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Having grown up in the late 80s in an East Block country, this article resonated very strongly. Growing up in that place and time was akin to 50s America - no cable, consoles, arcades, VCRs or handhelds. We had TV, but it only had the single state broadcast channel which played only one cartoon.

The only thing to do was play which we did prodigiously - I was part of a large mix-aged group (6-12 kids, 5 years age difference) and we would play everything (sports, house, building things, demolishing things, raising stray animals, foraging fruit, fighting other kids). It was a great childhood and neither I nor my childhood friends (most of us are still friends, even across continents) would trade it for anything. Interestingly, it was almost the same childhood my mom and dad had.

My sister (the de-facto leader of our group) now has children and their childhood could not be any different - constantly shuttled from home to school to organized activity. Play only for a bit under heavily supervised conditions (ie, birthday party at another kids house) and filled to the brim with tablets, phones, computers etc.

I feel very bad for my nephew's effective lack of childhood, even more so because it seems that doing something differently is a big social taboo. My mom, siter and I have talked about this, and my sister described being almost powerless - who would they play with? Where? What are other parents going to think? etc etc.

When I go to places like rural Belize or small-town Costa Rica I see kids still playing and I wonder if that's not the best place to raise a small kid (4-10 years old).

I always find it interesting that nobody mentions this. Your generation, and the ones before you, destroyed and defunded parks, they built malls over open land, they made 100% safe unfun playgrounds, they turned America in the the most litigious country in the history of mankind scaring anyone from allowing anyone ever to make a mistake or get slightly hurt, you buy your kids more screens than books, and then at the end of the day you wonder aloud why kids don't play as much?

* That was a proverbial you, no you specifically OP.

After I graduated college I worked for the same college doing IT for housing and dining. I worked with a fellow alumnus who was in a fraternity in the late 60s. He told a story about their fraternity running a paid bar in the basement every Friday and Saturday night. The brothers would drink so much that they couldn't be bothered to successfully run the bar, so they split the profits with the sorority next door and the sorority sisters would take care of everything for them.

The reason why this is relevant is that he would often rail against the same university that was cracking down on underage drinking because parents were worried about their kids. It was typically the same parents who partook in these shenanigans about 40 years before - yet didn't want their kids to have the same experience.

Talk about complete hypocrites.

Not that it diminishes the point, but many of those parents were likely in university during the 70s to early 80s, when the drinking age was as low as 18 in many (but not all) states. Hypothetically many of these parents drank legally as freshmen in college but do not want their children to drink illegally as freshmen in college.

I'd still call them hypocrites, or at least accuse them of lacking in the critical thinking department, but hypocrites to a much lesser extent.

Legal smeagle. I would bet that 99% of people (including boomers) think that 20 year olds should be able to drink. The oft cited argument that "we let 18 year olds man nuclear subs that could take out a city" is just too obvious.

This argument is so bad. We don't let 18 year olds run a nuclear sub. Sure, they're on board sometimes but important decisions are made by significantly older officers with years of training. That's like having a drink with your parents.

(I got drunk first time when I was 14 and have no strong opinion on when it should be legal to buy alcohol.)

Good point. We let them shoot and kill each other however.

Maybe. Mixing legality and morality is popular enough though. In other words: "the drinking age should be 18, but it isn't, and you should respect the law".

I suspect many would also oppose dropping the legal age for MADD inspired reasons (god I hate that organization.... bunch of neo-prohibitionists...) even though they think their kid is responsible enough.

I do agree though, most probably do think that the age could be lower.

Just to say, I graduated a year ago from a non-US school with a bar in the main building. Everybody was fine.

Are we ever allowed to change our mind about something without being called a hypocrite? I don't think changing as you age is hypocrisy.

No, you can certainly change your mind. But there is definitely a line where something is crossed.

An example is with the revelations about the concussions in football. Some parents, even ones who may have played football in their day, may not want their kids playing football. This doesn't cross that line and is not hypocritical.

Another example is with a fair number of religious fathers that I've met as a young man and and adult. I dated a girl who's father was overly concerned about her safety. Fair enough. We met at a Dairy Queen so I could ask her to a dance. He proceeds to tell me that he knows 'how boys are' because he partied and caroused when he was younger, before he found 'the Lord'. Now, I know how boys are as well - I was one at the time, heh - but I wasn't that boy. I wasn't him, yet, I was lumped into a group I wasn't a part of and lectured on how to be a gentleman. That's hypocritical.

Another example. I fucking hate 'The View' yet still end up seeing way too much of it due to my wife. One of the hosts has said that she's had multiple abortions in her lifetime but now that she's had a kid she leans pro-life. So while it was fine when she was poor and had no way of supporting a child (multiple times I remind you), now that she's rich she would've chosen differently. That's hypocritical.

I guess the line is where you don't own your previous decisions instead of making excuses for them. I think we can all accept the 'we didn't know the consequences' as not hypocritical but the 'I just don't want you to do what I did' is right out.

