being home before night, and I enjoyed it very much. Yes, there was a lot of work to be done. But kids got to be kids, too, and suffered none of the overscheduled insanity I see around me nowadays.
Slight aside- I honestly think that being able to contribute to the household from a young age was good for our mental health, too. Even if (as an example) hunting grasshoppers for a snack was silly fun together, we were proud to hand over our catch, and it felt good to be appreciated by the adults.
If you want to use it to mean “lucky” it should be in the sense of “a purely accidental thing that happened to be good”, not just any good thing that happened.
If I travel to a foreign city on a whim and meet my future spouse there, that might be fortuitous. (It would also be fortuitous if I travel on a whim to a foreign city, get hit by a truck, and end up paraplegic.) If I train for years and finally manage to achieve my dream of running a marathon, that is not fortuitous.
Your link offers the definition “Happening independently of human will or means of foresight; resulting from unavoidable physical causes.”
There are also people who regularly binge drink and don’t become addicts per se... I guess you could call that both fortuitous and fortunate?
Or we can go all out and deny any human agency or choice, in which case I guess everything becomes fortuitous. This makes the word not very useful though.
The raising incarceration rates are mostly on black men being arrested more. So obviously, there are less black men available to form families.
As a poor white kid when I grew up my parents didn't have the luxury to let me do my own thing because they were often out fishing for a week+ at a time out in the bay area. So I was either waiting in the dock house playing video games for shorter fishing trips or out there on the boat with them for longer excursions.
In other words, whites in that era who practiced 'free range parenting' presumably lived in mostly white communities. If the communities were more mixed at the time, would 'free range parenting' have been as common, even if the affluence and social status of whites was the same?
Another question - what were the parenting techniques like from other races at the time in America? I'm thinking Chinese/Japanese immigrants, Hispanics, Jews, etc. Were well-to-do whites the only ones who largely practiced this style of parenting or were there others?
It wasn't a luxury to be unsupervised... the black people I knew growing up didn't really have a culture of oversupervision to rebel against. We were expected to be able to handle ourselves.
Things are different, but that does not always mean they are worse.
I remember in my football team's locker room, one guy ended up with an erection and beat up, spit on. I got to deal with hearing "faggot" for years just for being the one person saying to stop. I can't imagine that kind of thing happening today as often. There are good and bad changes.
Looking at statistics and research here in Sweden where gun ownership by families with children is rather low, the explanation is more focused on difference in how depression express itself different in boys compared to girls and how adults in the near environment respond to that, difference in the rate that boys reach out to adults for help, and alcohol as self-medication.