Comment 38519

By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2010 at 11:05:28

An important aspect of how we can get youth engaged is to look at how their experiences are different from earlier generations. Here's what I believe has changed in recent years:

  • Lack of open spaces. 20-30 years ago kids (that would be me back then) used to run wild in the local woods and fields. These days for suburban and city dwellers, most of these open spaces are used up. What have we lost because of this? I used to run around unattended all day. I built dens, rode my bike, joined gangs - I got exercise, fresh air and the odd ticking off from my neighbours. My kids stay indoors most days, unless I can be bothered to drive them somewhere...
  • Lack of safe play areas - the prevelance of the car, fear over child abductions, societal pressures, loss of imaginative play areas - all of these factors have resulted in less unsupervised outdoor play for our kids. What is the impact of this?
  • More mollycoddling - perhaps as a result of 1 and 2 above, parents are now more inclined to cotton wool their kids and control large aspects of their lives. How does this affect their independent thinking and self-esteem?
  • Lack of parental involvement - Both parents today are generally working, or divorcing. How does this affect our kids? Broken families is possibly the single most disrupting factor for a child's well-being.
  • Less 'real' jobs - what are our kids training for these days? A cubicle exisitence working on spreadsheets all day? A crappy McJob? Years ago, despite the poor working conditions and low pay associated with many 'real' jobs, kids aspired to make things, build things, fix things. These days such jobs are looked upon as menial and many of the benefits associated with them have gone. If our local industry is not about producing anything real and doesn't bring any pride, what affect does this have?
    • Less community - Parents working 2 jobs, neighbourhoods built for the car, less kids on the street - many factors have contributed to our loss of community. When I was a kid the village really did raise me. But you have to be out and about in the village in order to get that upbringing. Modern 'comunities' are not neighbourhood based. They are disperate, shaped by involvement with physically seperated institutions such as churches, sports teams, schools. These days most instruction and guidance is provided by the parents. If the parents are rarely around or not up to the job, the kid suffers. This was not so pronounced a couple of generations ago.

Of course there are many aspects today which are better. I believe that kids today are more included to go through further education. They will probably live longer etc.

Another factor in this discussion is poverty. The poverty divide in earlier generations was not as pronounced and ingrained. Today it appears to be ever harder to drag yourself out of poverty. It's like we live in 2 worlds. One where middle class folks can push their kids through UNI/tech college and watch them make a comfortable life for themselves. And one where the cycle of poverty and despair continues and becomes more ingrained.

Another factor we should consider is how the world itself has changed. We do live in a more connected society. This is the information age. Our democracy, on the other hand, is stuck in a 1950's old man's institution-like state. Until we bring our democracy into the new age our kids (and many of our adults too) will find it hard to identify with it and get involved.

As for where all this leaves us today - I'm not sure(!) I suppose in the end our kids have different challenges. But I know one thing for sure - imposing a government enforced curfew is possibly the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Ideas like this demonstrate just how little insight some of our prospective 'leaders' (God help us) have on our youth.

Good discussion folks!

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