"The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion" http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/anti-tales.html

Your definition of "hypocrisy" is off. A hypocrite is someone whose current actions and professed moral standards don't agree. The father was simply wrong about you, not a hypocrite. And the The View host simply changed her mind due to a new perspective, for right or wrong.

The question is if the The View host regrets her decision, or if she stands by it while opposing abortion currently.

I don't know which is the case, though I do know somebody who goes with the later. I can't say I respect them very much.

The hypocrisy appears when they don't pass the same judgement on themselves. Do they disapprove of what they did when they were younger, or do they think "oh, well that was all fun and games, but these kids should not be drinking"?

I had this discussion with my mother (who went to school in the early 70s) when I entered school. Her position boiled down to it being reasonable for her to drink because it was legal, and unreasonable for me to drink simply because it was illegal. Now, I don't equate legality to morality, in no small part because she didn't raise me to do that. When pressed to actually explain her disapproval, she relented and admitted that her position was hypocritical.

Hypocrisy isn't about changing your mind. It is about holding yourself to a different standard.

I don't interpret that as hypocritical. Whether legality equates to morality doesn't matter. If you get caught, there can be serious consequences (legal penalties, kicked out of schools, etc.. all depending of course on the circumstances of the party, the party-goers, the school, the state, etc.). These risks didn't exist when she drink in college. They do now, and it's not unreasonable for a parent to want to prevent these things from happening to their child. Their opinion can be 0% percent judgement based (in the sense of "passing judgement".

I think we both knew that, in practice, there is no real risk in being kicked out of school for hitting up a party on Fridays so long as you act with some baseline level of responsibility. In my case it wasn't even a dry campus (and few people other than freshmen were in school housing anyway, so the parties were on private property), and nobody had cars (campus was in the city). In this specific case, her judgement was based on mixing the legal and moral signals, but she does not normally buy into that.

I would describe her position at the time as slightly hypocritical, or at least poorly considered. To be clear, I don't think anti-kids-these-days-drinking attitudes are categorically extremely hypocritical, just often so.

It's not hypocritical, regardless of whether the risks existed then. To say "I was wrong, even if I didn't know it. You should avoid being wrong as well" is in no way inconsistent or hypocritical.

Err, let me give you another example - abortions. I love it when women (that have had abortions) or men (that encouraged women to have abortions) are becoming anti-abortions as they age.

Considering their changing minds can lead to people being convicted for crimes they themselves were guilty of, does that count as hypocrisy?

Of course it does, because such opinions don't come with a disclaimer. Any conversation with a child or a school principal about drinking should start with "You know, I got wasted several times in college...".

I think what you're asking for is intellectual honesty. There's nothing hypocritical about judging people for crimes you were guilty of in the past. You can't take a word and just change it however you like. Actually, you can, if enough people agree with you. But in this case the dictionary doesn't.

Is that actually relevant? I think a lot of those folks would recall their own memories of doing those things in a fond light, even while they deny it in the present for future generations.

Woah, hold up there. I am a little before the OP poster (70's) and we most surely did not do what you said. It was the f'n generation before us (born in the 60's) that did the freak out and made everything "safe first". They started their crusade in the 80's and really got going in the 90's. The OP and even someone born in the 70's were a bit young for it.

Now, I do see this schedule-every-second-vibe from my generation and am not liking it one bit[1]. My younger brother is trying to find or build decent play equipment for his boy as he grows up.

1) some organized sports is fine, but this scheduling every waking minute of your child's time is psycho

You make a very good point. The Boomers (myself included) had freedom to play, explore, and get into trouble. But as a generation we have royally screwed up our own kids.

I've lived in East Asia for the last 25 years and was appalled to see what educational systems in Japan and Hong Kong did to children, and the kind of employees they make later in life.

Later I moved to SE Asia and in the countryside you still see children leading healthy childhoods, while the middle class, especially in the cities seem hellbent on screwing up their children's lives. When I first moved to Thailand things were okay, now they are terrible. Now that I live in Cambodia I am seeing the same processes happen. It's very sad.

The exception, and it's a very small exception, is in some of the International schools you see scattered around Asia. There are a few very good schools out here, where children are brought up in a mixed culture and linguistic environment, are given a great deal more freedom to explore and time to play, and choose for themselves. International schools are set primarily to educate children of expat families living abroad. But it's becoming common to see more and more local children being enrolled in the better of these schools. I know a school in Hong Kong who has had to limit the number of local children that they enroll because otherwise there wouldn't be any expat children in the school at all.

Because I so rarely visit the States, I didn't realize until the last five or six years how bad things had become. Most American children now are subject to the worst of the old American industrial education system and the worst of the eastern, the student is an open vessel for the teacher to pour his wisdom into, all in one package.

I would never raise a child in the States, because IMHO it would be tantamount to child abuse.

Your generation, and the ones before you, destroyed and defunded parks, they built malls over open land, they made 100% safe unfun playgrounds

This comment is bad math, bad history, and bad analysis.

