Posted by: Trisha Leigh | November 22, 2011

Are Kids Getting Younger or am I Getting Older?

I’m going to sound like a total old person for a minute, but gosh. It’s really hit me recently how much faster kids are growing up.

I read Nancy Drew and Babysitter’s Club books well into middle school. I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I was, in fact, 13. I couldn’t talk to my friends after 9pm. I never watched television after dinner. The Internet wasn’t nearly as pervasive, so I wasn’t inundated with news of all the horrible things that happen twenty-four-seven.

The other night I took the movie Casper over to a friends, a movie I adored until I was probably 12 or 13. Her 5 and 8yo loved it. Her 13yo? Fell asleep. I’ve often laughed at the idea of putting a Nancy Drew book in the hands of an 8th grader, and I’m pretty sure they would laugh too. If kids couldn’t see PG-13 movies then half of the box office dollars spent on Harry Potter and Twilight would disappear.

I’m not here to make a judgment. I don’t have children, so I can’t sit here and say what I would or wouldn’t do.

I only know this. Growing up isn’t all its cracked up to be. It hurts sometimes. It’s not fun. The list of things you do because you want to shrinks and the list of things you do because someone else wants you to grows. There are good things too. Like being able to eat crap all of the time or fall asleep on the couch or stay up reading all night. Also, you can drink alcohol, which you will need because it’s the only thing that let’s you survive another day as an adult sometimes.

I know you can’t tell kids this, that everyone is in a hurry to grow up. I’m just worried. Childhood keeps shrinking, getting smaller and shorter and less sheltered – is it going to disappear all together? Will board books be replaced by chapter books and animated movies go straight to video because by the time a kid can go to the theatre they’re old enough for live action PG?

This has turned into a bit of a “get off my lawn” type rant, but I’d love for you to chime in. Childhood is perhaps never appreciated until it’s gone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not our job to give them to our kids, whether they seem to want one or not.

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Responses

  1. When i was the kid, i have the similar experiences. I remember reading the sweet valley twins and goosebumps. I also loved casper and i would watch the movies over and over again. Indeed, kids these days have changed. Sad to say though, I think our childhood will still be better than theirs…

  2. I hear you. It’s sad.
    Unfortunately, I think childhood is a thing of the past. The only way to safe guard it is to live somewhere without electricity. Once a kid has their own laptop you can forget it. Before if you didn’t have a TV in the house you could at least minimize the exposure, but now pretty much everything is at their fingertips. I think by the time they are 8, they have already figured out how to over ride the parental controls you thought you so cleverly programmed. I have a 13 yr old daughter who has seen things I wouldn’t watch. And a 23 yr old that as a kid only watched one movie a week!

    Lately, I’ve been taking my daughter back to the 80’s. Pretty in Pink. Sixteen Candles… and speaking of crushes- how about that Michael Schoeffling!

  3. Amen! I couldn’t agree more.

    May I expand on your rant a bit, and note that the reverse seems to be happening with adolescence, which appears to stretch well into the twenties for some people these days? (Not all, I hasten to add. Please, responsible 20-somethings, don’t shoot me!)

    Could it be that adolescence is such an overwhelming intense phase of life that not only are people in a rush to get there, but they don’t want to leave it behind?

  4. Oh Trisha. I feel the exact same way. It makes me terrified of ever having kids. The line between 1) encouraging a healthy, nurturing childhood that lasts beyond age 5 and 2) allowing enough what I would consider “too-old-for-you” activities to occur (like seeing PG-13 movies prematurely) in order for the child to remain socially connected to his/her peers seems…impossible to walk.

  5. Agreed! It’s for this very reason I’m hoping my son has Peter Pen syndrome. At least for a few years (maybe not into his 20’s). I don’t want him to grow up. I don’t look forward to all the things he’ll be doing soon because I’m not ready for it, and I don’t want him to do it until he’s ready. Kids are kids. Let them be.

    To “help” him along, every time he tries to walk, I knock him over. Nope. You’re a baby. Babies CRAWL. Sit down.

  6. I think you’re right, but I also think every generation has thought this about the next generation. It’s a struggle to keep my kids away from content that I think is too old for them. Not because I don’t monitor it (I do, with a vengeance) but because they are exposed to it via their peers. My eldest is not quite 4, and I’ve had to argue and fight against allowing her to watch PG movies (just because it’s animated, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. I’m looking at you, Shrek). Would it surprise you that they are learning computers in her preschool? Not just how to type, but getting on the Internet and navigating to watch videos and play games.

  7. I grew up reading LOTR. I took my illustrated copy of THE HOBBIT to Kindergarten show-and-tell, so I can’t help you with the book angle. But I do have three children of my own and it is a little scary what’s marketed to young children. Especially to young girls.

    The Babysitter’s Club is gone and in it’s place are teeny dolls wearing smaller skirts and TV shows at prime time about sex, drugs, and murder. The argument is that children will see all of this in life, my argument is that they shouldn’t have to. There is no reason a child should ever meet a drug dealer, see a murdered person, or watch pornography. And when you have two people tangled naked under the sheets on TV that’s exactly what the show is.

