I don’t have kids. I don’t even know if I want kids. I think if I did have kids, I’d consider raising them like in The Village, away from the hustle and bustle and crazy tech crap and money woes and gangs and drugs. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to invent monsters and a superstition around the colour red to keep them in line, mind you. A little bit of lusting for the simpler times, is what I’m getting at.
Anyway, saw this article at WORLDmag recently, where Anthony Bradley claims it’s a much better world for children today than any other time in history. He goes all the way back to Greeks and Romans to illustrate how unimportant kids used to be but it’s not even necessary to look that far back. Considering child labour practices of the past (and even in other countries today), sure, Western kids have got it pretty good. He writes,
In a Western culture like ours that worships children and idolizes youth, the low social status of children in antiquity seems foreign.
What I bold there is a problem that needs dealing with. Kids should not be worshiped. Kids should be kids who know their parents will be making their decisions for them — to a point. For example, kids have way too much purchasing power now and parents who had to do without seem loathe to let their kids feel the same angst. But kids who get everything they want in life are going to have a hard time when they’re on their own. Whether in university or working for a living, when they discover they have no idea how to deal with problems because their helicopter parents take care of everything for them, how will they ever mature into independent people?
Also, a lot of kids are on pills for depression and other mental issues. Why in the hell should any kids be depressed if they’re living in the best time kids have ever had? Some statistics:
One in five children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. And up to one in 10 may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance. Seventy percent of children, however, do not receive mental health services (SGRMH, 1999). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in children, affecting 3 to 5 percent of school-age children (NIMH, 1999). As many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents may have depression (CMHS, 1998). Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds. The number of attempted suicides is even higher (AACAP, 1997).
I doubt numbers have gotten lower over the past decade. And even living with a bummed out mom increases the risk of depression in teens (her own or adopted), too.
A growing number of studies demonstrate difficulties that depressed mothers have in interacting with their children, remarks psychiatrist John Markowitz of Columbia University. Tully’s study “bolsters the evidence that maternal, more than paternal, depression meaningfully affects children through home life, not just heritability,” he says.
And if you look at the indicators of teen depression, small wonder it often goes undiagnosed:
* Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
* Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
* Irritability, restlessness (What teen isn’t?)
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
* Fatigue and decreased energy
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions (isn’t that nearly the definition of a teenager?)
* Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping (yeesh)
* Overeating, or appetite loss (talk about opposites)
* Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Now, let’s bring technology into this. I quote from a study done on American employees and stress levels.
The Occupation Safety and Health Administration has declared stress a hazard of the workplace. And it is no wonder that workers feel overwhelmed and overworked; the average American office worker sends or receives about 201 messages a day in the form of e-mails, voice mails, faxes, and memos (Eisinger, 2001).
Today, how many does the average kid get, I wonder? Last April it was reported that a teenage girl racked up a $4800 cell phone bill on text messages alone. Ten thousand text messages sent and around the same number received. Never mind the fact they didn’t have a texting plan with Verizon, that’s still more than 300 in a day and, according to the article, mostly within school hours. That’s insane. No wonder her grades fell into the toilet.
The pressure to be constantly connected and informed must be intense. I’m from a generation where internet and cell phones and that kind of stuff weren’t vital to popularity and teen survival. I just had to make sure I was begging for the right music to stay in step with my peers. I never was one for telephone talking day and night, either, and a summer away from school friends was never filled with sturm und drang, it was the norm.
I think kids are better off in terms of health, education and welfare, but better off mentally? I think not.