Please. Try. Harder.

[NB: GP was <10yrs old in 1990. He was not the parks comissioner of New York City in the 1990s. Etc.]

When seesaws and tall slides and other perils were disappearing from New York’s playgrounds, Henry Stern drew a line in the sandbox. As the city’s parks commissioner in the 1990s, he issued an edict concerning the 10-foot-high jungle gym near his childhood home in northern Manhattan.

“I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”

His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.



His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time,

Right. We can infer in 1990 that in the power structures of NYC, people were motivated to de-risk playgrounds. Agreed. The larger point is that the earlier post was written by someone who was ~10 in 1990, and still in middle school or so during this quote. The people "in the power structures" in NYC and the ~young kids (in the schools out in the country side), are non-intersecting sets in a venn diagram. As a point of history, The destruction of playgrounds was a byproduct of Urban politics, and then became a political/cultural issue that was a holy-cow of school administrators. Again, this is a venn-diagram (urban, teachers) that is not overlapping with the accused (rural, student).


Plus, policies are not made by a generation but politicians and social and economic circumstances. There's never been a meeting of whatever generation to decide policy, that happens elsewhere. The narrative is in the "not even wrong" category.

I can't make any sense of your perspective. Policies very much are made by a generation; they are very much not made by politicians. Look at the discussion of drinking -- politicians have decided that no one shall drink before the age of 21, the masses have decided something different, and the masses are having things 100% their own way. The society reflects what the populace wants.

> There's never been a meeting of whatever generation to decide policy, that happens elsewhere.

Of course there's never been a meeting. The generation doesn't meet. But it does decide policy. Who meets to set the price of copper?

On the topic of clildren freedom and modern day restrictions etc, I always found this small article from the Austin Chronicle about life in the fifties very illuminating. It also explains the origins of the saying "This is where I came in" (and we have the same saying in my country, with exactly the same origins!):

"In today's America, where parents chauffeur kids to "play dates," only on the poorest streets do 7-year-olds still roam free ... but they don't go to movies much because tickets are so pricey ... the concession stand is even more expensive ... and you can't just walk into any movie (it might not be rated for kids) ... and you have to know the exact time a film starts ... and shopping-mall movie theatres are rarely within walking distance. Today you're blitzed by TV ad campaigns and product tie-ins in fast-food joints, so you know all about a Hollywood film before it starts ... and today's urban parents panic if their grade-school children disappear, unaccounted for, for hours on end.

Fifty years ago, none of that was so. In the larger cities, two or three movie theatres were in walking distance of most neighborhoods. Each had but one screen. The program began with a newsreel, a few cartoons, and brief "coming attractions" (not today's compilations that tell the whole story). Then the "features" began -- plural, features, for all neighborhood theatres played double, sometimes triple, features, two or three movies for the price of one ticket. Nothing was rated, there were no sex scenes or obscenities; anyone could go to any movie. Admission price for a kid was rarely more than a quarter. Popcorn for a dime, a Coke for a nickel. They weren't supposed to sell kids tickets during school hours, but they did. As for kids roaming about -- "Go play in traffic," our parents would say, and they wouldn't be surprised if we didn't walk in 'til dinnertime, which in our immigrant neighborhood wasn't until after 7."


50 years ago the movie business was a vertical market. The movie distributor was the producer, studio owner, the cast and crew were employees, and they owned the theater. Look at the old spaghetti westerns and the opening credits were studio, producer, cast, major crew, and that was it. The movie simply started. And the end credits were just as short.

Now the cast and crew are contractors, producers, studios, and theaters are separate entities with each one having to grow 10% annually. The last movie I watched had 10 minutes of end credits. Movies have gotten far more complex in production and there are a lot of hands in the pot now.

>Now the cast and crew are contractors, producers, studios, and theaters are separate entities with each one having to grow 10% annually. The last movie I watched had 10 minutes of end credits. Movies have gotten far more complex in production and there are a lot of hands in the pot now.

Still much worse cinematography and script-wise than older stuff, from Hitchcock and Capra to Pekinpah and Copolla.

With a few exceptions, like Tarantino, 90% of the stuff coming out are aimed at teenagers with ADD (including 20 somethings that still play GTA). And the more "serious" stuff is usually some bad formulaic (as opposed to good formulaic) melodrama BS.

Part of the problem is that the race for college has been pushed earlier and earlier as admissions has gotten more competitive.

Admission rates for colleges have been dropping across the board, for top tier schools even more sharply. When success in life in large part is still defined by one's undergraduate institution you can see why parents would focus on that at the expense of everything else.

I'm not a parent yet, and am not planning to be in the near future, but I've been thinking a lot about parenting now that I'm fully out of my childhood and it basically seems to come down to a bunch of tough compromises.

As a parent of an 8-year old, I don't think this is it at all. I think it's a couple things.