    Our solution was to turn off the TV completely. We own one, but it only gets DVD and Wii. We only buy PG-13 movies and under, and only let the kids watch them after Mom and Dad have watched them. Not only do we get to skip all the Not Safe For Work TV shows, but we also skip hours of cartoons trying to sell toys to my kids. They spend their free time running outside, playing dress up, and drawing pictures.

    For the books, anything with nudity is on the top shelf of my closet or on my Kindle. Same for any books with cursing, gore, or extreme violence. I won’t say my husband and I don’t read those books, because we love the Dresden Files and those aren’t kid-safe, but the books that are on the shelves our kids can reach are the ones Mom and Dad have approved: comic books, mid-grade books like CATHERINE CALLED BIRDIE, YA novels like PERCY JACKSON or the Ally Carter series. If they want to tackle the chapter books, they can. If they want to read at their grade level (Eldest is in third grade) then the books are there for her.

    There’s a trend in society to treat children like mini-adults, and they aren’t. Developmentally even a teen isn’t a small adult, they are an over-sized child with a still developing brain and body. There is no rule saying your house needs a computer per person, or a TV in every room. In fact, there are quite a few studies saying that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. But every child and family is different.

  8. I completely agree with you. It does seem like childhood is shrinking, and kids don’t really get to be kids anymore. Part of it is the readily available technology. I think that kids are in such a huge rush to grow up, and I often don’t see a lot of parents to counteract that. Like you, I had rules growing up, like not being able to talk on the phone after a certain time etc. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was almost 18, and then, it was for emergencies. (Now, you’ll have to pry mine out of my hand, but I am an adult. It comes with the territory.)

    I look at the cartoons I grew up with, which have been updated (strawberry shortcake, for one), and I cringe. She no longer resembles the cartoon I knew; she looks more like a Bratz doll, and it makes me sad. What was wrong with her the way she was?

    Great post. Thank you for sharing this!

  9. I have kids that span from almost thirteen (gulp) to almost two (also gulp), and keeping them kids as long as possible is difficult when they go off to school. My sons are not allowed to have violent video games, but many of their friends do. My seven year old daughter is already dealing with catty, rumor-starting girls. And don’t get me started on girl’s clothes. A friend of mine prides herself on how “mature” her daughter is, but when mine would rather watch a Disney princess movie and wear Hello Kitty clothes, I’m proud.

  10. You had internet when you were a kid? I didn’t even have a TV with a remote back then. In fact, I WAS the remote. As one who just crossed into her late 40’s (GAH!), I agree… technology has made ours an ‘always on’ society and I do worry what that’s doing to kids.

    When my sons were little, Power Rangers was da bomb. They were not allowed to watch it because they kept kicking the crap out of each other when they did. So, the TV switched to Nick, Jr. My kids were not allowed to see certain movies and damn if I EVER let them watch an episode of The Simpsons back then.

    As they got older and started listening to hard core death metal lyrics, I lamented that all of my careful guidance was wasted. But when I sit with my nearly adult children and listen to their impressions on world events, I smile and pat myself on the back because maybe, just maybe, the fact that they even care what goes outside their little spheres means I did something right.

    Your last line really resonated with me and reminded me of the time my sons demanded to know why I lied about *cough* Santa. I told them it’s my job to keep them as innocent as I can for as long as I can.

  11. *puts on serious hat*

    Despite laws that we all think should exist, I am a parent of a 9 year old.

    I admit to often being baffled at some parents choices for what they let their kids see/do. I am softening my stance on some things, knowing that I saw the first Star Wars in the theater at age 6. I still remember being terrified of the Sand People. I remember being scared of Raiders of the Lost Arc, which I probably saw when I was 8, and thinking my 13yo brother was an idiot for saying Ghostbusters would be too scary for me at 11 (which I think was right about the time the PG-13 rating was created)

    And I wonder what it would be like if I had missed those iconic films.
    I recently let my son see Iron Man and Captain America with me, though I do cringe at some of the content at times. I’ve found that watching these in the afternoon, instead of right before bed is a better thing. I haven’t let him see Transformers because the innuendo is excessive. Robot violence is ok…

    At the same time, one of my best friends (who lives far away) lets his son of the same exact age play the First Person shooters like Halo on XBox360 and play online with gamers – without supervision. I imagine he has a much different perspective on the world…

    It’s weird. At times I feel like I am being extremely overprotective and sheltering and at times I feel like I am leaving him unprepared to deal with his peers.

    Wait until you get into sports and some coach thinks 7 year olds need to practice 5 times a week and if you miss a practice, you’re starting on the bench.

    This hat looks funny on me.

    *takes off serious hat*

  12. YOU ARE SO OLD!!!

  13. Hey Trish! This is Jami (Garton, now Becka) from BRPC. Great post! I totally love (present tense) The Babysitter’s Club and Goosebumps. Hopefully kids who grow up faster than necessary learn to rekindle their childhood as adults.


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