Posts Tagged ‘loss of childhood freedom’

Lost Kid Freedom in America

January 14, 2011

"Run, everybody, fast as you can! And don't forget your nickel; it's the ice cream man!"

You don’t hear a lot of ice cream trucks cruising the neighborhoods these days at 5 MPH while that little child-alluring melody plays on like a mobile music box. Kids aren’t as free in street bunches these days – and ice cream isn’t free at five cents a pop either. The whole business plan of the ice cream man just does not make the sense in 2011 that it once did back in 1948 – when you could buy something tasty for a nickel – and we kids of that earlier era were free to explore our world – away from adult supervision – and without fear for our lives from countless predators.

I wrote the other day about how most of us walked away from home each Saturday to our neighborhood theater kid movies. We would be away from home for three to four hours at the mercy of a kinder world without fear for our safety – and some of us even started this pattern at age five.

It was the same freedom that left us open to sandlot baseball and other sports; working out our own quarrels with words and fist, if necessary, and all the while developing a confidence for moving forth into the larger world on our own.

Aug. 1946: Pecan Park Cowboy

Remember those guys with the Shetland ponies that came through the neighborhood selling “cowboy/cowgirl in the saddle” photos back in the day? Almost everyone from our ancient era has one like mine (to the left).

That industry went away too with practically all other non-scam businesses that once sold items door-to-door. Again, the killers of business on this level were primarily fear and distrust of dealing with a stranger who is trying to sell us something on our own vulnerable doorsteps.

Kids today either live within the protective bubble of 24/7 adult supervision – or else, they roam independently on the bubble of scary and dangerous exposures to the threats of our current world.

It’s a crying shame that kids today have largely lost the chance to safely explore the world on their own, but that is what has happened – and the causes are far too complex for a singular explanation.

From my half century of work with kids and families, I will offer one observation about one factor that I think kicks strongly into the mix. It may not be the whole thing, but it plays its part.

Compared to our post World War II generation, young people today often seem to think far less about the long-term consequences of their actions. If I’m right, is that change being reenforced by our adult protectiveness of them? Are kids failing to get the handle on their own responsibility for the decisions they make and the actions they take?

Let’s take it to this extreme: Do some kids who rape or shoot others operate as though there is a re-set button on life? (Just push the button and start over. In electronic death and damage, there really is no long-term consequence.)

Make of these thoughts what you will. The subject is too big for a single column. It just starts with a loss of childhood freedom. Then it begs the question: Is what we are doing now simply making matters worse?

What do you think?