1. Cutbacks of "scheduled creativity" time at school. This is a HUGE one. In the 70's, my school had an art class, music class, plenty of PE. Now, that's hugely, hugely cut. If I want my kid to do art? music? sports? (she wants to, after all). After-school scheduled activity time!

2. 2 working parents. We're pretty free range, don't need to hover over playing kids, but we need to be within walking distance (at home down the street, or whatever). Juggling that "freely" as opposed to strictly-set activities? Much harder. Even if you get 1 afternoon free a week, there aren't other parents to trade off with.

3. Basically, chicken-and-egg. If my kid doesn't have anyone to play with because they're all off at activities, better to have them doing these activities with their peers than sitting at home bored and idle (not that some down/idle time isn't good, but there can be too much).

Can't think of ANYONE in my peer group who's worried about college for their kids yet. Maybe in a couple years.

I think the 2 working parents in combination with commutes and non-walking friendly neighborhoods killed it.

YMMV. I went to school in mid 70's and both parents were working when I was in HS and before. As others have posted, I was unsupervised. Could ride a bike to/from school for 20-30 min etc. Not sure what all changed but the things I read now suggest its way different than when I started. I hesitate to say people seem younger but they do seem nastier and more self-focused. We had stoners and grinds and everything in between. I seem to recall sex. And the drug stories are legendary. Maybe the parents are trying to prevent their kids doing the same?

Which, of course, does wonders for the forbidden fruit aspect of things. Oh, and we had computers too. Big, slow things but they were there and just as fun to play with. But their relative rarity forced us to be social to a degree.

I'll go back inside so you can play on my yard now :-).

As I mentioned, it was two working parents and the move to surburbia. (Well, I said non-walking-friendly neighborhoods, and didn't elaborate). This was what changed.

These suburbs, often designed after 1950s, were designed for car travel, rather than walking or biking. Many suburbs are designed with streets as fractals, often without sidewalks. It might be a "safe" subdivision, but there was a real risk in being run over by cars. Kids living in suburbia had to be driven everywhere for activities.

It's no coincidence that the kids growing up in that environment and coming into adulthood have increasingly moved to gentrified neighborhoods (the ones designed for walking). There has been a decline in buying cars. Whether that means allowing the kids to have free play remains to be seen. (But I suspect, things like the popularity of the books, The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Daring Book for Girls are indicative).

Also have an 8 yo and I can't think of anyone in my peer group that isn't thinking about their child's college. Of course mine attends a private school, so we may have different demographics. As one of the parents told me, who's managed to send his other two kids to elite schools: if you wait until high school (to start working on the admissions resume), it's too late.

We'll take our chances.

> Admission rates for colleges have been dropping across the board, for top tier schools even more sharply

I do not see how this could be happening in aggregate. College attendance is way up over the last few decades, even at the graduate level. Sure, top schools are more competitive, but that is only because their is more to filter out, and newer schools would seemingly pick up the slack. Many of the less than reputable for-profit schools have pretty much no admission requirements (except $$$). I personally think this new evolving system is still extremely problematic, but not because of admissions.

I wouldn't think that breaking an arm or two while in elementary school would have much of an effect at all on college admissions. I mean, if anything, it should give the kid some more life experiences to draw upon while writing their admissions essay, right?

No, but excelling in high-school extra-curricular activities does. And the perception is you don't excel at extra-curricular activities unless you start young.

In my neighborhood, kids started working with professional strength coaches in middle-school in an effort to make varsity football or basketball. Excessive instruction in music was common. 2-3 sports a season on top of volunteer work or part-time jobs.

It's all in an effort to get a leg up at college admissions time. And it's absolutely insane.

I don't think volunteer work and part-time jobs really factor into the equation with the age group that I am picturing, though with teenagers they are important of course (Particularly I think finding a shitty part-time job that lets you goof off with your peers, then get yelled at by a boss (who honestly doesn't really expect better) is relatively important)

Starting them off in a sport or two seems fine, that's how I grew up anyway, but at least in my case there wasn't an excessively strong drive to excel there. I certainly wasn't going for a sports scholarship, so keeping fit and just being able to write "Sports, k-12" on my college application was good enough. One or two kids had really driving parents and I think the rest of us always felt bad for those kids, but it wasn't the norm.

Some of it was inevitable overcrowding/overbuilding of towns. We can have all the morals we can afford.

I was born in 1984 in Turkey. We lived in an apartment building in a major downtown area. My childhood memories consist of playing with other kids in the same apartment building or the neighboring buildings. These games were almost always improvised on the spot, where someone would throw out an idea and the others in the group would build upon it. There would be rule-making and negotiation, and lots of arguments. And then we would play.

Even when we played well-known games, they had at least some element of improvisation. For example, if we couldn't pool enough money to buy a rubber soccer ball, we would find a soda can, crush it on the ground and use it as the ball. There would be rules with that, such as wearing close-toed shoes and keeping the can on the ground at all times (if it took into the air it became a sharp and dangerous projectile). The interesting thing is that these rules were invented on the spot by us kids. Parents had no involvement.

