I don’t have children, so this could seem like a ‘loaded gun’ topic for a non-parent. However, I do know, having talked to many kids (including in my own family), having done shows on the topic and having been an odd child myself, that getting out into the world is no longer that cut and dry, sink or swim proposition it once was. Fear is fear, and it breeds with either not enough information or way too much of it at the wrong time, manifesting in two entirely different ways.
For example, I was born one of those kids who arrived here scared from the very beginning. Call it baggage I brought with me? Who knows where we come from when we arrive here or where we go when we leave here? We all have our own beliefs concerning these great universal questions that have confused, intrigued and dominated the minds of we humans since the beginning of time.
In my world the fears that plagued kids were issues of the unknown. Everything was new and left to our imaginations because the information was scarce.
The world was changing with social unrest; women’s liberation, the hippie culture, civil rights and world domination occupied the headlines and our juvenile consciousness. We heard our parents quietly talk about these things in the other room. These were issues that were mass fears and incubated by too little information. With no internet or private sounding boards, the question of the 60’s was ‘what’s going to happen to us as a nation and a species?’ The individual issues of personal ‘happiness’ were on the back burner in favor of global fears like nuclear war, Viet Nam, and basic survival.
Kids today, however, are dealing with the more intrinsic devastatingly personal issues that come with way too much information at their way too inappropriate disposal. Their access to all information at their immediate fingertips is more than we got in ten years of “real” world living.
We got disappointed, disenchanted and blindsided in doses… increments that were in sync with the rate we matured. Kids today don’t get that filtered and earned ‘school of hard knocks’ privilege. They can Google anything, see anything…EVERYTHING! Their often-unsupervised information retrieval happens on their beds in what was for us, our pink and blue bedrooms amongst our stuffed toys and model airplanes.
Movie media ratings, the laws that supposedly govern minors and make adults feel somehow in control… are gone. We only pretend out of our own sheer mortification that these faux preventative laws are effective. But as long as a child has a smartphone today, if they can think it, they can see it.
As a very hyper-imaginative, curious and already spooked child I would have been devastated. Every click of the mouse pad would have given me enough ammo to be convinced that the world really was crazy, that what I only thought was myth or legend was actually real, that I didn’t amount to a hill of beans and beyond my parent’s front door was an insurmountable nightmare.
This is the first unfiltered generation coping with the inappropriate information overload alone, by themselves. A recent documentary, Sexy Baby (HBO), deals with this very issue and a must-see for any hardline parent that still uses the phrase, “Well, when I was a kid…” with exasperation or as a weapon.
Don’t get me wrong, it drives me nuts that, while members of my own family struggle to put food on their tables, their kids take five years longer to get their first job and contribute to the household they still live in. But in the end (no matter what kids say) it’s not that they won’t take jobs (like flipping burgers) because they feel it’s beneath them. The same jobs we were desperate to get when we were kids because we couldn’t wait to get out into that unknown world.
Sure they have a million excuses that make us apoplectic. They come off smug, entitled and brilliant freeloaders. But we have to see beneath the seeming arrogance to the paralyzing fear beneath that comes with seeing too much. Like it or not we have to come to terms with the fact that we never had to deal with seeing a constant graphic depiction of the worst of humanity all over the globe because we clicked the wrong search button just trying to find information to help us with our homework.
Sure parenting could be better in some households, but this is even bigger than ‘parents’.
It’s a global assault that has to be dealt with and language to our children with candor versus denial or embarrassment. In a world where porn is actually part of kids' lives, and proof of no consequences for bad behavior is only a click away, we have to buck up and love these kids through arrested development… walking a mile in their bewildered shoes. They may look like adults but…