the IT city, the I.T. Baby


On going outside and the selfie generation

Feet in chainsI’m reading a book that’s not out yet. It’ll be popular as all getout because it’ll be on Good Morning America and it’s got a catchy name. It’ll also sell lots because it’ll have several things the anti-tech crowd want in it. I’m not going to name it at the moment because I’m not done with it and seriously, it might redeem itself.

A premise in it is that in the past 20 or so years children have stopped going outside and are on their devices significantly more than they were in the 90’s. Due to this several issues with health have arisen and also problems with social health, narcissism in general.

Premise people will walk away with at first glance is tech bad, granola good, brains rotted.

Why kids don’t go outside as much

So I thought I’d address one thing that I have watched in my 40+ years on this earth, and that’s going outside to play. You know my views on tech and kids most likely as I run a kid’s tech blog, so we’ll skip that part. Also the 90’s, we didn’t have these devices, so that point is moot.

When I was a kid we walked down the street, I played in creeks, and I could wander off for hours. When it was nice I was outside several hours a day, I had a fort, I had a place to play in. I hung out in my back yard doing evil things to ants, wading in a kiddie pool, and playing alone in a bamboo jungle.

When I was eight or nine things started to change. I heard about my first child kidnapping on a black and white TV we still had, it was on the news quite a bit. That’s when the media made it their job to become parents.

Kidnapping had not gone up, but it was squarely in the eyes of the media. Being scared for your kids sold advertising. That your child was probably stupid enough to get into a van that said “free candy” was shown again and again. Still to this day they even have specials dedicated to this such as “my kid would never do that!?!?”

The premise was simple – your kid runs free, you might never see them again. You’d be a horrid parent. Your child would be a sex slave and then dismembered and fed to dogs. And this was on the news all the time.

Children stopped walking places. Oh, sidenote, we started getting fatter as a nation. Parents picked their kids up or they had bus drivers drop their kids off at the house.

This second part became the spotlight of media attention and even got its own name for when you trusted your kid to walk 20 steps to the house from the bus – “latchkey kid.”

Obviously there was a mustachioed man in slacks and mirrored sunglasses waiting to break in and steal your child. The Latchkey Kids were told to go in, close the curtains, don’t answer the door for anyone, don’t answer the phone because it might be a stranger down the street calling to ask if your parents were home.

Stranger Danger I first remember hearing after that, but it may have been before. That’s to treat everyone you meet as a potential threat because they might kill you. Suddenly the world is your enemy. I don’t know what the solution was here, but danger I think was the wrong word. Perhaps stranger threat awareness/response or something catchy like that.

Everyone out there on the street was your enemy. If you were free your parents started becoming responsible for you. Yesterday near Nashville a woman was arrested for having her daughters to walk to school (she was within 100 feet of them at all times) and charged with child neglect.

Now, what she was doing was being a total d-bag in their punishment for refusing to get out of the house in time to meet the bus, and circumstances on how heavy traffic was may be a mitigating factor, but responses are generally based on just that she was having her kids walk to school, under four miles, and they’re terrible. (ok, really, she probably is a terrible person but the responses to kids walking to school is what’s the funny part).

We’ve got a generation of parents who lock their kids in school, they get a little outdoor time there, they walk in the sun to the car that’s waiting to pick them up, then maybe see the sunlight as they’re ushered into the house.

Kids don’t walk down the street to play with each other any more, you make play dates and deliver the child to a location.

We’ve got a sex offender registry that has someone on nearly every single block, with a huge number of the people just being caught for urinating in public, or non-violent offenses. Those people need their own registry of “didn’t need to see that junk but it wasn’t being used sexually”.

A parent today is presented with an imaginary map of the outdoors that leads through sex offender town, child slavery avenue, HIVville, drug alley, dropout lane, and then a quick jaunt down flushing my life away Park with a beautiful view of Preteen pregnancy park.

Oh, did I mention the vitamin D deficiency we’ve got in the US? Wonder what that could be from? Cell phones? nope. People scared shitless to let their kids see sunlight.

But we’re blaming the kids, the kid’s culture, the kid’s technology. Maybe it’s time parents take a hard look in the mirror and realize that the reason their kids aren’t outside (and maybe on their cell phones,) is because we’ve allowed the media to terrorize us that outside is evil, uncontrolled chaos filled with dangers lurking everywhere.

Even if it is the kid tech, it’s still the parent’s who’re enabling the behavior. Disinvolvement with a changing generation. The “your generation is crap so I’ll ignore it completely” mentality.

So quit looking for a thing to blame and start looking at who’s raising the kid and why you’re telling them they can’t go outside or walk to a friend’s house rather than claiming that they’re only self-obsessed narcissists because they have nothing else they can do on their own such as walk to a park, play in a creek, witty third option here that will really drive home that it’s the parents who are turning their kids into the Selfie/Kardashian generation.

Kids are narcissists, they’re social, they think they’re the only thing in the world that actually is, and they’d probably really like to be able to go from place to place without being told they’re probably going to die a horrible death after being sold as a sex slave. Kids realize there’re other people in the world when they get to play with the other people in the world, and when the only way they can is via a device, they’re going to look like freaking narcissists.

Then again, with rates of rape, murder, kidnapping, and violent crime dropping like a freaking rock, perhaps keep ’em locked up for the good of society. That’s a spurious correlation as a note, joke if you will.

Paul King

Paul King lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife, two daughters and cats. He writes for Pocketables, theITBaby, and is an IT consultant along with doing tech support for a film production company.