One of the major differences I noticed when I came to America for college was that, in social settings, people were utterly incapable of improvising a game from scratch. We always had to play a game that someone else had invented, such as a board game or a well-known drinking game - both of which had strict rules. And if the board game was missing a piece? It was deemed unplayable. No one tried to improvise a solution because it required outside-the-box thinking. One weekend, the guy who had all the board games went back home to visit his parents, and his door was locked. So I found a large piece of cardboard from the trashcans behind the dormitory, and some supplies, and spent an hour or so creating a board game. When I presented it to the group, people were stunned. We played for hours and I became the god damn hero.

The interesting thing is that I notice the same patterns in the workplace. But I don't want to turn this into work talk!

One of the major differences I noticed when I came to America for college was that, in social settings, people were utterly incapable of improvising a game from scratch. We always had to play a game that someone else had invented, such as a board game or a well-known drinking game - both of which had strict rules. And if the board game was missing a piece? It was deemed unplayable. No one tried to improvise a solution because it required outside-the-box thinking.

Playing the system. Its the new, new thing.

Oh, I grew up in the same times, in the same general area, with just a little whee bit of difference: I'm aspergers, I'm socially anxious, and I quite clearly remember that most of the fun groups like you mention had were actually at the expense of the kids like me.


Also, while I didn't spend that much time among modern kids, I do see them having lots of fun (yes, with the eeevil tablets too, sometimes), and then going to organized activities that they often pick themselves and seem to enjoy more than kicking a brick or bullying (sorry, was I meant to say "fighting"? Well, I won't) another group of kids. And then they get a bit older, and find sports or creative or technical activities that were completely out of reach of most kids growing up in the magical eighties.

It's just part "our times were different", part golden age mythology. In reality, the entire concept of childhood as we modernly understand it is fairly young, and the idea that kids play and adults don't is ridiculous. Furthermore, it's just us adults judging kids to not having played enough without putting their health in danger or at least getting uncomfortably dirty.

Modern kids play. A lot. Just because they play in a way that's different from yours or bucolic paintings doesn't mean they don't actually have more fun than you did.

> most of the fun groups like you mention had were actually at the expense of the kids like me.

I'm sorry for your experience, but that's absolutely not what I meant, nor what happened. "Fighting" as I said there was actually things like snowball fights in the winter or paper-cone-in-tube or soft/rotten-fruit-in-sligshot fights in the summer, and always in a group-vs-group setting. I am in fact your fairly typical shy introverted bookish geek and the reason I think so highly of this type of play is precisely because it allowed me to overcome these tendencies and be a normal kid.

My real worry here isn't that kids today aren't doing the exact same things I did. It's that they don't have the option to do certain things anymore - things which may in fact be extremely valuable. What I described in my OP wasn't false, but it wasn't complete - I also spent much time playing Legos, reading books, "technical activities" with my dad's tools. Better or worse, one thing I can definitely say is my nephew has far fewer options and choices than I did at his age.

> "Fighting" as I said there was actually things like snowball fights in the winter or paper-cone-in-tube or soft/rotten-fruit-in-sligshot fights in the summer, and always in a group-vs-group setting.

That was always what the less lucky kids were told when they complained. And then painted as spoil-sports until they stopped complaining to avoid embarrassment.

> It's that they don't have the option to do certain things anymore - things which may in fact be extremely valuable.

I don't know about your specific family, but in general, they have far, far more options, up to and including extreme sports. Pretty sure I didn't know any kid that could try climbing or spelunking in the eighties.

I think your judgement is a bit biased here. Just because you experienced such things doesn't mean everybody else experienced such things. There are plenty of things kids enjoy other than bullying other kids, so why do you assume all kids would be interested in bullying?

I don't. The kids who went into fighting games, though, I do judge as such. Especially when there was little other for fun (seriously, I dunno, maybe my memory is better, but the legendary playing areas were actually dull, grey, boring, and we tend to remember the few cases where we tried to break the bleak and ended up injured).

"The kids who went into fighting games, though, I do judge as such."

Where "fighting games" includes snowball fights? Seriously, that is all kids above the mason-dixon line (and I assume kids in the south have some equally harmless equivalent. Water-balloon fights probably.)

As an occasional, friendly and with warning and consent? Nah, sure, that might be friendly teasing. Even sporadical exceptions, nobody's perfect.

As a staple of entertainment? Yeah. People can be very, very mean using just plain old boring snowballs.

I think Tichy is right. There is no reason to harshly judge kids who regularly enjoy snowball fights, water balloon fights, water noodle fights, etc. You are making these things out to be hazing or something.

I grew up in the 80s and in my neighborhood, played these games all the time with the neighborhood kids.

We would have Acorn fights, snowball fights, and water balloon fights.

Were some kids singled out? It might have happened once-in-awhile (including me), but this always happens with any group of kids.

