How overparenting backfired on Americans
Being raised indoors might be the reason young Americans struggle in the adult world.
JONATHAN HAIDT: American parenting really changed in the 1990s. When I'm talking about the book I go around the country, I ask audiences: At what age were you let out? At what age could you go outside and play with your friends with no adults supervising? And I say, "Only people over 40 what's your answer? Call it out." And it's: "Five, seven, eight, six, five, seven!" It's always five to eight. That's what we always did — between five and eight kids could go outside without an adult. They would get in arguments, they would play games, they would make rules, they were independent; they got years and years of practicing independence. Then I say: "Just people under 25 what year were you let out?" "12, 14, 13, 16!" Nobody says ten or younger. In the 1990s, as the crime rate was plummeting, as American life was getting safer and safer, Americans freaked out and thought that if they take their eyes off their children the children will be abducted. Now this goes back — the fear was stoked by cable TV in the 1980s, there were a few high profile of abductions, but it's not until the 1990s that we really start locking kids up and saying you cannot be outside until you're 14 or 15.
We took this essential period of childhood, from about eight to 12, when kids throughout history have practiced independence, have gotten into adventures, have made rafts and floated down the Mississippi River — we took that period and said you don't get to practice independence until it's too late, until that period is over. Now, a couple years before you go to college, now you can go outside. "Okay, go off to college." And a lot of them are not ready. They're just not used to being independent. When they get to college they need more help, they're asking adults for more help. "Protect me from this. Punish him for saying that. Protect me from that book."
There's a very sharp change with kids who were born in 1995 and afterwards — surprisingly sharp. Jean Twenge in her book iGen analyzes surveys of behavior of time use and beginning with kids born in 1995, they spend a lot less time going out with friends, they don't get a drivers license as often, they don't drink as much, they don't go out on dates, they don't work for money as much. What are they doing? They're spending a lot more time sitting on their beds with their devices interacting that way. These are the first kids who got social media when they were 13, roughly. They were subjected to much more anti-bullying content in their schools, much more adult supervision, they were raised in the years after 9/11, they were given much less recess and free play with no child left behind, there was much more testing pushed down into earlier grades.
We don't know if this is for sure the reason, but they seem to have more difficulty working out problems on their own. The most common thing I hear is that members of Gen Z, if they overhear a joke, if they overhear someone say something, they'll get offended and then they'll go straight to HR, they go straight to somebody to file a complaint, where previous generations would have either just shaken it off or just said "jerk" or "asshole" or whatever.
I think there are a couple of things we can say. One is you have to take charge of device use and social media. We don't know for sure but it looks like a two-hour limit per day is probably a good idea; keeping kids off of social media as long as possible is a good idea. It's very hard to do this as one parent when your kid's friends are not limited. So you've got to talk to your kid's friends and all have a common front, all have a common policy then go to the schools. Schools can solve these problems collectively in ways that individual parents cannot.
Outside of school go to Letgrow.org, an organization, a wonderful new organization started by Lenore Skenazy who wrote the book Free-range Kids. She became famous as America's worst mom because in 2009 she let her nine-year-old son ride the New York City subway. Not only did he survive, he was thrilled. He felt he learned something. He felt he could go out into the world. Give childhood back to kids so that they do what they most need to do, which is develop the skills of being an independent adult. Remember that the job of a parent is to work him or herself out of a job.
- American childhood is going, going… gone, says Professor Jonathan Haidt.
- In the mid-'90s there was a sharp shift to overprotective parenting. In previous generations, kids were allowed to out of the house unsupervised from age 5-8, which has now become age 12-16. As a result, their independence, resilience, and problem-solving skills suffer.
- "Give childhood back to kids so that they do what they most need to do, which is develop the skills of being an independent adult. Remember that the job of a parent is to work him or herself out of a job."
- As a resource for parents, Jonathan Haidt recommends letgrow.org.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
The inequalities impact everything from education to health.
Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller talks ISS and why NICER is so important.
- Being outside of Earth's atmosphere while also being able to look down on the planet is both a challenge and a unique benefit for astronauts conducting important and innovative experiments aboard the International Space Station.
- NASA astrophysicist Michelle Thaller explains why one such project, known as NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer), is "one of the most amazing discoveries of the last year."
- Researchers used x-ray light data from NICER to map the surface of neutrons (the spinning remnants of dead stars 10-50 times the mass of our sun). Thaller explains how this data can be used to create a clock more accurate than any on Earth, as well as a GPS device that can be used anywhere in the galaxy.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.