Remember when you were little and you would hear comments like "I worry about the kids of today" or "This world is going to hell in a hand basket"? I scoffed at those comments. But now I understand where they came from.
My observations come a bit second-hand; my husband and I don't have children and therefore perhaps the media has jaded my perception of what is going on. But I can't help but make some observations:
1. Kids are angrier. I feel there is a level of anger and vindictiveness that is elevated from prior generations. Yes, bullying has always been in existence, but it seems to have gotten worse. It is horrifyingly sad that there are far too many kids whose potential will never be known because bullying has driven them to take their own life. While physical fights used to be almost exclusively boys, girls especially seem to be more prone to violent outbursts than before.
2. Kids are overweight. I look back at grade school class photos and there were always the one or two kids who were the "fat" kids. By today's standards they would be normal, if not on the thin side. I read that 1 in 3 kids are overweight, and 1 in 5 are obese. Those are frightening statistics. My friends and I joke that we would love to have back our high school figures. That's because you tend to put on weight the older you get. Where does that put an obese child in 10 years? 20 years?
3. Kids show less respect. I'm not saying that kids should never act out, it's to be expected (I remember being a teenager, and while not a troublemaker, I was far from a joy for my parents). However, from the poor woman who was bullied as the bus driver to the stories of kids actually assaulting teachers--this just didn't happen when I was younger. Had I ever laid a hand on any adult growing up, the police would not need to be called. My parents would have put me in the ground.
4. Kids have less imagination. Growing up was all about playing dress-up, coloring pictures, building forts, writing stories. You and your friends would use your imaginations to think up fun stories to act out that would occupy a day of playtime. Where did that go? Kids nowadays seem to not know how to handle idleness. Which leads me to my next point.
I believe all the above is connected. And the root cause is technology.
1. Kids are angrier because smartphones/computers have eliminated the need to deal with people face to face. Remember how kids used to duke it out on the playground--and then be building sand castles together by the end of the day? That is because we were forced to work out conflict face-to-face. We weren't able to fight over Facebook or text messages. We had to look each other in the eye and work out our differences. I believe the increased violence comes from the fact that kids don't know how to handle conflict when it's staring them in the eye. So it escalates to irrational levels.
2. Kids are overweight from a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. We used to play Ghost in the Graveyard, Kick the Can, ride our bikes around the neighborhood--basically just run around any chance we could get. This has since been replaced with smartphones and video game systems.
3. Kids show less respect because they are constantly on their phones. We all have been guilty of only half-attention to someone because we are busy checking our text messages, emails, etc. And it looks like we have passed that bad habit on. Looking someone in the eye as he speaks to you is a show of respect. Not answering your phone during dinner is a show of respect. We as adults need to set better examples for kids to show them that the phone should not be more important than the person sitting across from you.
4. Kids have less imagination because of technology. Instead of coming up with creative ways to pass an afternoon with friends--kids play video games. Or post on Facebook. Imagination is the great engine of our country. It takes imagination and vision to create great things. They are the basis for entrepreneurship. It is why we know names like Apple, Harry Potter, and Disney.
We have a vested interest in the future of our kids because one day they will be running our businesses and our government. There is plenty of criticism of today's youth and the "Age of Entitlement," however it is the older generations that set the expectation and the example. We have failed kids somewhere along the way. And it's going to make much more than words to fix it.