I don't think anybody advocates bullying, or that nobody should ever check up on kids. If they get into bullying, that is a problem and should be adressed. I don't agree that fighting games in general lead to bullying, though.

Maybe we're talking about the difference between "generalist" and "specialist" here? It seems like if a child decides to participate in such narrowly focused activities, it could be at the expense of being exposed to different sorts of people and getting a more all-encompassing world view.

Too bad they often try a bunch of them before they settle, then, if they do, right? It's not like you can fill your entire week with dancing lessons and survive for long.

I was just putting forth an idea. There was no need to reach right for the sarcasm and add copious amounts of it.

> It's not like you can fill your entire week with dancing lessons and survive for long.

Maybe you haven't seen people that have been doing X (for various values of X) since they were 5 or 6 (e.g. Tiger Woods, gymnasts, hardcore ballerinas, etc).

Which has been happening since pretty much forever, and thankfully isn't the majority case (though still all too common).

> Oh, I grew up in the same times, in the same general area, with just a little whee bit of difference: I'm aspergers, I'm socially anxious, and I quite clearly remember that most of the fun groups like you mention had were actually at the expense of the kids like me.

It seems a rather "Harrison Bergeron" to disparage the sort of unsupervised and unrestrained play that martythemaniak is talking about just because some fraction of children are ill-equipped to participate in it.

I'm not sure how to take this, but the book epoused the attitude that "everyone treated equally" could lead to unforeseen consequences (i.e., 214th and later amendments to the Constitution).

I don't think that LaGrange would ever want forced equality. He's just adding perspective. And I think it's fair to say that kids will just find ways to have fun, either with tablets or without.

In one of our in-groups we hang out with occasionally, I've seen kids grow through the past 10 years. About 2-3 years ago, they started showing up to parties/events with iPads. Now they don't (even their little brothers sisters). Sometimes they were crowded around the Wii. Nowadays they aren't (again also the littler ones).

Kids will find ways to have fun with each other, and make use of their spare time. I don't think technology and the proliferation of digital toys are poisoning them. I think the lack of free time in general in our modern society is more pernicious (both for kids and their parents). Free time is a resource that is precious even for kids - give them this and they'll turn out ok.

Specifically the book argued that the capable in society should be artificially restricted to bring them down to the same level as the less capable.

Disparaging unsupervised and unstructured play because some people find themselves unable to enjoy participating in that seems like exactly the sort of thing the book was (with hyperbole, obviously) warning us about.

Honestly, I don't think technology is damaging to children either. However I do think that too much structure and supervision is, even if some children find themselves unable to thrive without supervision and structure.

> Specifically the book argued that the capable in society should be artificially restricted to bring them down to the same level as the less capable.

The book (or more accurately, Vonnegut) argued exactly the opposite. Burgeron is the protagonist, so we empathize with his worldview against the dystopian future. Reading further to other works by the same author, it's a recurring theme (e.g.: Slaughterhouse Five).


One of my observations has been that kids today are less shitty than they used to be. More structure means that less is left to the Lord of the Flies-esque social mechanics that arise among children left to their own devices.

I admit, there is an element of that. However I think that so long as there is an easy "ejection seat", the "Lord of the Flies"-esque aspects can be kept reasonable.

I've mentioned this on HN before, but when I was a child I was a boy scout and my experiences in that organization left a very bad taste in my mouth. Specifically during long camping trips you would frequently get very strong "Lord of the Flies" type situations that would escalate for days on end. When I was just at home, getting in stick fights and throwing rocks with neighborhood kids in the woods, any of us could always just run home when the others began to get absurdly out of line. On long camping trips with BSA there was no such escape. Although I was never really the victim of those situations, on several occasions things did plainly get out of hand.

Tearing around the neighborhood looking for trouble though? I think that is fine. As long as kids can reasonably tap themselves out, and don't remain locked into the situation for days on end, I don't think there is a risk of much permanent damage. Most common worse case scenario: some kids just don't play with the others; no big deal.

Edit: Thinking about it more, having evenings "off" also probably provides a much needed 'cool down' time for kids to reflect and prevent strong 'cult of personality' situations from taking root. Constant exposure allows mini-tyrants to get people under their thumb in a way that just cannot be replicated. Constant exposure probably explains a lot of what I experienced.

I'm not sure this is actually true though. I have younger siblings (as in, much younger) and they seem to have to deal with a lot of stupid shit from their peers.

Well they've got "cyber-bullying" now just for one I suppose. Probably plenty of other new dynamics that adults aren't particularly aware of.

I'm doubtful. My little sister describes and has the same problems I encountered. Sometimes it's not expressed in the same way, for example the facebook stalking and bullying, but on average it seems like her experience isn't less shitty than mine was.

EDIT: To clarify, it's not just based on my sister, but what I just said was anecdotal. I didn't mean to argue your point, but rather I'd like to hear why you think it is the case, when my experience has been different.

