Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Parents Are Too Pre-Occupied With Their Kids

At some point in the past thirty years it became taboo to let your kids play outside without supervision. What's with that?

Question: Are parents different today than they were in previous generations?

Lenore Skenazy:  I think they’re really different.  I think we are much more preoccupied with our children every second of the day.  Are they safe, are they learning, are they getting enough out of this moment, this class, this instant, when we’re supposed to be bonding, and we’re really afraid for them all the time.  And it’s not just me thinking this.  You know, you get to a certain age and everybody thinks, "Oh, the good ol' days, we stayed out, we had fun, we played outside until the streetlights came on." 

But the proof that things really have changed in just about one generation is that if you go get the DVD of Sesame Street Old School, it’s a two-DVD set of the early days of Sesame Street, 1969-1974, and you see all the stuff that we sort of associate with childhood.  You see kids on trikes, you see kids playing follow-the-leader and there’s no accredited PhD trained follow-the-leader leader, it’s just kids.  You see them playing in a vacant lot and balancing on the beams and climbing through the pipes and stuff, and before you see any of that, what I consider “normal childhood”, my childhood, a warning appears on the screen at the very beginning, this is not a joke.  It says, “The following is intended for adult viewing only.”  Adult viewing only, they cannot endorse a normal childhood the way they did back in 1970.  That is now considered radical, crazy, dangerous, and I have a friend who’s a lawyer there and frankly they debated it and they were afraid of getting sued.  What if, God forbid, somebody goes out and plays by himself?  They weren’t willing to take that "risk" anymore.

And what I’m interested in is, why is that considered risky, considering the crime rate back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when most parents today were growing up and playing outside 'til the street lights came on, that crime rate was higher than it is now.  So if it wasn’t risky then, or wasn’t crazy-risky, wasn’t nutty parents who didn’t care at all about their kids, sending their kids out and never caring whether they came home or not.  If they weren’t terrible, if our parents weren’t terrible, why are we considered terrible if we let our children ride their bike around the neighborhood or walk to school?  Really, people will scream at you if you do that with your kids.

Question:
Why are parents more afraid than they used to be?

Lenore Skenazy: I think there are four reasons that we’re more afraid, today, than our parents were, or more concerned.  The first is that the media has changed.  My parents were watching Marcus Welby, the people lived, they didn’t sue.  It was a cheerfuller time, in terms of television.  You didn’t have Nancy Grace, you didn’t have "CSI," you didn’t have anything as disgusting and revolting and scary as "Law & Order: SVU," because the old "Law & Order" just wasn’t scary enough.  The children weren’t small enough and cute enough.  So, media changed, and it also became 24-hours and ubiquitous.  So you were always seeing, now, a child being snatched off the street.  That’s just the number one story, that television has figured to put on, whether it’s a drama or news.

Another thing that’s changed is that we are in a much more litigious society.  I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but so many things in childhood are considered too dangerous because, God forbid, what if—we’re always what-iffing—and what if a child fell off a teeter totter?  Well, let’s just get rid of them, say the park districts, and what if, my kids were going on a fifth grade field trip, the overnight field trip, the one trip they take into nature all year, and the assistant principal had us in the auditorium, and he was explaining the trip, and when he said, “And at the end, there’s this,” everybody was asking him for phone numbers or how to get in touch with them, etc., and he was trying to deflect everybody’s worries.  "How close is the hospital?"  He said, “Hey, hey, hey, look, on the last day, on the overnight stay, we make a big bonfire.”  And everybody was like, "Bonfire?!"  You could just see them speed-dialing their lawyers and he said, “Wait, no, let me explain, the bonfire, the children will be 20 feet from the fire and there will be a row of benches,” and I’m assuming these are non-flammable benches, “between them and the fire.” 

So that’s childhood today, preparing for any kind of a terrible eventuality, the way lawyers always think back and say, “Why was she so close to the fire?”  So we’re always thinking to the courtroom and stopping something, even a bonfire with kids around, roasting marshmallows, before it begins.  And I just have to tell you one roasting marshmallow story.  Girls in Girl Scouts are not allowed to roast marshmallows unless they have one knee on the ground.

Recorded August 17, 2010

Interviewed by Andrew Dermont

In previous generations, parents weren't so concerned with what their kids were doing every second of the day. Why are today's city parents considered terrible if they let their children ride their bike around the neighborhood or walk to school? Journalist Lenore Skenazy continues her battle against the disastrous trend of helicopter parenting.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Pixabay
Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Leonardo da Vinci could visually flip between dimensions, neuroscientist claims

A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.

Christopher Tyler
Mind & Brain
  • A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
  • If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
  • The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast