It’s A Lot To Be a Kid Nowadays

Look, in a lot of ways, things are so much easier. Kids used to do so much more labor—not that long ago, kids had to work in factories and mines! Also not that long ago, kids were alone a lot more. The world was more dangerous. The world was far more bigoted and prejudiced. Bullies were more prevalent and able to get away with more. And in the not so distant past, teachers could hit students!

So yeah, your kids have it easier than you did as a kid and your parents before them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be a kid. As we’ve said here, it’s hard. It always has been and always will be. It’s hard to be your kid, as we’ve said but it’s hard to be a kid in this world.

Imagine a girl today who decides to cut her hair short. Not that long ago that would have just been an interesting fashion choice. Maybe someone would call her a tomboy. Today, this is a decision fraught with culture war expectations. Now people are politely and awkwardly asking them about their pronouns, maybe certain parents or grandparents are angry or concerned because they’ve been stirred up by the outrage machine that is cable news. The kid didn’t ask for any of this—they’re just being a kid, doing what kids do, which is experiment, which is make unusual choices—and now adults are intruding in their world, making it more than it potentially is.

Think about a boy who is uncomfortable and insecure about his place in the world, so he teases a classmate. Not long ago this would have happened on the playground, the words disappearing as soon as they’re said (even if they left a mark on the recipient). But now? Now there is a record of it—indeed a record of everything he looks up, says, jokes about, is wrong about—online. He’s lost his space to be stupid, even to be a jerk, and thus also lost the chance to grow and learn and ultimately to distance himself from this immature version of himself.

This is not an easy world to navigate, even if it is easier than a world of child labor or infant mortality. We should sympathize with our kids about this, not mock them for being soft. Because as far as they’re concerned, their world is not soft at all. It’s filled with landmines. It’s confusing and overwhelming and as unfair and harsh as it has ever been. That’s not their fault.

It’s ours.

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