On the other hand the 'Lord of the Flies' tendencies might become even more powerful when they are never experienced and criticized.

Oh please. It was not "unrestrained", it was restrained by the limited resources. And it was not that the children were ill-equipped, they were perfectly equipped to compensate for the lacking toys by becoming them.

> Oh please. It was not "unrestrained", it was restrained by the limited resources.

Make sure to also point out that it was also "restrained" by gravity, conservation of energy, and limited access to high explosives...

Of course with imagination none of these things are actually restraints to children, and with imagination on your part you should be able to figure out that the restraint I am talking about is helicopter parents jumping in every time little Jimmy throws his water balloon at somebody instead of just playing catch with it like a "good boy" should.

I am talking about freedom from restrictive overly protective rules, not freedom from limitations of reality or the environment.

I'd argue it's very narcissistic and very un-empathetic.

Me, or him?

I sympathize with the plight of children who can't interact with other children in that way. What I don't do is think that the play of other children should be curtailed to accommodate the others. I don't think this is narcissistic of me; I don't have any dog in this fight as I don't have children and am not a child myself.

It's actually a relatively new problem. I live in a dense university neighborhood in Hamilton, Ontario (basically Canada's Pittsburgh) and I grew up being able to run free with my friends. I mean, there wasn't much in the way of raising stray animals or amateur carpentry, but the rest of that stuff we did. Lots of unsupervised mayhem running around the area.

I watched too much TV, and the mayhem was mostly confined to our local neighborhood and the ravine nearby, but we still played.

The thing is about my area is that it was built in the '30s. Before two-car homes. This city is so dense that a kid can walk anywhere, even though it's a pretty big city.

But now, living in the same neighborhood with my own kids, the culture has changed. I'd never dream of sending my 6-year-old son out to walk to school on his own and there isn't a mob of similar kids hiking to school for him to go with, and his friends aren't really playing out front on the street - it's all scheduled playdates.

Part of the problem is dual-income homes. It's only three blocks to school, but I drive my kids there anyways because I'm on my way to work... my wife is already at her job by then.

And this is the best-case scenario for Canada - a dense, pedestrian-friendly, close-to-school, close-to-the park house where kids can walk to anything. It's an affluent area with no crime to speak of other than drunken students. It is quite possibly the ideal place for kids to roam free... and they still don't do it.

And compare that to the rest of Southern Ontario that is one vast ocean of suburban tract housing where there is nothing in walking distance and all the houses and shops are in an ocean of parking and wide streets that makes even your neighbor feel a little further.

> It's only three blocks to school, but I drive my kids there anyways because

> It is quite possibly the ideal place for kids to roam free... and they still don't do it.

I agree that 6 is a bit young to walk on your own, but why don't you walk with him occasionally? You can walk back, and then drive to school.

When he's 7 or 8, he should be able to walk on his own. But only if you teach him how.

This would be a case of "people doing things different don't know what they miss". Some kids (future violinists or pianists for instance) spend huge amount of their childhood training and training, but there's usually enough to enjoy and enough to learn to not fall into the article's problem.

Playing under supervision is not so different, as for any group of more than a few kids, the supervisor won't be there directing every minute thing the kid does. IMO the problem the article states is less a lack of freedom than the quality of what the child does. And I don't mean quality in some elitist sense, but just in how much the kid gets from what he is doing (i.e. building towers in lego or teasing the house cat is chalenging and satisfying)

> I feel very bad for my nephew's effective lack of childhood, even more so because it seems that doing something differently is a big social taboo.

I don't quite understand this, could you expand it? I have a daughter and we go to the park a lot and don't own a TV and haven't noticed anyone bothered by either. In fact they are generally pleasantly surprised.

That was probably too strongly worded. What I meant was that he does not have the option of playing outside, unsupervised with his peer group (5-9 year olds).

Even if you see the value in that, as the author or my family does, you would likely find it practically very hard or impossible to do, mostly because it depends heavily on other kids/parents way of thinking and expectations.

I'm not sure about that. I was raised with the opportunity to do stuff outside with other kids and all that but it felt boring to me. Particularly it bugged me how they seemed to not stay on one thing for long or not stick to the structure of whatever we were doing. If it was up to me what to do I came up blank and just walked around until I was allowed to go back in - I couldn't think of anything interesting to do besides sometimes try to imitate stuff from the video games. In contrast at that age I found video games like Spyro the Dragon or Crash Bandicoot much more interesting and fulfilling due to how they were consistent and had more tangible rewards. I was also greatly interested in computers but didn't get one until third grade. I have doubts random physical meandering is better than technology for kids.

> When I go to places like rural Belize or small-town Costa Rica I see kids still playing and I wonder if that's not the best place to raise a small kid (4-10 years old).

Interesting Idea. I'm a bit far off from having kids, but I always think about the future and how I would raise them when I do have kids. That would also be great for cultural exposure. I know I want to raise my kids to be multilingual.

Having "play" was great in my experience, and I've never been fond of the idea of a busy schedule of organized activities, but...

