So much has changed in a generation or two. Feminist movements and the push for women in the workplace, the invention of the smartphone and the rise of video games, and the tendency to wrap the modern child in cotton wool have had a detrimental effect on our kids.
Working in a school I get a close look at the home lives of our teenagers and how it impacts on their schooling. This year more than any other, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of young adults with health issues that stem from stress and anxiety. So what have we done to create this problem?
Chronologically, this started when women moved into the workplace. It sounds sexist but I don’t intend it to be. What I’m trying to say is that the nuclear family used to consist of a working male and a stay-at-home female and the byproduct of this was that parents were more involved in the lives of their children. Nowadays, many adolescents go home to an empty house. If they’re fortunate enough not to come from a split family then, chances are, both parents are still at work when their children finish school for the day. As such, teens are often left to their own devices for extended periods of time.
Speaking of devices, the modern teenager spends countless hours on their smartphones. So do many adults for that matter. We have a blanket ban on mobile phones at our school but the moment that final siren sounds they’re straight out of their bags and into their hands. I’ve known kids to message people that are sitting at the same table as them. If they’re not texting or engaged in social media then they’re playing games. In fact, gaming in general has become a major problem for some adolescents as they have become addicted to video games, playing them to the detriment of other aspects of their life.
Perhaps the biggest change is in the way we perceive children and the world around them. Parents used to kick their kids out of the house and tell them to be back before it got dark, now the media has made us fearful that some sex pest will abduct our children the moment they are out of sight. It’s irrational. Yes, paedophiles and predators exist but it’s ignorant to think that they weren’t around before. We have also removed competition from our youth. Junior sports are done without scoring, students receive certificates for participating. Even our education system has experimented with this philosophy.
So what am I saying? What I’m suggesting is that today’s youth have developed a preference for electronic rather than face-to-face communication. Absent and/or overly concerned parents and electronic devices have limited their physical interaction with others and, as such, they lack confidence in a variety of social settings. I’m also suggesting that in shielding our kids from failure we increase the impact it has when it inevitably comes.
Obviously this doesn’t cover all of the factors nor is it based on scientific fact or research. This is simply an observation made by one bloke in a very specific context.