“You know, my kids think you’re the greatest, and thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve finally stopped dreaming of a future I can’t possibly provide.” – Homer Simpson to Billy Corgan
Children and teenagers are different today than they were when I was a kid. I think I grew up in the cusp of this change, but when I was in high school, kids didn’t have cell phones, or blogs, or TMZ or overexposure. This was in the days when instant messaging was still innovative (We used ICQ), and before cable modems and DSL were the norm. Where my generation, we children of the 80s, was disaffected, this younger generation seems almost over-affected.
I think when it comes down to it, Rousseau was right about a lot of things. Children are exposed to too much, too soon. They lose the innocence that comes with being young. They learn fear at an early age. Parents are more over-bearing, more over-protective, or at least they think they are being so… but the real problem is that the world has changed so rapidly, that parents don’t know what to do to “protect” their children anymore. And so most attempts are misguided.
The thing is, kids are going to be okay.
Pain is a part of life. You fall, it stings, you get back up. Suffering isn’t the “human condition,” but it’s a necessary part of life. Especially when you live in a world with other people. Parents should be more worried about the laziness, the lack of creativity, the lack of intuitiveness, the lack of energy. I’m not even willing to go so far as to say that this generation of children just doesn’t care. Because it’s not apathy, it’s just passion misdirected at celebrity and the proverbial 15 minutes of fame.
Self-identity isn’t easy. Being okay with who you are isn’t easy. So children seek constant validation because they have so much to compare to. The internet and television and instant communication makes the world so much smaller than it was when I was growing up… I only had my peers at school, my family, and to some extent the people in my community to live with… now children have the whole world at their fingertips and it’s too much. Too many people in too small of a world. It’s not just a problem for over-consumption and sustainable development anymore. It’s a problem with our mentality, our ethics. With who we think we are.
And this scares me.