It seems that every time childhood comes up, people talk about how they're childhood was great and now because the kids are doing this and that, they are worse off. Of course, their childhood was the true forger of character and personhood, while the brains of kids today are just turning into slush while they hover over their iPad's (even though they themselves spent hours in front of the VCR). The author seems a good example of that (though probably more informed than average).

(Sometimes people talk about how their childhood was bad, but then they blame it on themselves, their parents, or something that is not society wide.)

The problem is not kids hovering over their iPads. I was pestered by parents to go outside instead of playing computer games all the time (in the 80ies). But I know how important computer games where to me, so I'll fight to allow my kid to play games (most parents are actually afraid their kids get brain damage if they are exposed to computers - certainly nobody was interested in having a computer at the kindergarden of my son).

The issue is that kids don't have much spare time to do whatever they want. Their time is filled up with scheduled activities.

The iPad issue is something I've been thinking about. I've seen toddlers and even babies playing with them. The first few times observing this was quite surreal, because I thought back to what I was doing at that age (certain distant memories are strong.)

I had no television growing up, for better or worse. I did have a computer. I did play a phenomenal amount of computer games. However I also messed around with those games. I edited configuration files, changed textures, and even did outright level design. And then, I became and adult and grew out of it.

I had two sets of friends, those that played a lot of computer games and those that played a lot of video games. One thing I noticed was that the kids who played a lot of computer games tended to be a bit sharper back then. You had to navigate DOS directories, spend hours troubleshooting networking, spend perhaps months trying to get damn hardware card working, and so on.

The video game players inserted a cartridge. When it didn't work they blew on it.

Computer games now are pretty much plug and play. Tablet games require about two finger touches.

Games themselves can increase cognitive functions and teach new skills. But, when the game is un-hackable it becomes a confined box. Every possibility outside that box is non existent. Inside that game's box you build a mental model and then conquer it. You may not have won the game, but you have a pretty damn good idea whats going to happen.

Major props to Notch for making Minecraft an incredibly hackable game both inside and out of that box. If we are going to live in a box, that box should be incredible deep and wide, be it Minecraft or Dwarf Fortress -- or in the original stories' case, your entire neighborhood.

It may be very interesting to see how kids who grew up with tablets think. I should be a lot better than those that grew up with 5 channels of broadcast television. Beyond that, I don't know.

It's certainly a worry, but the Minecraft example shows that there might be games that are creative and intelligent. Naturally I hope to get my son interested in programming, too. But I suppose I can't take it for granted that he will be. Also if I push it too hard it might put him off of it. Tricky... Perhaps one could give the kids zero budget and games so that they'd have to figure out how to root the tablet and pirate games :-) (kidding, I wouldn't actually condone that).

I agree 100% with you. Not to go off-topic too much, and I am no doctor but I wonder if this is a reason for a stunning increase in autism cases. Maybe sitting alone, in front of the TV, game console does a trick on you when very young?

The reason? Like, higher diagnosis rate? Also, autism can be diagnosed by the age of 2, and practically a significant portion of cases gets identified by the age of 5-7. So, um, no, it's not video games.

Maybe it's regional, but it's been more than a decade since I've been around a 2-7 year old that wasn't spending a significant portion of their time with dvds and games.

I wouldn't be so quick to rule out such social factors.

Autistic behavior can sometimes be identified before a baby is a year old. Signs like the avoidance of eye-contact can be big indicators. I suppose babies "play", but not in the same sense that a 5-7 year old would "play".

I'm skeptical of pointing the finger at television and video games for the spike in autism rates. Video games and television have been around quite a bit longer than the increase in diagnoses of autism-spectrum disorders.

If someone's identifiable as autism SPECTRUM based on their eye movements at 1, maybe they'd still be better served to hang out with other kids and be the 'weird kid', learn how to work with other kids while maybe being picked on a little, than to not hang out with anyone and be complaining on an internet forum that they're "aspie" and can't form relationships 20 years later.

This seems to quite obviously the case of someone completely uninformed and ill-qualified attempting to proffer their "wisdom" as fact. I would encourage HNers to ignore this random internet content if you ever have to make such a decision and instead consult an expert familiar with their child's problems.

You're right actually, my fault. I was overreacting to other comments on the thread that were all butthurt about being picked on as a kid.

"let's not rule out a possible contributing factor" is a long way off "pointing the finger".

Higher diagnosis rate, the definition of 'autism' is always expanding, parents being older when they have kids (late 20's-30's, compared to late teens/20's), possible links to pollution and environmental influence. Same can be said with ADD/ADHD (My husband has autism, and I have ADD. Neither of us did lots of tv/gaming until we were older. If anything, we gravitated to tv/games/reading/being alone/studying to avoid being around other people)

I think this is more tied to reproductive practices.... I wonder if there is historical data correlating for example mental problems with monogamy.

I think it is generally agreed that monogamy drives people insane.

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