As a child I would use my imagination through outdoor activities, drawing and creating my own stories. I played. I didn’t have a care in the world (that I can recall, anyway) and I remained blissfully unaware of the issues that ultimately arose with older kids and teens. I learned about “real life” issues gradually, by catching snippets of adult conversations, joining in schoolyard discussions and, eventually, by watching the news. The world wasn’t constantly at my fingertips the way it is now — in this so-called Age of Information.
Now, well into my late-20s, I’m starting to notice a difference in the generation of kids that have come after me. They are the generation that have grown up surrounded by the Internet, iPhones and higher expectations at a much younger age. Kids are arguably busier and more over-managed. I kept busy as a child and balanced playing sports with quieter activities like reading, but I never had a schedule that followed a hectic routine like some of the kids I’ve met recently.
According to Teach Your Children Well, a recent book by American psychologist Madeline Levine, our children are more pampered and self-involved than ever before. This may not be a particularly surprising statement, considering the role of technology and the heavy emphasis on personal success we place on kids at a younger age. However, Levine calls out what she perceives as a narrow preoccupation with personal achievements. We are simultaneously pushing our children to succeed while spoiling them and giving in to their every whim. The near-constant attention we give our kids ultimately leaves our children with a false sense of entitlement — and, after being the centre of attention for so long, they develop a “me-me-me” attitude that could potentially haunt them in their adult life. Once they are out in the real world and forced to fend for themselves, the transition will likely be jarring.
The end result, Levine claims, is that children today are more anxious and depressed than previous generations. The trick, she believes, is knowing when to intervene as a parent.
I couldn’t agree more with that last statement. We are just as caught-up in this fast-moving digital age as our children — to the point where we may have forgotten what it was like when we were children. Intervention is important; understanding our kids’ limits and listening to them when they express their unhappiness with an event or activity they are participating in is key.
We didn’t have the world at our fingertips when we were kids. We were never exposed to Internet bullying nor did we have our own personal cellphone device at such a young age — I didn’t have my first cellphone until I was 20. Our society is moving at such a breakneck speed and our kids are moving just as fast to keep up. I think we need to stop and remind ourselves that the society our children are growing up in is quite different from what we experienced. They are indeed far more busy and informed — for better or for worse.
What do you think?