Most talked about: How overparenting backfired on Americans
This is the most talked about Big Think video of 2018! What's your take?
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.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.
Scientists regenerate damaged spinal cord nerve fibers with designer protein, helping paralyzed mice walk again.
- Researchers from Germany use a designer protein to treat spinal cord damage in mice.
- The procedure employs gene therapy to regenerate damaged nerve fibers that carry signals to and from the brain.
- The scientists aim to eventually apply the technique to humans.
What is a spinal cord injury?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88b8d4e44e46b7d5fe49d1f3bca56078"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dKtBC2Sg_Bg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Cold hands and feet? Maybe it's your anxiety.
- When we feel anxious, the brain's fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the blood flow is redirected from your extremities towards the torso and vital organs.
- According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have an anxiety diagnosis.
- Anxiety disorders will impact 31% of Americans at some point in their lives.