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What’s the Matter With Kids Today?

Why can’t kids today be more like we were? Maybe the answer is simply that they are, but it’s the parenting that’s out of wack.

When a hotel party for 800 high school aged kids, many from the Peninsula, got out of hand in San Francisco on Dec. 28 with several fights breaking out, resulting in two arrests, many of the comments on that story reflected the underlying assumption that today’s kids are different and aren’t being raised right.

Makes you wonder: Are today’s kids any different than generations past? Are kids today a product of poor parenting? Parenting today definitely looks a lot different than when we were kids and when our parents were kids. Certainly 21st century children are using tools and interacting with each other in ways that are completely alien to some old folks.

Kids text each other without a thought and flit from one computer to the next without a care. My 9-year-old daughter sends text messages to her aunt in Boston and has iChats with her grandmother in Connecticut on her iPod. She plays games on the Wii and any chance to Google something she’ll take. Sometimes I’m afraid her attention span is as short as a Tweet, but then I see her plug through her homework without distraction, build with her Legos for hours and fully participate in a chess game with her dad for over an hour.

Every generation is different from the preceding one, but is the pace of today outpacing our ability to keep up with our kids? How — if at all — are these 21st century kids different? Or is it that the parenting is different?

Today’s kids certainly look and behave in new ways. A good friend of mine is puzzled by the flat-billed baseball hat her son insists upon wearing. But didn’t we all look strange to our parents, too?

The late Peter Lyman, a cultural anthropologist from Berkeley, who had been studying digital youth culture, said that underneath the surface today’s kids are a lot like yesterday’s. They still value status and being part of a group. They still feel anxieties about who they are and will become. The venues for exploring those feelings have dramatically changed, but maybe the core remains familiar. Maybe. It's a good question. I’ll keep looking for the answer. But maybe you have one?

The last 20 years have seen many changes in our world. I keep hearing from people that they feel children themselves are different. But are they? If they are the same biologically and psychologically, what makes them seem different now? I’ve heard some certain grandparents (who shall remain nameless) say that kids today are more entitled and over-indulged and have an inflated sense of self because they’ve been told they’re so wonderful for doing nothing.

So maybe the issue isn’t whether the children are different, but how much society and parenting has changed. Children are resilient and are easy to adapt to their surroundings. Perhaps the bigger question should be to parents: How much do your surroundings affect your children’s potential? Are parents willing to adapt and help keep their children’s perspectives where they need to be?

When I read about a hotel party for 800 high school kids in the City that got out of hand, I cringe and shudder to think of my daughter even asking my husband and I if she can go to such an event. What will we say? No. Absolutely, no way. Just as our parents would have said to us. And if your teen goes anyway without you knowing? You hope to whatever higher being is out there for you that he or she makes good decisions and returns home safely where there will be consequences to pay for going out against your word. Right? Isn't that how it works?

Let’s face it. Kids, no matter their upbringing, sometimes just make bad choices. Still, parenting today seems so different because of changed socioeconomic and cultural conditions. We're up against a lot. Parents also seem more tolerant or they have to pick their battles since there are so many today. Does this affect young children’s behaviors to appear different than earlier generations? Are parents today able to keep up with these lightening speed changes? That's not to say that parents in the "good old days" were perfect. However, it seems to me that parents prioritized their parenting responsibilities and duties much different from parents today. I know I could learn a lot more about parenting.

So I guess all my lamenting here comes down to two questions: Do you think kids are different today? Do you think kids are different today because they aren’t being raised right? Tell us why in the comments.

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Dee January 04, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Kids are different today because of the culture. It is every parent's responsiblity to stay up with the times and parent accordingly. I think parents are too overwhelmed these days and out to lunch. Yes, they are up against a lot more at a faster pace but priorities are messed up. Plus being your kids best friend and being too tolerant with their behavior is not helping them any. Kids have more at their disposal and every thing so immediate so they seem more entitled and over indulged yet again it's up to the parent to control this and set limits. Thanks for bringing these issues up.
Stacie Chan (Editor) January 04, 2013 at 11:33 PM
I agree with Dee. The endless modes of communication and technology kids have access to increase their exposure to all sorts of dialogue and new experiences that their parents never have to know about. It's about maintaining an open communication line and keeping up with the times.
Jo Tog January 04, 2013 at 11:35 PM
I agree. Do NOT be your kids best friend. 15 years is a tough age. Do NOT be tolerant of poor behavior. Sit down and discuss with your child how their behavior has disappointed you and others and allow them to mend it. I also recommend keeping cell phones away from your child until a certain age. All children are different, you will have to be the judge at what age that should be.. Study technology and know what it can do and have family meetins and update your family on all new technolody and apps. At a certain age, let's say 17, if you have a responsible child then you can start mentoring your child. This method I found works a little better than constantly being intolerant of all things young and fun. Parenting is NOT for the Lazy. I always told my children that when they leave our home and enter into a teachers classroom, that is their home and it is to be respected. That's it , for today. Take two asprin and I will check on you in the morning.
Cris January 05, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Nicely written opinion piece. Thank you for being a voice of reason. I was looking for something to disagree with (that is the mood I am in for some reason...) but found nothing! Nice! I am pretty sure people have been saying "Kids these days!" since the beginning of speech. I do think kids have more to deal with at younger ages thanks to technology and those parents who do not supervise or explain what their children see on computers, phones, ipads, whatever. You can prepare your kid for what they may come across by just being open and assuring them through your actions and words that you can always be approached with any problem. "Parenting is NOT for the lazy"- Well said, Jo!
BCMtnchick January 05, 2013 at 06:20 AM
Nice article. Kids are the same as before. Still pushing limits until someone REALLY says no. But limit setting by the grownups is harder than ever before. Our lives are more full, kid activities have increased dramatically, exposure to media and consumer products has exploded, & when did dressing infants n toddlers as sexual objects become so popular? Just informed 8 year old today that things r going to tighten up around the old homestead. Best of luck to all!

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